Edinburgh Festival: My Fringe show is making time stand still and raising the ghosts of Festivals' past – Susan Morrison
During the first Fringe that the Stand Comedy Club turned the imposing Freemasons Hall on George Street into the New Town Theatre, I became aware that a presence lurked in the downstairs venues. Things fell. Chairs moved. Curtains twitched.
There was, I declared, a poltergeist. It was a woman and her name was Petunia.
I assume she missed us over the last two years. I can imagine her moping about in the basement wondering where the noisy people went. There are few things sadder than a miserable poltergeist.
Now, I have to admit I am the only person who believes in Petunia. But I’m sticking to it, especially since this year, we’re back and so is she.
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Petunia clearly remembers her enemies. The minute I walked through the door, we got the full repertoire from slamming doors to stomping footsteps, which made me realise that a poltergeist infestation was very similar to life with a teenager. I have some experience in teen-handling so I did what came naturally, and ignored her.
Petunia upped her game, like any attention-starved Goth teen. She possessed my watch. Now, I realise this is hardly the standard of head-spinning projectile vomiting demonic possession we saw in the Exorcist, but when you take control of a comedian’s watch when she has to stop at exactly 1.05pm, then stopping that watch at 12.45pm is going to throw said performer into a mad sweaty meltdown.
Yes, you’ll say. The watch stopped. Big deal. Watches stop. But the watch suddenly sprang back to life the minute I walked off the stage and continued being a good little time keeper for the rest of the day.
And she hit again the next day, at exactly the same time: 12.45pm. And at 1.07pm, the watch went back to ticking along normally. Now, if that’s not the sign of a raging poltergeist, I don’t know what is, although I will grant you that the second hand has come loose. It is entirely possible that it's jammed under the other two hands. But as John Ford said, why let facts get in the way of a perfectly good story.
Today Petunia knocked out the hose arrangement on the air conditioning, knocked over some glasses and caused something to flutter from the ceiling. True, the aircon is a very delicate temporary arrangement and the glasses in question were actually plastic and there was a faint draft, but the mysterious fluttering was seen by an entire audience.
Oh, all right, some of them said it was a moth.
We considered calling in an exorcist, but they’re not listed on CheckaTrade.com. Neither are Ghostbusters. So much for the “who you gonna call?” boast. A team member suggested old-school sacrifice, like chicken beheading, but the Freemasons might object to blood on the carpet. Also, half the staff seem to be militant vegan, so I could either have a poltergeist inside the premises, or the team outside in a pop-up animal rights protest.
Salt was suggested, perhaps in a bag around my neck, but walking about Edinburgh during the Fringe with a load of white powder about my person is a faintly worrying prospect.
Please come along to my show. It’s on at 12.05pm, every day. Don’t leave me in the basement alone with her.