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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Edinburgh Fringe dreams

THIS MORNING I came across a couple of tweets from Fringe participants about having festival-releated dreams or nightmares. It reminded me of an article I wrote in 1997 for The Herald. That's a long time ago, I know, and few of the people quoted are doing the same jobs, but it was lovely piece to research and the idea still stands. I've copied it here. It'd be great to hear your own Fringe anxiety dreams in the comments below:


IT ALL started a few weeks before the Festival when I woke up convinced that Brian McMaster's programme had taken a bizarre new twist. I had dreamt that Peter Stein's Cherry Orchard was going to be done not in the respectable confines of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, but in Glasgow, as street theatre. How would they sustain an audience's interest in Chekhov for three hours on Sauchiehall Street, and how would I get back to Edinburgh to get my on-the-night review phoned in?

It struck me that if I was having such dreams, then so too would Festival workers across the city. I wasn't wrong.

Fringe supremo, Hilary Strong dreamt she'd arrived at the office to find it closed with a crowd of people waiting to get in. "I looked in the diary and realised I'd forgotten to do a live radio link with the Today programme, which had been scheduled for 7.30am," she says. "By this time, I was due to attend a formal award ceremony, but for some reason, I was wearing painting overalls, and my shoes were covered in white emulsion that left footprints all over the carpet in the City Chambers."

For performers, the anxiety of revealing themselves on a daily basis inevitably plays havoc with a peaceful night's sleep. Gerry Gowans, starring in Garland, Judy With Love, at Hill Street Theatre, dreamt she was coming to the Fringe, not as an actress - but as a stripper. "I went on stage, but found it impossible to get my clothes off," she quivers. "The show was a flop."

Mervyn Stutter, he of Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe, at the Pleasance, was convinced he'd hit the big time. "I got a call from the BBC saying they wanted to broadcast my show on prime time TV," he says. "I was in the wings waiting to go on. The audience went into a hush. Then a voice: 'Ladies and gentlemen, live from the Edinburgh Festival, will you please welcome your host - Julian Clary!'"

Perhaps the most revealing dreams are those for which the dreamers have asked to remain anonymous. A member of the Traverse Theatre's production staff, for example, would sooner keep quiet about finding him or herself in a dentist's chair which had somehow appeared on the set of Knives in Hens during a sell-out show. "For some reason I had no clothes on and was in the dentist's chair. I soon realised that Helena Christiansen was there, also naked - but what could I do in front of the audience and cast? The rest is a bit sordid."

Then there's the Fringe Office worker who had to go out for a night on the town, and had to get dressed in a hurry. "I couldn't find anything to wear except a huge pair of pink underpants that came up to my armpits," he or she confesses reluctantly.

For reasons of diplomacy this dream about our own arts editor is also anonymous: "Last weekend I woke up next to my partner, who looked at me rather frostily and said, 'Who's Keith Bruce?' I had been having an angst-ridden dream about The Herald's switchboard, and had been calling out, 'Get me Keith Bruce'. When I told him Mr Bruce is the arts editor of The Herald, he raised his eyebrows as if to say, so it's true you'd do anything for press coverage."

The Fringe of slumberland is an even more amazing place than the real thing. Stephanie Noblett, press officer at the Famous Grouse House had a radical new vision for Chambers Street: "I dreamt there was a show-jumping gymkhana as part of our programme. The whole of Chambers Street had been turfed over, and all our performers were on horse back. I woke up in a cold sweat when of the Wrigley Sisters (one of the folk music acts) took a fatal fall."

Theatre Workshop publicist Jane Molyneux was in populist mode: "I dreamt Diriamba! would have more commercial appeal if done as a version of Cliff Richard's Summer Holiday on the Meadows. Cliff was very obliging and was quite happy to belt out several songs with Theatre Workshop's Nicaraguan and Scottish performers from the top deck of one of Edinburgh's open-top tour buses, but things started to get out of hand when I found myself on a Keystone-Cops type chase, following after a convoy of three buses, heading across the Meadows, straight for Nicaragua, with Cliff singing the theme tune to Ken Loach's Carla's Song."

While Mike Griffiths, the Traverse's production manager, was trying to figure out how the main theatre had been turned into a swimming pool, stage manager Gavin Johnson was discovering how the Festival budget had been overspent: "I went to the green room to find the fridge full of bread - and no matter how much I pulled out, there was still more and more. It wasn't even the right kind of bread, because I needed wholemeal and this was all Sunblest white."

4 comments:

  1. A day or so ago I had my first Fringe nightmare; this would not ordinarily be worth of comment, but this was my first in twenty years. The content was, from what I can tell, fairly standard - I was starting my show, and I had not learned all the routines for it. I went to my case to get a deck of cards, but it was a mess and I couldn't find anything. As I said, fairly typical magic show dream.

    That it happened in the hour between waking at 6 and _really_ waking at 7 meant that it was particularly vivid for me when I woke up, and it took a few moments for me to calm down and realise what had happened.

    The cause is not hard for me to work out; my mother died a couple of weeks ago, and various hospital visits and funeral arrangements mean that I am well over a month behind in my Fringe prep. It was just my brain telling me to get my bahookie in gear, but using shock tactics, many outlawed by the Geneva Convention, to do it.

    Still, I'm sure that Obsession - A life with magic will be ready, when the time comes :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. In his collection of letters, "I'm Here I Think, Where Are You?", actor Timothy West describes a dream he had while performing King Lear at the Edinburgh Festival in 1971. "I dreamed that the whole of the next morning's Daily Telegraph was devoted to a bad notice for my Lear. It started with the headlines on the front page, ran through the home news, the foreign news, sport, the weather forecast, even the
    crossword."

    He then visits his mother, still in the dream, only to discover she agreed with the review. "'Darling,' she said. 'People run out of acting, just as I sometimes run out of butter.'"

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had a hideous dream last year that an elderly couple sat in the front row of my show, PassionFlower.

    Wait there's more. As soon as the 2nd song (Marigold, by Nirvana) finished they proclaimed loudly "Well, this isn't Jazz!" and got up to leave. Instead of exiting the way they came in (by the right door) they attempted to leave by the left. Which took them backstage, into a long and echoing corridor, whereupon they started to bicker as to "How to get out of this bloody place". They then re-entered the theatre where they asked if anyone could tell them how to get out. Unfortunately no-one came forward, so I stopped the show and pointed to the correct door. "Come on Neville" the wife trumpeted, and they duly exited.

    But wait. That wasn't a dream. It actually happened. Bring on the nightmares I say!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Since I've been back from Edinburgh, I've had dreams nearly every night of not being able to find my venue; being in someone else's show; forgetting all of my lines; and getting lost in Scotland. I wake up not knowing what country I am in. I wake up wondering how I will get through flyering that day, as well as getting through the show that night. It's like 3 weeks of performing at the Fringe has turned into one full year of memories that haunt me. And yes, I will be back next summer. Let's hope the dreams stop!

    ReplyDelete

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Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.

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