The Guardian Posted on Monday, August 9th, 2004
As a Fringe actress, I have a few golden rules: don't wave to friends and family, and don't pull your skirt up over your head
As I write this, I’ve been in Edinburgh for just two-and-a-half days. The various festivals here attract talent from all over the world and I’ve already met five Canadian actors, three Kiwi stage managers and 10 Guatemalan dancers. No Scottish people yet, but I’m sure that will happen in time. I intend to make the most of the influx of international performers and see at least one show from every continent.
I’ll be starting with Africa – all the staff at the Assembly Rooms have been raving about Amajuba, Like Doves We Rise, described as an “intimate portrayal of childhood apartheid in South Africa with stunning dance and a capella singing”.
A pretty common experience at the Fringe is going to see a show where there are more people on stage than there are in the audience. So let’s pull together and make sure that doesn’t happen to my choice from Asia, a 17-strong cast from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. They will be presenting The True Story of Ah Q, in collaboration with the Chinese Opera movement, at the bafflingly named venue Pend Fringe@Gateway.
There are many great North Americans to choose from, but the first one I want to see is cheeky Canadian Phil Nichol and his (Irish) co-star Janice Phayre in the satirical comedy Freedumb at the Pleasance.
If you’ve ever wondered what Venezuelan percussionists are capable of (and who hasn’t?), then join me in celebrating the South American verve of El Sabor De Barrio Latino at El Barrio Latin Bar. The bar describes itself as: “the rum-soaked nightspot of Latin Rhythm”. I would imagine that’s something of a fire risk.
My European night will be spent watching Vardos, who perform Hungarian music on the violin, accordion and double bass, at the Famous Spiegeltent. The Spiegeltent is the best place to see great music under canvas, although I broke my toe there last year attempting a tricky dance move.
I’ve been struggling a bit with Antarctica, so if anyone can alert me to a plucky troupe of Antarctic minstrels, please do so. Otherwise I will definitely be going to see the penguin parade at Edinburgh zoo – that’s always a must-see.
Before anyone accuses me of forgetting Australia, my hilarious Antipodean swimming coach Sarah Kendall is doing her thing at the Pleasance.
· I hope this year’s Fringe will be full of new experiences. As well as learning how to do the butterfly stroke, I’m trying my hand at acting in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Assembly Rooms.
Rehearsing for the play has been an educative experience. The last time I tried acting was in 1982, in the St Elphege’s Roman Catholic primary school nativity play. I thought that esteemed production had taught me all I needed to know about acting, but it turns out that there are some differences between nativity play acting and proper play acting.
I will share the benefit of my experience with any aspiring thespians who have similarly limited experience:
In proper play acting it’s not considered acceptable to break off halfway through one of your lines to wave at your friends and family in the audience.
If you’re feeling nervous or shy, you’re not supposed to try to cover your face with your skirt and show everyone your pants.
If you cry and wet yourself, you don’t get a cuddle from the headmistress and a new uniform from lost property, you get a stern telling-off from the director and everyone else calls you “nurse wee-pants” for the rest of the run. Or so I’d imagine.
I’ve only got about three lines to say, but I do get to spend a couple of hours dollying about in a nurse’s uniform and performing medical tasks. I can exclusively reveal that the so-called “medication” I administer to the patients is actually vitamin C. Given the tendency of participants in the Fringe to drink huge amounts of alcohol and eat only junk food for a month, this may be the only thing of any nutritional value that passes the cast’s lips for the whole of the festival.
It may be that the producers are trying to dose us up with vitamins to ward off any more illness in the cast, because another similarity between this production and my nativity play is that the leading men both contracted nasty cases of chickenpox.
I, too, have been a bit poorly. When not rehearsing, I’ve been confined to my quarters with bronchitis. This means that I’m not really in a position to share any hot festival gossip as yet, but as soon as I’m out there you’ll be the first to know (as long as I don’t break anything or catch another disease in the meantime).