For the first time in years I’ve been working at the Fringe in front of and behind the scenes, so in between shouting at, organising and generally bossing people about (my absolutely favourite hobbies), drinking endless coffee, fixing pop-up banners and jumping on and off stages, I’ve been chat show host, tour guide, bread making assistant, show guest fixer, and academic wrangler for the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.
The cabaret unleashes unbelievably clever people loose on the public to talk about ideas as radical as How To Embrace Death – which turned out to be a life enhancing experience – to Sunshine Is A Good Thing, which made me bin the sunscreen.
We’re at The Famous Spiegeltent on George Street, in the afternoons. Clearly, there was a competition to find out which Spiegeltent was the most well known, and ours won. Hurrah. I can tell you why. It’s staffed by the most irritatingly upbeat young people from Australia and Newcastle, who look at any problem and say “No worries” and fix it with a smile.
They even stay smiling when the people who have appointed themselves Official Fringe Boor (2013) come up and be right royally rude in their faces.
Without exception these officious bumpkins are men of money with accents rich with the privileged plums of private education and their lives are marinated in unworked-for wealth.
Nanny told them they must always sneer in the faces of those who graft for a living, and refer to them as “you people”. Doubtless, they were also instructed to loudly insist on preferential treatment because they know the performer. Hint: if you are going to pull the old “I’m with the band” trick, get the name right and do make sure they aren’t standing right behind you wearing an expression of utter horror.
When they swan off huffing and puffing because they can’t just walk in to where they want, they leave me in their wake to hit Olympic standard levels of apology for Scotland.
Oh yes, these verminous charm-free lizards issue from the top of our own chest of drawers.
But be of cheer, comrades, I cried, “cos come the revolution, guess who’s going to wake up one morning to find a one-way ticket to a salt mine for him and his leathery couponed mate?”.
We all brightened up immensely, until I remembered we don’t have a salt mine. But, I hastened to add, we do have Saltcoats. Is that the same, asked my Antipodean friend? Sort of, I said.
Terminate the crowds with a lanyard
Tell you what, though, I never realised the power of the lanyard. Seriously, if you’ve had it with flyer teams and you’re getting home stuck all over with four star reviews, get yourself a lanyard. I think you can get them in camping shops. I’ve got a spare. You’ll need to hang something from it. I’d recommend a playing card. That’ll baffle everyone. If you can get more than one, fantastic. Get one of those doodahs that have those Sharpie pens hanging from it. Boom! You look like a producer now!
Whenever an eager student comes towards you bearing a brightly covered piece of paper, raise your card and smile politely. Seriously, it’s like garlic in front of vampires. The flyering teams scatter, and you can positively stride along Princes Street.
Add sunglasses and not only can you pretend you’re the Terminator, and avoid the flyering teams, but people will think you’re someone really important and you’ll get to queue jump onto the Number 10 bus.
And let’s just see how far you get with that on Great Junction Street.
I’ve got an answer for everything
Now that I am the proud wearer of a lanyard with a security pass on it, I get to do stuff like tell people where to line up. In fact, I reorganised the bus queue this morning and told them that the doors would be opening on the Number 10 just as soon as the room was ready.
I get to be very helpful when people ask questions such as “what time does the 12.30 show start?” and “We’ve got two tickets? But there are three of us? Is that a problem?”.
And my favourite “It says here it’s comedy, but do you know if I’ll think it’s funny?”. Stock answer: you’re asking this question, so I’m guessing no is the answer.
Gallery open late just for adults
In all the furore of the fringe, you might have missed this event – it’s the National Portrait Gallery Lates. On the 21st the gallery opens until 8.00pm, just for the grown-ups.
As well as comedy and conversation, you get to join a whirlwind tour of their fantastic exhibition, Tickling Jock. It’s an amazing backdrop to a short history of Scottish comedy, led by a short Scottish comedian. That would be me. Wear sunglasses and a lanyard, and we’ll all organise the queues.