Victoria Here I Come
August 24, 2009
So here I am, about to leave Edmonton.
By turns exhausted and exhilarated.
Victoria, here I come. The Ocean beckons, Chinese Duck beckons, Pandora beckons, Atomic Vaudeville beckons, the Dock of the Bay beckons. Victoria, here I come.
I started the tour way back in Montreal...in June...when I was young...at the partyest of all fringes� now buried so far back in the summer I have only a hazy recollection of great nights at the late night cabaret, of The Thirteenth Hour, of Portuguese food, of Notre Dame, of getting my show up to speed... and doing OK, not great but OK.
And since then it's been Ottawa, Wakefield, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and then here.
It's a poor way to see the country because, of all this vast country, I only see the cities...it's concrete atoll to concrete atoll, across the sea of green...though I'm about to embark for the first time on the drive from Ed to Vict...am loading my bag into Lana Schwarz's vanload of life-sized geriatric puppets and bolting for the BC border...the Ed and Vict fringes usually overlap but this year I have lots of space and time to fill with some Rockies and to wander around.
And this year's tour has been good but tougher than I would have liked...Ottawa was a waste of time and energy, as was Calgary...Toronto started great but then 2 three-star reviews blew a hole in my tyres and from then on it was damage limitation...I had twenty hours where life was good and rolling before a critical wheel fell off...twenty hours of a rising sense of success, between a great turnout for my opening show on the first Saturday and another great turnout on the Sunday, with the show feeling thoroughly tiptop in the great space of the Robert Gill Theatre...before the reviews came out and I was in deep doodon't...then I lost my voice and had two horrible shows with barely a voice at all...and had to use a mike for the first time ever in seven long tours.
The second lost voice show was grim...and in retrospect I should have cancelled...and would have if I'd known in advance just how bad my voice was going to be after only ten seconds of the long hour...
It would have been great viewing for a sadist...Oooh I bet that vowel sound hurt him, and ooh there's another one, great, and every word has a vowel in it, great, and they all seem to be hurting him and hey, this is fabulous and there's a whole hour of it, great.
So I was raring to go at Winnipeg. It's the city where I do best and almost always sell out the King's Head, but this year the reviews made things sticky...because I'm doing a greatest hits show, titled with, uncharacteristic modesty, Leastest Flops...[I've been spending too much time with self-effacing Canadians]...and not every fringe one likes the concept of a greatest hits show...So the Winnipeg Free Press blew another hole in my freshly refurbished tyres and from then on it was hard...when you're used to selling out it's, well, disappointing to suddenly have to flyer the punters who soon get tired of seeing you hauling your spiel up and down every available line-up.
So this was only all right once I accepted my lot...that I wasn't going to sell out...and only then did I actually start to enjoy the show...and then started to really enjoy the hour of the show and thoroughly cheered up into the last weekend
The fringe tour is a right rollercoaster and if you took everything really seriously...and on my first tour, in 2003, I did...you could well have a nervous breakdown by the end of it...You have great shows, awful shows, lovely audiences, stone-cold audiences, great reviews, bad reviews, up days, down days, and it'll grind you up into dust if you let it...it could shred your nerves into strands and then set light to the ends, if you let it.
So it's a good thing the gang is here. The gang is always there. And by the gang I mean the other performers, the multinational team of talented unlikelies who have also chosen to haul their asses across this wide, wide empty continent so conveniently dotted with consecutive theatre festivals...and every summer we join the dots...The gang is different every year and frequently you never see or hear of people ever again after the tour has finished. But I'll say more about the gang in later Blogs, 'cos they are at least half the fun of the whole Fringe Fair.
So next it was the fiasco of Calgary...and I'm never doing that again...and then it was here...Where, once the four and a half star review came out in the Edmonton Journal, I was all set for success and have had only flyer for an hour or two each day to sell out, where back last weekend I was doing three or four hours to sell out and build things up...so I've been waiting all summer for a sense of success that lasts longer than twenty hours...and here it's happened.
Partly because of x-2 sellouts out of x� but mainly because my venue is excellent for a single performer and the hour has felt brilliant...It's a small room so I am very near the tightly packed 88 punters and don't need to work too hard to fill the space with myself and, to be frank, it's been plain bloody marvellous. The audiences are to die for, I'm superhappy with the show itself, I'm clowning around on stage more than ever before, and I've had a great week... which, with any luck, will set me up for good runs in Victoria and Vancouver.
B.C., here I come.
See you there.