Yesterday, I finally had a day off from front of house duties; The first since we started on July 30th. Circus Hub had a “dark day” as it is known in the industry – a day where no shows run and maintenance and such-the-like happens. I had high hopes, a pocket full of dreams and a list of shows to see. It was going to be a great day.
If only I’d had a pocket full of tickets instead.
It was not a great day.
I’d go as far as to say it was the worst day I’ve had in a while. Anxiety decided to pay me a visit.
I was going to spend a large proportion of this post explaining all the ‘bad’ things that happened to send me on this downward spiral, but I realised that that’s just feeding the beast. And there are so much worse things happening in the world than being denied entry to a bunch of sold out shows, wandering around aimlessly and losing tickets.
That said, I’ve noticed a lot of the shows running in Edinburgh are inspired by mental health problems. Has this always been such a prominent impetus for creation? It makes sense – turning dark thoughts into something tangible, something that may help unravel the mysteries within.
The day before, I’d seen two shows at Summerhall revolving around fragile mental stability – ‘Sacre Bleu’ and ‘I’m Doing This For You’. The first was a bit too much like a lesson in panic attacks and anxiety – a lesson most people attracted to this show wouldn’t need. I went to two years of CBT, I know it already. A cardinal rule of writing is to show not tell, all the more pertinent in theatre, a medium meant to be watched . The latter show was a perfect example of this. The words ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ are never used, although reference to prescriptions are made. Instead we watch a bubbly, fun-loving character slowly disintegrate into a fragile, needy mess. It’s uncomfortable theatre, but so much more effective for it.
These shows pull me in for #hashtagrelatable reasons, but should they also come with a trigger warning? Is that the reason I felt wooly-headed and head-messy the next day?
Enough introspection. Extrospection time (is that even a word?)
I thought I’d tell you a bit about what it’s like to work Front of House at Underbelly’s Circus Hub, since that is what I’m spending most of my time doing.
There are two tents at Circus Hub – The Lafayette and The Beauty. Weird names for tents, right? Underbelly explain why here, if you care. It’s a sweetly tragic story.
My favourite of the two tents, is the Lafayette. It’s a spiegeltent, which people continuously mistake for a hall of magic mirrors…. I can’t imagine why.
I like this one the best only partially because it shares the name with one of the characters from my current favourite musical, Hamilton. Mostly because it’s so much warmer than the other tent and there’s more to do.
The seating and staging changes for pretty much every show at this venue, where as in The Beauty, the seating is fixed.
It’s all very hands-on in The Lafayette. We have a mad hour where we all rush around rearranging seating/ moving parts of the steel deck about, followed by an equally mad 10 minutes or so of getting people seated in a way where everyone can fit in. That means moving all the way to the ends of the rows, people. Or having the rest of the row clambering over you… usually with plastic cups of sticky drinks. Whichever you prefer.
Then there’s a much calmer hour where we stand, either inside or outside the venue and make sure everyone is behaving – i.e. not taking photos, filming, trying to sneak in the venue or using the convenient cover of darkness for other varied activities.
So far, I haven’t encountered the latter two. Thankfully. For the most part, the audience are well-behaved and we get to just stand and watch the performances.
I’ve now seen every show at Circus Hub – most of them several times. I’m okay with that – circus is the kind of thing that doesn’t get too tedious to see over and over. After watching it so much, you get to a point where you think ‘I could do that’ and then you try, and really, really can’t. The fact these guys perform feats of core strength and balance every day, and so perfectly, is amazing.
Circus Hub finishes before the end of the the festival on Monday 22nd August; Not long to go now, so if you are planning on seeing anything there – get moving.
I am here till the end of the month, however, so hope to start seeing and reviewing a LOT more from next week.