Friday, 29 July 2016

The Hay Wain Reloaded: Edinburgh Fringe 2016

I'm off to the Fringe in a few days. I'm very pleased with my new show, Michael Brunström: The Hay Wain Reloaded. It's a truism for comedians to say their latest work is the best thing they've yet done – why bother, if not? – but, from my perspective, The Hay Wain Reloaded is obviously the most ambitious show I've yet done, by a country mile, not just in terms of props, stunts and characters, but in terms of structure, themes and ideas. The reason I can claim this legitimately is that I know the show wasn't very ambitious when I first conceived of it.

When I had the idea to do a show about The Hay Wain, all I had in mind was to choose an iconic (yet non-obvious) visual icon that I could use as a hook to hang a collection of surrealist stunts – very similar to what I had done with last year's show, The Golden Age of Steam. But as I delved further into the painting and its artist, John Constable, I found more and more that resonated with me on a personal level – about my childhood, about my dad, and about creativity and career. So I was able to make a show which isn't autobiographical, but which has an authentic, emotional coherence that hopefully underpins the silly and sometimes grotesque flights of absurdist comedy.

All of this probably says less about my own ingenuity than about Constable's genius: his painting can offer inspiration even to a weirdo prop comic at the Fringe. After Edinburgh, I'll write more about what I found in The Hay Wain.

The only doubt I have is whether I can muster a performance that lives up to the show's ambition. The stakes seem higher than usual, and Edinburgh can be a hothouse. To do the show justice, I will have to put all the paraphernalia and ballyhoo of the Fringe out of my mind, and focus solely on the joy of performance itself. I am immensely grateful to have been given the opportunity to experience that joy, and to have had the support and encouragement of so many fellow performers whose work never fails to astonish and delight me.

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