By fortune or fate one day in 1997, whilst speedily walking along St Martin's Lane in London, I bumped into an old friend who had gone into theatre producing. "We're desperate" he said... How could I refuse?
I was to play the part of 'Son' in Steve Martin's surreal comedy W.A.S.P.
It was a five actor play about a dysfunctional middle American family and we were to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. The venue was the Assembly Ballroom and we were on everyday at 3pm.
Having never been to the festival before, I braced myself for what was to be a life-changing month! Recently separated from my first wife, I was "off the leash" and suddenly plummeted into a social scene with thousands of like-minded folk.
The plays, the music, the arts, the hugely positive atmosphere lead to me slightly 'over-indulging', and so after a swift visit to Edinburgh Infirmary, where I was issued with Temazepam and told to 'take it easy pal'. Take it easy? I'm at the biggest cultural festival in the World, I don't intend to 'take it easy.' I realised a new (and some would say correct!) approach was needed.
I then decided it was time to explore the arts culture as opposed to the social culture that the fringe had to offer.
What a great year for theatre that was.
The 'Right Size's' production of a brilliantly whacky two man adventure, Do You Come Here Often, blew my mind and totally inspired me to get creative and push theatrical boundaries in the future. I saw the play several times and booked up to see more plays at the festival. Jump to Cow Heaven featuring a young actor with huge presence by the name of Martin Freeman, Playing Burton with Josh Richards, The Ballad of Jimmy Costello with the Kiwi actor Tim Balm to name but a few. I had a ball.
Suffice to say I've returned to Edinburgh for the fringe festival most years since then, notably in 2009 when my life was taken over by a certain bespectacled comic genius called Morecambe and what a year that turned out to be. I hope this year will also prove to be a positive one with No Direction a new play with Albert Welling and Ronnie Toms which I've directed.
I've brought my children to Edinburgh a few times and I sincerely hope they will come to appreciate just how awe inspiring this place is, especially every August.
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