Climbing Arthur’s Seat: Keep Calm and Rush On

BEFORE

Written by director and cast member Chi-San Howard

Amongst my friends and acquaintances I am known for some distinct character traits: a seriously loud mouth, a sense of humour rooted firmly in the gutter and a worrying obsession with cheese. But most importantly, I am known for being deeply laid back: I don’t panic, I don’t screech, I don’t walk out. I have diffused and/or broken up a fair few fights. If I weren’t so hyperactive and excitable I’d be the Dalai Lama. Especially as I feel that red is my colour.

During the week leading up to the preview, my pretensions towards the title of “Her Sereneness” were duly tested. Quite frankly we weren’t ready. As I said before, moving from the passenger to the driving seat has been a ridiculous learning curve and never more so than in this past week. As our brains stuttered and time (like something out of a Dr Who plot line)  folded in on itself, frustrations flared. That shit pile I spoke of? Edged ever closer towards the fan. After one particularly difficult rehearsal and a duly depressing train journey home, my inner Medusa reared its serpentine head. If looks and text messages could kill…

And yet. Now and again, one of those deeply irritating sayings that your mother spouts in times of crisis becomes even more deeply irritating as it proves itself to be true: things look better in the morning. Your excellent cast pulls together, you create a new game plan, you remember to look at the bigger picture and see how best to put things together. Time was still collapsing down to the opening of house, but it was a slightly more controlled collapse. Losing your head never works, one must keep calm and carry on. Dalai Lama I am not… but post-preview I’m channeling my inner Churchill – and anyways, bowler hats are so my thing.

AFTER

Written by producer and cast member Francesca Murray-Fuentes

Without detailing the highs and lows of our preview on Saturday night, we made a profit, putting some much-welcomed dollar in momma’s pocket, and played to an audience double the capacity of our Edinburgh space.

What we did learn is that, even when your vision is impaired from all the proverbial excrement hitting the fan, don’t lose sight of the people around you who are trying to help. In this industry there will always be someone who knows how to fix ‘it’, so make sure you befriend them immediately. Our preview technician rose up like an A/V cable-wielding Patronus into our midst of theatrical anarchy, and ensured that the preview went as smoothly as it possibly could.

That age-old Fringe adage that word of mouth sells tickets rings true, and while up in Edinburgh it will certainly be Rush’s mantra. Your venue’s FOH and the Fringe Box Office staff will be one of your strongest marketing tools – so unless you enjoy burning money, ensure you are on the best of terms with them (bribery is duly encouraged).

What it made overwhelmingly clear to us is that the most important (and yet resolutely forgotten) thing is this: despite the multitude of tears, tantrums, sleepless nights, seemingly soluble currency and possible reputation bungee jumps, what you’re doing is just a play. At crunch time, none of the above matter, only that you throw yourself into the performance like it’s a Jacuzzi with an expectant Eddie Redmayne in it. If it goes brilliantly, the sense of vindication becomes an addictive drug. If it belly-flops like my attempt at getting Eddie Redmayne in a Jacuzzi, you need to pick yourself up and learn from those mistakes – despite the burn. Nothing decent ever goes smoothly, and retelling the trauma in the pub is half the fun. Thankfully, post-preview on Saturday night we weren’t licking our wounds in the pub, we were painting the town Rush purple with hope in our hearts and a triumphant bottle of tequila in our hands.

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Image 1: Jacques Parker, Gareth Saunders

Image 2: Chi-san Howard, Francesca Murray-Fuentes, Jacques Parker