Dream Team
17 September 2013

My very own ‘Fringe’

It only took one visit from David Sloan during Broadway Enchanté’s run at La Bruyère and ‘Voilà’, we are booked for the 2013 edition of the world’s largest artistic gathering... the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! 

Even the 1200 kilometre Paris-Edinburgh drive is no deterrent for 'Isabelle and her All Star Band’!  The jam-packed minibus is unloaded at n° 34 Marchmond Road, third floor apartment 3F2. We excitedly investigate out rooms before enjoying the chicken and chips lovingly prepared by lighting-designer, Douglas Kuhrt. There is just time to meet our production assistant, Célia then off to bed. Our technical rehearsal is scheduled for 9am the following morning!

Our 8:45am meeting at the Assembly Hall is charged with emotion. The venue can only be described as MAJESTIC. We discover the first of our enormous posters... oh, la, la... and reflect on those who aren’t with us (Axel, Niel, Simon, Xav, Jean-Luc, Cyrille and Yann). The access to the venue is adorned with a stairway most leading ladies would only have dreamed about descending! The stairway, so they say, that inspired the novel and film, The 39 Steps. 
A thought for our collaborator on Judy And Me, Eric Metayer... 

Assembly Hall, Rainy Hall! The installation of the equipment, the arrival of the piano and our new tap-mat (the fifth!) and the party begins! Lights: Ellie and Liam, sound: Niel and Fynn, organization: Teresa and Joy our two stage managers and technical director Lindsay; who escorts us to the dressing room we share with two other companies, one of which covers themselves in clay for their performance!! No comment...   
While things are taking shape on stage, I begin organizing the dressing room; unpacking the costumes armed with my vodka essential oil, recommended by Axel...  Then sound check, 121 lighting cues programmed and home; tired and anxious... Will things run smoothly technically? 

2 days to go, shopping: beer, pasta, more beer, cheddar, more cheddar (and more beer), red wine for me and all the ingredients for a traditional Scottish breakfast. (We are in Scotland after all – and Broadway Enchanté is hungry work!) We tide up, revise and get our bearings in the neighborhood...  (Scotmid, Pub, Tearooms... )

1 day to go, reuniting with the Meadows (a magnificent park we first discovered in 2007 while performing La French Touche), a visit to the Assembly head-quarters where David and his team work relentlessly to ensure the wellbeing of artists from all over the world, reception of our badges allowing us free access to all the shows at the Assembly and a quick visit to George Square (which formerly housed the Spiegeltent) ... So many memories: champagne and burgers, La Fille Du Cirque, La Clique, Judy And Me 2005... Stage-fright!!!! 

Broadway Enchanté: 1st and 2nd  - previews, 3rd – opening night... madness... the audience is there and there are a lot of them! I feel like screaming with joy... when you think that the average frequentation at the Fringe is 1.5 spectators per venue and this year there are almost 3000 shows... This is celebrated with dignity at the Scottish Art Club with our benefactor and Fringe godfather, Jim Haynes along with our partner and fairy godmother, Josette Milgram...  A short trip to the BBC for an interview with Janice Forsyth, “I got Rhythm”!
A thought for my grandmother, Binou; without whom our first trip to Edinburgh would never have been possible... If she could see us, I think she’d say: “My ‘bichonchon’, I’m overcome with pride!”

There is so much talent at this festival that one doesn’t know which way to turn. Guided by Doug, we select our first show as spectators: Missing, created by Amit Lahav and his physical theatre company Gecko... a deeply moving journey in the depths of the human unconscious. A mother who leaves the family home... touched a nerve! Bodies in movement retrace with strength and humor, the journey of Lily whose future depends on what she remembers... understand the past in order to contemplate the future... not reproducing what our parents did before us as a foregone conclusion... rupture the vicious or virtuous circle... ridding ourselves of fears that aren’t our own, taking responsibility... daring to be oneself.... “Fuel for the soul”...

Broadway Enchanté, 4th performance: still as many spectators, what bliss!
Reunited with Julien Cottereau, the most tender of clowns and his: ‘Imagine Toi’... and reunited with our fears and our childhood dreams and joys... special dedication: he tap dances to the sound of the audience taping their fingers on the palm of their hands... I have tears in my eyes.

Broadway Enchanté, 5, 6, 7 & 8th performance: it is so good to be singing every night, we all feel so privileged... Our communal life is falling into place: taking turns cooking - a special mention for Celia’s raw ham tortilla!

The ‘best of’ festivals or ‘how to perform an excerpt of Broadway Enchanté without the piano, on a stage full of holes, with no sound from the guitar... and between two stand-up comics... Every day I continue to vaporize the dressing room with vodka essential oil to get rid of the dust so I suppose it is hardly surprising that the performances become increasingly joyous! 

Broadway Enchanté, 9th performance : the CD’s are selling like hot-cakes (or maybe I should say hot ‘shortbreads’) !
 10th performance: the critic from the Scotsman is in the house – standing ovation! Things couldn’t be better! 

'An Actor's Lament', by Steven Berkoff... Oh, the exaggerated cynicism of Mr Berkoff! His exasperated ranting about Eastenders fans, his bitter yet oh so truthful remarks about theatre critics, authors egos, the frustrations of actors, directors enjoying the sound of their own voices and disappearing after opening night... He raises the curtain on the wonderful and disconcerting world of the theatre. When he evokes the aging actor opening a can of food, making a cup of tea and stroking the cat in front of the television, we are between laughter and tears... I love it! Despite what it suggests on his poster, Mr Berkoff is not alone on stage. He is accompanied by two marvelous actors: André Bernard and Jay Benedict... In 1973, Mr Benedict was at the Casino de Paris with France’s own Zizi Jeanmaire... 

Broadway Enchanté, 11th performance. Long live ‘Word of mouth’! They laugh, they applaud, they wait for us and tell us how much they liked it...  ‘Las Vegas Underground’, good title, no? A singer, blind drunk, caricatures Sammy Davis, Tony Bennet and Tom Jones with such contempt that we can’t bear to stay... the risk of bitterness and frustration is ever present in this business... beware! 

Day-off: long, long lie-in followed by a big fat picnic in the Meadows, treated by Véro and Edouard... grilled sausages, chicken or salmon accompanied by crisps and cheddar... A well needed nap and then ‘Briefs’, the Australian phenomenon. An amazing opening number with feathers... the bodies are beautiful, the wigs too, the MC is sublime but alas, as the numbers continues, vulgarity overrides the humor and the poetry. The sound track is so loud that only the hysterical drunk English girls in the front row seem able to appreciate it... a show that seems to have lost its way...  

Broadway Enchanté 12th performance: Our friend and collaborator at our first two ‘Fringes’ in 2005 and 2007, is in the house. He has just arrived from Rwanda where he has been volunteering for Hope Shines and before returning home to New York, he stops off to offer his support to his friends... cervical massages for me, pamphlet distribution and burgers with Frederik... You’re the best, Mokey!

Broadway Enchanté 13, 14, and 15th performances: promoters one after an other... spectators enjoying themselves... and saying so... We keep on sowing our seeds, not knowing what we will harvest but we keep on sowing... Broadway Enchanté, 16th performance – standing ovation... :o) 

The promoters breakfast – or the ‘Blue Badge Hunt’! On one side, the orange badges (artists, agents... ), on the other, the blue badges (programmers and venue directors).  And they’re off!! Business cards, pamphlets, press-kits… orange badges in hot pursuit of blue badges... they have 2 hours... 

Broadway Enchanté, 17th performance: a tough crowd throughout the whole performance...  then overjoyed at the end??!! Never judge a book by its cover!

Nirbhaya, a salvific earthquake provoked by fearless women. On the 17th of December 2012, writer and director Yael Farber saw on the news that a 23 year old student and her boyfriend had been attacked on a bus in Dehli. She had been violently raped and he had been battered to death by a group of men. Overcome by the news, she posted a message on Facebook that was immediately seen by actress, Poorna Jagannathan and the two women began to converse. The 29th of December they learned of the death of the young student following her injuries. 
By the beginning of February, they were in a Mumbai rehearsal studio and the play had been named, Nirbhaya, (Fearless). Not to perpetrate a crime is one thing but doesn’t remaining silent make one an accomplice? 
In order to pay tribute to this young woman, the play contains several story-lines. The attack is alas not an isolate case in Dehli, often called the capitol of rape and it gets worse: according to the Indian government, 53% of children are victims of sexual crime. What made Nirbhaya both exceptional and unsupportable, is that 5 of the 7 actors are telling their own stories... Like this woman, sprayed with Kerosene and burned by her husband. This play is an eye-opener, allows freedom of speech and brings about the recognition and change needed to banish silence and shame.  

Broadway Enchanté, 18th performance: regaining ones infantile joy and setting about transmitting it to give the world a little hope... We are reunited with Julian Caddy, Judy And Me 2005, Sweet Ego; so many marvelous memories... Mister Sweet got bigger! Mister Sweet has become the boss of the Brighton Fringe... Oh, La, La! What if we were to perform there in 2014... ? 

Broadway Enchanté, 19th performance :The Scotsman and Broadway Baby both award us 4 Stars! Champagne!
Circa Wunder Kammer, they defy the laws of gravity with insolence and disturbing ease. Girls amusing themselves with balloons in their noses or  tap dancing on bubble-wrap… Boys chatting and drinking in mid-air… Girls playing with hula-hoops… Boys and girls skipping ropes... bodies flying and never falling... human beings... so vulnerable, yet so pretentious and seemingly sure of their indestructibility.   

Broadway Enchanté, 20th performance  : what fun! Just after a sumptuous ‘Old Man River’ the fire alarm begins to ring, high-pitched and unsupportable... Audience and performers find themselves on the pavement chatting in the glorious sunset while fire-fighters search the premises! Much ado about nothing! The audience and cast are allowed to return to the venue to enjoy the last 20 minutes of the performance... the show must go on! 

Day-off for my all-star band.
For me, a plane to Paris where Richard and Sandra are waiting... A 4h drive later, Poncé-sur-Loir... at 8pm, Du Shtetl à New York with the Sirba Octet... at 10:30pm Pierre is waiting with a car...  6 hours later I am back in Paris/Roissy at the Hotel Ibis... 6h of sleep and back on a plane to Edinburgh for the 21st performance of Broadway Enchanté followed by a glass of ‘Bordeaux’ at the Hotel Du Vin in honor of all that; a ‘tartiflette’ (cooked by Cécile) and bed! 
(Yes, Edinburgh’s 15 degrees justifies the craving for ‘tartiflette’ in the middle of august!) 

Since 2005, Frederik , Michael and I have incessantly talked about No Fit State Circus, the marvelous contemporary circus show we saw together. We are off to see their latest creation, 'Bianco'.  One doesn’t sit to watch No Fit State Circus, one strolls around. The action is in front, behind, to the side, below and above you. One hears stories, dreams, gets jostled, sang to, made to laugh and moved... things appear and disappear before your eyes as if by magic... This year during the finale, it even snows inside the big-top during a breath-taking trapeze performance... so much inspiration and emotion for what is already the 22nd performance of Broadway Enchanté.  Straight after, we hurry to the Assembly Check Point to see The Les Clochards! 8 years ago, these 5 semi-vagabond Corsicans took a boat trip to the mainland, earning their daily wine by performing in the streets of the south of France and traveling around Eastern Europe in a caravan. Dressed as tramps, they play songs we think we know, dance, act like rock-stars, juggle with their instruments, (even the double-bass) and tell impossible stories. A delight! 

Scottish Portrait Gallery  – Exposition Ran Ray, whose epitaph in Montmartre cemetery reads: «Unconcerned, but not indifferent»...  We encounter : Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Yves Tanguy, André Breton, Max Ernst, René Clavel, Paul Éluard, Kiki de Montparnasse, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, Arnold Schönberg, Ava Gardner, Catherine Deneuve, Suzy Solidor, Barbette, Juliet et Lee Miller... Lee Miller! The statue from the Jean Cocteau film, ‘Le Sang D’un Poète’... from a time when artists blissfully met to exchange ideas, mutual support and inspiration... painters, writers, composers, singers, actors...

Broadway Enchanté, 23rd performance: enjoying each day even more than the day before... It’s the last night for Marcus Brigstocke, the stand-up comedian on just after us. Marcus is an English stand-up comedian and actor, well known for his appearances on radio (BBC4, Comedy Show, The Now Show), television (Have I Got News for you, Jack Dee's Live at the Apollo) and films (Love Actually...)   Not only is Marcus funny and inspired... but also an outstanding person.  A lesson in humility, this man, alone onstage, carries the whole audience effortlessly along with him. He tells them stories, plays around with them, even gently jostles them... there are one or two underlying yet nonjudgmental messages in his act and he has fun... 'Chapeau!', Mister Marcus!  

Our penultimate evening in Edinburgh.  Determined, however tired we are, to enjoy ourselves. 
Ali McGregor’s ‘Late Nite Variety Show’. Ali Mcgregor is an Australian opera singer (Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Papagena in The Magic Flute, Marzellina in Fidelio...). Her 'Late Nite Show' is a musical evening packed with surprised guests. On this particular evening as well as the magnificent voice of our hostess, I'll remember one thing:  Lady Rizo and her irresistible version of the Carpenter’s song, Close To You. Everything in 4 minutes: musicality, humor, stage-presence, wit, audacity, sensuality... respect and admiration. “When I grow-up, I wanna be just like her”! The evening ends and the day begins at the Assembly Club Bar. The red wine is Chilean and delicious, the DJ inspired... in short, we dance (‘til 4 in the morning) and it does us good!Jerome and I exchange albums from Dropbox to Dropbox... the weather is lovely that early in the morning in Edinburgh...  We get up, start packing... hard to believe this is already the last night... 

Broadway Enchanté, 24th performance – a hit! Tiredness helped to relax our voices, our complicity is oozing from us; we are just thrilled to be there... at that particular moment... united in our determination not to waste a single minute of this last performance at the festival. We dismantle everything, load the van, hug, promise to keep in touch, take a last look at the venue, a few photos and I can feel my eyes filling with tears... a last hamburger in George Square, a last drink at the Assembly Bar... Bye David, bye Poorna, bye Lady... Thank you !!!!  Bye Mound Place, bye Marchmond Road, bye all those musicians who sing about their woes alongside the Meadows... bye Royal Mile... bye Sleeping Beauty punk... bye Pavillion Café... bye gentlemen in kilts in front of the Missoni... bye Brazilian pancakes (gluten-free)... bye Genna Rose the poem seller: 

« There are many faces we pass each day—life is a train, and we look always out the window, many small worlds passing by. » 

Edinburgh and its festival, I will never forget you… artistically and as a human being, I’m a changed person... 
Fully charged with dreams and humility, with energy and a thirst for action and creation... I realize just how wonderful it is to be human... the strength to create, the instinctive need for happiness, dreams, freedom, sharing, loving and being loved... unconditionally...  Edinburgh, you leave me standing feverish, fragile, full of doubts yet amazed and determined to shrug off nothingness with audaciousness, performances, dreams, humor and blissfulness. 
In the words of René Char: “Impose your luck, hold on tightly to your happiness and take risks. They’ll end up getting used to you”

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