Lines And Ladders Performance Diary 09: Edinburgh, I’m done!

Planning the Edinburgh excursion from Sheffield wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it is much easier being on the ground.

I find it much easier to explain the game in person.

Being on the ground in Edinburgh for the full festival has been incredible, wearing, wet, grey, sunny, fabulous, draining, exciting, stressful and above all a massive learning curve. Arriving in the sun at the start of the month the city seemed to fizz with energy; a balloon ready to burst that never did, only gradually deflated. In the past we’ve come up for two/three days at the start of the month – before the reviews come out when tickets are cheaper. It’s normally an intense couple of days cramming in an average of 12 shows. I have done 25 this year over 3 and a half weeks, which would feel more relaxed, if I hadn’t also done my own piece 17 times.

I realize that this is nowhere near as much as many do. I really do not envy them.

Part of me feels it may have been a misjudgement to come during the festival. My piece might have found more space at a quieter time. There has been so much on in Edinburgh that my little fringe fringe micro-audience piece is up against tough opposition. I tried to make it easier for people to attend by playing in different places and at different times, but fear that may have confused people.

Yet, there is definitely something to be said for committing this time to this practice. In Sheffield there are too many distractions. There is always something else to be done. Being in Edinburgh in amongst all these other performers has given me confidence. Confidence to invite people to play the game and confidence to play in different venues. The worst anyone can say is no and even when they have, they have generally been enthusiastic about the game; now is just not a good time.

The context is important. Edinburgh in August frames the work as being performance. Even at the fringe of the fringe there is performance everywhere. As I try to explain the performance element, the  proximity of other alternative work can provide a shorthand.

Most players came across the performance in one of the venues and choose to take part on the spur of the moment. Only 40% of the participants in Edinburgh planned in advance to take part in the game and 24% of those were friends and family.

I have played the game with 33 people in Edinburgh across 4 venues. Most of them have given written feedback and many have agreed to be contacted again. They have made the whole adventure worthwhile.

My games have been split between The Forest Cafe, Miller’s Sandwich Bar, The Well Cafe and The Little Shop of Memory. The people in these venues who have allowed me to commandeer their spaces have all helped to make the project possible. 

There was a minor controversy whilst I was here about a café chain that had introduced tables where you could sit if you wanted to chat to someone. This raised some questions and some people got all excitable over this. Why should people be made to chat? Is this really necessary? Is this patronising? Would you sit at this table? Over the last 3 and a half weeks, I have been sitting at a table in the four different places. I have been smiling at people as they enter my vision, in a way that I desperately hope is friendly, not unnerving. This is Edinburgh, people aren’t surprised when they make eye contact and are rewarded by a flyer. It hasn’t always led to a game, but it has often led to friendly conversations. It’s been nice to sit and those people who took the time to have a chat at times when Edinburgh felt very lonely always made a difference.

I’m on my way home, I’m ready to leave, but Edinburgh, I am very glad that I came.

On one of those days when I was sitting in a café inviting people to play, I had a chat with Luke Tudball about Lines And Ladders and here it is:

One glorious afternoon spent wandering in the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – a wonderful antidote to festival frazzle.

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