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Set Piece Monkey Business

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Doing a show somewhere like the Edinburgh fringe does strange things to you. Unusual things suddenly become very meaningful. For example, I never thought that a long metal pole would become the bane of my life.

We have quite a large set for the show. In essence it's large cube made of metal poles bolted together. The when assembled, the cube is the size of a small room, or a large London flat. Every day, just before our performance, we drag out all the bits and pieces of the dismantled set and put them all together. We've only got about twenty minutes in which to do this. Similarly, after the show, we dismantle everything and store it away.

As always tends to happen with these things, the guys in the company are in charge of lifting the heavy metal poles that form the cube itself whilst the girls do the less heavy lifting and preparation (that's equality for you). To my surprise and delight, I was initially placed on the girls' team. The reason for that is probably because I am short with the upper body strength of a newly-born kitten, but I didn't care...it got me out of the heavy lifting. I would stand there doing the fiddly stuff that has been assigned to the girls and watch the rest of the guys sweat and grunt under the weight of the metal poles, hammering and ratcheting bolts into place.

It didn't last. For some reason or other, I've recently been asked to help the rest of the guys in doing the heavy stuff. I didn't actually mind much, until I came across once particular joint. You see, the large metal struts are fitted together at the corners by placing the end of one pole into a hole at the end of another one, like a plug into a wall socket. There is, however, one particular joint that seems to have a problem with this idea and doesn't cooperate with us. It's the top left corner of the cube, and for some reason, even though I am the shortest of the group, I always seem to end up doing it myself. I'm not sure how or why, its just the way things seem to pan out when we're constructing the cube.

It's become the thing I dread doing most in the day. I stand on a box and wrestle and push and shove and wiggle it about, like some weird circus act or male pole dancer. It simply refuses to fit together. The upshot is that my arms and back soon begin to ache and threaten to go into spasm mode. I sweat and curse and generally end up untidy, sweaty, grumpy and aching. Not the best thing to be doing before a performance and certainly not the best way to prepare.

But I still do it. Why? Because that's Edinburgh baby! It's what being an actor on a show in Edinburgh means. You're there to do a show and if that's what needs to be done in order to be able to do the show, then that's what needs to be done. Yes, it's one of the most complicated sets I've seen yet in Edinburgh, but it's incredibly effective and the play wouldn't be half as powerful without it. And so, later on today I will probably find myself climbing up onto a box to wrestle with a long metal pole once again.

Still, at least our set isn't the most complicated set I've seen. The guys doing the show just before ours have a much more complicated set to dismantle. It's some sort of igloo shaped dome thing made out of large bits of aluminum. Dismantling it involves the use of lots of tools and other implements that shouldn't be used outside of a shipyard. Every day, I thank my lucky stars that ours isn't as complicated to dismantle as that. Still, I never see anyone of them grunting and sweating and hanging off a pole like a monkey, trying to get it to fit into place.


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