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Win, Lose Or Draw

Well, there we go, it's all over. Ed Fringe 2011 is finally done and dusted - well at least it is for me. I'm back home in my lovely house in Leeds, sipping a Bloody Mary (I know it's early but it is a bank holiday and I'm sure they're good for my prostate) and trying to get my head around exactly what's happened over the last three-and-a-half-weeks.

I only came home the other day, but it already feels like a lifetime ago. I feel like one of those characters in folk stories who go to the fairy realm for a couple of hours and then come back to find that they've been gone for seventy years. The only difference is that I feel like that in reverse. The festival seems like a massive deal when you're right in the middle of it but as soon as you get back home, you discover that life's just gone on as normal for everyone else. Everything here seems much the same as I left it. Oh - except that my brother and his girlfriend have just had a baby. That's a definite difference and really rather a nice one.

I'm not sure if I would claim my Edinburgh experience was a success this year. I've lost about two thousand pounds and come home with two rather middling reviews which, although by no means awful, are not especially worth quoting. I've performed my show a grand total of twenty-four times and had audiences ranging from two people up to about twenty-five. If I had to average them out, I'd say that it came in at about twelve per show.

That said, most of them seemed to have really loved the piece and I've had nothing but support from the venue staff and the other performers I've met. People have stayed around to chat after pretty much every show and given me hugs and encouragement. On two occasions, people were holding back tears (which is both disturbing and flattering) and after my final show on Saturday, a couple came up to me who had been laughing throughout and had clearly really enjoyed themselves. The lady smiled at me and said, "I really, really enjoyed that. It was absolutely charming. Do keep going, won't you?"

And I guess I will.

In a sense, I've got no choice as I've made my living as a storyteller for the last ten years, but taking a show to Edinburgh is not quite the same as working in other contexts. For a start, the financial outlay is huge. I'm used to people ringing me up and asking if they can pay me to do some work. Here, I've had to hustle just to recoup a small amount of the money I've put into the venture and - as I may have mentioned in other blogs - I am not someone who especially enjoys advertising.

But I will be coming back. After all, it's worth having come, if only to know that some of the things I said in the piece have touched a few other people. I mean that's kind of why we tell stories in the first place, isn't it?

And besides, I'm not the kind of man to leave a job half finished. I'd love to see if I can make it work a little bit better next time and I've spent the last few hours compiling a list of things I would do differently next year.

And I guess that ultimately, success and failure is a matter of definition anyway. Alright, in terms of money and fame, I may not be one of this year's high-achievers, but then I've never really been very much about money and fame anyway. Storytelling is not really a "go-to profession" if you want to be a massive star and I've always seen theatre and performance as being more about sharing than showing-off. I think that being an artist is as much about learning and listening as it is about anything else and in those terms, I think my Fringe experience has been pretty successful.

I've done something slightly different for the last three weeks, I've learned a lot about a working environment that was very new to me, I've been able to hang out with some lovely people, drunk an awful lot of (free) champagne and seen a lot of shows - some good, some bad and some just plain bizarre. And I also think I've got a pretty good sense of Edinburgh as a city and of the arts industry in microcosm that takes up residence here every Summer. And that is not without a certain value.

I've also had the chance to step away from the world that I normally inhabit and to think about the way that I generally work. Perspective is a valuable thing and there are perhaps things that I will do differently in my everyday life and practice as well.

And so I think I am going to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and chalk up my time in Edinburgh as a victory of sorts. And as for next year, well, as the cliché goes ... that's a whole new ball game.


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