Edinburgh Festival Days 6 & 7: Ever curiouser: A funny old week / Neil Innes begins the first of a three-part series in which comedians share their diaries

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
THURSDAY

Suffolk. Total panic. I don't know what I'm doing. I have to leave my desk as I wish to find it. My son Luke is packing the props and guitar stands. John Dowie, the 'former performer' and director of More Jam Tomorrow (in which Innes spies on the modern world from the comparitive sanity of Alice's Wonderland), says we must go to Ipswich to put the finishing touches to the 'Alice' costumes.

We hit Ipswich and within 45 minutes we have purchased red noses, French moustaches, three extra-large white T-shirts with 'green' messages, a black shirt and slip-on shoes and have hired a van. Rush to the village hall. Tonight will be the first time Dowie has seen the show with an audience.

The show begins and the 'medium-sized' smoke flashes that go off after the More Jam Tomorrow overture set off the smoke detectors. Mixture of groans and hysteria. Over to Dowie in the lighting box: 'Can you switch it off?' 'No - but I can put on the extractor fans.' More noise] Siren stops. Resume show. More noise] It's a fireman's bleeper going off in the audience alerting him to report to the fire station to go to the fire that he knows doesn't exist.

A great evening. My reputation as the village idiot is secure.

FRIDAY

The A1. Dowie makes some good cuts in my monologues about time and reality.

Arrive Edinburgh. Find the flat. Walk to the Assembly Rooms - where are the posters?

SATURDAY

Big day. Technical run. Woken at dawn by seagull with maniacal laugh.

The Assembly Rooms doesn't want to risk the smoke flashes. It's pounds 400 for a false alarm - plus all the shows have to stop and everyone has to leave the building. I am tempted by this scenario, but Dowie says do it without ('anyone can let off a couple of flashes'). We do it without and I miss them. The Bonzos (The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band of which Innes was a founder member) always started with some sort of explosion. It's a great attention-getter.

The quick change was a nightmare - broke a shoelace and only just managed to get back on stage in time. When I get to the piano I realise my flies are undone. Show settled down and the small audience of 70 seemed to enjoy themselves - more than I did, I think. Dowie said I looked nervous and when I explained about the flies he expressed considerable amazement that with all my experience I had forgotten the very first rule of showbiz: 'Always check your flies before you go on stage'. Beginning to wonder how I managed before I met Dowie.

SUNDAY

Daughter of flat-owner came to feed the goldfish and water the plants. Much concern about the goldfish swimming upside-down.

MONDAY

Use party-poppers instead of pyros. Talk of better publicity. Audience only 30. Dowie says children can come and see this show ('It's got a talking rabbit for Chrissake]').

Goldfish looking much better.

TUESDAY

Vowed to get the show right. Am now word-perfect. Much bigger audience - nearly 200. Warning stickers saying 'Suitable for children' have been produced. Dowie says they would make good badges for prospective parents.

General optimism about future houses although I'm beginning to feel that the Edinburgh Fringe is no longer what it was. People used to come here to work things out with jolly, fun-loving and often forgiving audiences. Now, there is a media showcase feel to it all. Whatever happened to fun? I don't think I've grown out of it.

WEDNESDAY

Woke up with a fever. Stagger about. What's wrong? I didn't drink that much] Get to Assembly Rooms, sweating, head swimming. Finding it hard to swallow. I look at my throat in the mirror. TONSILITIS] The old enemy] Maybe the weird seagull with maniacal laugh knew something all along.

Good review in The Scotsman, but the size of the audience has dropped back to about 50. Plenty of things go wrong. I feel like death but, as often happens, the absurdity of it all carries you through. Laughter is the best medicine for now. Need to find a showbiz doctor. Someone to give me some penicillin NOW. None of that 'Take it easy, go to bed for a couple of days' advice. The Assembly Rooms doctor fixes me up, no small thanks to the all-knowing secretary who protects me from an appalling child throwing a tantrum in the waiting room. Seriously thinking about making NOT stickers to go with the 'Suitable for children' ones.

Fever gone. Throat under control. Edinburgh '92 can now begin.

Neil Innes is at the Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street (venue 3), 031-226 2428. 12 noon to 29 Aug (not 24 Aug).

(Photograph omitted)

Comments