ED2011 COLUMN: Aisle16 co-founder and Poet In Residence on Radio 4′s ‘Saturday Live’, Luke Wright on the best, and worst, of his Edinburgh Fringe experiences.
THE BEST BITS
Arthur’s Seat: There’s a mountain in the middle of the city! I’m from Essex and you don’t get that sort of thing around there. Every year I make time to climb Arthur’s Seat, the 251m hill in the middle of Holyrood Park. You get amazing views of Edinburgh and a real sense of escape from what can otherwise be a pretty unrelenting festival. Once in a while we go at night, usually after a few rounds of Tennent’s, and one year we even took a night time dip in Dunsapie Loch on our way back down. Though my companion, Paul Foot, did later find a small dead fish in his underpants, that presumably swam in there while we bathed, so that bit is possibly not recommended.
Taxis: I’m not usually a taxi man. In rural Suffolk, where I live now, they cost about £300, so no one bothers. Besides, everyone drinks and drives in the countryside, it’s how we cull our stupider males. However, in Edinburgh, and certainly by Week Three, I get taxis everywhere. I’m chalking this up as a PRO point because, even though my reluctance to walk even a few hundred metres these days is probably a sign of dark mental malaise, it’s a blessed relief in the miserable humid rain. And you can pretend you’re a chauffeured star, even though Chortle said you were “over-rehearsed and stifled”.
Brooke’s Bar: I played The Pleasance every year from 2003 to 2007, then they stopped calling. I don’t let this worry me. I’m not welcome at plenty of more impressive theatres than that. However, I do still make it my mission at the beginning of the Festival to blag a pass to their performer’s bar, Brooke’s. Upstairs in the Dome, Brooke’s seems somewhere between student common room and nursing home. They always leave the lights on too bright and my ‘cooler’ friends always hated it there. But I love it, a place where performers can get together and drink over-priced fizzy lager, bitch about our reviews and audience numbers, and get hideously pissed. It’s always lovely catching up with old mates, and no festival is complete without being turfed out of Brooke’s at 4am by Pleasance founder Christopher Richardson himself.
THE BAD BITS
The Weather: The stinking, bastard weather. It never used to rain this much, did it? Did it? Really? Well, maybe I just notice it more now I have to wear a suit to my gigs. One of my strongest memories of Edinburgh is just feeling hot, cold and wet all at the same time – and not just while watching the Caesar Twins.
The Whole Review Thing: “It’s three stars, but it reads like a four”. We all want reviews. We need them to sell tickets. We especially like it when they are nice about us. Hey, we can even stomach the criticisms (Steve Bennett, you were right, we were “over-rehearsed and stifled”). But when a year or two of your life has gone into making something (not to mention the decades you’ve spent getting good at what you do), you can’t help but feel a little helpless and sad when it’s judged on a scale of 1-5 by someone who can’t string a sentence together.
Loneliness: I love what I do and I want to take it to a bigger audience. I also love the challenge of making a piece of theatre work night after night in a less than ideal space for that piece of theatre. I love the excitement of being in a new place, I love the sense of adventure. But I’m married. I’m a dad to a very young boy who misses me when I go to put the toast on. This Edinburgh is going to be hard on us all. I hope this will make me appreciate the challenges and excitement of doing the Fringe that little bit more, but there will also be tears before bedtime.
Luke Wrights’ shows ‘Cynical Ballads’ and ‘Aisle16 R Kool’ were performed at the Underbelly and The Banshee Labyrinth respectively during Fringe 2011.