Paul Sweeney - 215: Game For A Laugh

Published: 14 August, 2012 - Featured in Skin Deep 215, August, 2012

While all eyes are firmly fixated on the lycra-clad Olympians currently flexing and stretching in and around our great capital, there’s another fine example of British ambition being displayed throughout August.

Across the cobbled streets of Edinburgh the tension rises as the entertainment industry embarks upon another year of stress, desperation and crippling financial commitment, all courtesy of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; an unyielding beast hell-bent on consuming every morsel of dignity from all who so choose to partake in the month-long gauntlet, where only the bravest enter, the strongest survive and the stupidest return.

For those of you ‘athletic types’ grimacing at the sheer barefaced cheek of my comparison between “Grrr sports grrr” and [raised eyebrows, puckered lips] “mmm the arts darling!” consider this your chance to unclench your teeth and smooth your furrowed brows, press your lips together and raise an eyebrow… or two. The Edinburgh Fringe truly is the most demanding month in any performer’s calendar, yet year after year we return, performing at all hours of the day and night, on the streets, in the back rooms of pubs and inside giant upside-down purple cow tents, running from venue to venue through steep cobbled inclines, come rain or shine, hell or high water, whilst all the time desperately trying to maintain a firm grip on reality. This is the real cost of ‘fame’ where real entertainers learn their trade, these tradesmen that build their foundations out of pure ambition to succeed are athletes in their chosen fields.

Much like the world of body modification, the arts and their enthusiasts have often suffered from misrepresentation, obvious stereotyping, and varying degrees of discrimination. But despite the condescending looks and murmurs of disapproval, the tradition of our chosen fields live on. It takes far more than the odd wince or snide comment to distract us from continuing the fine history of what we love. Because despite not having the approval of the person sat opposite us on the train or walking past us down the street, we know we have the support of those who stood before us and those who still stand around us. It may feel as though at times we are only one, but we are one of many, many successful individuals who’ve suffered the same hardships, completed the same challenges, received the same criticisms, and lived to tell the tale.

I feel like I’ve just given you all a pre-battle motivational talk. If you have the chance to re-read this article, may I suggest you do so whilst listening to the 1812 Overture, Op.49 Finale by Tchaikovsky… I think you’ll find it gives the piece a certain patriotic revelry.


Text: Paul Sweeney