If you are going to perform for over three weeks at the always potentially rainy and windy Edinburgh Fringe in August, it is best to make your show about a glamorous subject simply on the basis that the research will cheer you up.
Comedian Charmian Hughes was in India last month doing 16 days ‘research’ with her friend Kaye Bachelard. Both were following in the footsteps of their earlier even more feisty relatives and trying to uncover what really happened to them.
Kaye had a relative who forsook the Jesuit priesthood for a woman. Charmian’s story was even more of an adventure and will be the basis of her Edinburgh Fringe show next year.
“Which section of the Fringe Programme do you think I should put it in?” she asked me last night after she and Kaye had run through their stories with photos and videos in Charmian’s kitchen.
“In the Comedy section,” I said, “because it will attract more bums on seats. It’s a real cracking adventure story – well, a double adventure story – the 19th century one and your own 2013 one. It’s got murder, mystery mayhem and all the rest – but you’ll make it funny with all the incidental details – the populace paying homage to a great man by giving him bananas is worth at least a titter.”
I asked Charmian to give me an ‘elevator pitch’ for her proposed show.
“It is,” she said, “about me and my friend Kaye going to find out about our families who had escaped from India – and WE ended up having to escape!”
“Who was the relative whose adventure you were following in the footsteps of?” I asked, on the basis that it’s easier to write blogs if you get other people to supply the words.
“Mrs Goldney,” said Charmian. “She got caught up in the Indian Mutiny. She escaped on the back of an elephant by climbing up its tail and disguising herself in torn-up petticoats as an Indian bride. She took shelter with the one-eyed scoundrel and the Rajah and she escaped from a mob who were trying to kill her by throwing her money around so, in the end, she had the same tipping worries as everyone else does in India. Do you think it’ll work?”
“Yes,” I told her. “It has a Three Act structure. It starts off like it’s going to be a gentle tale about two modern women on a trip to India following in the footsteps of their forebears… then it becomes a 19th century female Indiana Jones adventure story set in the Indian Mutiny, with people getting killed by being tied to the front of the barrels of cannons while others are beheaded and escaping on elephants…
“…and then we have the end bit of your adventure which we can’t say too much about in a blog because it would give away how you met royalty and why you thought – with good reason – that you and Kaye might be killed and/or bricked-up alive inside a wall. What is there not to like? It has adventure, mass murder and bananas – the perfect Edinburgh Fringe comedy show. And, because you both had short hair, people kept thinking you were lesbians and kept offering you double beds. So it even has the lure of sex in it. You just have to add in some Indian dancing…”
“No dancing,” said Charmian.
“There has to be,” I said. “It’s a tradition in your shows. You did the sand dance in two of your shows. This one cries out for you to do some Indian dancing.”
“No,” said Charmian.
“Well at least have a practice here in the kitchen,” I said.
And she did.
I have high hopes Charmian may, once again, dance in her Edinburgh Fringe show next August.