We have exciting news: we are taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. You may remember that years ago, Chloe wrote a musical based on a children’s book called ‘The Jammy Dodgers go Underground.’ Many kind and helpful actors, stage-hands, props people, lighting people, producers and musicians helped us, in 2007, to bring this show to the stage, once in our house and once at school. Bash and I still, in the car, sometimes spontaneously launch into the harmonies of Billy’s separation song: ‘I’ve been left…left behind….and I’m bind with all these kids who are unkind….it’s late at night… this don’t feel right… I’m alone and scared without the light....’. Jem and Ned come in with ‘We’ve got to find Billy…stop being so silly…but he might be dying, bet he’s crying….we’ll keep trying.’ Anyway, it’s all very catchy and quite daft. It was the best fun ever, but for the last few years we have been sadly thinking of it as really and truly in the past.
Not so! The other day I had an email from Bowering Sivers, otherwise known as Brenda, or, lately ‘Old Ma Sivers’, the author of the Jammy Dodgers. Much email correspondence had gone on between us in the build-up to the school show. She loved the musical and came to two of the performances, signing the books at the back of the hall. We have kept in touch ever since. So this new email said that Brenda was launching the e-books of the Jammy Dodgers, and could she come back to our school and find a new set of wonderful actors to play brothers Jem, Ned and Billy for the new interactive website? After a few emails to help her get in touch with the school, we spontaneously decided that a Fringe version of the musical was just begging to be created, to celebrate The Jammy Dodgers bursting onto the digital scene. After all, Chloe had managed, in 2008, with a lot of effort, to shrink the two-hour script down to forty-five minutes for entry into a ‘Lost Theatre’ competition, which came to nothing but was a bit of a drastic exercise in editing.
At the end of the Christmas holidays we managed to find Chloe’s old battered laptop and with surprisingly little hassle, located this ‘Lost Theatre Jammy Dodgers’ document. Tabby had gone back to Glasgow already but Chloe and Bashi and I lay in bed with all the dogs and cats and a cup of tea, doing a sing-through. This was not easy, as memories of the show made us die laughing so we could hardly get through it. Alfie put his head round the door several times. ‘Alfie, you’re Zeke,’ Chloe told him. Zeke is Mr and Mrs Blood’s ghastly child.
‘What?’ said Alfie.
‘We want you on your oboe.’
‘Does Zeke play oboe?’
‘He does now…’
‘Come on Alf. You get to wear a top hat,’ I said.
Bash said she really, really wanted to do the show, but Chloe was having a moment of doubt: ‘Isn’t this a step back though?’
See, Chloe’s ‘Plato – the Musical’, my ‘Tits – the Musical’ and ‘The World according to Shardonnay – the Musical’ have all been recent contenders for possible Fringe efforts. I said: ‘Hmm, yes, but…it’s like, we have a commission. That’s kind of cool, to have a commission. And Plato the Musical is not ready. Tits the Musical won’t be ready til we have a cast of fifty women willing to bare their breasts. Shardonnay could be ready whenever, as it doesn’t have that many characters, just Shardonnay, her husband and the choir of blondie boys. But Shardonnay can wait…’
‘Plus, doing Jammy Dodgers would be more fun,’ said Bashi. ‘And I could be Clara…’
‘We’re cutting out Clara,’ said Chloe.
‘Cutting out Clara?’ we chorused in dismay.
‘Forty-five minutes!’ said Chloe. ‘We can’t get the whole book in. It’s not possible.’
She’s right. She’s a realist regarding length. Ooh, sounds rude, but isn’t.
‘The audience will mainly be children, remember,’ I said. ‘And they don’t care what it’s like, so long as it’s fun.’
‘Hmm,’ mused Chloe, darkly. ‘Children are the most demanding audience of all.’ She could be right there as well. But the Jammy Dodgers is full of wonderful material for children. Don’t kids love evil baddies? Mr and Mrs Blood are absolutely brilliant nasty creations.
I said, ‘Brenda is really excited about dressing up in Victorian garb as Old Ma Sivers and standing out on the Royal Mile, selling bunches of watercress.’
‘Really?’ said Chloe, brightening. ‘….Oh god, all right then. We’ll do it.’
‘We could do Plato the Musical simultaneously,’ I suggested.
‘I would rather do one musical well, than two badly,’ she said. Wise person.
So: the Tingeys are en route for the Fringe. Whoopee. I have decided to start blogging again, but this time not about cancer, not about gin club, but about How to Put On a Fringe Show, all aspects of. (You will find all these posts in the ‘Tingeys go to the Fringe‘ category at the top of the home page, I hope, if Fred has done it properly.) It’s a very interesting process and there is a lot to learn, even third time round. Maybe it will inspire other creatives to give it a go, and they can learn from our bound-to-be catalogue of errors! Never mind! This is the Fringe. People go there wanting to witness cheap and experimental barmy creations. Tis not the Edinburgh Festival proper, nor the Albert Hall, nor the Barbican, nor nuffin.
Come on! We’ve only got four months to get this show on the road!