Well hello there! John Rowe here, from the John Rowe Show with my first very first public flogging. I’m going to be flogging (“festival logging”) throughout this, my very first Edinburgh Fringe. Currently I’m squished in the back row of a British Airways economy flight from Sydney To Edinburgh (via Singapore & London) typing away on my iPad, which I can barely fit between my belly (fully distended from 3 in flight meals and a steady flow of self supplied snacks) and the seat on front (fully reclined to within an inch of my face). If you’ve never done it, the journey from Oz to the UK is quite the epic adventure – 27 1/2 hours on this occasion.
(In-flog update: the seat in front was not apparently fully reclined as it’s just crept back another inch or so, so I’m now typing with my keyboard up near my nipples. Upside is I’ve just discovered a new skill I didn’t know I had)
This epic flight is a nice metaphor for the epic adventure that is bringing a show from the other side of the world to the Festival. Although this is my first Fringe, it’s not my first rodeo. I’ve not only been performing since I was a kid on stages and on screens, but also travelled the world producing and directing all sorts of big shows from musicals to arena spectaculars. So you’d think this festival caper would be a walk in the park. But the Fringe is a unique beast, as I’ve learnt, with a much steeper learning curve than I could have imagined when I decided back in January on a whim to give it a go. I mean how hard could it be, right?
I remember that fateful day when I woke up and thought “Hmmm… maybe I should relaunch my John Rowe Show?” I’d done the John Rowe Show before in Australia many years back, but I’d kind of put it to bed when I started doing stuff for other people – working in kid’s TV and jaunting around the world directing shows I’d created for entertainment companies.
But this day I must have been missing the idea of doing my own thing (or hearing my own name in the title of a show). Perhaps I was spurred on by the great acts I was seeing at the Sydney Festival at that time and thinking “this looks like fun”. So I jumped on google and typed the first world festival name that came to my head… Edinburgh Fringe. “Ooooh… August 2019. That’s like ages away… perfect. I’ll do that then.”
Fast forward to today and I’m mid air, exhausted, slightly panicked and brain overloaded with to-do lists that I know are waiting for me as soon as I land. I wish I could go back to those naive days in January when it all seemed like such a fabulously fun thing to do.
(In-flog update: I’m seated near the toilet on the plane which is a great spot to get to know your fellow travellers. I’ve just nodded and smiled at that gentlemen from row 73 who has been to the bathroom for the fifth time this flight, not that i was counting. We’re like old friends now)
Don’t get me wrong, the festival will be fabulously fun, my show will be fabulously fun, and getting to make audiences feel fabulous while having fun will be fabulously fun. I’ve loved learning some new songs and rehearsing with live musicians, coming up with ways to get the audience involved in them rather than just sitting and watching, hunting for hilarious tidbits to show on the video screen, relearning my fave daggy dance steps, making contact with delightful surprise guests, making friends with local sponsor The Kilted Donut and salivating over their fresh baked donuts… fabulous… fun!
But then there’s he slightly less fun and certainly less fabulous logistics, all complete with their own special “fringe edition” challenges. Like choosing one of over 350 venues in an unfamiliar city, choosing a suitable show time in an almost 24 hour show roster , choosing poster locations in “zones” that nobody understands, learning the word “flyerer” (which incidentally spell correct had never heard of either), working out how to get a sofa delivered to a venue that isn’t built yet, and generally trying to sound professional to a bunch of people on the other side of the world who only know you as that guy pulling silly faces in all his publicity pics. This stuff has been truly hard work, even more so when attempted from the other side of the world in competing time zones.
(In-flog update: the meal carts are making another appearance and I can hear the question “sausages or frittata?” Being asked on repeat. Anxiety is setting in as I have limited time to work out how to fit the meal tray next to my iPad which is still resting in my upper chest area. Good news is I think I’ve already decided on the sausage)
These are the reflections I have as I am now only hours away from being in the city that so far I only know from a google map. Frankly I’m exhausted… not just from the epic flight and the ever present sound of the plane toilet flushing, but also from the epic journey that has been organising the show. In retrospect, how did I think putting on a show that changes every night with different songs, different segments and different guests in an unfamiliar city and in one of the world’s most uniquely hectic festival environments would be a walk in the park. Speaking of which… I must take one of those when I arrive: it’ll be good for my tired brain.
(Final in-flog update: having worked out how to negotiate the food tray and the iPad, I wrote that last paragraph while eating a sausage. BA brekky was delicious. Oh, and that guy from row 73 just made his 6th trip to the bathroom.. seriously, not counting).