“This Play was written by God and is performed by Jesus.”
I yell at the top of my voice whilst walking down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. No one, amid the cacophony of the Fringe takes a blind bit of notice. I am one of the thousands of performers desperately seeking to persuade the seeming millions of folk from all over the world that it is my play out of all the two thousand or so that they should see.
I’m doing what performers all know and dread I am “fliering.” You know you are in trouble when what you are doing isn’t even a real word. It’s like the words those American fitness instructors yell at you from all the thousands of fitness DVDs they produce, trying to convince you that only the particular kind of torture that they have developed is the only one that can actually keep you in shape.
Not content with abusing the bodies of their customers they also have to abuse the English language with words like “ripitude” which is apparently a different kind of attitude . Burpees which a particularly uncomfortable way of falling over and getting up again and HIITs and WODs the meaning of which have been lost to science.
I should explain what a flier is in the Edinburgh Festival. It’s a small handy piece of paper produced at great expense to advertise your production. Basically the way it works is that there are thousands of innocent festival goers going about their business. Your job, as a performer, is to get one of your fliers into the hands of these poor people who, beyond all doubt, have not the slightest interest in your show.
The best way to do this is by attracting their attention in some way. People do this by dressing as giants, pretending to be dead, actually being dead, singing, dancing, setting fire to themselves or being fired from canons. Mostly this doesn’t work and the Festival goers or hard hearted bastards, as they are known in the trade, escape without your flier in their hand.
A few, however, do get caught and might even read the thing before hurling it into a bin alongside the discarded chips and vomit of a late night reveller from yesterday. A few, as rare as the one sperm in millions that actually fertilises the egg, end up coming to see your show.
The only consolation you have is that many of the great and famous have endured before you the torment of trying to convince some bleary eyed soul to part with cash. I have no doubt Stephen Fry did it, Bill Hicks probably insulted a few folk doing it.
In case you’ve not realised by now I’m still doing it. What you are reading is, of course, a virtual flier. I, the spider, have lured you into my web in the remote hope that, by some miracle, you may become mentally ensnared and actually come and see my show. So I’ll close with the pitch I’ve developed. Now imagine you’ve seen a middle aged man walking towards you dressed in tweeds, with an ice axe over his shoulder. In order for you to win it’s very important you don’t look at me.
“Climb Everest this afternoon sir? The life of George Mallory.”
There, I got you.