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Anoushka Warden: Everything I know after doing my own work at the Edinburgh Fringe

The My Mum's A Tw*t writer reflects on her time at the Scottish arts festival

Anoushka Warden
© Helen Murray

Yesterday I performed my show for the 25th and final time, I'm finished. Fringe completion!

I can't believe I've done it. I feel proud and pleased.

Most of my line learning days and early performances I was filled with dread. I kept a lid on it, didn't allow myself to talk it out loud too much, as it was my fault, I had chosen to be in this situation.

Plus fear is always worse in your imagination. ALWAYS!

Most normal people's Edinburgh Fringe production goals are to start life there and then ideally go on and have an amazing future life somewhere else, hopefully in a well known London theatre. I had ended up doing the opposite and so my main goal was to just try and tell my story well and hopefully have an audience so the producer wouldn't be at a huge loss at the end of it.

From preview two the show has been sold out everyday and I've performed to a room full of people who have chosen to be there.

That is pretty mad, and I know very lucky given it is such a competitive festival.

Halfway along the Fringe, and even with full audiences, I was feeling a bit, what's the point? Not in a seriously worrying kind of way just in a now that I've achieved it, it seemed odd doing it for another two weeks.

There's A LOT of discipline and staying power that I hadn't ever really had to consider before in other jobs. Being a performer feels quite inflexible.

It takes up sooooo much time and even when you've stopped doing the learning part, or the performing bit, it is in your head at all times. I haven't been able to listen to podcasts, or music or just read a book since the beginning of June.

I'd always assumed working in an office was the most inflexible kind of career choice but having now experienced this, my PR job actually feels massively flexible in comparison – I can have holidays and sick days and breakfast meetings, lunch at 2pm or a cheeky ten-minute nap in the corner of the huge loo. It was open to interpretation. Performing a show at the same time everyday isn't. An hour and a half before the show my schedule was exactly the same. EVERYDAY. Including the mad nervous five wee ritual I had to do before walking on stage. The monotony made my brain want to do naughty things like accidentally get stuck in a changing room in Topshop so the show couldn't start.

Don't get me wrong, the feeling at the end when the audiences applaud is really great and rewarding, especially as it is my own words and story that I'm speaking. But, if I had to do this for 15 weeks, the average run of a West End show, I think I might go a little Groundhog Day crazy. I've learnt I don't have the aptitude for this.


Here are some other things I have learnt:

How to be quiet and talk less.
How to say no to ramming every minute of my day full of things.
How to properly relax (seriously doing a show in Edinburgh felt like R&R from my life back in London – I slept nine hours everyday, ate well, had minimal alcohol, my head only had the play in it and there were no chores or packed schedules to stick to).
To have more respect for others doing this all the time.
When back at work to keep interviews and lunchtime press asks for actors to a minimal during rehearsals.
You CAN tan in Edinburgh (I managed at least 12 hours in The Meadows).
The BEST present to get someone performing is a bouquet of herbal throat remedies.*
I can do anything (seriously, it is scary keeping a room of strangers entertained for an hour).
To not focus on the negative (ie someone not enjoying the show) but to zoom in on the positives (all the people who are enjoying the show).
Audiences LOVE mistakes (and I made some cracking ones!)
I want to create work that doesn't sit easily in a category - stories that straddle plays and monologues and standup/storytelling.


And finally some crucial "DON'TS";

Don't eat Maltesers's immediately before a run-through.
Don't try and have an emergency last minute wee in a pint glass.
Don't go on fair rides before a show.
Don't eat a very spicy curry an hour before performing (needing to fart on stage is AWFUL).

So I've discovered some great life stuff as well as feeling clear on the things I want to write next – all good rewards from setting myself this insane challenge.

In my first blog I said I didn't really know why I needed to do this.

But now I know, it was to work out that I don't want to perform in my own work ever again!

After seeing the show people would often come up to me and ask me about my mum, what kind of relationship we have now.

And lots of people have asked me what happens next for me, do I want to act more, become a full time writer, continue with PR?

At the end of the play the character (ie me) kicks off about her mum having given her some badly painted shells for her 18th Birthday. She smashes them up into little pieces, pissed off that they were such a wank present. But the truth is, Mum later sent me a stainless steel small shell. I remember not being that impressed by it either and what with it being metal I couldn't smash this one up. But over 15 years and at least 6 wallets later, it is the only thing I always carry on me at all times. Life and feelings are not one thing, they are changeable and contradictory, and even though my mum's been a twat and this summer I've been a performer, none of that defines what happens next.

Next year I might become a chef, or a dog walker of Golden Retrievers and maybe Mum and I will have our best year yet. These things are uncertain but possible – the one thing to definitely focus on is to live your questions.

And to all the people who asked me what I want to do next I say, I don't know where I'm heading or what I am, but I hope the one thing I'm definitely not is a twat!

Only time will tell.


*Seriously buying a selection of these things would be way more thoughtful than some flowers on opening night.

I was so worried about getting ill or losing my voice that I took all of the below regularly throughout everyday (hence why they needed to be non medicine options). My system worked as I did not get ill or have throat problems for the whole run, however my poos turned VERY black!!

My Top 10 Herbal Throat Remedies:

1. Alun Cumming's favourite throat spray Entertainer's Secret (the packaging makes it look like a spray for dirty old men, but this shit is the real thing! Used the half hour before going on stage it does some serious lubing)
2. Vocal Zones (the red ones. Sucked constantly throughout the day)
3. Fresh pineapple (whole ones eaten when I felt like my throat might be feeling a bit rough)
4. Mug steaming with Olbas Oil (ten mins every morning and evening)
5. D Atkinson herbalist ‘Singer's Mix' (few times a day)
6. Propolis Bee Health Lozenges (few times a day)
7. D Atkinson herbalist "Singer's Throat Spray" (weirdly tastes just like a single malt whiskey – taken five times a day and a cheeky one for good luck before walking on stage)
8. A Vogel Bronchosan Pine Cough Syrup (drank like juice when I felt like my throat might be feeling a bit rough)
9. A Vogel Echinaforce Sore throat spray (twice a day)
10. A Vogel Echinaforce Echinacea tablets (mornings)