After seven Edinburgh Fringe festivals nestled safely within the bosom of my sketch group, The Boom Jennies, it was time to go it alone.
The prospect of bringing up a solo show was exciting and nauseating in equal measure. If the other two Boom Jennies hadn’t already committed to doing it, would I have? Who knows, but the thought of the pair of them panicking together on the train up, and then sharing a celebratory haggis after their first day of shows was too much for me. I was going to have to grow the balls to write my own show and that was that.
Adjusting to life as a solo performer has been a funny old business. In the absence of my comedy cohorts, I’ve found myself seeking artistic reassurance and emotional solace from the first person I lock eyes on after each show. Inevitably that’s my long-suffering techie and now involuntary life coach, Simeon.
He’s always trying to bring it back to the lighting and the sound, no matter how much I tell him this is about me. After one particularly tricky preview, when I was recovering from a throat infection, I genuinely found myself weeping in the face of the theatre manager: a middle-aged man I had not met until moments before the show. Need I say, this was an awkward evening for both of us.
Some habits are hard to shake. Before the Boom Jennies’ shows, we shared some pretty memorable adrenaline-fueled moments backstage: teasing each other, jumping up and down, attempting to control our flatulence. Now I find myself talking to myself (‘Come on Lizzie, knock their Scottish socks off!’) and failing to control my own flatulence. And this time round, there is no one else to blame those dressing room smells on.
Sometimes it seems baffling that it’s only me on stage. (What? It’s my line next again?!) But the wonderful thing is that it forces you to really engage with your audience. I have started creating conversations between them and me, mostly so I don’t have to listen to my own voice for an hour. (What? I’m doing this for a whole hour?)
Marketing decisions are all my own, the money has to come from my (rapidly diminishing) bank account and at times I have found myself drowning under a sea of admin which used to be split three ways.
But the highs are also all my own. When I can feel the audience going with it – when a joke that I’ve written works – it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. I’ve created a show that I’m immensely proud off. I’ve booked an Edinburgh venue and a train ticket all on my own. It’s time to start seeing that nervous backstage flatulence for what it really is – the wind of triumph.
Lizzie Bates: Reprobates, Until 25 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard, more info.