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Steam Power

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The kettle has set off the smoke detector. The couple next door have the alarm in bits to stop it beeping. This is the small hours and everyone is desperate to sleep. Just hours later I arrive at my venue to take part in a planned fire evacuation drill that has me half made up in half see through shift lingering by Biddy Mulligans where the gallows would stand in days of yore. Early in the morning this is a heady moment. When I return to my new room for the rest of the run above Waverley Station I shower off the white body paint and immediately a hardcore siren goes off, my third today. This piercing bell sees all residents charge through fire doors to follow a man in a fluorescent jacket to assemble around North Bridge.

Now we are waiting for the firemen to leave our building so we can make an entry. I read some chalked on graffiti off a wall, ‘You look beautiful when you smile!’. I am standing next to Wonder Woman who is waiting to resume her show. This slogan is true for the character who looks superbly dynamic in a black curly wig. Whilst I admire the novel use of chalk to get over a message to the Edinburgh crowds and indeed the spray painted banners made by the Pirates of Penzance on the Royal Mile work a treat, I am nonetheless secretly hoping my computer is still sitting on the dining room table when I return to my room.

I move rooms half way through the run for a change of scenery. This time I spy Waverley tracks between the curtains and I hear the whistle of the 7am trains arriving from London. I remember my first time arriving in Edinburgh with a Fringe venue guide tucked under my arm. I did not know what a Fringe was beyond a bit of hair that gets stuck in the eyes. Standing now with the demanding voices of the evacuated crowd from my building I understand the giant leap of faith I take to bring a show here and get any kind of audience at all.

Backpacks are pushed in my face and suitcases nip at my heels as everyone swarms forward. Just as I am about to write my Oscar nomination speech the fire marshal assures us it is safe to return to our rooms. Wonder Woman is the consummate professional and lifts the moment and is ready to resume her show. She strides through the lobby to her venue full steam ahead. So behind the smoke and mirrors there are whistles and bells. I know this because my new accommodation overlooks them.


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