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”.