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Kaitlin Howard’s Edinburgh Experience

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How does it feel to have finally arrived after months of planning? What’s next in the journey of The Alphabet Girl now you’ve arrived? 

It has come round so fast! I remember thinking in June “Oh, it’s ok I’ve a got a good few weeks to get the script back into my brain” but then all of a sudden we’ve had rehearsals, we’ve had Manchester previews, we are here in Edinburgh, it’s all go, and we are already onto our tenth performance today.

We arrived in Edinburgh last Wednesday – 5 August – having packed all the set and all our personal effects and provisions into the back of our car…very glamorous to travel wedged between a hat stand and a pub table all the way up into Scotland! Once here the first order of the day was to find our flat, get some groceries, unpack and drop the set off at the venue. We had factored in a travel day to the plan so that was really all that happened on that day; just getting settled.

The next morning was when the fun began. We had a technical session with the venue to set up the lights, get the setting on stage sorted and, if there was time, do a technical dress run. Because there are so many shows going on, the venues are very strict about how much time you have and it has to run like clockwork. Each company has to be very organised and go in knowing exactly what they want else it would be so easy to fall behind. We had 2 hours 15mins to set up, tech and do the run. That’s tight by anyone’s standards. In comparison, the term “tech week” should indicate how theatres normally work…

Luckily, our lighting and sound requirements were quite simple so that was easily sorted, but the staging proved a little less so. Normally we would set The Alphabet Girl in a Proscenium Arch style, end on flat to the audience. But our little theatre, which is a converted function room at The Radisson Hotel on The Royal Mile, has a diagonal setting with audience on two sides and is also slightly smaller than we are used to from previews. This means that the pieces of set are much closer together and also my attention and focus is really quite different for the sections where I address audience members, often feeling like I have to twist to talk to people behind me or even have someone literally within arm’s reach.

These latter issues were things that would need getting used to but over the next few days, where we did preview performances to bed the show in and iron out wrinkles, things got back onto an even keel. I found it very interesting to go from knowing the show so well in one straightforward spacious format and then suddenly looking at things in a completely different way but actually I think it might be even better this way!

We’ve really been warmly welcomed back by the venue, TheSpace UK, and they are doing all they can to promote the show and get critics and journalists interested in us. They had a special Media Launch night on Sunday and a few shows were asked perform snippets to promote their show to the press. We were lucky enough to be asked to do the “theatre act”. The other acts were a musical, a comedian, a cabaret piece and a musician, so to be picked from over 250 shows at this venue to do the slot was simply amazing. I performed a five minute long segment and the interest was great, so hopefully there will be some reviews winging their way in soon, which always gives things a boost.

There’s also been “meet the press” events at Fringe Central, which is run by the Fringe Society as a hub for performers with lots of helpful tools, lectures and workshops to get the most out of your time here. Also, there’s lots of listings publications who have Festival Launch Parties and these are a few hot tickets we’ve been lucky enough to grab so we can make our presence known in the city with the right folk… It might sound all like fancy soirées but there’s a lot of professional chat that needs to be done (well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…)

So from this point in we meet as many people as we can and drop into conversation that I’m The Alphabet Girl, we hand out flyers, we keep checking our posters are up, we keep the Twitter feed busy and use Facebook to send out newsflashes, and at 5:10pm I do the show. We ask the audience to spread the word and keep everything crossed that this word of mouth brings in others. It’s a rollercoaster ride, but it’s endless fun.

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What’s the atmosphere like on the streets?

Compared to other times I’ve been up, Edinburgh seems even busier than I remember it being in festival time. It seems every year there’s more and more shows and more and more people here. With nearly 4000 shows this year, of many different types, it is marvellous mayhem. Having said that it is a very organised chaos! Everyone is here to enjoy themselves and it is such a feel good atmosphere. It’s so crowded on the streets, but there’s no stress and hassle and somehow everyone gets where they need to go, on time too!

Have you marked up in your Edinburgh Fringe brochure with what you fancy seeing? Any top tips? 

I’ve been quite active so far, though annoyingly there seems to be lots on at the same time as me that I’d love to have seen, but can’t. I did manage to see Man To Man, which I mentioned in our last chat, which was mind blowing. Maggie Ann Bain is sickeningly good in it, and I can say that because she’s a friend of mine, definitely someone to watch out for. There’s been some interesting finds, a very energetic and diverse solo performance called Wild Billwhich looked at how Shakespeare might react to the scholars who deny that he could’ve possibly written everything accredited to him, and also how he might feel about writers since (possibly) pinching his best ideas by making his Caliban into Gollum, for example.

I’ve also befriended a fellow performer who is from the States and has a lovely connection to Oldham favourites, Lip Service. Sandra Thomas is doing a lovely show called Macaroni On A Hotdog. It’s a series of character performances who all have a connection to a disastrous and humorous food poisoning incident at a wedding. There were many great wedding dresses involved and it certainly made me giggle!

Other than that, I still have lots of plans. I’ve put my brochure aside though and opted for the App version (modern technology) as it’s easier to carry and has some blindingly good features. So I still plan to see Mata Hari: Female Spyand Crusoe by Company Gavin Robertson, there’s other friends Rampant Theatre here with The Gambit so that is on the list, and several past students of mine from Manchester Metropolitan University with shows that I will make it to as well…

I have discovered some great looking “acts” too that are not really theatre based. Anyone who likes Glee or the film Pitch Perfect will love Semi-Toned: Game of Tones. I saw them perform at an event last night and they were amazing, an all male a cappella group who perform “mash-ups in tight trousers”. At the same event I saw Fills Monkey who are a duo who do comedy drumming routines with unusual objects, as well as great mime/syncing routines to well known tracks. I’d thoroughly recommend seeing either of these, I’m going to!

How are you going to spend your free time? Do you even get free time?

I get free time, yes, now that the initial catapult start of the Festival is settling down. As well as keeping you all posted with the goings on at the Fringe, I’m catching up with friends who are here, taking in the events and performances in a relaxed manner and generally taking it easy. My show is always paramount and so I’m not going wild. I want The Alphabet Girl to be the best it can. People are paying money to come see me work so I need to be fresh, focused and full of energy, it’s the least I can do for them.

Having done the festival before a couple of times, I also feel that I’m able to take in the city more this time, and so am hunting out the stuff that’s here constantly and all year round and not getting completely distracted by the glittery, crazy “August Only” things. But of course, mostly I’m just gonna keep excited about being here!

If you’re in Edinburgh at all during August please pop to see the show. The Alphabet Girl is on at 5:10pm everyday except Sundays until Saturday 29 August. Venue 39, TheSpace on The Mile – Space 2 (The Radisson Hotel on The Mile). 

If you can’t make it up to Scotland, never fear. You’ll be able to catch it when it comes to Oldham Coliseum Studio Tuesday 15 September – Sat 19 September 2015. Tickets are available here or contact Box Office on 0161 624 2829