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Edinburgh: Songs of Experience

Well, hello there all you delightful people. I am back. Back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Goodness me. I almost can’t believe it’s done. It’s taken me the best part of a couple of years to get there; from the initial idea of creating my own show, to writing the show, getting a venue, creating all the publicity and doing the previews, to finally being there, doing it. And now it’s all done. It’s a bit like a lovely roast dinner. All that preparation and it’s down in a few mouthfuls (I eat quite fast!) This is the first time that I’ve finished a show in my professional career and felt that sort of post-show blues I used to experience when I did youth theatre. That feeling that life will never be quite the same again and when you ask yourself what the blinking heck do I do now!? But just like those times, I do what I’ve always done and throw myself into the next project so quickly that there isn’t too much down time to dwell upon. Having said that, it’s so important to take a bit of time to reflect, relax and appreciate the journey and what better way to do that than with a word limit. So here I am, talking to you. Hello there. It is pretty difficult to pack an entire month of such intense experiences into one article and it seems foolish to try, so I think I will start from the end and work my way back. That way I can suitably infuse the start of my Edfringe extravaganza with the nostalgia I’m feeling now and make it all suitably narratively satisfying for you, dear reader. So that means I start by telling you that my final show was a sell-out. Oh yes indeed. Not that that went to my head (much). Consequently I’m currently writing this from a café that has french windows for a door so that I could squeeze my inflated cranium through it. By the end of the festival word of mouth had begun to spread (and I was flyering like a thing possessed, mainly with the spirit of Jackie Chan) I had had some lovely write-ups and got a couple of brilliant 4 star reviews that really helped to sell the show. Like I say, it’s easy by the end of the festival to have mentally sifted out all the difficulties and stresses and neatly package the Edinburgh album in my head as completely smooth sailing, but of course moving back in time a little more we see a Jessica not as calm and composed, a much more tired version of the one that is writing this. One that is in the middle of the experience and not sure how she is going to flyer for hours before her show every day and who is desperately trying not to take the rejection of a flyer as a personal rejection of part of her soul. Notice I’ve now started writing in the 3rd person as it is a safer way to remember those mornings when I had to dig so deep into my inner resources of positivity, understanding and energy to keep myself going strong. That was the part of the festival that I think I was prepared for least. I hadn’t been aware of the unrelenting nature of the it and that, added with the extortionate amount of pressure I put on myself anyway, is what took it’s toll on me emotionally. I found the arrival of the review stars on everyone else’s posters and flyers a source of panic and competition. I was aware of how ridiculous I was being, but continuing in my ridiculousness nonetheless. I was constantly comparing myself to everyone else, which I had suspected might happen, but let me tell you if you haven’t seen it first hand – there are posters and flyers EVERYWHERE! And if you have a tendency, like me, to look at what other people are doing a fairly obsessive amount then a walk to the shops became quite a psychologically draining event (I contemplated dry crunchy nut cornflakes but I had to draw a line somewhere). What I realised very quickly was that I needed to trust myself, my work and my journey. All of my self-help quotes and mantras became constant companions “you are enough” “tell the story of who you are with your whole heart, have the courage to be imperfect” (Brene Brown) “You’ll handle it” “all this shall pass” (Susan Jeffers) and a couple of my own “let’s go and get a twix, you blinking well deserve it” and “we’re all going to die anyway” as you can see mine are more superficial on the one hand and existentially extreme on the other than the ones that have made it into the books, but you’ve got to find what works for you.

The first week was a real shock to my system. I was very overstimulated, I was quite nervous and I was characteristically putting a lot of extra pressure on myself for the show to be a success. I had written, produced and was performing the whole show and I felt like everything was on my shoulders. But it was at this time, when I was most daunted and scared that 3 little voices popped up (not in my head, not this time anyway) saying you’re not on your own, we’re here. That’s right. My team. My rocks. My peeps. The amazing Jamie and Debs of Super Mega Action Plus fame and my wonderful director/husband (not in order of his ability at those roles) Matt. What I realised very quickly is that you are as alone as you want to be. People are there, ready and waiting to support you, love you and collaboratively create with you if you are just willing to open your eyes and heart and see them. Yes, it was me up there, but I had a team the like of which I have never known. After the first week of madness and of felling like, oh my goodness what the hell is this place and how the hell does it all work? I made a conscious decision to make a heaven out of the potential hell. I realised I could be good to myself. I could talk to awesome, interesting people. I could see phenomenal work. I could be inspired and fuelled rather than intimidated by the creativity of others. Not only that, but this was a real opportunity to learn more about myself as an artist and a person and about what I need. Not only that but a chance to tell my story to loads and loads of people. I learnt how much I need space and serenity. I did a couple of lovely walks up Arthur’s Seat (the big rock in Edinburgh) and just being able to see the city from above helped give it all a little bit of perspective and it was at those times when I took a few moments out that I began to appreciate how epic it all was and how special it was to be there performing. I also learnt that I’m not a big drinker, as you will see by some of my video diaries when I’ve had a few pints! I mean, I’ve known that for a while, but everyone kept telling me that I would need a new liver when I got back, but I discovered very quickly that I could save a lot of money by just getting drunk from the breath of others. Watching them meant free entertainment and I didn’t have the hangover to deal with in the morning. I was aware of what I was there to do and although I went out a lot I knew that I had to be on top form for my show and if I was going to have the strength to get out on the Royal Mile every day and get an audience I needed to look after myself.

I really practised what I preach in my show throughout the festival. A big part of my show is about learning to love yourself and part of that was realising that I didn’t have to join in with all the madness, that I could do Edinburgh on my terms and that I had a choice about how I experienced it. I met some fantastic people and a couple of famous ones. Al Murray came to see my show, because I flyered him without realising who he was and once I realised just said “Oh, blimey, you’re Al Murray, this is embarrassing…” (unfortunately this was said out loud and not in my head) well fortunately, because he found it very funny and came along. Not only that but he enjoyed it and gave Matt and myself tickets to his show. How lovely, hey? I know I know so showbiz, but what can you do? John Bishop also stumbled onto my video diary, by being given some of the Pidsley flyering treatment too.

Blimey, there’s so much to tell you, but not enough words left to do it in, so I may have to create an artistic impression, a word-scape if you will of what I went through. It’s best to see this as an Modernist (ostentatious) poem or a arty monologue (you’re creative, I trust you’ll make it your own) Here goes. Centre. Get into character. Are you there? Right…

Anticipation. Belief. Dream. There. I’m there. Here. But there is here. Risk. Vulnerability. Myself. Soul on the line. Bad review. Cry. Oh no. cry more. Good review. Correct. Smile. Who am I trying to please? Audiences. Connection. Laughter. Sharing. Creativity. Beautiful walks. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Tea. Tea. Tea. Rescue remedy. Berocca. Vocal strain. Vocal zone. Rest. Flyering. Meeting people. Hello. Hello. Joy. Tired. Joy. Tired. Performing. Buzz. Pear magners. Drink of the Fringe. Cheese wraps. Daily. Sunshine. Love. Passion. Am I any good? Yes. no. yes. no. yes. Learning to love yourself. The journey. Amazing. Beautiful. Exhausting. Exquisite. Next year? YES.

I love what you just did with that. I knew you’d inhabit it and bring it to life. So what’s next for me? A nice cuppa I think. The main thing I realised is that I love what I do and I hate what I do, but I love what I do more. What we need to remember is that we could stop doing this at any time. No-one is making us or forcing us and it is so hard sometimes, but we do it because we love it. We do it because of the unique joy it brings us and the people we share it with and that nothing else in the world is quite like it. Who said life had to be comfortable anyway? Start enjoying it’s uncomfortability and move into it. It means you’re becoming more than you think you can. How epic is that?

I will also be featuring on “The Mimic”, a new channel 4 comedy series coming to a screen near you soon.

And finally, if you missed my show “Jessica Pidsley’s I Can Make You Thin(k)” in Edinburgh, fear not as I will be performing it in London this month. Follow me @jesspidsley to be kept up to date. Also feel free to tweet me, it totally validates my existence and if you say something lovely you’ll almost certainly get a RT #obvs.

Thank you for all the love and support and let’s go out there and create the performances we want to see in the world. Go you!

Jessica X