Sunday, 30 August 2009

Wegen het zwaarst

Last night we all had dinner together to give Nikki the leaving do she deserves. She's been with us for over a year and will now set off on different adventures. It was a celebrations of sorts, but considering it's also a sad moment, I'm not sure if celebration is the word. But right now, I can't think of another word.

We made her a photo album that lays out her year with NIE, from UK touring to China, to an enormous seminar in an enormous space, to making some new shows and opening them in different countries, to our present residence in Edinburgh. We tried to go through the past year in chronological order, and very quickly noticed we'd left things out or got the order wrong. It's been a busy year and lots of exciting things have happened, and Nikki helped us make it all happen.

She's been telling us since the beginning of the month that when her contract ended, she wanted to learn a language and an instrument, so we bought her a guitar.

It was great to be able to have this evening of just NIE sitting together amidst the madness of the festival.

On another note: to all those people asking me for a photograph of me as Sue: it's not going to happen. If you want to see me in a skirt, come and see the show. You've only got two nights left and I can tell you with great conviction that me in a skirt won't happen again any time soon...

Saturday, 29 August 2009

De laatste loodjes

The last two days we've been rehearsing in Leith. This coffee shop caught my eye for the obvious reasons. NOW REST! In three days I will rest a lot. In fact, I think I might stay in bed for three days.
The end is now very near and I am getting very homesick. I haven't really been home in two months and I miss my flat, even though it will probably be very dusty by the time I get there. But it's my little palace, it's where I feel at home.

A few doors down from the place we rehearsed, there was a little shop that sold cards and some strange joke shops things. It had this sign in the window: Shoplifters will get a bat in the mouth.

My first thoughts were of a bat - the winged mouse. And thinking of a bat in the mouth then made me think of Michelle Pfeiffer holding a live bird in her mouth for one of the Batman films; thus earning the lifelong respect of Tim Burton. (Associative thinking gets stranger and stranger as I get more tired. I can get from Sue to Mozart to the Best Belgian Chips in three easy steps, but I won't bore you with those specific associations now).

It also had this sign in the window:

It was quite interesting being in Leith. It gave us a suitable distance from the madness of the festival and we could focus on rehearsing.

Liz did a great job yesterday. We were all getting on with our daily jobs of getting ready for the show and then we spotted this bizarre sight:

Liz in Iva's dress. It reminded us that we'd be on stage with her, and got us all very thrilled about playing. Then Iva instructed Liz on the belly position. I listened to part of it, and understood that it's not just a matter of shoving a pillow under a t-shirt: it's a very precise and detailed procedure.

During the get-in we had a problem with our streetlamp. It didn't work. But the guys from Pleasance Two were brilliant and fixed it for us. We didn't even go up late. Thank you James, Gareth and David.
But in general, I would really like to thank the whole crew of Pleasance Two, which also includes the chief: Annabelle.
When we first arrived in Edinburgh, we were a bit unsure because our old friend Tony wasn't there. He'd been with us in P2 for two consecutive years, and now he wasn't there anymore.
We shouldn't have been worried: we've been taken care of very well, and right now, considering how tired I'm getting, I really don't know how they're all still on their feet, running 8 shows (sometimes 9) a day.

So: all thanks to Annabelle, David, Gareth and James. We couldn't have done it without you.

PS: The title of this post is in Dutch. It's half of a Dutch proverb. I'll save the second half for a next post, so then it might make more sense. Then again, if you already understand this half, you will already know what the second half says, so maybe I won't bother.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Well done Sue!

Today My Name is Sue won a Total Theatre Award. We were all almost as excited as if we'd won it ourselves. But as they are our friends, it's almost as good as winning it ourselves.
They also deserve the Fringe of the Fringe Award (but there isn't one) and Elena should get the Best Bee Impersonation Award (there isn't one of those either).

The other exciting news is that Elisabet will play with us today. I just had lunch with her and she didn't seem to nervous yet, but I'm sure that will change in about an hour.
Elisabet could easily win the Best Laugh of the Fringe Award (but yet again, someone forgot to launch that category).

So this is a very exciting day all round.
You wouldn't really expect that at the very end of the festival, but hey, I guess it ain't over till it's over (which is very soon).

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Rollercoaster Day

Yesterday started with our best intentions of going onto the Mile to try and convince more people to come and see our show. When we met at the Pleasance, there was a massive downpour that had been there for hours and didn't seem to have any plans to leave.
But suddenly there was a break and we headed for the Royal Mile, hoping it would stay dry for long enough.

At the bottom stage we saw that Woody Sez would be playing at 12.30. I said I'd be surprised if they'd turn up with their instruments in the rain. But I'd only just finished that thought and there they were: a bit early.
The stage was empty so we jumped on, and were very soon joined by Helen, Woody Sez' double bass player. It was great fun.

A minute later David, their violinist also joined us. Our song suddenly had a lot more backing than it usually does, and we all had a fantastic time. Alex felt like he was part of a real band, and we all decided to hang around for their slot on the stage.

Woody Sez are great musicians, and they seem to have a lot of fun together. We'd met some of them last year in Recklinghausen and then bumped into them at the start of the festival, but this was a gentle reminder that we had to go and see their show. So we did. It's a great show. Go and see it.

When I returned to the Pleasance to play My Life With The Dogs, Kjell had some very sad news. My very old friend Volkswagen Caravelle number 1 has officially died. No more cross-European journeys together. We've spent a lot of great times together over the past four years, drove from Oslo to Parma, from London to Prague, from Nykobing to Graz - to name but a few. We went on a lot of ferries together (but never shared a cabin), sat in some traffic jams together, listened to foreign radio together and squashed millions of bugs on his windscreen.

I asked Kjell if I could get the VW insignia as a memento before he gets squashed into a cube of wrinkled metal.

We had a great show (even though I messed up some chords in 'It's Now or Never' - I won't do that again). Afterwards everyone went off for drinks with East to Edinburgh and the Arts Council and I stayed behind to play with the Sues.
We had a bit of a dramatic start last night. It started with Dafydd's wig, which seemed to have a bit of a tantrum minutes before we had to start, and continued with Dafydd nearly pulling the piano over. That bit was quite scary: it all happened in a flash, and in that flash I could see Dafydd's legs crushed under the upright piano. Luckily he managed to push it back up without doing any damage to himself or the piano.

And now we're off to rehearse with Liz.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

**** Herald

We've been waiting for a review in the Herald for a long time, and it finally arrived. Four stars, that should be enough to push us through these last few days.

Today Elisabet Topp is joining us, something we are all very excited about. It's always nice to have more NIE members around. Liz will be playing the final three shows of the festival - from Saturday onwards.
So even if you've already seen the show, here's a reason to come back.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Drunks in dresses

I missed a great photo opportunity on Saturday night. After our show, Iva was doing some work in the green bit of the Pleasance Courtyard and suddenly spotted her dress and Alex' hat outside our dressing room.
Two men who had clearly had too much to drink had gone into our dressing room and picked themselves an outfit. The red spotty dress clearly took their preference.
Iva went over and asked them to take it off and put it back, but they wouldn't. She then had to call security to get our costumes back.

It's no news to me that most men like wearing dresses. Whenever we have workshops with bags of costumes, most of the actors go straight for very tight dresses. There is a Belgian band who's frontman loves wearing dresses (and it's by no means a drag act).
It is new to me however that fringe visitors get drunk enough to venture backstage and walk out with costumes that are part of a show.

What if Iva hadn't been there? How far into Edinburgh would they have gotten wearing a red spotty dress and where would they have abandoned it?
And how would we have found a new one an hour before the show?

In the meanwhile I've played with the Sues for the very first time. I was very nervous initially, but then Hannah very courteously took all of my nerves from me so I felt much better.
As I'm now in two shows a day in the same venue, I would like to take this opportunity to advertise them both.
It's the last week of the festival now. Week 3, as they confusingly call it. In reality it is our 4th week here. I wonder who is trying to fool who with the fringe system of week numbers.
Take it from me, this is the last week.
You have 8 more chances to see My Life With The Dogs.
You have 8 more chances to see My Name is Sue (who got a 4 star review in the Scotsman today).
In fact, you have 8 more chances to see Hugh Hughes, who fits right in the middle.

A perfect evening in Edinburgh would be:
  • 5.30pm My Life With the Dogs
  • 7.05pm Hugh Hughes
  • 8.05pm have some dinner somewhere
  • 9.45pm My Name is Sue

There, I've laid it all out for you. All you have to do now is book and enjoy.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Heart-wrenching, tender and evocative - 5 more stars

Edinburgh Festivals Magazine loved our show. Read their review here.

Secret police

A week ago we had a special appearance in our backstage area outside Pleasance Two. Two policemen came and stood behind the partition wall that 'protects' us from the general public. When they arrived and headed straight for one of the portakabins, we initially thought they were after our gun. Or something illegal. They weren't. They were on a break.

Since then they've been there every day. One day there were four of them.

One day we asked them if they were on a break. 'We're hiding', they replied. 'This is our favourite place for hiding'. I suggested they could go inside one of the storage portakabins and shut the doors. 'Ok, can you come and let us out at 4am?'
Their shift runs from 4pm to 4am and they cover the Pleasance and the Underbelly areas.
And Pleasance Two is apparently their hiding place.

I do have a picture of them, but I don't want to get them into trouble, as they're nice guys and they made me laugh.
One day someone from Pleasance security brought them hot dogs.

I wonder if they saw who stole Dafydd's bike.

4 more stars

We got another great review in What's On Stage. You can read it here.

I've been praised quite a lot this year: I had a special mention for my drum, Whatsonstage liked my minimalist piano tinkling, and several others have loved the lighting. I'll have to make sure my ego doesn't expand too much.

Today I will start my new adventure and be a Sue for the first time. They are nominated for a Total Theatre Award, so if they don't win it, I will take it very personally...

Throughout the 14 years I've worked in theatre, various people have asked me if I wouldn't rather be on stage. I never did (and still don't): the dark corners of the wings or a control booth suit me much more.
Bizarrely, this will be the third show I am IN this year. Something's going wrong here. And I'm too young for a midlife crisis or menopause.

I will reassess this phenomenon next year, after we've made a few new shows where I will aim to be back in my natural habitat.

Friday, 21 August 2009

5 Stars in Three Weeks: This show is special

Three Weeks don't really do stars as such, but they gave us 5/5.
This is what they said:

"We enter a strangely lit set, at once welcoming and sinister, and are unsettled to discover an assumed camaraderie between us and the bizarre characters on stage. We are then invited to 'imagine' the main actor is not a middle-aged Mancunian at all but a four year old Russian boy and are transported into a tale that is funny, tragic, shocking and achingly sympathetic to the characters (and the dogs, who are priceless). This total communication frees the audience of simply being voyeurs, and the production manages to convey the impression of haphazard spontaneity with precision. The music, played largely by the actors of this multi-national company, is also very emotive. This show is special.
tw rating 5/5"

The Guardian brings their kids

I just found an article by a Guardian journalist who is exploring the fringe with his children. He came to see our show and this is the verdict:

"Our meeting with the cast of My Life with The Dogs, as they flogged their wares on the Royal Mile, was providential. We had already marked their version of the life of a four-year-old Moscow boy who flees his home to live with a pack of street dogs as a possible. We worried, though, that it might be too dark – or have too much Russian – for an 11-year-old. They reassured us that it would not be. At least one audience member did not seem quite so sure, casting nervous glances our way whenever something violent or risqué happened. The 13-year-old declared he had never seen anything that so cleverly mixed music with acting or which treated the audience like part of the show. His only wish – and mine – was that it could have gone on longer."

(the entire article is here)

People often ask us if they can bring their children. It's a difficult question to answer. Yes, of course, is one answer: we do perform in schools with this show and teenagers love it. When it comes to younger children, it entirely depends on their parents and what they think their children can handle. It is not an offensive performance in any way, and I think the bigger question is if they would be too young to understand what is happening on stage.
In general, I would say older than 10 should be fine. But I'm not a parent...

The Mud

In true Edinburgh style, our backstage area has turned into a mudbath. At the moment there are two small areas of dry gravel left to put our stuff on before we go in.

Cat has gone back to the office in Cambridge for a few days and it feels very strange to be one man down. She's back tonight though.
In the meanwhile we're already focused on the next tour, or rather the logistics for our next tour. Everything will be freighted to the north of Norway. I don't like freighting. I don't like when our set is not with me in the back of the van.
Last time (when we went to China), we nearly didn't get our set back in time.
And like last time, there is not enough time for me to drive it all up there. So I'll be a bit jittery until we get back to the UK and our set is there waiting for me to join me on the roads of Europe.

I would like to congratulate 'My Name is Sue' for being nominated for a Total Theatre Award. I think they should win.
I also think that whoever stole Dafydd's bike should return it to Pleasance Two.

We're headed for the final week now. So don't forget to come and see us.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

4 Stars

We got a very nice review in OnStageScotland. My drumkit got a special mention. I do have the coolest drumkit in the festival.
It also has a very impressive last line:
Go see and if you don't have your heart melted then I'm afraid there's no hope for you.

In the meanwhile we've had our last day off. From now on we will play every single day until the end of the festival. So there is no possible confusion: every day at half past five we will be at Pleasance Two. Regardless of the weather.

We had a very big audience on Monday, so book your tickets now for any of the remaining 13 shows.

Monday, 17 August 2009

An Eventful Day - Part 3: Some people think they're famous

One thing I find fascinating and perverse about the Edinburgh Festival is all of those people who think they are famous.
I'm largely oblivious to UK celebrities, or actually to most celebrities in any of the countries I've lived in. This is partly to do with the fact that I don't watch TV, and partly with the fact that I worked in opera for 6 years and have had my fair share of diva's.

Whenever I'm having drinks in Edinburgh, I play a quiet game with myself: spot the wannabe celebrities. As I wouldn't know whether they are famous or how famous they are, it's more challenging for me than for most others. But it's still quite easy to tell. The people who think they're famous constantly scan the bar to see if anyone is recognising them. They'll be having conversations with people, but never stop looking around. (I wouldn't like to have a conversation with someone who doesn't look at me).
Whenever I walk into the bar, I scan the bar to see if I can spot my friends. And when I've found them, I settle down.

Last night something happened that reminded me a lot of some of the 'good times' I've had at the opera. What I've learnt in those days is this: people who are really good at what they do and are happy with what they've achieved, are generally lovely. People who are just not good enough or are envious of those who are better, are diva's and generally display the most ridiculous behaviour which makes any normal human being lose all respect for them.

So this is what happened: I was sitting in Brooke's Bar with Nikki, Tom, Bob and David from Hoipolloi. Some woman walked past and Nikki said to her: 'You are Gillian McKeith!'.
The woman turned to Nikki and shouted: 'Fuck off!' Twice.
(I have no idea who Gillian McKeith is, so I didn't understand the woman's reaction. I also had no idea who the woman was - clearly NOT Gillian McKeith - so the whole thing went way over my head.
I found out afterwards that Gillian McKeith has some sort of dieting programme on TV and that the woman in Brooke's Bar was Nicola McAuliffe - who I've never heard of either).

We all laughed at her reaction, and so did she. She walked over to her friends saying Nikki thought she was Gillian McSomething, and they had a good laugh about it. So we all thought that was that.

Nikki, Tom and I went outside for a cigarette. We only just got there and Nicola McSomething stuck her head outside and screamed at Nikki: 'You stupid fucking bitch!'
Tom and I burst out laughing.
She disappeared and immediately reappeared shouting: 'Sorry, I meant you talentless stupid fucking bitch!'.

The man who was also sitting outside smoking asked: 'Who is she and what just happened there?'
(Clearly I'm not the only one who didn't know who she was).
But I do now, and whenever I see something that has Nicola McWhatever in the credits, I will stay far away from it. No level of celebrity justifies that kind of childish ridiculous behaviour. It was a mistake. It wasn't even a malicious or dangerous or enormous mistake.

I once met Desmond Tutu. With my low level knowledge of celebrities, even I knew who he was before I met him. His microphone didn't work. He didn't scream at anyone. And I even think that if someone went up to him and mistook him for someone else, he wouldn't call them a stupid fucking bitch. He'd probably just laugh.

DISCLAIMER: This post is written by Elke Laleman, NIE's production manager. It doesn't necessarily reflect the opinions of every single member of NIE. We are a very tight company, but we do each have our own thoughts. If anyone feels offended by this or any other post, come and find me. I'm at Pleasance Two every day at 5.30. I'm the one in the yellow jacket sitting in the corner behind a piano. I will not take back any of what I've written, but I'm happy to discuss it.

An Eventful Day - Part 2: No Way Out

After dinner Cat was going to meet her friend Diane, who'd just been to see Internal and needed a drink.
Only she couldn't get out of the front door. She came to ask me how to open the door, and I thought she was being a complete idiot not being able to open the door. Sasha came with me and explained to me how to do it, but I couldn't get it open.

We asked Kjell if we needed a key to open the door, and he in turn gave us both the idiot look. He didn't manage to open it either.

Then David tried. No luck.

The Alex and Kjell tried together. No luck.

After about 15 minutes of trying to open the door, we started to discuss how long we'd last without going insane - all of NIE in a three bedroom flat. There were 15 of us in there.

Cat phoned Diane asking her to come to the flat so we could throw her the key in the hope that the door could be opened from the outside. In the middle of the conversation Diane's phone ran out of battery.

Everyone started to sing 'We're all going to die'. Even the kids joined in.
Slowly some people started to get slightly nervous.

But then Cat's phone rang. Diane had found a phone box and miraculously knew Cat's phone number. So Cat gave her directions.

As we saw her coming down the road, some of us lent out the window to make it clear where we were.

Just to make things clear: we were on the second floor with no fire escapes.

And then Diane opened the front door. We made sure we didn't accidentally close it behind her, as then we would have been 16 locked inside a flat.

We've always like Diane, but now she is our hero.

An Eventful Day - Part 1: The Sunday Roast

At the beginning of the festival Nikki had promised us she would cook us a roast. Us is a total of about 15 people, including children and partners. Yesterday was the day. While we were doing the show, Nikki was slaving away in Kjell and Iva's kitchen, roasting three chickens, an enormous amount of roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, peas, broccoli, carrots, stuffing, yorkshire puddings and gravy.

You might be able to guess that it is not that straightforward to cook for 15 people in a small kitchen with only one oven. Added to that is the fact that most NIE members are big eaters.
When we arrived after the show we all tried to offer some help, but it was made clear that after having spent three hours in the kitchen on her own, Nikki wanted to finish the job herself.

Sasha had 5 chicken legs (he may be small, but he is one of the big eaters), and me and Alex reached the point of not being able to move anymore because we'd eaten too much.

There was more than enough for everyone and it was yummy. Well done, Nikki!

Friday, 14 August 2009

The Routine

We're halfway through week 1 now (the first week is called week 0) and we've settled into a daily routine. Part of that routine is cutting snow. Nikki is the master cutter, but sometimes, when time runs out, Cat and Tom help out.

We did a little photo session about our time at Pleasance Two. At Pleasance Two, the backstage area is outside, opposite the green bit (the green bit has a name, but I can't remember what it is).

The show before us has a lot of stuff, and every day when they finish, we can't wait to get in there. Only we have to wait, otherwise we'd get in the way of their get-out.
Kjell and David were ready to roll in the amps.

As we share the storage portacabins and the dressing room portacabins with the other companies of P2 (Pleasance Two), it is very easy to meet the other companies. This is Dafydd.

I've started learning music for My Name is Sue. I think it will be alright. The only thing I'm worried about is Elisabet Topp. Her laughter is very infectious and I don't know if I'll be able to keep a straight face. When I said this out loud, drummer Sue gave me her Sue look and said: 'You'll just have to'. But she doesn't know the Liz Laugh yet....
A lot of people are very jealous of me. They would all love to be a Sue.
I'll just have to make sure I don't get the costumes mixed up.

In the meanwhile I've managed to see a few more shows I didn't like, but I also found one show that blew me away completely. I walked out of it feeling as if I'd just been run over by a truck. It's a half hour show called Sea Wall and it's on at the Traverse. They have their last show tomorrow though, so if you want to catch it you'll have to hurry.

But most of all: don't forget to book your tickets for our show.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Strange Days Indeed

Yesterday was our day off so I went and saw a lot of shows. I won't tell you which ones, because they didn't change my favourites list in any way. This is the festival: you can make your own wrong choices - just like I did.

Halfway through the day something slightly strange happened: I bumped into one of the Sues (the one who is sometimes called Dafydd) and he asked me if I played any melodic instruments. I said the piano, but he knew that already and that's his instrument. Then I said the accordion and he got this look on his face which suggests a lot of rapid thinking is going on.
Then he asked how you could play 'I will survive' on an accordion and I started singing (which took me slightly by surprise, but as everything had already turned slightly strange, it kind of fitted in).
His next question was if I'd consider becoming a Sue if he couldn't find a violinist. I said yes.

As the day progressed and I sat through more shows, I put the thought aside and classified it as a backup solution.
Day turned into night and moved into the Brooke's Bar. All of the Sues came to find me there and started discussing the details of my entry into Sue World. I will have to wear a wig and a skirt but I won't have to wear make up.
A few weeks ago I stood at the edge of the gaping hole of fire in Turkmenistan with a former Soviet army captain who said: "This is the perfect place for a murder. I could push you in and no one would ever find out." I was in the middle of the desert with not a single soul in sight. It didn't make me nervous at all.
Wearing a skirt will.

To a lot of people at the festival this would probably not be such a strange event.
For me the strangeness lies in the fact that I will soon be on stage in two shows per day, and in both of them I ended up there accidentally.
But the thousands of performers out there should not feel threatened: this is not the start of a career change. I will not steal your jobs. Mine is much more fun.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Week one is over - we have a day off

When we were on the Royal Mile yesterday we made some new friends. Two little girls danced to our music, and some people from other shows sang along to our song.
We also made some non-friends, but not in a disastrous way. Sometimes we are deemed too loud to be anywhere near the stages and get asked to move on. So then we go and sing somewhere else.

The show last night was very full again - there was some space for people with Pleasance passes, but not for all of them. Kjell stumbled right into the audience, but did no damage. So far no one has given us their biscuits yet.

As we now have a day off, it is time to wash some of the costumes.

In the evening we all went to see Camille at the Assembly Hall. She was great. Simon and Chris from Hoipolloi were there too, but that didn't surprise me much.
Two years ago I stalked them (both accidentally and relentlessly) throughout the festival. Whatever show they'd picked to go and see, I was there too. We decided to stick to old habits this year.

But now something very strange has happened. I'm being stalked as well now. So it's triple stalking. The woman who's stalking me was at Internal with me and last night she was there for Camille. Considering there were about 800 people there, I was quite impressed that she managed to be right in front of me not only at the start, but also at the end (as far as I could see, she was not sitting anywhere near me).
I've asked around and apparently she's called Linda Marlowe. Apparently she's famous.

I won't tell you which shows I'm going to see today, but I'll let you know if she shows up wherever I go.

As it is the end of week one, I will give you a list of the things I've loved so far:
(this list is in random order, but with the Belgians at the top)
- Internal
- Hugh Hughes
- My Name is Sue
- Camille

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Sold Out

We made it on the sold out board! I'm sure we've never been on there so early on.
An hour or so before the show we'd sold 133 tickets. Just before we got in, Josie and Chris from Hoipolloi came to tell us they'd wanted to come and see us but couldn't because we were sold out.
There was a moment of disbelief before the joy kicked in.

So book now. Pleasance Two. 5.30pm. Every day but not on the 11th and the 18th.

Cat and I saw another great show tonight: Internal by Ontroerend Goed. They are Belgian and they are ontroerend goed (find a dictionary).

Tomorrow we will all go and see Camille. We discovered her two years ago and are big fans.

Shows we like

Everyone should go and see 'My Name is Sue' at Pleasance Two at 9.45pm. We like Sue. She's great. She's Welsh. She rocks.

I will not tell you anything about the show because you should just go and see it. If you fancy a hilarious night out that is not stand-up comedy, just go there. And say hello from me.

Last night I had a brief moment of panic during the show. During the Russian song in the middle of the show, David started playing the bass one verse earlier than usual, and I then started playing the drums one verse earlier than usual (during the second instead of the third verse). Halfway through the verse I suddenly realised that I normally change the lights during that verse, only now I had no hands left to control the lighting desk. After the initial confusion of why I suddenly had this problem, I found a solution and got through it.
Cat suggested I could try and control the lights with my hair. My hair can do many things, but I think it's not quite ready to operate a lighting desk.
(I think I should get the Hair of the Fringe award, but Alex said I'd have to have a fringe. So I reckon Sue can have the Fringe of the Fringe award, and I'll have the Hair of the Fringe award.)

Some workshops I found

Last night we found a quiet place to sit and have a drink. I won't tell you were that is, because then it might get as packed as everywhere else.
I was reading Three Weeks (a festival publication) and found listings for a few workshops.
And they really made me laugh.

Workshop 1: THE ART OF BLOGGING (quite obvious why that caught my eye)
"Everyone can be a journalist or a writer these days, can't they, with the power of the worldwide interweb blogosphere and all that? Your chances of doing a successful blog might be increased, however, if you attend this masterclass on the subject of blogging run by Helen Fowler and Caroline Dunford, both of whom secured publishing deals via their own blogs."

"Well, here's one for nearly everyone. How to deal with rejection. To be fair, it's about having your written work rejected, but I expect Caroline Dunford (who yes, also tells you how best to blog) will offer tips and techniques that would help in other areas too."

I would like to wish Caroline Dunford the best of luck with her writing.

Mervyn Stutter

Yesterday we went to play at Mervyn Stutter's Pick of the Fringe. It's a lunchtime show with extracts of some of the shows at the festival.
I think we did well, although at the end we didn't get the blackout we'd asked for. As I'm on stage, we had to let the crew there do the lights, and we'd agreed that I'd give them a nod when the blackout was due.
So I sat there nodding like an idiot and nothing happened. Then Alex joined me in the nodding but still nothing happened. Then the lights started flashing. And then Alex fortunately decided that words might work better than nodding and he shouted 'Blackout'.
Other than that I think our 5 minute extract was a good one.

Afterwards we went back to the Pleasance Courtyard and started stapling things to our flyers. Reasons why people should come and see us. At the moment they're preview comments, like 'theatre that won't disappoint'. I like that quote, but it does put a bit of pressure on us: we should not disappoint. Not that we'd want to.
As of today we'll have press in, so hopefully we'll be stapling review quotes to our flyers soon.

Kjell taped his shoe together and now looks even cooler. It's all about the details...

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Royal Mile

We went on the Royal Mile yesterday. As always it's tricky to find the regular audience in between all the other flyerers, but we managed to find quite a few. If you want to come and say hello, we'll be there again today between 12 and 1.30pm.

We were joined by some chickens at one point, and they danced to our music.
A polar bear came to do some dancing too.

And as we were about to leave, we were approached by a man with an enormous set of balls.

Our second show went very well, and afterwards we went to see Hugh Hughes, who's on after us. I had a great time, and if you come to see our show and are not quite sure what to do afterwards, go and see his show. You'll have enough time to get a drink and cool down a bit (it gets hot in Pleasance Two), and then you can go straight back into the same venue. It's as easy as that.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

One down

So we did it. We played our first show at Pleasance Two. We had what Anabelle (our stage manager) called 'a healthy audience', and that didn't refer to swine flu, it referred to its size.
I don't think I've ever seen Edinburgh so busy so early on. It's great to see the courtyard so full, and during the show you hear the buzz of the people outside (and unfortunately the clanging of the glass bottles in the bottle containers).

One slight drawback was that ten minutes before the show we were told we had to use the small gun, even though the big gun with the quieter caps was within the dB limit. Alex was not very happy about that.

But hey, he got himself new showpants and they'd make everyone happy.

And Cat got busy making snow. She was so excited about her first photographic appearance on our blog, I decided to give her another one.

Last night we saw a show called 'My Name is Sue' and it made me a little bit jealous because they had a real piano and real drums. Alex said my drums are a lot cooler than real drums and he's right. No one has drums like mine. And on Friday our Saturday our friends from Hoipolloi are bringing me a better keyboard. So I really have no reason to complain.

Today we'll tackle the Royal Mile to try and make our audience even healthier.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Getting in at the Pleasance

Here we go...
I think we may have the brightest poster in the festival. Look out for it. Book tickets now.

Our new flightcases give us a very different look from previous years of touring. No more old battered suitcases, no more loose random objects. Same old NIE, with new and more proper looking touring kit.

But some things will always stay the same. Cat found a place to sit. I don't think she broke any of the rules surrounding her, but who knows whether she is an authorised person?

Our get-in was after that of Hugh Hughes. We arrived two hours early (that's how keen we are to get it all started), and at various stages we were tempted to throw Hugh Hughes out. But we didn't.

When it was finally our turn to claim Pleasance Two we made the most of it: spread out our junk everywhere, trying very hard not to break any rules, and got to know our crew for this month. They're all great.

We had some issues with our gun and had to get the decibel police in to check it. The first shots were 10dB over the limit, so we had to resort to the smaller gun. That was 3dB under, so it was fine. But Alex loves the bigger gun, so he called the dB police back to check the other blanks for the bigger gun. They were exactly on the limit. 100dB.

One heroic technician climbed into the roof to hang our streetlamp. Our streetlamp always impresses and confuses technicians in all venues we go to. They've never seen anything like it, and when you come to see the show you'll have to admit it is the most beautiful ugly object you've ever seen.

These are the people we share Pleasance Two with. I'm very impressed with Matthew Sharp, who is doing two different shows at the same time.

We start today. Be the first to see My Life With The Dogs in the Edinburgh Festival. COME AND JOIN US at PLEASANCE TWO at 5.30PM.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Travel by numbers 13: Oslo - Edinburgh

The last thing I expected when I left the house at 5am on Sunday morning was to see Kjell, on his bike, ready to go somewhere. I asked him where he was off to. The answer: "Catching fish". Those Norwegians...

Armed with a thermos flask full of coffee, I set off on the multi-ferry multi-country journey.
I drove to Larvik (87 minutes), boarded the ferry to Hirtshals (three hours and forty five minutes), drove across Denmark to Esbjerg (three hours and twenty one minutes) and waited for the ferry to Harwich (eighteen hours and forty five minutes).

I was on this ferry going the other way exactly one year ago, on my way to Odsherred to rehearse Everything Falls Apart.
I saw the same magician as last year, and he was still boring and rubbish.

There was a true ladybird infestation on the outer deck. The floor was covered in them, a lot of them had perished because you couldn't step in between them, but more than a lot of them were still alive. I'd never seen anything like it.

When the boat finally docked in Harwich, they all flew off the boat as the cars where driving off. So I drove through the ladybird rain.

The drive to Edinburgh (seven hours and forty eight minutes), was busy but smooth. The further I got, the more I tried to spot people I knew. I especially focused on unbranded vans or rental vans, thinking there must be a fair amount of people I know also driving up to Edinburgh. But I didn't recognise anyone.

Total travel time: thirty nine hours forty eight minutes.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Packing Up

On Saturday we did a run for a small select audience (some friends from Asker and Oslo).
Afterwards we packed our brandnew flightcases, for which we had to destroy part of the car so they would fit. The packing of the car very quickly turned into a one man job with the rest of us watching. It reminded me a bit of the way me and my siblings would all stand around while my father tried to get everything into the car at the start of a summer holiday. A sense of anticipation, excitement, and impatience (in our case mainly for dinner and birthday cakes).

Bjorn and Betty (Kjell's neighbours) had made us dinner, which was fantastic. Grete, Lenka and the kids had made Sasha's birthday cakes, so the evening turned into a complete feast.

In between dinner and cake, I got a new international haircut, courtesy of Tomas Mechacek. People were very dismissive and discouraging about me letting him cut my hair, but I think you have to take some risks in life and when it comes to hair, it does grow back (at least mine does...).

In the middle of the haircutting job, we paused for cake. We all screamed the devil out of the cake and had a discussion about where that tradition came from. It wasn't resolved. It's either Bara's or Dave's tradition. They can figure it out between them, the bottom line is the kids love it (and so do the adults).

Tom did a great job, which wasn't that easy as everyone kept commenting and making suggestions.
Liz helped with a few finishing touches and insisted on hairgel, but that's where my openness to risks fell short. I hate hair products.

Everyone had to admit Tom did a great job.


On Friday we did a run through with Liz and Tom, who will be alternating Iva and David at some point in the future. It was rough and rocky, but they did great, considering they just watched rehearsals prior to playing their new parts. We've been working hard this week, so it was decided we would take an earlier break.

We had a meeting about Edinburgh, what still needed to be bought, how we would tackle the Royal Mile, the general daily routine, etc.

After dinner Kjell took us to the fjord to take some of us out on the boat. There wasn't enough space on the boat, so Cat and I stayed behind.
Before the trip could start, the boat had to be drained (it has been raining a lot this week), so Alex and Kjell got their feet wet.

They stayed away for quite a long time, so Cat and I were wondering if they'd capsized, or gotten lost, or hijacked by pirates, or if Kjell had just thrown them all overboard.

They did come back eventually, without fish.