This year I'm directing Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More, written by my long-time colleague playwright Sarah Sigal. We were at the fringe together nine years ago with her play Dogfight, a biting satire about an American suburban community. Agent of Influence is the story of Lady Pamela More, a fashion columnist asked to spy on Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson during the abdication crisis.
**DISCLAIMER** My fringe routine in my 30s is COMPLETELY different than my fringe routine in my 20s. You know, you're either living through it now or have experienced it too - when 3am is an early night, cocktail hour is vodka red bulls, and tea and a fag equals a vocal warm-up.
A typical day at the fringe (now)…
Sarah and I begin the day with hot water and lemon (great for keeping away colds and excellent for your liver). Sarah then does yoga, and I'll do a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson. (Felden-what?! you ask? It's a somatic practice pioneered by Moshe Feldenkrais. I like to call it Secret Ninja Training, but it's gentle slow sequences that have a conversation with your nervous system that improve movement, and is great for festival-induced stress, fatigue and anxiety. For some short free audio lessons check out http://www.feldenkrais.co.uk/awareness/).
Last year, when I directed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, we discovered that if we attached a badge to a flyer, people would flock to take them rather than push it away. Since our current show is a film noir spy thriller set in the 30s, we have cocktail stirrers! We make a good assembly team, led by our producer Carla Almeida, sticking labels to cocktail stirrers and then tying them to our flyers. Hopefully in a few days we'll be attaching reviews instead.
Flyering. I joke that it's not in my contract to flyer (I am terrible at it). But the cocktail stirrers do help. Our team splits up and flyer in various places including the Royal Mile, around the Underbelly, and the Pleasance Courtyard, usually from 11 - 2. This is also good social media time - for tweeting and sharing previews/reviews. Our character Lady Pamela even has her own twitter account! You can follow her @UndercoverPam.
For the first four days I'd arrive at the Underbelly at 2pm, to be ready to start our get-in around 2.20. I've been helping with the get-in thus far but now it's time to step away and let my brilliant collaborators - assistant director Katharina Reinthaller and cast member Rebecca Dunn - take over. (As the director, my work is 'officially' over after the press, and I won't be up for the entirety of the festival).
After the show, we head to the Cow Café to do any notes, continue sticking stickers on stirrers, or mending the dress (we have a fabulous 1930s original dress for Pamela - but it's very fragile, so I'm also serving as a dresser/seamstress).
Seeing other shows is an important part of participating in the Edinburgh Festival. Eleven years ago, when I first came to the fringe, I met so many peers - actors, directors and writers - who I subsequently went on to work with professionally. I take advantage of as much free theatre that I can see on my pass. (That's a bonus of going with a big venue…). Two of my favourite shows so far are How to Win Against History and Hot Brown Honey.
A decade ago a quick jacket potato or a burger from a van would suffice. But dinner is extremely important to me now. Dinner and a really nice bottle of wine shared with good company. One of my favourite restaurants is Ciao Roma, with its haggis ravioli, room full of pirate skeletons, and glittering toilet seats.
After dinner time is an opportunity for more shows and catching up with friends over drinks. Last night our character Lady Pamela More had a spot at the Cow Café at 1.15am, so I had a later night than usual for me!
The most important aspect of an Edinburgh routine is that it's flexible. Every day is a new day and require different tasks. This morning, after Feldenkrais, I've been writing this article. Today I won't watch our show (eek!) but am going to see Bubble Revolution instead.
Agent of Influence: The Secret Life of Pamela More runs 4th - 28th August (not 15th) at 2.40pm at the Underbelly Cowgate. Jessica is a freelance theatre director based in London jessicabeck.co.uk