I Had Five Toddlers in My First Preview by Anu Vaidyanathan - On The Mic

I Had Five Toddlers in My First Preview by Anu Vaidyanathan

We are into the second half at the Fringe and I cannot get over the fact that I was duped. By the travel agent who told me it was sunny in Scotland. By my single friends at clown school who made an idiot mom (me) think there were only four venues at the Fringe. By my own palace of delusions, built one brick at a time. I only completed writing the hour in late June. Every time I had to test material, I had to travel at least an hour or two, by flight. Such are the benefits of living in an anechoic chamber on the mainland in Europe. But getting a German to laugh is also a feat of endurance so, all the delusions did pay off.

For the first week or so, I was a little worried about what such a congregation of artistic energy would mean for my own brain. Which went into hiding in week two. When the odd reviewer showed up, on a Sunday, I forgot all my lines. Only because there were no toddlers in the audience. I had five of them in my first preview. We signed a Buddhist co-existence pact that day. They would do their thing. I would do mine. Those babies calmed me down. I haven’t had much luck since. I also realized this week that I have mistitled my show. It should’ve been called ‘Before and after flyering’ because if I thought having babies was the most vulnerable thing to do, I was wrong. It is the odd feeling of being a used car salesman that one has to shrug off when walking up to a complete stranger and asking them to come to one’s show, since one’s marketing department is an expansive team of one’s own self. I had to sell a kidney to afford rent in Edinburgh. I certainly am all out of spare change. But, speaking to people is brain-candy for a writer-director. That is my excuse. I have found laughter in the most unexpected places, people and situations. The travel agent did not tell me this festival was the only place where the pros and the rookies would line up right next to each other. Like in a triathlon. One of the dumbest sports ever invented. I should know.

Complaints and crankiness aside, I am so glad I am here. What a treasure trove is Bristo Square. When not admiring the genius of Camille O’Sullivan, Alex MacKeith or Emmanuel Sonubi, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of my own roommates. One of them sold out a dozen days in a row and offered to flyer for me. Another has a toddler at home and is up on stage, daily. Another is a fellow geek who has shunned Instagram, which I am rather envious of. The pandemic turned my normally neurotic self into something of a social media co-dependent. I am unable to wean myself off now.

It seemed like a dumb idea to show up with an hour at the Fringe, back in April when I first thought about it. I didn’t get my dream job that month after being jerked around for a year. I had caught COVID in Italy (a near death sentence for an asthmatic). My kids were fed-up with my traveling for paying work, which never arrived. I had been watching a lot of Blake Edwards, only outdone by the great Cho Ramaswamy. A lesser-known but equally accomplished Tamil man with a funny bone second to none. Someone wisely said ‘only do the Fringe if it feels like this has to be the year’ and yes, it felt like that back then and it feels like that right now (although, I am very glad we are past the half-way mark. I am officially tired of traveling).

As for my brain going missing in week two – I walked up to a nice, tall lady in a coat at the Pleasance courtyard one morning. I had finished my run but hadn’t had any breakfast as Red61 said we had sold only one ticket for the day. I had to flyer. As I launched into a spiel my eyes were telling me I was talking to the great Phoebe Waller-Bridge (a memetic maami [1] not from Madras) but my brain short-circuited. I had the kind of out-of-body experience one must have, to enter into such commitments as marriage, motherhood or their debut standup hour amongst other insane undertakings. She heard me out patiently, took a flyer and there might even be a photo somewhere of this extreme adventure. This would not be the end of my encounters though. I would nearly flyer Vir Das the next day, run into the stunning Sindhu Vee, again while flyering and another wonderful Tamil comic, Aravind. All on the eclectic shores of sunny Scotland. I have since forgiven my travel agent. Red61 is still not out of the woods yet. And may never be.

[1] A south-indian woman in a 9-yard saree, the keeper of secrets including Suprabhatam.


BC:AD – Before Children: After Diapers is at The Underbelly, Bristo Square daily at 2.25pm


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