This week in Edinburgh, people are mostly talking about how their shows are going, or the ever-fascinating five day forecast (linked to here partly so I can find it easily. Thank you, What’s On Stage.) I accidentally started a conversation about the military escalation in South Ossetia yesterday and immediately realised the depth of my ignorance on the subject.
How your show is going is measured in terms of three things: sales, reviews, and who you’ve had in. The first is self-explanatory: everyone is keen to know how much well-earned honk they’re going to lose this year. The second has changed over the seventeen years I’ve been coming up here due to the advent of the star system. In the good old days people would actually read reviews, now they just count stars. And if I had a pound for everyone who’s had “a three-star review, but it’s really good. Reads more like a four-star…” I’d have enough to buy a really lovely dinner at Bonsai. Finally, “who you’ve had in” means reviewers and influential industry professionals: it often sounds as if paying punters – who should, in a perfect world, be the point of the whole exercise – are irrelevant to career-hungry performers.
As I was writing this, Chris Larner, of On the Island of Aars, walked past my table in the courtyard, and we pretty much had the conversation I’ve outlined. He said his show was having ‘a steady dribble of reviewers’, which raised the exciting prospect that ‘a steady dribble’ is the collective noun for reviewers. I must alert Alex Horne.
The other topic for discussion is, of course, other people’s shows. It’s vitally important at this juncture in the Festival to have a favourite show that you can recommend evangelically to others. My top tips so far are Nick Mohammed Is A Character Comedian and Zoe Gardner’s Fault. Nick and Zoe both play small parts in each others’ show, so if you like one it’s really worth catching the other. Both are breathtakingly good character actors with a rapier-sharp comic instinct, and I’d encourage everyone to catch them while they’re still playing small spaces.