Last show… last flog.

Well here we are… pretty much at the end of my Fringe run. Tonight is the last show of The John Rowe Show.

I remember back to my first flog (festival log) when I dreamt wistfully of daily updates and anecdotes: a veritable flog fest for the entire Fringe run. In reality I’ve flogged four times. I wanted to flog more… I tried… i really did. But alas the sheer overwhelming magnitude of putting on a daily show and keeping up with the various demands that has in terms of flyering, selling, promoting, organising, preparing, analysing, performing, not sleeping and basically stressing about how to get through every hour of the day, became a constant barrier to my flogging ability. I enjoy writing, but I must admit I also find it hard work, and I just couldn’t find the good hour and a half or more it takes me to actually find words and type them into a semi-coherent flog.

I know what you’re thinking (in a sarcastic tone). “Poor little Johnny… Oooh his life is so hard”. Side note: can you think in a vocal tone? Pretty sure you can (typed in a smug tone).

Well I have one last ‘poor me’ story which I include mostly for its entertainment value. Three nights ago whilst setting up for the show, I ever so slightly put my lower back out. I was able to stave off immediate muscle spasming with some stretching to get through the show with a smile. However, later that night my little tired and emotional body wasn’t having a bar of it… the spasms started. Next morning I couldn’t stand straight or walk properly. I shuffled around like a little old man, groaning as a I went,  frantically Googling for a nearby massage place. Found one, and booked in for an emergency deep tissue massage. This was the single most excruciating experience of my life (I’m actually not exaggerating) which involved much groaning, grunting, calling out “no no no”, swearing, sweating, crying (full on proper tears) and at one point physically pushing the masseur away from me. By that night, after forcing myself to flyer, my back was responding with a bit more movement. I managed to again get through the show that night without anyone noticing (and even got reviewed that night). But the next day….. oh lordy. The show must go on, so I got my body moving slowly throughout the day, went out flyering again and straightened up just in time for another show. This brings me to this morning. Laying in bed I got a sudden unexpected cramp in my left calf muscle. The normal procedure for this event is to leap out of bed and walk on it immediately to stop the cramp before it fully takes hold. However, inhibited by my back issues, I was forced to get up slowly and carefully and as silently as possible (didn’t want to wake my house mates with my screaming). Too late… the cramp had set in. I dragged myself out of bed but was unable to stand up straight or put any weight on my left leg. I hobbled around swearing in a hushed tones which made it sound a lot more like an exorcism than a cramp.

So, where’s the entertainment value in that story? I think they call it schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune). But the humour wasn’t lost on me, and even in the midst of this painful moment, my inner self was looking on and laughing… it really was quite a hilarious sight. I’ve been laughing about it ever since… even while I was limping up to the pharmacy to buy some liniment. A perfect and hilarious ending to my Fringe experience. I had to pull out of a cabaret spot the other night because of my back, and the organiser told me it’s very common in the last week to lose acts due to failing bodies. I can declare my body has officially failed. Only one more show….

So… hope you all found that suitably entertaining. After all, that’s my job (*does jazz hands – puts back out again).

Now, let me segue from whining and complaining into something a little more positive and life affirming (and possibly not as entertaining). While I’ve found the Edinburgh Fringe experience extremely difficult and hard work, I’ve also learnt many things. I’ve learnt bucket loads about how the festival works, about the mistakes I have made and how I could do things differently. I’ve learnt about people and human behaviour and marvelled at the many personalities of the people I’ve met at the venue and in the street. I’ve learnt to live with other people again (sharing with the lads in the band and a friend from Australia) after living alone for a decade. I’ve learnt that one cannot live on donuts alone – but you can get mighty close (I may or may not have a donut in had as I type this).

I’ve also learnt a lot about myself. I’ve learnt about how to manage my voice and singing in a show on no sleep and dry coughs and hours of talking  all day long. I’ve learn’t about the things I’m good at and the things I need to work on both as a performer and as a businessman. I’ve learnt that I am way more resilient than I knew. I’ve learnt that time goes on whether you’re ready for it or not, so you might as well roll with it (ready or not). I’ve learnt to not sweat the small stuff. I’ve learnt to identify the small stuff.  I’ve learnt that I can still pull out a good show even when, tragedy of all tragedies, I run out of hair gel (this is not small stuff!)

And I’ve met a lot of really lovely, inspiring, delightful, interesting, generous, funny, supportive and all round  amazing people. From the crew at the Symposium Hall who took a genuine interest and enjoyment in my show and the audience numbers and the set up and my welfare. To the amazingly hard working Mark & Lena from The Kilted Donut in Leith who generously sponsored my show by providing boxes of fresh donuts on a daily basis for my audience (and us) to enjoy… I will never forget their kindness and support. To the punters I met out flyering who were interested and smiling and engaged (clearly not everyone, but enough to make for a lot of positive experiences). To the truly delightful audiences at the show who played along, stood up and danced, acted like fools, laughed out loud and then took the time to thank me when it was all done. And of course, to my many many special guests who joined me on the sofa for an interview and jumped up to perform, regardless of the turn out on any particular night, often with no expectations, but with boundless enthusiasm and shared joy as we together put smiles on audience faces. What a joy.

It’s these people and these moments that have made my EdFringe experience memorable and have by far outweighed all the stress, hard work and challenges. So much so that I find myself unexpectedly making plans for next year. Better start saving.

This is a good time to also publicly thank my little travelling John Rowe Show team.  Xavier Velastin on sound and lights who was incredibly professional incredibly lovely; my friend Kita from Oz who basically came to support and turned into our videographer/photographer and front of house manager; and Jake Bisognin who added some funk to the show with his awesome guitar skills and winning smile. And finally my good mate and uber talented Musical Director Stefan Nowak who made the music come to life and is also the perfect side man for my chat (ish) show format (basically he laughs at me even when I’m not funny – what more could you ask for?). He’s also a brilliant friend and I couldn’t have managed this at all without him here supporting and encouraging me.

Right that’s the end of the love-fest (see not nearly as entertaining as my stories of pain and woe, but you can’t have ying without the yang). So to sum up before I sign off, below is a little photo album of some show moments from the last 3 weeks for your visual enjoyment. I’m all flogged out. Thanks for reading.

Last show tonight Saturday Aug 24, thespace@Surgeons’ Hall. TIX:

Keep up with my post-Fringe adventures at: