Kirsty and I recently travelled overseas to perform Tenuous Link’s first show “Unexpected Inheritance” at the Edinburgh Fringe. We left Paul, the remaining member, at home because he was being all busy and important with work.
We booked a venue on the Royal Mile, the hub of the fringe. It was quicker to walk anywhere than drive because there were hordes of people blocking traffic due to the fact that there just wasn’t enough room on the footpaths. Bagpipe music played from shops continuously and there was not a Scottish person in sight – I assume they had all put their houses up on Airbnb and fled to saner pastures. Disappointing, because I wanted to be amongst redheads for the first time in my life (stupid family with their stupid normal hair colours).
Our show opened with a rousing dance number in costumes that we affectionately termed ‘towel-sacks’. They consist of an Australian flag beach towel on the back and a tartan print on the front with sequined letters spelling out “Hello Ed Fringe!” when Kirsty and I managed to position ourselves correctly on the stage. Sex sells when it comes to fringe shows, and I think you can see from the photos that our show was a raging success. These towel-sacks were also worn went promoting the show and handing out flyers, which caused many people to approach to discuss all things Australian – mostly sports related, it was usually a fairly one-sided conversation. At one stage while flyering I was picked up by a lady and turned around because she wanted a photo with the back of me showing the flag and was not going to let the language barrier get in the way of achieving this goal. It was terrifying – for a moment I feared for my life, but once I figured out what was happening I just felt resentful that she didn’t even bother to feign interest in the show or take a flyer.
After the opening dance number (I never want to hear the song “Ooh Ahh…Just a Little Bit’ ever again) we asked the audience if anyone wanted to volunteer to be the inspiration for the main character of the show. After many arguments between audience members all clambering to be the centre of attention, we finally managed to narrow it down to the one lucky participant*. We then started the performance showing an exact representation of what their life is like currently at work. Prior to the show starting we had asked audience members to write down on scraps of paper suggestions of things that people could inherit. These ranged from scale models of buildings, neckties with inspirational quotes and used underwear. Throughout the show a lawyer would enter the scene, pull one of these pieces of paper out of a hat and inform the main character what they had just inherited. Because we didn’t see any of these suggestions until we read them out on stage it was nerve-racking that they may be raunchier than we were mentally prepared for. Luckily we did not have to veto too many!
The show then follows these people’s lives as they inherit multiple times, each time having their life change in a vastly different way and causing them to grow closer or further apart from their loved ones. Some ended with couples sacrificing themselves in exploding buildings, others finally ditching that clingy girlfriend and saving the world. It was sometimes a hard line to tread between having a boring and sensible main character, and offending the person we were playing…
But how did 2 people perform a show with so many different characters in it and have the audience seamlessly understand at all times which character they were playing? Did they learn a hundred different accents? Did they give characters over- the-top physicality? Did the work on their acting skills to the point that they just ‘became’ that character? No, we thought of all these things, but in the end decided just to use hats. Every character had its own hat that it wore, which meant Kirsty or I could switch who was playing that character at any given time. When a scene required more than 2 characters on stage we would wear a hat, and hold additional hats up with our hands. It was revolutionary. It was avant-garde. I still can’t believe we did not win an award.
Awards aside, a few days after one of the shows when we had picked a terrified man in the front row to be our main character, he and his wife came back to the venue and told us how much they had enjoyed our show and that we had created all of the ‘in jokes’ for their group of friends for the next ten years. They also said they thought we weren’t far off from making it to the big times as they had seen some other large sell out shows and thought ours not far off that. I think they were drunk, but it was all the reward we needed to declare our run of shows a marvelous success beyond belief and celebrate with copious amounts of wine. I give performing at the Edinburgh Fringe 5 stars!
The rest of our holiday consisted of visiting castles, having ice-creams for lunch, and trying to speak other languages as much as possible before the locals got annoyed at our incompetence and switched to English.
*note: no one ever volunteered, we had to use all of our skills learnt in high school of peer pressure, bullying and emotional manipulation to harass one victim into telling us their name, occupation and pet. It was super painful and yet gave us a strangely thrilling sense of achievement when they caved.