This morning I found myself looking through the Fringe Programme for shows to watch this year without being sick.
Many of this year’s acts look too young to be out on their own let alone performing professionally. They don’t look ready.
It gave me a chill to consider how I’d have handled the stress of a full Edinburgh run at the age of 18. After four days of not turning up to my venue, they’d have found me rocking back and forth in the Edinburgh Zoo penguin enclosure, murmuring “the show’s free, boys, but I’ll pass the hat around”.
Even some of the more seasoned performers look like they don’t have much of a show in mind. This is because the production of the Fringe Programme requires you to submit a show synopsis five months ahead of your first date, when you’re still suffering the hangover from your last one.
My mind, anxious on their behalf, began to drift in the direction of what I’d do if I had to cobble together an hour-long show to be performed next week. Would would I do?
This happens to me a lot, by the way. It’s an empathy surplus or something. I always wonder how I’d cope with something even if the circumstances are unlikely to ever happen to me. I remember sitting in a cinema, watching Tom Cruise scale a cliff face and thinking “I’m not sure I could handle that.”
Anyway, the obvious way I’d pull a show out of nowhere would be to read from one of my books. Naturally, the book I’d choose would be A Loose Egg, since the stories in it are funny and short.
In fact, a stage version of A Loose Egg is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and I have various thoughts on how to present it, none of which I’m totally convinced by.
What puts me off doing it is, in my heart of hearts, I’m not sure how to stage a book. I don’t like it when authors just go up to a lectern and read from the book. It’s not enough. This is okay at a book launch or for a one-off book festival show, but for a proper one-person show that people have paid to see, you need a little more: some sort of dramatization or slideshow or puppetry or something clever with music.
What’s more, my tendency to end a story abruptly with little to no conclusion risks enraging a live audience. On the page (I think) the abrupt ending is funny. It’s like a projector suddenly running out of film. I like that. But, in the room, the silence that would happen as people wait for closure could be gruesome.
“Maybe I’m overthinking things,” I thought. (Which is weird really. Do other people think about their thoughts or is that just me as well?)
So maybe I am overthinking things. There’s many a popular author who tours a show with nothing but the book in hand. In many cases, the audience are already familiar with that very book, so they’re essentially just showing up to re-read it in a different accent.
The author just rocks up to the podium and…
Of course! The podium! That’s what they have and I don’t! I don’t have a podium!
Well, that can be corrected with a single trip to Staples can’t it?
Yes! It turns out you can get a perfectly good collapsible podium — ideal for when I take the show, which is definitely happening, on its forty-date national tour — for less than £30.
I’d only have to sell one ticket to break even. Easy.
If anyone objects to a lack of preparation in my show or asks for their money back, I can point to the podium and say “really? You’re asking for refunds in the presence of a podium? What more do you want? Talent?! In this century? Dream on.”
I could read my stories from the podium obviously, but the podium itself could provide at least ten minutes of material. I can talk about why I chose this particular podium, remind them of how they might have played the recorder in primary school at a podium like this one, the semiotics of the various podia I rejected for the show, the reason why I insist on calling it a “podium” and not a “lectern.”
The show would write itself. Which is lucky really.
I envision now a show called “Robert Wringham: Podium” or “Robert Wringham and his Amazing Collapsible Podium” or, simply, “Robert Wringham: equipped.”
(“Robert Wringham: upstaged”?)
If you want me to perform next week, just drop me an email. I’m ready!