As I write this, I’m in a coffee shop… which I have been spending a lot of time in them this past couple of weeks.
It’s the 20th of August 2023 and we are 2/3 of the way through the Edinburgh Fringe.
It’s the first year I’m doing a solo show (at 11:15pm each night) “Alex Owen-Hill Asks Himself ‘Is It ADHD?'”
And the fourth year of doing our family show Story Builders (at 11:15am each morning).
How am I?
Like… seriously destroyed. The level of tiredness I have is probably to be expected. But, because I’m so bad at predicting, planning, and generally just thinking ahead… I did not expect to be this tired.
Every time I mention I am doing an 11am and 11pm show to someone, they look at me with horror.
“How are you surviving?” they gasp.
“Am I surviving?” I say.
The thing is that I AM surviving. Doing the Fringe is a marathon. Everyone is tired. Everyone is not getting enough sleep.
I’m surviving and functioning and delivering a pretty good show that people are enjoying…
… but I’m not thriving in a way that would allow me to consistently deliver a Great show.
Which is a shame.
I feel boring when I talk about how tired I am… but I also don’t know how to talk about anything else, because it’s the only thing that I am thinking about. It pervades. My split-shift day means I have no way to sleep in longer on any mornings. I guess this is how other split-shift workers feel all the time!
In our Story Builders show today, the audience created a story called “Ups and Downs”
This year’s Fringe has been an up and down for me.
Week 1: Panic and anxiety at having a completely new show that I didn’t know if it would work. Everything was new. All the material had jeopardy. Which is engaging. The show got full audiences and lots of laughs.
Week 2: I almost lost my voice, was overwhelmed by my allergy to the cat I’m living with. Audience numbers dropped a bit for most Fringe acts. My audiences, though smaller, remained fairly engaged though a bit quieter with fewer laughs at bits that used to work well. A couple of audiences of largely neurotypical people (as opposed to the usual neurodiverse audiences) didn’t really “get it” and knocked my confidence a bit.
Week 3: We are here. And I am just in a daze. I’ve hit an inflection point. Bigger audiences again of largely engaged neurodiverse people. I feel like they’re willing to laugh… and afterwards they say they enjoyed the show… but I am aware I am “losing” laughs were previously I was able to get them.
Which is a learning experience. It lets me know how I can create a better experience for myself in future Fringes.
But it’s also a bit of a shame. I am getting great audiences into my ADHD show. Yesterday someone said it was the best show they have seen so far, which is lovely.
The shame is that I’m now not fully engaging mentally. I want to engage. I want to have more fun with the show, as I did at the start of the run (which, as you’ll see above, was fun also tinged with a bunch of anxiety).
If I were to have a good full sleep, of say 12 hours, I’m sure I would bounce back and be reinvigorated again, filling all the show with the extra fun and chaos it has had at some points during the Fringe.
But, right now, I just feel like I’m surviving.
The show is okay. People are enjoying it. People seem to be getting a lot out of it.
But my “dream” for the show is not fully realised because… well… I need to dream more in life… as in, I need more REM sleep.
REM sleep comes when your body is rested enough.
It’s the sleep where you dream.
It’s like the body’s natural therapist (according to the brilliant book Why We Sleep).
Without enough long, uninterrupted sleep, the brain can’t work out it’s own problems.
Right now I feel like I’m in some sort of strange stupor. Driven by my daily performance routine but also held its captive.
How will the last week of the Fringe be?
We shall have to see.