After months of monumental preparation and punishing rehearsal schedules we’re now all bagged up with minidisk player, selection of megaphones, long multi-coloured Tom Baker-esque scarf, acoustic guitar and two pink boiler suits. We’re ready for the journey north – to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and more importantly, Project Adorno’s week long run of “Stop the Tardis”, a poetry musical.
Our taxi journey to King’s Cross is traffic free this early on a Saturday morning, which is just as well given our driver’s constant chatter: “Big Genesis fan myself. Once saw them in the pouring rain at Milton Keynes Bowl – filled up just like a goldfish bowl”. I question whether he’s followed them from their Peter Gabriel days: “Oh no, too experimental for me. I do like a bit of Phil Collins though”. Talk turns to David Bowie as our driver enthuses about his role in “The man who fell from earth” (sic).
We stagger with luggage from taxi to train feeling for all the world like we’re taking part in one of those strongest man in the world competitions, or perhaps “It’s a knockout” – all we’re lacking is Stuart Hall laughing hysterically in the background as I attempt to hoist the Project Adorno props bag up onto the luggage rack.
Journey underway I scan the Fringe programme trying to construct an arbitrary timetable of “must-see” shows – trying to fit them in and around our own show times, high street publicity/performance slots and Fringe Sunday showcase event.
Four and a half hours later we arrive at Edinburgh Waverly and do the last leg of our journey on foot. Our accommodation is wonderful – a downstairs Regency flat (probably what used to be servants quarters) in the aptly named Regents Terrace – a street which is as grand as it sounds (akin to a Royal Crescent complete with cobble stones) – obviously on the expensive side of town.
After reorganising all the luggage we soon head back into town to find our venue, Greyfriars Kirk House, and do our tech run through. Upon arrival it all looks rather like a building site as last minute preparations go on to turn the place into a credible venue for the duration of the festival. Our performance space feels perfect (in terms of shape and size), though we’re initially worried by the absence of microphones (even though we’ve asked for and been charged for them!). Two mics (plus stands) and one DI box later, and a good tech rehearsal ensues – we can be comfortable here. It’s then that we descend into admin hell as we’re asked to sign numerous health and safety forms, promise not to flypost illegally and come clean about any music used in the show that requires copyright clearance (it’s all original), although there are a few Dr Who quotes/samples thrown in for good measure.
After what seems an age, we’re released and free to roam the Edinburgh streets once more (it’s about 10pm by this time – our tech began at 6). We contemplate going to a show, but in truth we’re exhausted and opt to go home and collapse. Back at the flat we fuse all the lights and have to call on a neighbour to resolve the situation. We decide to go out for something to eat. Along the way we meet up with our musician friend Nick who has just arrived. He’ll be helping us out with High Street “busking” performances during the week.
"Tom Baker" rehearsals, Russell sows
We also try “Davros” using a CD walkman and speakers, though this is less successful – it all gets rather lost in the hullabaloo of the High Street where everyone it seems is promoting a show of some sort! Nick does a run-through of his “Day return” song and we finish with another burst of “Tom Baker”. It’s all been quite exhilarating – crowd ebbing and flowing constantly during our slot – but crucially we’ve got rid of a good number of leaflets.
We take it easy for the rest of the day (as from tomorrow it will all be manic) and opt to see a few shows. A number of our poetry cohorts are performing in some shape or form, including Mat Harvey (wry, softly spoken, satirical poet) and Rory Motion (an astutely funny poet and madcap songwriter) appearing together in “One night stanza”. This is our first experience to experience a show other than our own – both fellow Adornite, Russell, and I make mental notes on the way it all hangs together – the fact that they’re a double act is also helpful for comparison purposes. Their show is great – Rory bringing the house down with his “head banging” xylophone playing technique, “Welsh” Bob Dylan impressions and ready Yorkshireman wit (“You can tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much”). Meanwhile Mat marries subjects as diverse as “philosophy and teabags”, his poems delivered with dry wit and unassuming humour. They simply do what they do best – reading poems and singing songs – no pretension, each taking he mike alternately for a short segment and sitting down in-between. Russell and I have been agonising over themes and links in our piece, and I feel, seeing Mat and Rory, that a few fears have been allayed. We greet the two of them after the show – they’re disappointed not to have had a bigger audience but it’s only just the start of their run.
|We decide to
re-live our childhood TV days, going to see Geoffrey Hayes in “Over the
Rainbow”. The set’s just the same as we always remembered – those line
drawn doors and windows. Geoffrey too looks much the same in his primary
colour dungarees – a little older of course, but he hasn’t lost any of
that innocent excited, boyish enthusiasm. It’s essentially a one man show,
Geoffrey recounting the history of Bungle, Zippy and George and what
happened to them after their Rainbow days. He is flanked by two large
video screens (I am reminded of our previous, and little known, multimedia
Edinburgh show, “Millennium Suite” a few years earlier – we’d have killed
for those screens!) which periodically play the Rainbow theme tune and
opening credits (“Up above the streets and houses, Rainbow climbing
high….”). It’s an entertaining hour, though on reflection we feel our show
can adequately match it (and this before even our first performance –
gasps as one at the end when Geoffrey opens a cupboard to reveal Bungle,
Zippy and George costumes lying bereft of their actors. As we file out of
the auditorium several audience members can’t resist going up and touching
the costumes – stage hands are quick to intervene – apparently the said
costumes were all stolen after a recent performance only to be returned
later, thankfully intact (says something about the mentality of Rainbow
fans perhaps – obsessive but not reckless?!).
This is it then – day one of our run. Lots to do before showtime – more leafleting and a high street slot (including more high octane bursts of “Tom Baker”!). We manage to catch a lunchtime show, a play called “Rice” written by poet/performer friend Alison. It is stunning – a multimedia, dance and physical theatre piece – totally avant-garde and constantly breathtaking – need to see it more than once to take it all in. It tells the tale of a wedding – beyond that, it’s hard to recount just what the hell is going on! Great use of music – the cast lip-synching and totally hamming up Oasis’ “Wonderwall” is a definite highlight! And it’s not all pop – some rousing classical/choral pieces also used to great effect. The sheer range and breadth of emotion evoked throughout is astounding. A definite highlight of the Festival. We see the cast at various points during the course of the week stampeding down the High St distributing leaflets – a whirlwind of wigs and white powdered faces – blink, and they’ve gone again!
|We take it easy
for the rest of the day. I catch up with my friend Richard who is up
visiting his family who live in Edinburgh. Ironically, though we both live
in London, we hardly ever get to meet – it takes a trip to Edinburgh for
us to finally catch up with one another.
Back at the flat we do a pre-show run through (which becomes a regular fixture during the week) – still a few creases to be ironed out, last minute things to be done including Russell finishing the sowing on his “fleur-de-lyse” jacket (used during his “Fancy dress competition” poem). We do a final props check – megaphone, scarf, boiler suits, Dr Who hat – and suddenly we’re on our way across town (the journey is mainly uphill – or so it feels!) to the venue. Edinburgh is a glorious city, full of gothic architecture and steep stone steps. We stop off along the way to buy sweets which I will throw into the audience (assuming we get one) during the poem “Jelly monsters”.
Arriving at the venue we set up quickly and calmly, as a finishing touch we arrange the scarf in a spiral pattern on the stage floor and head backstage to don the pink boilersuits. We’re nervous as the house opens – will anyone show? Amazingly people are trooping in – and they don’t stop coming! We expected one or two, but peering out through a crack in the curtains I see we’ve got a sizeable crowd in – no turning back now!
number, the broody, string laden “Dark ages” starts up complete with
thunder and lightning sound effects and we take to the stage. Into “Tom
Baker” (much rehearsed through numerous run throughs on the High St stage)
and the audience are really getting into it – there are ripples of
laughter from every quarter – it really helps us to relax into the rest of
the show. It goes well – a very good reaction from the audience
throughout. We conclude that we’ve had the hardcore Dr Who fans in tonight
– a sci-fi group based in Edinburgh who meet every Monday (seriously – we
discovered them on the Internet).
The first night has been a great success – better than we could have imagined. Afterwards we are delighted to see Patric Cunnane (another London poet scenster) – he’s been up at the Festival for a few days and has managed to fit us into his busy show seeing schedule.
“ There are worlds out there where the sky is burning. Where the seas sleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice. Somewhere else the tea’s getting cold…Come on Ace, we’ve got work to do!”
In the process he could also plug his own show during our tongue-in-cheek “Salvador Dali doesn’t do the washing up” piece. With this thought in mind, we head off home still bathing in the glow of our first night success….
Today we all troop off to catch John Hegley’s lunchtime show for children (his evening show clashes with ours. Imagine doing two shows per day?! One is tiring enough!). Despite being a children’s show one senses that it wouldn’t be quite the same without a few adults in the audience – Hegley’s humour given free reign and enabling him to build up a rapport with the children without in any way being patronising. And, hell, Hegley’s just such good fun regardless of any notions of “target audience” – we don’t need excuses to see him!
|The audience give
us a warm reception at the finish and we head off into the night to do
some flyposting. We settle into a good rhythm with this as the week
progresses – earmarking various “pitches” (designated pillars along the
High Street), Russell mixing up the wallpaper paste (it works so much
better than tape or blu-tac), whilst I unfurl and position the posters.
They’ll be gone by the next evening – covered up by others all eager to
promote their shows.
marketing ploy involves our bid to get Sylvestor McKoy (Dr Who no. 7) to
appear in the show (possibly to do that “World noise” intro and/or take
part in our slapstick Dali piece). Sylvestor’s show doesn’t actually start
until the following week so we’re not sure if he’s even in town yet,
however, we go to the Fringe press office and get a number for his agent.
After putting our case to her she informs us that, “Yes, Sylvestor is in
town, rehearsing hard for his show”. She can see the news/publicity angle
in the whole thing and will put it to him. We are on tenterhooks for the
rest of the day….
Today we do our first High Street slot without Nick – it boils down to three straight run-throughs of “Tom Baker”, a successful effort though I’m beginning to get a little hoarse! Back at the flat we do a pre-show run through and have a much-needed rest – fatigue is kicking in. We hear back from Sylvestor’s agent – it’s no go. “Sylvestor’s just too busy with rehearsals – it’s a one man show, so he’s under a lot of pressure to get it right etc, but wishes us well with our show, had he been settled into his run he might have done it, it’s certainly the sort of thing he would do…blah, blah….”
Despite the downbeat mood, tonight’s show is a triumph – audience numbers are up again and they’re a vocal bunch out there! We feel renewed.
|So what exactly
is “Stop the Tardis”? For those who missed it, a brief
Stop the Tardis combines poetry, music, monologue and song around the loose theme of Dr Who. It utilises the Project Adorno model of electronic music married to quirky verse. In order to provide some sort of coherence to the whole thing we have tried to link each piece (in that sense it’s different from a usual Project Adorno performance). Along the way we do love songs about about the fourth Dr, Tom Baker:
“Willie Hartnell and his crotchety moods,
Patrick Troughton, piccolo or flute,
Jon Pertwee so flamboyantly cloaked
Tom Baker we loved you the most”
And another about that leader of the Daleks, Davros:
“It all turned quite surreal
When I revealed my true intentions
And declared my undying love for Davros
At a Dr Who convention”
|We look at the
character traits of many of the Dr’s celebrated companions, and expose the
Master’s plan for world domination from the back of an ice cream van. We
witness a battle between those two old adversaries, art and science in the
form of a boxing match between Salvador Dali and Professor Stephen
Hawking, and celebrate nerd culture in asking all to “Follow the
More marketing gimmicks today as we get hold of a great poster of the eight Doctors whilst leafleting the local Forbidden Planet store. We decide to pin it up on the side of “our” police box for all remaining leafleting sessions. We also notice a production of Terry Pratchett’s “Mort” taking place just round the corner from our leafleting patch. We hoof it over there just in time to catch our potential crossover audience as they emerge from the darkness of the show. We thrust leaflets into their hands as they go out blinking into the sunshine.
Nick is back with us for our penultimate High St slot – these are flying by! The rest of the day is relatively uneventful – we are comfortably settled into a routine by now which goes something like this: leafleting, returning to the flat for a rest and a run-through before the walk across town to the venue. Tonights show feels rather mechanical and workmanlike. Before the performance Julian Fox makes a surprise appearance. He’s come to wish us luck, but can’t stay as he must prepare for his own show later that evening. However, Susannah, one of his entourage, does sit in on the performance (which she later describes as having a lot of “charm”…) as does our Norwich poet friend Luke, about to start his Aisle 16 poetry run at the Festival. We go off for another stint of flyposting after the show, an activity which I’m rather enjoying actually!
More “Mort” and police box leafleting today – the latter going particularly well. The addition of the “eight Drs” poster has really fuelled the “who’s your favourite Dr Who” debate – we’re running it almost as a competition and decide to announce the results of our straw poll (i.e. the most popular Dr) at the end of our last show. Meanwhile, our leafleting “patter” is now well rehearsed – it’s almost a cabaret show in itself!
We do our last High St performance – Nick joins us, wrapping himself in the Dr Who scarf, for more “Tom Baker” renditions – the whole thing having a celebratory feel.
|The rain starts
to fall during the afternoon (so far we’ve been lucky with the weather).
We abandon any further publicity duties and go instead to see Luke’s Aisle
16 crowd who are holding a poetry open mike event. There’s a good crowd
in, among them Jude Simpson, a poet we’ve recently met in London, who does
a great open mike slot. We decide to do a slot ourselves and wheel out
“Tom Baker” for the umpteenth time that week. It works well as a taster
for the show and we manage to shift a good number of
Back at the flat and I decide to go for a walk in the spacious and well-kept garden – it’s huge (many acres) and somewhat embarrassingly, I soon get rather lost – it feels quite liberating really. Although the rain has stopped it’s still very grey overhead and wet underfoot – but it’s a tranquil place, very lush with immaculate lawns and even a tennis court – a private garden for the use of Regent Terrace residents only. I can think of worse places to get lost.
After finding my way back eventually, it’s time to go again, just as the rain starts coming down once more. Tonight’s show has, possibly, the lowest turnout of the run. It’s all rather quiet, however we do have friends in the audience – Alison (“Rice”) and poet Deryl have come to watch. Nick is also there (making his second appearance – he was also there for our opening night). Highlight of the show tonight is undoubtedly the vision of me trying to don my “Nerd” anorak – back to front and upside down (I couldn’t work out quite what was wrong!). It brings the house down and certainly livens up the atmosphere. We “come down” after the show with more fly-posting – it’s quite therapeutic.
Today is the day we move house. Our residency at the plush Regent Terrace is over – for the remainder of our stay we’ll be lodging at a B&B on the other side of town, a less fashionable but equally interesting area of the city populated with a plethora of charity shops, junk shops and second hand record shops, all of which we intend to visit once we get a spare moment.
John Hegley is obviously staying nearby – later the same day we see him walking along the road towards us looking very pleased with himself, clutching a second-hand portable radio which he’s just bought from the junk shop a few yards down the road. We can’t resist a look in the shop that’s just been touched by the purchase of Hegley – we soon find ourselves picking through items as diverse as old radio and hi-fi components, sailors’ hats, rolls of carpet and other assorted junk - it’s an Aladdin’s cave in there and suddenly everything becomes a potential prop for the show. Looking up I suddenly spot a battered old twelve string acoustic guitar – it’s something I’ve been thinking of buying – however, being a left-handed guitarist adds complications – the guitar would need re-stringing and there’s no guarantee on the sound quality…regretfully I decide against it.
good burst of leafleting activity (at the police box and “Mort”) we head
back to our new lodgings feeling somewhat shattered – and certainly not in
the mood for putting on a show. However, in the event tonight’s show is
the best yet, both in terms of audience numbers and in our own
performance. We are word perfect tonight (Russell nearly always is, but I
am often prone to a few slip-ups – particularly during the wordy “Stephen
Hawking” and “Timelord guy” pieces – however, tonight these go like a
dream!). There’s also a great “Sticklaxa” moment during “Jelly monsters”
(where we duet on that word only – referring to one of the quirky names
given to said monsters).
All in all a very positive evening – we leave on a high. One more night to go, but will it top tonight’s show? With renewed vigour, a last late night flyposting session begins in earnest.
Fringe Sunday & the 8 Drs poster
We wake up feeling very tired today – whatever anyone says, doing Edinburgh is definitely a marathon and the week is beginning to take its toll. We soldier on knowing that there’s only one more performance to go. Besides, today we have a break in the routine. First off, we’re performing at the Fringe Sunday event – a huge festival taking place at West Meadows Park – yet another great promotional opportunity. It’s all rather reminiscent of a country fete or farmers market – I am reminded of a gig we did at the Sutton Borough Show a few years ago – it’s that sort of vibe! We’re the first act on in the “cabaret tent” – a bit of a graveyard shift, but we’re determined to enjoy ourselves. It’s one of the best PAs we’ve ever had and we give it a gutsy performance.
We intend to do an intensive leafleting blitz around the park after our slot, however, shortly after we come off stage the heavens open and stay open for pretty much the rest of the day. We opt to leave the park (which is getting steadily more waterlogged – pity the poor performers and audience who stay on – in retrospect it’s turned out that we’ve actually had one of the better slots). Instead we head into town for more High Street leafleting. This, too, is less than successful. With no let up in the rain our boiler suits are getting soggier and the pink dye is starting to run! We dive indoors to catch the “Mort” crowd only to find the show isn’t running today. A last ditch flyposting session ensues as the rain gets harder…we are getting soaked!
With leafleting abandoned
(hell, it’s the last show tonight – and we certainly tried!) we find we
have some time on our hands, so, after drying off, we go browsing in some
of Edinburgh’s finest alternative record shops. “Avalanche” is a great
find and we learn that they have three branches in the
|And so to the
last show. We’re anticipating a modest turnout due to the rain, however,
numbers are up and compare well with the previous night. They’re a vocal
bunch too and seem to enjoy the performance despite a poor rendition of
“Tom Baker” (I completely lose a verse – the first time this has happened
all week) and some annoying word slip-ups on “Timelord guy”. But it’s an
enjoyable night overall. At the end of the show Russell announces the
results of the “favourite Dr Who” straw poll we’ve been conducting all
week (Tom Baker comes out top of course, by a mile! – our Tom Baker
“campaign” song may have been a factor perhaps – it’s been heard up and
down the High Street all week!).
And suddenly that’s it – we’ve done it! Seven straight performances in seven nights – it’s been gruelling but there’s a feeling of immense satisfaction. Jude Simpson has been along to support us tonight – and indeed we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support we’ve had during the week from friends and fellow poets who have come along to watch. An Indian meal takes the place of flyposting tonight. Tomorrow we will shop!
& Tuesday 13th August
We remain in Edinburgh for a couple more days giving us a chance to check out the charity shops and multitude of record shops. We also catch as many shows as we can – making up for the abstinence that was unavoidable during our run. Notable highlights include Kit and the Widow’s “Les enfants du parody” – a camp cabaret double act par excellence with fabulous, witty songs touching on current affairs and popular culture; and the “Adventures of Stoke Mandeville: astronaut and gentleman” – a great flier and indeed a great show.
We also get to see “Rice” again which is just as mind-blowing the second time, and of course, we can’t possibly leave Edinburgh without seeing Sylvestor McKoy in “Hello Dali”. (We note that our “Salvador Dali” piece includes many of the reference points included in Sylvestor’s show – he would have had fun with it!). “Hilarious” – The Scotsman……….You just made that up!
We de-materialise back to London on the train….
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