John van der Put – Presenting Piff the Magic Dragon

Buxton is a strange town. They seem so proud of the strangest things. Like water. Everywhere you go you’re offered free water. Bottles of it line the dressing room. People keep fridges full of the stuff and offer it to you like champagne at every opportunity. At some point you want to say, people, we have taps. Traditionally each year I’ve road tested my show at Buxton. Actually, it’s more like road worked a show, as at the beginning the material wouldn’t stand up to light pedestrian usage let alone heavy traffic. The first year I walked away with Best Comedy. Don’t ask me how. The show lasted ten minutes less than it should have, 60% of the material in it didn’t make the final cut and the first performance was seen by a grand total of 13 people – half of them under the age of five And that was the busiest night.

The next year, obviously having now built expectations skywards, I turned up similarly unprepared and received a review so scathing, I still bring it out when Mr Piffles pees on the carpet. Tonight I’m doing a show that is a celebration of previous award winners. It’s at the arts centre, just next to the Opera House. My last visit to Buxton, just over nine months ago, saw me grace the stage of the Opera House in a sell-out night entitled ‘An Evening of Burlesque,’ where I had a great gig to a lovely, packed out house. Tonight, I follow a 20 minute play about refugees performed by a sixth form drama group and perform for 40 people spread out across 300 seats. Reception is muted but friendly, appreciative but sparse. With the tickets for the Edinburgh Fringe going on sale this week, the Fear is rife. Two months stands between me and a new show. But being in Buxton reminds me of how much fun making this stuff is. Although I’m not returning to Buxton for the Fringe this year, and will have to make do with things like actual rehearsal to develop the hour, I’ll still always have a soft spot for this little Peaky town of highs and lows.

Piff the Magic Dragon: Last of the Magic Dragons, 18.40-19.40 Just the Studio @ Just the Tonic at the Store (formerly the GRV) 4th-28th August (not 16th), Venue number: 12, 37 Guthrie Street

Ticket prices range from £5-£10 across the fringe. Check the website for more details. Tickets available now at: Piff the Magic Dragon: Last of the Magic Dragons | Edinburgh Festival Fringe or call: 0131 556 5375

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