Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Fanning the Fringe finish line

In the title track on my album, In His House, I claim that I am Shakespeare's biggest fan. Bold claim, I know. Especially given my below par familiarity with the history plays. However. As Kat's friend in Ten Things I Hate About You (that classic re-imagining of The Taming of the Shrew) claims: we're involved.


My friend Heather said as much to Reed, Teddy and Austin (left to right either side of me, above) of the Reduced Shakespeare Company as I indulged in a rare fangirl moment. I usually don't seek autographs or those minuscule utterly forgettable (for the artist) gushing congratulations after a show. But we had been front row. Steve had played 'Dale' in the show. I had been one of the rain makers (squirting a water pistol at the actors during the storm scene). And I had laughed, and appreciated allusions and echoes and the skilful weaving together of Shakespeare's works into something new – something he himself was wont to do. I was bubbling with joy. So I gleefully shook their hands, said you're fantastic, thank you, well done; and when Heather said, Sarah and Shakespeare are involved, you know, and Reed and Teddy and Austin looked intrigued, I handed them a flier for In His House and said, this is the result of my involvement with Shakespeare.

I've seen that – has it been on twitter? Will you tweet it to me, please? 

Oh, in that moment I forgot that I am a professional, experienced performer in my own right – and squealed inwardly like a five year old meeting Mickey Mouse.

Because I'm not very well known, beyond a certain circle. Because I struggle to get people to like, share, buy, engage with my work. Because the current season of developing my craft, my threefold vocation here in Scotland has been bloody hard work, even with the many rich rewarding moments and connections and opportunities it has yielded.

To not be dismissed out of hand. To be seen. Never underestimate the power of affirmation for each other, however experienced we might be. To be an artist is to make yourself vulnerable before an audience, in one way or another. To risk rejection, censure, being unseen and unwelcome and unheard. This is why I have tried to capture something of my responses to shows I have seen in the Fringe Festival and let the artists know of what I have written. So that they may know the value of their vulnerability, their craft, the stories they have embodied and told. That they may know they were seen, heard, welcomed, by this member of their audience.


Huh. This post went in a direction I was not expecting. I was intending to tell you all about my Shakespeare fan-girling finish to the Fringe Festival (how's that for alliteration?). Because Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (abridged) was not my only mad, chaotic, hilarious encounter with Shakespeare yesterday.

Steve had tickets to Shit-faced Shakespeare, so late in the evening, as the fireworks were exploding over the castle, we entered the belly of the upside down purple cow in George Square for what we were promised would be a train wreck of a version of Measure for Measure. The actress playing Isabella was the designated drunk last night, and my was she entertaining. Difficulty walking straight, distracted attention, breaking the fourth wall to talk to the audience, addressing the actors by their own names, and almost derailing the play every time she stepped out from behind the curtain. The whole cast coped incredibly well, not only with their drunken colleague - more about that in a minute - but with her disfunctional microphone. Had it been on the booze as well? The adjustments on the run, which included lifting her dress up for replacing the microphone, only added to the farcical nature of this production. It seemed to give Isabella the idea of lifting her skirt, though, as she repeated the gesture several times throughout the rest of the show! Back to the rest of the cast. Their ability to improvise in response to her breaking of character, adjustments to scripted dialogue, and rarely losing their poise and focus through it all was as impressive as their obvious acting prowess in the moments they could briefly enter the story uninterrupted.

It is strange attending Shakespeare shows without my Shakespeare buddies in Adelaide, Mel and my mum, with whom I usually see anything Shakespeare. It is a wonderful gift to have found more Shakespeare loving friends on this side of the world, with whom to appreciate these irreverent, creative, mad homages to the bard of our idolatry. For such shows are produced with love for the gift of Shakespeare's genius, words and characters; are something of a tribute from his fans. And I am certain they follow a tradition authentic to Shakespeare's own love of humour, chaos, and reinvention in the telling of stories of humans who are, from time to time, a little bit ridiculous.


And so, to finish, for your enjoyment, here are Reed and Austin visiting the Folger Library seeking authentication of their found manuscript:






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