Dirty Pretty Things

There are 1700 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and five of them are productions of Twelfth Night: one youth performance troupe (£7), one traditional performance (£9.50), us (£9) and not one but two musical adaptations (£10 and £12). With start times ranging from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., you could literally watch Twelfth Night all day long.

Bobby has ordered even more flyers and we’re all on flyering detail. I am perfecting the art of flyering. There are hundreds of people on the Royal Mile passing out flyers, some in Fruit of the Looms and chicken feathers, some doing belly dances and others offering “free hugs” for anyone who comes to their show. To have any chance among this hullabaloo, you must follow the five simple rules of flyering:

1. Know your audience. Drunken city-boy types are not coming to see your show, even if you put your number on the flyer. (N.B.: they may skip the show and turn up at the bar afterwards, which really is a bit rude, don’t you think?)

2. Make eye contact, but don’t be creepy about it.

3. Smile. When someone takes your flyer say “thank you” – you have a better chance of sealing the deal.

4. Crucially, you must know where to aim the flyer. Don’t block anyone’s path, this will irritate them. Don’t hold the flyer too low – it makes you look embarrassed about your show. Don’t hold it too high – no one is going to go through any effort to grab your flyer. You must hold the flyer waist high (their waist, not your waist). Your target can grab it and continue their forward motion unimpeded. Then hopefully they’ll read it as they walk, ignoring all other flyerers along the way. Or they might toss it on the ground the second they pass you by – best not to turn around and look. It can get depressing.

5. Finally, you need to catch people’s interest. Hollering “opening night” doesn’t work because everyone opens the same night (or thereabouts). Talking about your reviews is useless. If you’ve just opened your won’t have any to begin with, and Fringe audiences know that any review can be gold mined for marketing-friendly words like “brilliant” even if in context the reviewer said “a brilliant example of why the Fringe gets a bad name.” The only thing that works is “two for one!” and although Bobby doesn’t like it, I want to fill seats any way I can because I hate the idea of there being more people on stage than there are in the audience.

It’s my fourth straight day of flyering, my back is aching from carrying 20 pounds of flyers in my backpack and I’m starting to lose my voice from saying “two for one” thirty times per minute. To top it off, it’s raining. It has rained every day – at least a little bit – to remind us all that even though Edinburgh is a beautiful, friendly, fun city, there is a reason why we don’t live here (besides haggis).

Carrying an umbrella while flyering is an impossibility, so I don my red windbreaker and put up the hood. With the rain soaking the bottom three inches of my trousers, my glamour has reached new heights. A man walks past from behind me and unknowingly bonks me on the head with his umbrella. I just laugh and smile as you do. Two seconds later, a guy who had just walked by came back and said “I changed my mind” then took a flyer. The elderly woman he was with looked down at my picture on the flyer and said “oh she’s pretty”. “That’s me!” was my surprised reply. She looked down at the flyer and up at me, took a bewildered pause and said “oh”. The two turned to walk away. “Thank you” I yelled after them, followed by a meek “two for one”.

The Closer

Getting ready for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been a whirlwind. Somehow, when I met up with Bobby at Patisserie Valerie two weeks ago, I accepted the part, agreed to help promote the show and signed a contract all before our cappuccinos arrived. He must have worked in sales – he knows his stuff: Always Be Closing.

The production is a modern interpretation of Twelfth Night; I’m playing Viola. I guess I was the only one who auditioned who was tall enough to pass as the twin of Ben, the actor playing Sebastian.

In preparation for the show, I had to muscle my way in to Toni & Guy for a last-minute haircut by using phrases such as “photo shoot” and “international tour”. So I exaggerated a bit. It was urgent. Rehearsals have been going fine but I must admit, I think we spent more time arranging our cast photo than blocking the scenes. I suppose there will be 15 thousand flyers printed, so we want to get it right.

We took part in a Fringe Fest Preview show last night – 10 minutes of stage time preceded by at least an hour of chaos while the producer/actress who organized the event waited for one person to arrive. (Press?) The “person” never showed and a few audience members started leaving, fed up with the endless waiting. The actors had similar feelings and we just stared at each other with that “what are we doing here” look on our faces.

When we finally performed, our 10 minutes of hard work was rewarded with exactly one free beer each. It’s good to get paid for a hard day’s work.

The preview performance helped iron out some of the kinks – well for one scene anyway. I still had to memorize the dialogue from the other two hours of the production.

Bobby seemed to recognize the panic starting to creep in as I made this realization. He swooped across the room to extract me from the self-obsessed producer/actress’s conversational stranglehold, proclaiming he had to give me some acting notes. When we got outside, all he said was “just go home and learn the rest of your lines.” Always Be Closing.

Working Girl

Looking for work in this industry is more difficult than most, and not just because there are more actors than jobs. A lot of it is who you know, and if you don’t know anyone, chances are you don’t get much work.

In most industries, a company can get sued for discriminating against you based on gender, race, age or simply based on your looks. In acting you can only get jobs if you are the right gender, race, age and look. Talent is secondary, unless you are already a name in which case the make up department will happily make you a prosthetic nose (Nicole Kidman) or let you wear colored contacts (Cameron Diaz) to suit the role. The rest of us are stuck with our God-given mugs and we must apply for jobs accordingly.

I perused through a weekly industry publication which lists upcoming auditions. The front page is filled with great roles in exciting upcoming motion pictures, shooting in locations like MontrĂ©al, Madrid and Romania. But the fine print requests “please hold contact until a full casting breakdown is issued”. The only problem is, a full casting breakdown is never issued, at least not anywhere that I have access to.

There are however plenty of opportunities to work for free, especially if you are:
- Greek-Cypriot/Lebanese children
- A Latin/Mediterranean/South American looking female, late 20s – early 30s, sensual and sad
- A model/dancer with good acting talent with a maximum height of 5’7” (unless they mean Kate Moss, there are no models under 5’7”)
- Have a Geordie accent
- Look like Elvis

I received an e-mail about another casting. It is for a photo shoot with some possible TV work hawking a skin care product:

“Careful and specific applications for: Caucasian actress. She should be elegant, confident and well grounded. Perceived age of 45 years old; however, we are looking to cast younger women who look older than their age as their skin will be better (there will be several close ups). Please note ages on suggestions. Skin tone on the face must be smooth. The actress must be extremely attractive with fantastic skin. No dialogue.”

Now, I think I have good skin and, sure, I can play elegant, confident and grounded. But I’m not applying for the role out of principal. Besides, I don’t want to limit my dating chances down the road if some guy sees the ad and thinks I’m 45.

I wonder how hard it is to do a Geordie accent.