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A Penny for Them

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Theatre is unique. In three days I meet a dozen folk who know my intimate secrets, neuroses, distinguishing marks and annoying habits. Fringe is both speed dating and psychoanalysis in a nutshell whilst the world watches us stage our shows. This is anything but humdrum and a bad day performing in an undersold challenging show is better than a good day in any temping job although I do feel things becoming routine. As with all ancient cultures, for let’s be honest none of us can truly carbon date the Fringe, rituals are central. The ritual, be it fidgeting with an iphone or even blogging, is a tool to keep us all sane, however insane our antics look on the outside. I hasten to add I do not quite have the chutzpah to go as bonkers on the royal mile as I would like and any review of my leafleting technique may include the words lack lustre but let’s not talk about reviews. Let’s stay happy by using rituals to cope with the stage fright, random homesickness and daunting glances at the number of shows left to deliver.

I feel certain this where the tradition of superstition amongst actors begins. The sparkling comedienne Lynn Miller who makes me instantly relax on shipping up at Sweet Grassmarket with her spiky Jewish humour pops a penny inside a shoe before a gig. Similarly the order of putting on a costume in our changing facilities by all venue performers remains unchanged from opening night. My own lucky rituals are embarrassingly obscure. On the way to the venue I eat a rocky road biscuit and tell the same Big Issue vendor on Meadow Park who wishes me good luck before my first show to have a nice day. I think he would rather I bought a newspaper

On the way back from my fourth show today I feel I can release my tight grip on the rituals around me as a daily routine has safely emerged from what seems like an initial chaos. Then with my boring suburban bag of supermarket groceries swinging in the rain I get held up in the park by a Hare Krishna procession. I start crying hot tears against the cold damp rain on my cheeks. The heady mix of chanting in the air makes me reflect on how far I have come with my work in one week. Working at the Fringe in whatever role surely has an impact and depth of meaning for everyone. We are part of an ancient tribe carving out our bit of culture come hell or high water. I join in with the tambourines like a deranged fool, my orange carrier bag swaying in the downpour and I sing to Hare Rama. The old customs are the best. I cling to my wee rituals for dear life.


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