I have heroically shaved off my eyebrows and cut my hair. I have
also dyed it a fluorescent shade of ginger - all in the name of
theatre. Yes, along with thousands of other daring thespians, I've
migrated to Scotland for the season (losing any semblance of
summer) to perform in Hamlet House of Horror at
the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
I've just returned from my twenty-fifth consecutive day singing,
flyering and stalwartly holding tableaux in the violent rain on
Edinburgh's Royal Mile. For those of you who may not have
experienced the Fringe first hand, The Royal Mile is the central
hub. It's "every man for himself" out there as thousands of
enthusiastic performers battle it out to sell their shows, each
group out-singing, out-dressing and out-acting the competition to
impress the crowds.
There are over two thousand shows (professional, amateur and
student) and I've heard the average audience size is five. This
gives you some idea of what's at stake. On top of trying to
maintain pride and dignity, it's expensive to put a show on, and
many companies will make a substantial loss. There are certain
tricks of the trade however: big casts, big songs, big costumes and
big banners are important if you've a hope of getting noticed, and
by week four only a fraction of us are still pursuing the daily
pilgrimage for punters.
As a spectator however it's a different story. Tourists flock to
this cultural hive from all around the world. Nowhere else can you
see so much variety in one place. Cabaret, comedy, theatre, dance,
music, magic… you name it. And in my fleeting moments of freedom, I
try to cram in as much as I can.
There is nothing I love more than an Aussie drag queen, and
therefore at the top of my must-see list is
Briefs. "All male, all vaudeville, all trash,"
Briefs are a troupe of dazzlingly sexy performers all the way from
Brisbane. The show hosts an array of chaotic cabaret performances.
From trapeze to striptease, this late night circus is risqué, funny
and delightfully camp. I went with a mixed group of gay and
straight men and women, and all of us were equally smitten. You
will laugh, you will shriek, you will gasp… and if you are
unfortunate enough to win the "meat-tray raffle" (as my friend
Amrou did) you will be scarred for life.
It's still an uphill struggle for us women to find an even footing
in the performing arts, and comedy is no exception. We are yet to
fully expel the tragically misinformed rumor that women aren't
funny (started by the same idiots who claim chicks can't rock) and
we still have an awful lot to prove. One valiant comedian who has
worked miracles in the USA is bisexual hottie Margaret
Cho. Although a big name in the states, I hadn't come
across her before. Having been wooed by her sexy flyer-art, I went
to see what the fuss was about. Combining stand-up with comic-song,
Cho is quirky, charismatic and confident (if slightly gratuitously
crude). She is very American, and seemed slightly shell-shocked by
the intimate Fringe audience - she had to keep reminding us of her
celebrity status. Her reassurance was unnecessary though, as her
material spoke for itself and was indeed very funny. Cho is openly
and explicitly bisexual (DO NOT TAKE YOUR PARENTS) and therefore
excluding the faint-hearted/religious or easily offended, she
offers something for everyone. The only low point for me was the
songs. They were too predictable to be funny, and the backing
tracks sounded cheap (particularly irritating as tickets to her
show are about as pricey as you get at the Fringe). Despite this, I
truly hope word will spread and we'll start seeing her on our own
TV screens in the not to distant future.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will divulge more of my Fringe
experiences, recommendations and horrors.