On The Fringe

Added on 30 September 2008
Contemplating taking Barney Thomson to the Edinburgh Fringe next year. Having said that, I've contemplated taking Barney to the Fringe on several previous occasions and have yet to do it, however it could be that the time is right.

I did the official Edinburgh Book Festival in August 2002. TPCKAM wrote to the director, Catherine Lockerbie, and asked if they'd take me. I'd been interviewed by Lockerbie for the Scotsman when the first Barney came out, and it may well have been her who wrote their review with the wonderfully quotably line "Gleefully macabre...hugely enjoyable black burlesque." I've used that one a few times since.

I appeared with Chris Brookmyre and Mark Billingham, and I was definitely the undercard, but it was fun. I didn't think I was too mince, however they haven't had me back. I ask every year, the first time they said no, but since they've just ignored me. I guess I don't blame them, it's not like they don't have a host of magnificent authors queuing up to appear. I need them a lot more than they need me. Still, it's hard not to harbour a grudge, and if ever the situation arises where I turn out to be the bad guy in a Bond movie who steals a nuclear submarine and targets somewhere populated with a nasty missile, I'll probably stick Charlotte Square on my list of potential destructees.

Anyway, in an effort to rise above petty jealousy and thoughts of reprisal, every year I contemplate doing the Fringe. Now, I don't contemplate sitting in a seat, reading from a selection of my books, while the audience - if there is one - doses quietly in the cheap seats. Although reading is obviously what I did at the Festival all those years ago, the thought of listening to an author reading his own book just seems slightly barmy to me, and really not a lot of fun.

My idea for the Fringe would be to perform The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson as a one man, one hour show. I'd narrate some bits, play all the parts when appropriate and when action was required. I think it would work as a show. Whether I'd be able to pull it off, thespianly, I'm not sure, but it's something I'd feel I'd have to try for myself.

The thought of appearing on stage for an hour doesn't scare me particularly, but it doesn't excite me too much either. I'd be doing it as a career move, to try to advance the Barney Thomson franchise, to make it more marketable. And so, every year, I talk myself out of it on the basis that if at some point in the six months between me booking the hall and actually having to perform the thing, something interesting like a movie deal or big publishing deal came up, I'd be stuck doing something that I didn't want to, and didn't need to.

There comes a time, however, when I have to give up on the big movie or publishing deal. Face the unacceptable facts. The movie might happen, but it's not around the corner. The publishing deal just isn't going to happen. If Barney's going to advance from the Lower Blue Square South 5th Division, then I'm the one who has to try to generate the interest. And so, once again, as I regularly do at this time of year, I'm contemplating the Fringe.

Contemplating spending a few months working on a stage adaptation, contemplating several months rehearsing, contemplating getting up on a stage for a week. With no people in the audience. There's a thought, and another thing to cultivate my inhibitions every year.

This time, though, I might just do it. For the moment, however, I'll probably just have a cup of tea and think about it for a bit longer.