Ishbel’s Summer Performing Top Five


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I was working on two shows this summer, touring O is for Hoolet to festivals, and working with the Edinburgh International Book Festival (and their ReimagiNation festivals through Booked!) on Plan. Here are my top five experiences:

5. The Solas Audience: In at number five was one of the earlier events of the summer, the performance of O is for Hoolet at Solas festival in June. There was a wee mix up and the end of the show got curtailed, which wasn’t great, but it was still the most receptive audience I have maybe ever had for Hoolet since I first shared it at the Arches Live scratch 2014. It turns out that I make theatre which I would like, and what I am is a spiritually-inclined, Iona-community-ish, equality focussed, artsy person who might go to Solas. They are my people. I don’t only want to do shows to my people, but it’s really nice every now and then to have a show where absolutely everything lands. And I got falafel in a yurt afterwards.

4. Returning to our Cosy Belladrum Caravan: Doing O is for Hoolet at festivals this summer was a learning experience like no other. Columbafest in the Gorbals at the start of the season gave something of a false sense of security. It wasn’t a ‘real’ festival: it was in a building, the audience sat quietly like a traditional theatre audience, rather than coming and going. Belladrum is much more of a ‘normal’ music festival, with mud, tents, competing events, noise and a 15 minute turnaround between shows. Performing there was difficult, and didn’t turn out to be the best match of show and venue. Luckily our wonderful producer Jill, of Feral Arts, had chosen us a wee Airbnb in a caravan in a garden near the site. When we eventually retreated there the hosts had a wee fire on, and me and Marisa (Stage Manager this summer) read our books and watched the chickens. Lesson learned: take a risk, then take a rest.

3. The Cities of Our Dreams Panel at EIBF: This event was something of the fulfilment of a life ambition, to be on an ‘expert’ panel. It was excellently chaired by Daniel Gray, so I didn’t talk too much (could do with a Daniel Gray accompaniment to my daily life), and also on the panel were Honor Gavin and Adam Kaasa, who I had never met before and who talked about their inspiring project, also connected to cities and utopia. It was so bloody interesting, and the audience questions were amazing. As my pal, Amy, pointed out – no-one was there because they liked us. No-one had ever heard of any of us (except my FanParentsTM). The audience trust the EIBF, and if they see something on a subject they find interesting, they will go along and expect it to be good. And I think it was.

2. The Hugely Varied Audiences for Booked! and EIBF: With the Book Festival I did Plan five times over the summer, twice for schools, and once each for the public in Irvine, East Kilbride and Edinburgh. Each audience was so different. Each space was so different. Our last performance was in the same hall, at the same time, as a baby dance class – audiences could design a new city while also putting their hands together 1-2-3. In Edinburgh the audience was the most diverse I’ve ever had. We sold five children’s tickets, five OAP tickets and twenty adult tickets. It was packed. And the discussions ranged between the ages equally – it was so heated that someone tried to stage a coup. In Irvine and East Kilbride audiences were smaller, but more specialised, bringing their New Town knowledge to the process. What a joy.

1. The Author’s Toilet: If I think Columbafest spoiled me, how can I begin to describe the luxury of working with the Edinburgh International Book Festival? It is unlike any arts festival I have ever worked with in the level of care and attention you’re given. They understand that performing is not nothing. They give you food, and space, and great chat even after weeks of 16 hour days. But best of all was the authors’ toilet. In the words of my pal, Rosie, may I forevermore wee in the authors’ toilet of success.

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