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New Year Resolution with Purpose for 2023

2022 was all about the Fringe

I'm not one to go back into the past but the start of this new year has left me puzzled. Normally, within the first couple of weeks of the year I've written a list the length of my arm declaring my aims and ambitions for the forthcoming twelve months. Around this time last year, I was getting over Covid with the rest of the team. As most of the staff at the pub came down with the dreaded, dreaded lurgey. That was Last Twixmas, cue for a song perhaps? Even then, in the height of my covidness I was planning what I was going to try and achieve over the next twelve months. Over and over again saying to myself “I’ve got to do the Edinburgh Fringe.” I did not realise at the time that I would achieve not only Edinburgh, but Brighton and a stint at the newly formed Chelmsford Fringe. To be honest I haven't really had time to reflect on my 2022 summer, what with staff shortages and the continued reactive existence in hospitality. Pub life, has kept me very busy with little time think about my theatrical adventures. So if you don't mind, I'm going to have a little review now..

Brighton Fringe

Dolly Slatemen doing what she loves best, an impromptu photo session with a phalic symbol in the background. This room was made for Dolly with a four poster bed and royal decor. Pity her green room was in the underground car park. One day Dolly, one day.

The first night of the newly formed set ready to go. The show was in a marquee on Brighton sea front. Brighton is a wonderful place to carry out a fringe event, the venues seem more spread out across Brighton than Edinburgh but the welcome makes up for any extra footsteps. If you are going to embark on any fringe event adventures, make a decision early in the year and run with it. I dithered for a bit and missed out on early bird savings. Be realistic with the amount of time and money you have. I learnt being organised is key. Lesson one, make your mind up and do it! lesson two, you see that box in the picture, stage right, you know the leopard print monster. Although it looks stunning on stage, it's a bastard to carry around. It just took me three fringe events and two parking tickets to accept that. I was determined to take that box allover the country and I did. Fringe events make a great networking environment and showing others what you can do. It was great to meet up with Sophie Corbet from Let’s Talk Menopause and the Rockwater in Hove. We’ve worked together since a number of times proving comedy and information work well together. Look out for other events at Rockwater in Hove.

As I left the pub in the early light of a beautiful Essex August morning, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. I hadn't really thought of the mechanics of taking a one woman show on my own to the Edinburgh Fringe. I just felt so privileged that I was actually doing it. Just outside Edinburgh feeling fully Thelma and Louise like, I get a call from the pub as a couple of customers had acquired streaks of brown stains across their backs from our newly stained bench. Thankfully, they were very understanding and understood that the stain was from a natural product and would wash out.

After that little digression I approached the streets of Edinburgh early evening, I had to get my set to the theatre for a run through and visit a press conference. But first I had to check in, now remember the bastard box... well once I checked in at my student accommodation I was then informed that Edinburgh is built on a hill. Who knew? Certainly not me. I had to carry everything four flights of stairs to get to my new abode for the week. After managing this on pure adrenalin, I rushed to the press conference not knowing what to expect. All I did know its crucial to get a review of some sort at a fringe event. I never did at Brighton, getting anyone to review the show seems to give it some kind of authority. I approached the venue thrilled to announce myself and gain my performers pass. However, I certainly didn't expect there to be around sixty to seventy performers trying to network with approximately eight press contacts. Never been good at small talk especially when it concerns selling oneself, I figured after a couple of attempts of getting a press persons attention my time was better spent getting to the rehearsal on time. I practically ran back down the Royal Mile not taking into consideration the cobbled streets of Edinburgh or the rubbish spewing out from any available orafice. By the time I pulled that box back over the cobbles to my venue I felt as if I had just spent two days on a power plate. The rehearsal went well with some added spot light sequences, that's the power of the creative process it never ends. The more others get involved more layers are added. I left the set excited knowing the next time I would see it would be showtime.

The next morning before I went flyering, I was invited on a podcast with Hotflashinc and Ann Marie McQueen. This was great timing being able to share my experience with a wider range of people. A sense of purpose this year is to certainly encourage others to fulfil ambitions. It seems we spend so much time thinking if only I had the time to do that, I should’ve done that when I was younger or if only I had the gumption to get up and go now. The one that haunted me for a longe time, what will others think? It took me a while to realise there is no cut off point in achieving your ambitions, there is no right or wrong time. Indeed its not all about the material gains (although it does help when taking a one woman show around the country, we’ll leave finances to another time) The reality here is when a woman gets to a menopausal age they’re not encouraged to make stories, go on adventures or create a different life. Just frankly this has to stop, in my opinion the main people who can make this happen are women themselves. Both young and old, its time to celebrate and communicate. Let’s make ourselves visible, for the benefit of all. Which brings me nicely to the rubbish on show all over Edinburgh, the refuse workers made their concerns visible with the removal of their service. Rubbish was everywhere, like mini artworks amongst the biggest fringe festival in the world. Really was a powerful statement. In juxtaposition women should be encouraged to bring themselves forward. To demand more stories to acknowledge the age group gap and recognise what they can bring to the party.

Meeting the boys in blue was right up Dolly's street. First met these chaps as Debbie out flyering. As we’re chatting one of them said “Are you from Dagenham?” in his rich Edinburgh accent. Can you believe my shock! It turned out, he had courted a girl from Dagenham for years and recognised my Estuarial drawl. Here’s me thinking decades out in Essex had given me a Mrs Bouquet demeanour. They were tops blokes and welcomed Dolly, but wouldn’t let her take pictures inside the vehicle or their truncheons. Flyering is so important and yet so life sapping at any fringe event. You have to do it. It creates presence, helps to establish the character and you get to learn who your audience is. It really is is such a competitive environment, you’re literally fighting for audience members to prioritise seeing your show. Learning curve here is when the audience arrive at the show, don’t take any negative encounters with you from people you encountered whilst flyering. These are the ones who’ve chosen your show amongst hundreds of others and the buzz that gives, really can’t be bought.

Feeling like Adele here in my home town. For me this was huge I had never performed so local to where I live. Lots of people came to the show from the pub and I remember it feeling quite nerve wracking. On top of the Saracens Head in Chelmsford with a small fan on the front line in a July heat wave. In hindsight it wasn’t the best room for a menopausal show. Wearing Dolly’s nylon hair piece will be a experience not to be forgotten either. Not only because of the sweat this created, but the malfunction in wardrobe on the opening night. The clip broke and the wig fell off, as the adrenalin is pumping I kept trying to put it back on. The audience was delighted when Dolly threw it to the side exclaiming “Fuck this” I sensed a sigh of relief as they genuinely cared about her and didn’t give a toss about the lack of hair. Learning curve here, as long as the audience believe in the character and her world it doesn’t matter what happens. This was Chelmsford’s first fringe show event and I really hope the powers that be realise the benefits for future generations and decide to support another one.

Recently I’ve started to think what do I want next? What's possible? Hold the bus, lets face it what's realistic? In 2023 I will be fifty six, when the feck did that happen, this of course is a rhetorical question as it started fifty six years ago. This makes me want to giggle because there are times I can't believe it and others where I think of course I feel apprehensive, I’ve had fifty six years of being told maybe you shouldn’t do that. As we come to the end of January, I’m waiting to hear about a couple of projects already instigated within the last quarter of 2022. Hopefully, they will drive my purpose this year in diluting Menopause taboos and encourage others to get on the band wagon so to speak. For now, I will have to wait and see what the outcomes are but I will be sure to keep you posted wish me luck or as we say in the theatrical world “Break a leg.”

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