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Moving House

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Being in Edinburgh and being surrounded by posters advertising comedy shows, it's quite easy to forget that there is some excellent drama being performed at the festival. I had this bought home to me this week, when two things happened to me.

The first was a show I went to watch with some friends. I had actually double booked myself and had also made plans to go and see a musical comedy, but decided to go and watch a drama instead (mostly because the tickets had already been bought). Well, I'm glad I did. It was excellent and is easily one of the best things I've seen on the fringe this year.

The second incident happened after our show, Emma Thompson presents Fair Trade. The play is based on verbatim accounts of two survivors of the sex salve industry in the UK. The effect it has on our audiences is astounding. I've never been involved with a production that has moved people the way this play does. At virtually every performance, we can see or hear people sobbing. After the show, people stick around wanting to talk about the issues they've just seen played out in front of them. After our final performance in London (before coming to Edinburgh) someone delivered a tray of cupcakes to the company. Accompanying the cupcakes was a note in which the person apologised for not being able to help more than this. The audience member was so moved by the play and wanted to do something about it so much, that she did the only thing she knew how to do - bake cupcakes for the cast and crew.

We know how moving the play is. Rehearsals were extremely depressing at times because of the subject matter and the research it involved. Every now and then until quite recently, a random line from the play or a piece of music from the show would strike a chord somewhere inside of me and I'd find myself welling up. However, that's happening less and less now. We've performed the piece so many times that we've almost become immune to the impact of the play. It's crazy, I know, but there you are.

Yesterday, however, after the show I joined a few of the others in the cast selling programmes at the door. Obviously, this presented us the opportunity to meet the audience face to face immediately after the show. They were a shell-shocked bunch. To say the atmosphere was muted is like saying that sex trafficking is a bit bad. There was barely a whisper uttered as the audience shuffled out of the theatre.

On seeing some of the cast (including the two leading actresses) selling programmes, many of them stopped to say a few words of congratulations on the performance. One woman in particular came up to me, tears in her eyes. She wished to purchase a programme, but could barely string two words together. She looked at me, shaking her head. "I can't... I just...." She gave up and breathed a heavy sigh. I smiled at her. What else could I do?

I'm going to sell programmes again when I can. It's good to be reminded about the importance of the work you are doing. It's good to be able to answer questions about the play to the many members of the audience who want to find out more about what they can do. It helps remind me that the subject of the play is real and keeps me from regarding it as just another script.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, go and see some drama whilst you're at the festival. Please do come and see our play if you can, but if you think it's not for you, that's fine; go and see another drama then. You might be surprised. You might be moved in profound ways. The festival is not only about comedy. It could become a life changing event for anyone. Let it.


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