Lockdown Unlocked – A blog from a social distance by Thomas Willshire #16 Edinburgh

In early August 2019 I was up in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival sticking posters for two shows on anything that didn’t move. Both the posters prominently featured my face and were therefore very eye catching and sexy. One of them advertised ‘The Big (Bite-Size Plays) Breakfast’ which was a collection of short plays performed in the morning with breakfast for the audience thrown in. I was turning out for ‘Bite-Size’ for the third year in a row and was thoroughly looking forward to playing to the big audiences that production always seemed to attract. The other poster was for a play called ‘Before Thirty’; a one man show (my first one man show) written by my wonderful friend Thomas Hartwell. It promised to be a busy Festival and I was champing at the bit.

Here we are a year later and here I am, in Selhurst, writing this in my pyjamas. I’m terribly upset not to be up there but comforted that no one else is either. Except for people who live in Edinburgh, of course. They’re probably hugely grateful for this enforced fallow year. They probably deserve it. Anyway, back to ME…

I turned eighteen at the Festival (performing with my youth theatre) and I turned twenty-five there also. Polly took me as a punter for my thirtieth and last year I turned thirty-five shortly after getting all the lines right in my one man show for the first time. It would have been splendid to turn thirty-six in Edinburgh this year but it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll be heading off to Birmingham instead where I’ve been promised a Birthday curry. Not a bad alternative at all!

I love the Festival so much. In conversation I equate it to Legoland. “If you love Lego, you go to Legoland. If you love the performing arts, you go to Edinburgh in August”. The Fringe is probably where I feel most at home and in recent years it’s where I’ve felt most like an artist. Generally, while I’m up there I’m in a constant state of excitement and happiness. I love the city itself. I love the strange bread-like smell that follows you around thanks to a nearby sugar refining factory. I love the tangible sense of creative endeavour in the cellars, pubs and on the streets In London my friends are spread out over several miles whereas up at the Fringe I bump into people all the time and enjoy many spontaneous alcohol-fuelled catch ups. It’s marvellous! I adore watching terrible theatre in abhorrent surroundings. That shit gives me life! Watching the good stuff is great too, of course. I think my actual total favourite is just squeaking into a show the Festival is raving about and detesting it to the point of anger. I’m twitching with happy rage just at the thought! I love it, love it, love it and I’m gutted it had to be cancelled. Let’s hope to God next year provides me with my fix!

I’ve just checked and Legoland is now officially open for business and I’m livid.

My parents have mentioned they read my blog to my Nan if they think the subject matter is fitting and I suspect this one will be just that. The temptation to include something graphically sexual or ageist is enormous but I’m a grown-up, so I won’t.

Hi Nan.

Finally, during my first haircut since lockdown I had an exchange with my barber that a lot of actors will be familiar with. Perfectly reasonably he asked me what he might have seen me act in and I had to reply “Ever been to the theatre in Lowestoft?”. Being forced to share a stinging failing with a comparative stranger is a loathsome business. It’s always so awkward. The barber feels bad. I feel bad. Even the chap sat next to me getting his hair done feels bad. So I’ve decided that lying is the only solution and I want you all to back me up on this. When a barber or similar asks me what I’ve been in I’m going to tell him I was in The Matrix Revolutions. I’ll say I was one of the many people made to look like Hugo Weaving before all the CGI was implemented post-production. It makes for a good lie I think because it’s a dreadful film that still belongs to a franchise with a little cachet. If anyone asks you, I was in that bloody film, Ok? Good. Thanks.


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