It is performer Michael Livesley’s first Edinburgh Fringe.
In London last month, he talked to me about his show for a blog before the true madness all started.
He is now staying in Leith, the port part of Edinburgh.
So how is he faring?
Well…. Here he is with an update…
THE FIRST DAY
My first Fringe arrives with all the promise of a funeral in January. I have to say that I have dreaded this moment for months. Sleepless nights, flirtations with Kalms abuse and the nagging self doubt which plagues all who entertain the notion of becoming a part of the world’s biggest Arts Festival have become my constant companions… and now the day is finally here.
Here I am in Leith. Bowed and unbroken, in the very heart of Irvine Welsh territory.
My landlord informs me “Leith is no’ Edinburgh and Edinburgh is no’ Leith”.
To the untrained eye, this is not apparent and I soon learn that the red Tennents’ ’T’ is ubiquitous in both and a universal symbol for serious drinking comparable with the Green Cross symbol for a pharmacy.
For almost two decades I have locked myself away, literally digging my grave with my own teeth. After losing half of my body weight, some 10 stones/140lbs, I am now attempting to turn decades of anxiety and addiction and ultimate redemption into a Fringe show. Losing the weight was easier.
I have brought flyers, posters, my coffee machine plus a party pack of Kalms with me. I have also learned my script to the letter, which I have quickly realised is far too rigid and straitjacketing – an apt simile as it is mental health and its attendant obesity which brought me here.
I have a lot to learn, which is why I am here. My hope being that I emerge on August 25th battle-hardened and ready for the next chapter next year.
Like my body weight, tonight I intend to throw half of my script away and just talk. We shall see what happens…
THE FIRST WEEKEND
It has seen a steep learning curve. My show is free and everybody else seems incredibly skilled at hustling. Yet I often don’t ask for money at the end of my shows. The pride which was thumped into me during my childhood in Lancashire making my tongue recoil like a lipstick into my head at the mere suggestion of asking anyone for what I wrongly interpret as ‘charity’.
On Saturday night, not far from the Free Sisters venue I’m performing in, I stopped a lady with a two-tone pink and black hairdo from being assaulted by a man who I later realised was her boyfriend. She spoke to me in broken English yet, when her phone rang, she answered with a thick Scots “Hullo hen…”
She did not want me to call ‘the Polis’ so I put her in a cab and she left the scene.
On Monday morning, as I stared dolefully from my Leith window, I noticed a suited and booted businessman yelling orders into his iPhone whilst sipping his frappuccino with a bandaged nose and two black eyes. No doubt a souvenir from a lively ‘transaction’ with an associate over the weekend.
After my gig on Sunday night, I ended up being dragged into a bar somewhere in Leith and playing a piano accompaniment for a chap who I swear was Den Hegarty from Darts as he rambled incomprehensible poetry into the mic. I had only gone out to buy a Sunday Post newspaper.
The sheer amount of waste paper here astonishes me, and as I sheltered in a grotty doorway on Cowgate during a Hoots Monsoon I watched rivers of it run in the gutters and sang…
“I’m just sitting watching flyers in the rain.
Pretty flyers down the drain…”
An apt metaphor for the dreams which can be dashed here.
I once recall reading a piece in which Kate Copstick referred to the ‘horror’ and ‘terror’ of the Fringe.
It is the biggest test of will and ego I have ever encountered. As my ‘show’ has worn on, it is apparent that its sheer Northern-ness is going over the audiences’ heads. Up to now I have rewritten half of it, and it seems to work better. Half the Man – Half the Show.
TUESDAY, WEEK 1
Half the Man is really hitting its stride now. The Fringe is a crucible in which shows are forged like no other. But, as Kate Copstick said, until you’ve faced its ‘fear and terror’ you can’t assess what it is that you actually ‘do’.
WEDNESDAY, WEEK 1
It’s almost 12 months since I ate sugar in any form, but reet about now I could saw some fucker’s head off for a box of French Fancies! The Fringe in a nutshell!
Great show tonight. Really getting there now, about 50 people in. I think the venue holds about 120. I’ve made a decent whack every night. I got about £120 out of the bucket tonight.
SATURDAY, WEEK 1
Well, tonight’s show was certainly an ‘experience’! A packed house, good.
But the first two rows were pissed-up nobheads who had obviously been out on the booze all day and heckled and shouted their heads off throughout. The worst bit being their laughter whilst I was talking about me mum dying.
Still, at least I didn’t jump offstage and kick the fuck out of the baldy bellend lad leading em all.
After disrupting the show and ruining it for everyone they then, of course, fucked off just before the end so as to not put any money in the bucket.
I felt bad for those there to hear the show as there were many and, like all who go through this, I feel I could have handled it much better.
Hey-ho! All part of the experience.
Here in the photo I am staring oot the baldy bellend…
After reading Michael’s reference to him in this blog, Den Hegarty contacted me to say: “Sadly, not me – though the speaking incomprehensibly bit sounds the part…”