Today is the last performance of ‘Wretch Like Me’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
So I thought it might be time to describe what a typical show day is like here. Each week has been a little different, since Team Wretch was housed in a hotel in Edinburgh for the first week, a house in the suburbs for the second week, and a flat in the town of Falkirk (a 25 minute train ride from Waverly Station, in the heart of the City) for the final week.
So, for the last week, each show day begins with a ride on the train.
After climbing the steps from Waverly Station up to Market Street (hauling whatever postering, laptops, cables and other show-related gear we have), we climb another flight of stairs (a steep alleyway named Fleshmarket Close) up to the Royal Mile. Where half of the time it is raining.
It’s a short walk on busy streets to get to the Surgeons Hall, where ‘Wretch Like Me’ is staffed every morning at 11:40 a.m. The building is an active school of medicine, and also houses a museum, where some very rare artifacts are on display. Ever heard of the infamous Scottish grave-robbers Burke and Hare? Their bones, and bait of their skin, are kept here. But the theaters are actually in an adjoining building used normally as lecture and meeting space. The production company that operates these theaters during the Fringe is TheSpace UK, which has venues all over town Our show’s home at the Surgeons Hall is Theater Two.
When we arrive, there is always another show wrapping up in Theater Two, so we spend our time checking the electronic signboard in the lobby, maybe running out for coffee or discussing anything that needs discussing regarding that morning’s performance. If we’ve arrived early enough, we might spend some time out on the street with our banner and sheep puppet, handing out flyers to passersby on the street.
Once the preceding show has ended, and the audience has cleared the room, the Surgeons Hall tech crew goes to work changing over the lights from the needs of the other show to the needs of ‘Wretch Like Me.’ On average, we have between ten and fifteen minutes to make this change before our show begins. As the lights are being changed, Robin sets up the computer and goes through all of the sound cues to make sure everything is still working and ready for the show.
With only a those few minutes between shows, there’s a lot to do in a short time. Two stools need to be dragged out from behind stage and set in place, a chair too, which I sit in for a “light check,” to make sure I am properly lit for a couple of big moments that take place while sitting on that chair.
After a quick warmup, and an announcement from Robin that we are opening the house, I change into my blue short and black jacket, put in my contacts while listening to the walk-in music, which in our case is always Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don;t Fear the Reaper.’
Meanwhile, as House Manager, Susan (who first checks with the box office about any pre-sales and other arrangements for the morning) takes her position outside the door to collect tickets and help patrons with anything they need.
And then it’s show time.
Theater One is small, but the lights are such that I often can’t see the faces of anyone in the audience. It’s their laughter and other audio reposes that let me know they are with me as I romp through the now-69-minute-long show.
After the final bow, Susan returns to the door to hand out ‘Shodala Kiria Boondala Augmia’ buttons (“It’s tongues for ‘Go See ‘Wretch Like Me’ at theSurgons Hall,” we tell people), and then back to box office to do some paperwork, as the rest of us quickly break down the stools and chairs, as I change back into my street clothes, and Robin pulls our laptop and other gear while the Tech Crew pops back in to switch our lights out for whatever the next show needs. We usually have about ten minutes to make all of this happen.
And then, at 1:00 p.m., were done with the show part of the day.
Which has often been when the real work begins, heading to the Royal Mile for more flying and posturing, camping out at Fringe Central to print out reviews, chat with other performers, send press releases, and otherwise do all the marketing stuff that everyone does at the Fringe.
We may try to squeeze in a show or two, along with food and maybe even a little sightseeing.
And that’s it.
A typical day here at the Fringe.
And now, at 9:16 a.m. on Saturday, August 16, it’s time to head out again and do it all one last time.