Less slogging… more flogging

My last FLOG (festival log) seems like a lifetime ago. In spite of all good intentions to Flog regularly, my time here at my first Fringe has turned instead into a slog. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, and never have I had such a gamut of emotions, experiences and stresses crammed into such a relatively short space of time.

I’ve wanted to FLOG, believe me I have. I’ve even started flogging and then been called away mid flog to attend to a more pressing matter like organising a replacement special guest for the one that had just pulled out last minute, or to design and print that pull up banner for the foyer of the theatre.

Anyway, excuses aside, here I am for the full flog… finally.

Well it’s basically mid fringe now and so much has happened I’ve basically lost all sense of time and space. If you could take a regular year in the life of a performer and look at all the highs and lows, all the turning points, all the preparation, all the performances, all the people, all the emotions over that year… and cram all of that into 2 weeks you would have some context of what this time has been like.

Let’s look at my day yesterday as an example (strap yourself in, it’s a long one)….

I woke up feeling fine. I’d finally got 6 hours sleep instead of the usual 4 and was revelling in enjoying a bowl of cereal whilst discussing fashion arrangements for a little photo shoot that had been organised for me and the boys in the band at 11.30am.

Suddenly I got a panicked phone call at 10.58am from my PR guy asking where I was. See, there was this little radio interview he had teed up starting at 11am that in all the madness I had completely forgotten about. Now he’s a lovely man, and very supportive, but in this moment he wasn’t that thrilled and who could blame him. I don’t do well with guilt, but I have no time to wallow so off I go.

No time to think (pretty much the standard modus operandi here at the festival), I asked him to cancel the shoot for me while I threw on some clothes, skipping my usual morning routine of shower, shave, careful outfit selection and much fussing over my hair.

Moments later I was in a cab. That cab ride was torturous. Suddenly every garbage truck and street repair Edinburgh could muster was in that one trip, and watching the minutes tick away as we lurched stop-start to the Pleasance was, ironically, not at all pleasant. I arrived at 11.20am – way past anyone’s idea of an acceptable amount of lateness. The Fresh Air radio breakfast team were delightful and made me feel less awful about my extreme tardiness. The 40 minutes I spent there was delightfully fun, and everyone was blissfully unaware that I hadn’t even showered.

I emerged from the studio at midday to find a text awaiting me on my phone. Photo shoot not cancelled – photographer waiting for me around at the venue. Shame, since I’d already excused the band and sent them on their merry way an hour earlier. So I run around to the Symposium (our performance venue) to meet the photographer who has been patiently waiting for me. I’m mortified because a photo shoot usually involves much personal grooming and fussing on my part, but in true Fringe style here I am: unshowered, unprepared, but ready to smile for the camera.

But not before a panicked phone call to my band to drop whatever it is they’re doing and come on down while I drag a sofa, piano, guitar and props from backstage out into a courtyard for some hilarious photo opportunities (a need as many props as I can find to distract from the fact I haven’t spent as much time on my hair as I should have).

So we’re snapping away for a while and I’m doing my best to muster some level of acting skill to cover the hellish morning I’ve had so far when Stef and Jake (our musicians) arrive to join the party. We set up for a group shot and suddenly it starts raining. Bam! Rescue mode kicks in as we run screaming into an undercover area dragging a sofa, lamp, keyboard and guitar behind us (OK it may have been just me screaming, but for dramatic license lets assume it was a group thing)

Eventually we got through the photo shoot… not sure how we looked but we did it.

Quick bite to eat and home we raced. This should have been a good time to have a rest and perhaps catch up on the grooming routine I had missed in the morning, but alas at Fringe time there is no letting up. I have to tweet, insta and facebook the details of my special guest for that night. You’d think this is a quick and easy process, but searching for pictures, hunting for the correct tags to include, sharing images across devices, and trying to limit my tweet to a suitable amount of characters stretches into a one hour marathon.

I’m pretty sure there’s something else I need to do at this stage? Ah yes.. organise the show. You see, because my show changes daily, it requires a good hour or two every afternoon to collect the AV material for that night, load it  onto the computer, choose my songs for the evening, work out a framework for the show, compile a set list and get the gear ready. I get half way through that process when I realise that if I don’t get up to the half price hut and then off to Surgeons Hall courtyard to flyer, there may actually be nobody at the show tonight.

I look in the mirror.. my hair is still not at it’s best, but hey it was good enough for a photo shoot, it’ll have to be good enough for flyering. Off I trot with a bag of A6’s and a bottle water.

Several hours later I have flyered myself silly when I suddenly spy a potential special guest for my show just minding his own business on the phone in Bristo Sq. Like any good chat show host, I decide to stalk him for about 40 minutes waiting for the best opportunity to approach and introduce myself – all in the name of showbiz. He hangs up, I approach delightful and agrees to pop along to my show next week as a guest (look out for that moment- the only breakdancing, acrobatic magician I know of! And he’s hot property at this year’s Fringe).

A quick last round of charming strangers into coming to my show when I realise I need to get home to finish organising tonight’s gig. I race home in a taxi, run upstairs and realise there’s no time to shower and prepare. Just gotta go with it.. so I grab my gear and jump back into the taxi and head to the venue.

Now there’s half hour left before our get in for the show, so I quickly update my files on the computer and have time for one last check of my hair. Due to copious amounts of hair gel it hasn’t moved since this morning, but it’s not the right shape (I have a thing about my hair shape)… but if it was good enough for a photo shoot, it’s good enough for the show.

My guest arrives (it’s the delightfully entertaining and mesmerising mentalist Ben Dali), the audience arrives, music starts and show’s on. No time to give any more thought to my hair. 1 hour of music, silliness, dancing, chat, donuts and a great set by Ben, the audience is on their feet completely oblivious to the epic day that had led me to this point. Everyone goes home happy.


Finally when I get home around 1.30 am and looked at my incredibly tired face and mishapen hairstyle in the mirror, that panicked phone call from 10.58 this morning seems like three days ago. Quick glass of wine and I check my to-do list for today… nothing is ticked as done… zero… zilch. On top of that list is “write blog for FringeReview”. It’s been on that list for a week and a half… unticked. I start to type but my eyes start closing. It’s difficult to type with your eyes closed, so I concede defeat. Besides, I must sleep if there’ is to be a show tomorrow and if I am to have any kind of voice left to sing, so off to bed I trot, ready to start it all again the next morning.

That’s the fringe experience for you. This is 1 day out of 21. One day that seems like 3. It’s madness, it’s stressful, it’s crazy… and the show itself is only one hour out of that 1 day.

So today was my day off, and I finally got on to that number one thing on my to-do list and managed to write this FLOG. If you made it to the end, well done you for hanging in there with me… but if you ran off mid flog to attend a nearly missed radio interview or to flyer for your show or to rush to a performance, I completely understand.

My show, the John Rowe Show, is a great late night party mixed with a chat show and a perfect way to end your Fringe day. Come along and check out the show (and my hair)… and have a boogie before bedtime.


Tickets: bit.ly/jrshowtix