I’m preparing for the Edinburgh festival. I am 54 years old, but will be 55 by August 2011. The last time I was up there with a show I was in my thirties, when I collaborated with my dog Arthur to create ‘’Greyfriars Bobby’’ speaks to the world at Greyfriars Kirkhouse. It was a show that eventually (half way through) sold out and made a profit of three hundred pounds despite no reviewer ever darkening my door. I was far too shy to push, and that’s first lesson I learnt. There is absolutely no point in hiding your light under a bushel. By the time I realized my show was good and I could be proud of it, it was too late to rally the troops.
Hundreds of people wanted to come to my show, publicised with a picture of Arthur and me in an exotic pose. Unfortunately most of those people were under twelve. I had to explain to irate mothers on the door that it was unsuitable for under 18’s, that’s why it was on at 9pm. Another lesson; however whacky you want your poster, make sure it’s not attracting the wrong crowd. Some emergency poster alteration-that remembered to include the term ‘stand-up comedy’ -saved the day.
I rented a flat in the Royal Mile, sub-let off students at a ludicrously reasonable rate. Illegally it turned out. It was very stressful having the landlady phoning at regular intervals while i pretended to be a visiting aunt. ‘Is there an animal in there with you?’ she asked. With Arthur barking in the background I’d say No, it was the neighbours.
I couldn’t leave Arthur in the flat on his own in case we were caught out. So I took him to the as yet unburnt down Gilded Balloon Late n Live where the girls at the box office kindly let him sleep behind the counter on my coat while I gallivanted.
He was an old dog and was finding his showbiz commitments exhausting: sometimes he would lick his balls for the whole hour on stage; other times he would whine to go out or go or sit on some hypo-allergic person’s feet. His main job was to represent Lawrence of Arabia’s camel at the beginning of the show to a Terry Alderton voiceover. I had so much goodwill from brilliant people like Terry who inserted little snippets of joy into the whole.
Even though I had Arthur the dog and my new boyfriend with me, I found doing a solo show very lonely and hard work. I didn’t have a phone in my flat and I didn’t yet have a mobile. I had a pager which was of no earthly use to anyone. I didn’t have a computer- even in real London life. Publicity involved photographs being developed into real shiny flappy bits of paper and couriered to real life printers in a real building with a receptionist and everything.
Arthur is long dead and my new boyfriend became my husband and we had two children so I didn’t have a chance to put into practice those Edinburgh lessons I had learnt straight away. My stand up got relegated to gigs within the M25 and compering a lot, with Glastonbury thrown in, plus some comedy collaborations for one hour shows with other performers-for the next fourteen years .
Then just now, like sleeping beauty I suddenly woke up to the realization my children are old enough to use a bus, make some toast and boil an egg .It is time to take a cutlass to the brambles of apathy and get off my arse once again!
Charmian Hughes: The Ten Charmandments is at Music Room, PBH Free Fringe@ Banshee Labyrinth, Niddry Street. 6.40pm (not Mondays) 6-27th August.