Fringe optimism even acid can't corrode...

Nathan Cassidy on the spirit of the festival

In 1997, to power the speakers to play music from the show I had written for street performances, I carried a car battery from Morningside to the Royal Mile, every day for the duration of the fringe. A quick search on Yahoo and ‘Poon River’ will tell you that the average weight of a car battery is fifteen pounds… ‘more or less, don’t know for sure’. Fifteen pounds – that’s the weight of two babies (each weighing seven and a half pounds).

I have a hideous memory that years of therapy will not erase, of me gripping on to this thing like it was my two kids, from my acid coated finger-tips, shuffling it from leg to leg for hours every day. I remember at the time I thought it was ‘crazy’, but clearly not crazy enough that I stopped doing it two or three days in. No, I did every day, for the whole Festival month.

I wasn’t strong, but I was powered by something that all the steroids in athletics would not generate – optimism. I was young, this was the first show I had written on the Fringe and the fact that we had a venue that no one had heard about didn’t worry us, of course it didn’t, we weren’t to know – I for one was too busy carrying a fifteen pound car battery to worry about a growing lack of audience and average reviews. The whole thing was ace – the acid seeping into my body through my ripped finger ends was ace. The beer and cereal every night was ace.

Thirteen years on and I return to the Fringe for my second self-penned show. This year, I’m not doing a musical - such things rely on ‘other people’ and they are always guaranteed to let you down, I’m living virtually on top of my venue and the only car battery will be in the taxi taking me to the airport when the Edinburgh air has been sucked dry by thousands of new, horrible, crazed optimists.

But despite me looking back now and seeing that optimistic kid and wishing I could go back and kick him round the face ‘til that car battery dropped on to the floor so the acid eats away his feet and he can’t do that ridiculous dance he did every night in that average musical – that optimism has returned. You approach Edinburgh and try as you might to avoid it, the optimism returns. I’ve suddenly got a mass of energy and no car battery to do with it.

Maybe I’ll flyer to thousands of people who kindly throw my flyer in the nearest bin, perhaps I’ll try to see every show I’ve promised to see, maybe just for fun I’ll carry an anvil up Arthur’s seat every day and shove broken glass into my eye sockets.

Or maybe I’ll hunt down Poon River and tell him only to bother answering questions online that he can be sure about. Poon River – for God’s sake - my show next year will be called that. Poon River. It’s a saucy musical, just off the Royal Mile, in Glasgow. I’ll stay in Morningside again.

  • Nathan’s Cassiddy: The Frog That Says Sausages is on at Just the Tonic @ The Caves, 5th-29th Aug (not 16th) at 5.20pm.

Published: 3 Aug 2010

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