Improv, Anxiety and the Edinburgh Fringe.

What an excellent title for a Harry Potter book. I’m unsure whether to use the Oxford comma. I’m gonna stick with no. Fuck the police!

Yes, so. It’s Edinburgh Fringe season, what a time to be alive! You’re probably wondering what yer gurl Judy is up to, why hasn’t she told us yet? WHY CAN’T I FIND HER?! That’s because this year I decided to have a year off, not do any shows and just relax. You know, just go through, see some shows, get drunk, shout at the Men With Coconuts in the street. Living the dream.

Turns out, I ended up doing 10 shows with The Cutting Room. And I loved it.


Look at me having a whale of a time flyering. An actual whale of a time.

The Cutting Room is a bunch of random improvisers get a word of suggestion from the audience and create a 40ish minute show. Cutting from scene to scene, it could be a Shakespearean tragedy, a romantic love story, a wild Western or a mish-mash of unrelated scenes. We genuinely had no idea. Nae clue what was going to happen, whether it would have a narrative or not. Nothing. Also every day there was a different team, so not only did I have no clue what to expect scene wise- no idea who I would be performing with.  Which was tonnes of fun.

But aye, turns out I have quite bad performance related anxiety. Who knew! I also get hella stressed meeting strangers and get very anxious in social situations, particularly group settings. So obviously, the best thing for me to do was to perform with a group of strangers. What an excellent idea!

Yeah, I had a few anxiety attacks, and cried a bit after some shows. Almost cried during one (but that was mainly due to my knee being in agony). Why was this happening to me? I perform all the time, I’m great at improv. Bloody great. What’s happening?

PRESSURE. Ohmygod, I was hella stressed and put so much pressure on myself to do great. I was performing with people who are fucking amazing improvisers. I’m talking amazing.  5* sell out shows, training at the top schools, that kind of thing. And then there’s me, who you know, is pretty good at improv. Not great. Not anything amazing. Pretty good. I was asked to do these shows, which felt great. I must be doing something right. I am finally getting somewhere. Then I saw who I was performing with. Oh fuck. You need to step it up, gurl.

I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to be the best improviser in the entire world, which meant I wasn’t focused on the scenes and paying attention to what was happening. Which then made me think “Oh shit, I’m doing shit at this”, which was putting even more pressure on myself. I love a vicious cycle, so I do. Call me Lance Armstrong.

But ya know what. Yer gurl had a cry, a wee panic attack, spoke to the team, and then she stepped the fuck up. And let me tell you, I had a fantastic time. Oh man, what a wild bunch of shows we ended up doing. Torturing orphans, curing elephant flu, saving the flowers, flooring, rapping and a bunch of other weird shit. It was so much fun. Hella fun.

Playing with a bunch of randoms actually helped with my anxiety. The safety blanket of performing with my team had been taken away, and I was forced to step outside my comfort zone. I did a bunch of different styles and scenes that I wouldn’t normally do. So many group scenes. So. Many. Group. Scenes. It was interesting seeing different styles of improv and performing with styles I’m not used to. It was a challenge, but I loved it.

The best thing about this whole experience is that it’s reignited my creative spark. For the past couple of months I haven’t been enjoying improv, or feeling inspired. But now I’m inspired out my tits. I’ve got so many ideas for shows, formats, scripts, paintings, blah blah blah. Inspired.  I’m just buzzing to create shit and make things happen.

TL/DR: improv scared the shit out of me, but then it made me a better person, and I fell in love with it again.

Mad props to the boys of The Cutting Room -Gregor, Jason and Peter- for getting me involved and giving me a push in the right direction. Shout out to all the improvisers I performed with over the 10 shows. Y’all fucking rock and I can’t wait to do some more weird shit with you again soon.

The Cutting Room. 3pm at Canon’s Gait Bar. Every day until the end of the Fringe.

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