A hit in Edinburgh – as a performer if not an investor

The economics of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe are usually this – have an idea, and then exhaust and bankrupt yourself taking it to the festival. Fortunately there have been enough people wanting to see me make a fool of myself that my show has almost sold out. So I might be exhausted but at least I’m not bankrupt.

When I first considered taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, I had thought I might do a chat show. I’m so pleased that I didn’t, because so many other people do it better than I ever could. I had that confirmed for me after I was invited to be a guest on Chat Masala, Hardeep Singh Kohli’s live festival chat show, and found myself sandwiched between Nina Conti, ventriloquist extraordinaire, and Gyles Brandreth. Hardeep, a Glaswegian Sikh who went to a Roman Catholic secondary school and studied law at university (how confused must he be?), is a comic and a raconteur, as well as a cook – indeed, he prepares a curry while interviewing his guests.

Gyles is a one-man comedy show in his own right, and Nina is jaw-droppingly beautiful, so I just paled by comparison. I felt as though I had wandered through the looking glass and stumbled into a world that was every bit as unreal as Alice’s. This was in part because the musical number that always concludes Hardeep’s show was provided that day by Michael Topping, who sang a song about how attractive he found David Miliband, one of the contenders for the Labour party leadership. I suspect there were some people in the audience who found that even more offensive than my predilection for shooting game.

I will be on another chat show on Saturday, as a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends. As a lifelong Radio 4 fan I will probably be so overcome that I will utter barely a word. The programme is being broadcast from the Pleasance Courtyard, the venue for Hamlet! The Musical, which I commended last week. I have been back to see Hamlet! twice since then, not least because its producer has been kind enough to include me on the e-mail list of its investors.

Except … I am not an investor. I had asked to be an investor; indeed, I had offered to back the production months ago, and never heard another word. The Edinburgh run of Hamlet! was “capitalised” – yes, theatre uses the language of the capital markets – at £75,000. None of which was provided by me. What did I do wrong? It is one thing to have my offer to invest in Hamlet! spurned, quite another to then be forced to be privy to e-mails celebrating the show’s commercial success. This is like failing to subscribe to Google shares at IPO and then being sent their quarterly results out of spite. Hamlet! may be going on tour or even to the West End after Edinburgh, and I will personally seek an Elsinore-style revenge on the producer if I am not an investor. What is wrong with my money anyway?

The real economics lesson in Edinburgh, though, has been demonstrated by Cost Centre #3. I had planned to have him handing out flyers in the street advertising the show (“come and see my mummy”) – after all, he is 11 and very cute. But now we are virtually sold out and 5,000 flyers must be pulped. So on a strictly voluntary basis he is handing out flyers for James Campbell’s hugely popular Comedy for Kids instead, explaining to strangers why they should take their children to the show, which is also selling out. I have told CC#3 that when he grows up, his voice will drop and he’ll get bad skin, so he may not be as effective then. James Campbell is going on tour after Edinburgh, and I have not even been asked to invest in that! Presumably the economics of appearing in places as glamorous as Maidenhead mean my money is not even needed by him.


Mrs Moneypenny appears daily at Assembly @ Aga Showroom in the Edinburgh Fringe until August 29. www.assemblyfestival.com

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