Sunday, 11 October 2009

the hour

The Hour
August 31, 2009

And before I blink I've had two shows and another one in a couple of hours.

So how was it? I was so up for the first one I could hardly contain myself, so I rehearsed the whole show an unnecessary twice. As you do.

I wandered the whole neighbourhood muttering to myself and, while in the middle of large twilight parks, shouting to myself. As you do.

I drank lots of water, threw lots of water in my face, did face exercises, arm exercises, vocal exercises. As you do.

I did steps, shouting, tongueing, gurning, crouching-upping-crouching, arm-whirling, star-shapes, silly walks. As you do.

I did alphabeting, ohhhing, omming, ahhing, uhhing, eeeing, iiiiying. As you do.

Or maybe you don't.

I dunno, I never got on stage till I was 31 and I have zero training in theatre. Like none. So I've just picked up a bit of what other people do and do my own cod-version of what I think they do.

Except, once you start doing these things, you have to keep doing them. So you have all these rituals and tics and habits and, because you've done them and kept doing them and it's always worked, you keep doing them out of something close to superstition.

I mean, I'm an ardent rationalist and yet I always completely empty my pockets of every last dime and receipt before I go on stage. And why? Because it's always worked, I mean I've never gone wrong, so it would be foolish not to. Right?

So I go out and shake hands with the audience before they come in, which is always nice 'cos it surprises them.

One year I went out and apologised to everyone on the way out. Which surprised them even more because none of us had any idea why I was doing it except it was funny.
And that is funny, right? To apologise after a show.

Of course, if I thought the show had gone badly, and I actually had something to apologise for I'd be long gone, and certainly wouldn't be outside saying "sorry" to a hundred punters as they come out.

So there was seventy to eighty of them, including two reviewers, the two main reviewers, Times Colonist and Monday Magazine, but that's something you shut out. I mean you can't change your show just 'cos a reviewer or two are in, can you? Press are just the same as any audience, and there's no value in worrying about it while you're up there.

And one thing about the Fringe that no-one ever mentions is the hour. THE HOUR. The performance. The actual bit when you're performing. THE HOUR. The reason why you came, the reason why you spent months battling with some idea and some words and some movements to make them get even close to working. The hour spent staring down the barrel of the audience.
'Cos me, I look at the audience face on the whole time, and at least I'm supposedly funny so there are at least some laughs (question is, how many?) … which means I feel very sorry for those people doing dark dramas with no laughs. 'Cos how do they cope with the fact they've no idea how it's working, 'cos there's no way for the audience to respond till the applause at the end? How? The poor so-and-sos. Me, I'd have a nervous breakdown after half an hour.
But yeah, the hour was fun: my throat was craggy, I was sweating more than any time all year … I sometimes sweat my own pool, which then proceeds to run towards the audience. And pretty it ain't, sanitary it ain't. In fact, I am frequently a drop of water with a person inside.
But it was great, I mean I got lots of laughs, as many as in Edmonton, where the show felt killer. And well, at the time I thought, they're being nicer to me than I deserve, but then, after, I was chatting with Alexandra my tech, [grew up in Cheshire], and we worked out that I hadn't actually done anything wrong and that the show was in fact fine.

Which is one of the things about performing. You, at least I, do frequently persuade your/myself it's going badly when in fact it's going fine. Sometimes this means you react negatively to your own performance and bring everything down in some way. Which is stupid and an elementary way to self-destruct. But as I get more experienced at performing, and I do a show more, you know it's robust enough to take whatever comes along and you are far less likely to muck up.

So I dunno if this all sounds angsty, but I tell you, up in the lights, staring down the barrel of the audience, with a few muck-ups in the first ten minutes and another potentially very long fifty second-filled minutes to go, it's very easy to get angsty, neurotic, paranoid and just plain worried.

But b-boom, I get out of show, I sink beers, I sleep, I speak to my sweetheart stuck out in Dauphin Manitoba, and I find my four star from the Times Colonist. Which means I'm ok. It almost certainly won't be a disaster but on the other hand, around here a four star doesn't butter much parsnip.

And it's a great review. Reads very nicely. It's online now. But it won't get me much. Four is safe. Catherine Montgomery, meanwhile, (see blog 4) got two and a half. Which means it's the same story all over for her.

So I stroll in along the sun-drenched coast as far as Beacon Hill Park and wander in through the park, where even the gulls are as pristine as the flowerbeds, and the cheers of the cricket match make the whole place even more English than it is already, which is pretty English, though not as English as it thinks it is, I mean the Empress Hotel isn't English, it's mock-French.
Then I see Archy and Mehitabel, Jeff Whatever's show and it's excellent. He's been on the tour since the mini-fringe in Wakefield back in June and I'm knocked out. And I see my old mate Bruce, a musician I knew back in London in 1995, who was then a musician but has since turned into a poet and had over 500 poems published, which is all my fault 'cos he got inspired by me. Well he shows up, and we're siitting with some guy who came to my show yesterday, who's nice and friendly, and it turns out he's my reviewer from Monday Magazine and he intimates he liked the show, so that's one less worry and the Archy and Mehitabel, the characters as played by Jeff Whatsisface? are pretty damn great.

So I while away the evening with Chinese food and flyering and the usual worreting and the show is … OK, nice audience but quiet and oooh, only 40 of them which is another swing down on the rollercoaster 'cos last year I had no audience less than 70, but somehow, I expected this and I have good feeling about this afternoon's show so, we'll see … bring it on, its all fun.


And you know what? Some bad things just aren't so bad … I just got shat on by a seagull for the first time ever … but handily, I was in the hot tub at the time …

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