Richard Herring: The show must go on… and on
Thursday 21 Aug 2014
The insane roller coaster of laughter and disappointment that is the Edinburgh Fringe is drawing to a close.
I am dazed and exhausted and feeling my years but unless I have perished between writing this and it appearing in the paper, I am still in one piece. I think I might take a year off from the madness next year but I’ve said that every year for the past decade and still bobbed up like an unflushable turd.
The Fringe, like childbirth, is painful to endure but your brain then fills with a chemical, which makes you forget the misery and you commit to do it all over again. Please show me this column next February and tweet me in capital letters, DO NOT GO BACK.
Of course, the tears dry and are forgotten but the laughter remains, echoing down the corridor of your life. In the early 1990s I put on ramshackle, silly shows involving complicated dance routines to the music of Boney M, puppets made out of Mr Kipling cake boxes, and scientists predicting the future via urine tests (it works for babies, so why not everything else?). I would rub shoulders with future superstars like Steve Coogan and
Rachel Weisz. I saw Harry Hill’s wondrous first solo show and the Little Britain boys (wrongly) dying on their holes. The quiet guy doing the show before me had an act where he dressed up as Mother Teresa. He’d never amount to anything. That was Graham Norton.
In 1994 I did a show about my immaturity called Richard Herring Is All Man alongside Sally Phillips and Tom Binns. It was knockabout and fairly rubbish and detailed my imaginary struggle with a dopplegänger made out of my accumulated shaven facial hair.
One performance was remarkable though because, ten minutes before the show, there was no sign of Tom. This was in the days before everyone had a mobile phone, so there was no way to contact him. We had to wait and hope he showed.
But he didn’t. The small audience were seated and Tom didn’t do anything in the first ten minutes of the show, so we started proceedings and hoped he would show up. He didn’t but we covered with the technician jiggling some puppets and Sally reading out Tom’s lines on a backstage microphone. We were just about getting away with it, when 30 minutes in we hit a brick wall. We needed the physical actor in the room or we’d have to end things early and refund everyone’s money.
I explained what had happened to the crowd, who smirked believing this was all part of the script. In desperation I opened the venue door hoping that Binns might be coming up the stairs. I revealed him standing, frozen to the spot, having just arrived. He had realised, with horror that the show had gone on without him. It must have felt like a bad dream. Fittingly for a show about childishness, he was so late because his Lion King watch had stopped.
We were able to carry on and the audience probably thought that the whole thing was a post-modern deconstruction of theatre. It was actually more entertaining than the scripted version.It’s impossible to believe that two decades have passed. Sally is a star of film and TV and Tom is now having great success with his character comedy (see his five-star show Tom Binns Has Not Been Himself at thePleasance this year, if he can be bothered to show up). And I have a column in the Metro… Clearly, I have done the best. Clearly.