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Steve Bugeja’s Edinburgh Fringe Diary: It feels like I’ve been here for ages… when we’re barely a third of the way through

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AS I stepped off the train at Edinburgh Waverley I was comforted by a familiar scene. Big posters, hopeful looking drama students and rain. I was so sick of the heatwave that London had been experiencing, that I was actually very grateful to see a traditional Scottish summer.

However, when we arrived at our flat, which was costing £4000 for the month by the way, we were greeted by a mini waterfall descending from the ceiling, flooding the floor. The pipe in the flat above had not been connected properly, so instead of water coming out of their kitchen tap, it was now coming out of our kitchen ceiling. £4,000 this place cost.

They did quickly rectify the problem, but then left our kitchen floor completely sodden and mucky. The work men simply advised us to clean it up with towels. £4,000 WE PAID! Eventually some cleaners arrived with mops to deal with the mess. Great first day at the Fringe. I now live in constant fear of being showered on every time I’m pouring out my cereal. £4000.

Water features aside I couldn’t have asked for better housemates this year. I’m living with three fantastic comedians, Chris Washington, Brennan Reece and Stephen Bailey, all who have excellent shows that I would highly recommend. We also have a new housemate this year… Alexa.

Chris has brought along his Amazon Echo and it has been an absolute game changer. Who knew shouting commands at a robot could be so moreish? None of us have bothered going out drinking this year, we spend most our nights asking Alexa increasingly obscure questions. Sure we haven’t networked with industry at the bars, but we do know how many Kangaroos live in Australia. 34.4 million.

My venue this year is on cowgate at The Caves. The name doesn’t lie, it is a cave like building, with all the features you might expect in a cave; exposed stone, patches of damp and plenty of mould spores. Despite the obvious risk of emphysema, it has some excellent rooms for Fringe shows.

I’m in a room which is what I can only assume is ironically named ‘The Fancy Room’. To describe this room as fancy would be like describing Danny Dyer as refined. Supposedly the Caves are haunted, I’m not sure of the exact details of the ghosts, but apparently every year a few more join their ghoulish gang in honour of the comedians who have died onstage at the Fringe.

I absolutely love my room though, there is a stage, the tech works and the audience are all facing the right way. Not things every Fringe room can boast. I remember in my first year at the fringe in 2012 doing a show with two friends, where the only thing separating the performance area from the rest of the bar was a thin curtain. Imagine a shower curtain that had been on a diet. To make things worse, the bar we were attached to was a sports bar. And in 2012 the Fringe overlapped with the London Olympics.

Oh and there was no microphone. So every day, three fledgling comedians, with hope in their eyes, would shout their gags over the patriotic cheering directed at Mo Farah and Jess Ennis. It was the summer that brought the country together, except us, we felt very left out.

Steve Bugeja’s Fringe Diary: Panic and preparation means Edinburgh festival is like exam season for comedians

I met my technician for the month on the first day. Her name is Dani and thankfully we get on well. Given that we are about to see each other every day for a month that is helpful. I like to think that my show over one viewing is very enjoyable, I reckon even a second time might be fun to spot bits you missed the first time around.

But even my ego has to admit that 25 times in a row is a bit much, I don’t envy Dani.  After doing seven shows she now notices tiny variations in my delivery, things that I didn’t even know I was doing. By the end of the month I imagine she will never want to hear my voice ever again.

I’m about to do show 8 now and I’m certainly in my rhythm. I’ve absolutely loved this Fringe so far, audiences have been busy and seem to be enjoying it. A particular highlight was having an actual baby in show 3, who barely made a sound. I only noticed little Leo was in because he briefly cried when Despicable Me finished playing on his iPad.

I’d normally be insulted by audience members bringing their own entertainment, but I let that one slide. Despicable Me is excellent. My show can’t live up to that, although if it had been Despicable Me 2 I would have had a word.

It feels like I’ve been here for ages though, when in fact we are barely a third of the way through.  So far I’ve been pretty boring, getting early nights, eating healthily and focusing on my show.  It’s hard going to bed early at the Fringe, you have a nagging feeling that you’re probably missing out on something amazing.

This is amplified by the fact that my window looks over one of the central areas of the festival, so I can literally hear all the fun I’m missing out on. But now that I’m properly up and running I might allow myself to stay out past midnight once or twice. “Alexa, how long is left of the Fringe?” … “16 days”. Jeez.

Steve Bugeja performs Almost at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at Just The Tonic, The Caves from 2nd – 26th August at 3:30pm, ahead of a nationwide tour from 8th September. More info and tickets are available at www.stevebugeja.com/