Cariad: Favourite Fringe memory? Uh, god...it's hard, 'cos there's different ones – your first Fringe is always like: “I can't believe what I'm doing!” So my one of my favourite memories is the first time that I went up, was the first time that me and Paul Foxcroft did late night impro – we put on this thing called – Improvaganza, we called it – and we got Mike McShane to come down and do a show with us, and it was the first time I met Mike, and we were doing TheatreSports, and I remember just coming off stage at like 2 in the morning, and Mike McShane being like: “You were great”, and we'd done this great show, and it was sold out, and y'know, we'd organised it all – I'd only been doing impro for like a year or something, and it was properly one of those: “Oh my gosh” - that's what Edinburgh gives you, is access to those kind of people, and share those experiences that you think: “How will I ever do that?” and then, “Oh wow, I just did”. Yeah, so coming offstage and hanging with Mike McShane.
JG: What is you – this is kind of a difficult one in some ways, but what is your average Fringe day like? How would you describe a day in the life of the Fringe, for you?
Cariad: Um... Depends on how many shows I'm doing. Average day: I get up, I do my admin, I do my morning pages, because I'm a geeky person who does The Artist's Way – have you heard of that?
Cariad: Oh, it's this book called The Artist’s Way, which is like, how to be creative. It's quite old now, but it's been passed around lots of creative people, and it's written by a woman called Julia Cameron, and it's how to not block yourself, and – it's a writer's thing, more than performer. And I – it's a 12-week course – because she's an ex-alcoholic – and I did it before I wrote my first Edinburgh show, so I still do a lot of the stuff in there. So every morning she says you should get up and write 3 sides – it's called “Morning Pages”, it's just 3 sides of anything, and you do that sort of religiously, you do it every morning; it's a way of just getting stuff down on the page, and gets you out of being like: “oh, it has to be perfect, I want everything to be perfect”, so – if that makes sense; it's quite hard to explain.
JG: So do you do that every day in general, or is that in Edinburgh?
Cariad: Yeah, I do that every day – because I had to.
JG: That sounds great, I'm gonna buy that book. Thank you.
Cariad: Yeah, do you know what Jon, you would love it. I'm really surprised you haven't heard of it, 'cos it's right up your alley.
JG: 'Cos we did some stuff, like free-writing, when I did my MA, and it's the same process, where you just sort of write anything.
Cariad: Yeah, and I think – it's written in the 70s – and I think she's kind of the first person to just say: “Hey, just do this, just get it on the page”. I mean, I'll be honest with you – I always say to people when I recommend it – there's god stuff, so if you are uncomfortable with god stuff-
JG: I will be skippin' that.
Cariad: Yep, just ignore it, and take your writer's tips. Y'know, basically she's saying: “Get out of your head” She believes that god is inspiring her, and that's why she doesn't stress about what she does – there's a higher power at work here, but she also gives you tips on how to get on with it basically, and not judge yourself. But yeah, I really do that in Edinburgh, 'cos I find it a very stressful place.
So I'll try and do that, and then – it depends how many shows I'm doing. Last year, I'd have to get up, get ready for Austentatious, and then flyer, or get your costume sorted, get down to the venue, try and - obviously Austentatious was such a crazy sell-out, that it was like trying to sort out 100 people at the venue before you got there, and making sure that the bar were happy with you, and I'd finish that.
And then I'd have like an hour to myself before my solo show, and again I would try and get my head together, just sit down and go through e-mails, and take some quiet time, and then do the solo show, and by then it was 6, and then I'd have some dinner, or go home and sleep, or cry – depending on how stressed I was [laughs] – and then, y'know, you're off gigging or doing shows, and if I had Monkey Toast [Improv show] I'd go off and do that, so basically my average day is like running from one show to the other, and trying when possible to grab moments of calm.
JG: Yeah, it's just really nice for people to know what goes into a day in the Fringe.
Cariad: Yep. 'Cos even though I probably didn't get up 'til around 10, if I was doing Monkey Toast I'd be on stage at 11[pm], finish at 12, get home – that's when I was being super-good, I'd just go home straight away after Monkey Toast, and go to bed, but y'know then your flatmates were up, and I was living with the all Austentatious people, so you talk to them, or you talk about the show, and before you know it, it's 2 in the morning.
JG: And part of the delight of Edinburgh is being around so many people that you like and are doing the same things as you – it's almost too exciting to go to bed.
Cariad: It is, and especially now I'm an old lady, [she isn't] I find that sort of student living really nostalgic – because it's been so long since I did it, so it's like: “Oh my god I'm living with my friends!”, because I live with my husband, so I haven't lived in a shared house for years, so it's always quite exciting, to be like: “We're here, we're all here, we can all chat!” and often we would have Austentatious meetings – I'm sure it's the same as the Beta Males – we'd have them twice a week, to try and be like: “Ok, what's happening, what do we need to do?” - oh my husband just came in and gave me a funny look [to him] Not that not living with you isn't amazing, it's just meant that it's different! He's laughing. [alarm goes off] Oh, there's my cookies. I'm still talking, I just need to...
JG: It's nice to have both sides, I think.
Cariad: Also, I find it very stressful as well, 'cos you are around so many people, and if people are having bad days or something, you can't get away from anyone, or if you're having a bad day, you're sort of surrounded, and it is – again, it's like being a student, it's like everyone knows your business, everyone's involved in your show, your friends read your reviews, so everyone knows what's going on with you. It has its ups and its down points. It is also amazing, like you said: everybody doing the same thing...can you still hear me? I'm by the oven now.
JG: I can, it's great. We touched on a few things there. Do you have any tips for accommodation, for living with people?
Cariad: For accommodation.
[Clanking and crashing. JG laughs]
Cariad: I know, I am Joey Bechamel.
Cariad: [in character, Joey Bechamel] Sorry I can't come to the phone Jon, I'm baking cookies! (laughs) [more clanking] I just had to turn them, basically. Um, accommodation: the only thing I would say to people is get it sorted. I try and get it sorted at least by May or June – as early as possible – there isn't early enough for you to get it sorted. I know lots of people who once they get their flat, they go back to that flat every year, they get a good relationship with the landlady, and they're like: “Hey can we come back” - that can be really sensible. I also used to – I didn't do it this year for the first time – but I used to take projects that would pay for my accommodation. So, the first year I did my solo show, I directed a show called “Shakespeare For Breakfast”
JG: You directed that?
Cariad: Yeah, I directed it –
JG: My parents saw that, and they loved it, and they said: “You should go and see it”, and I didn't get around to it.
Cariad: Last year, or the year before?
JG: Um, well it definitely wasn't the Edinburgh just been [Edinburgh 2012], it was the one before .
Cariad: Ah, that was mine – aww – yeah, it was really funny. Yeah, so the first year I went up to Edinburgh, I was in Shakespeare For Breakfast with Sara Pascoe, and Gemma Whelan, and loads of other people -
JG: Hell of cast-
Cariad: Yeah, I know, no one knew who we were then, which is funny – and if you do that, basically it's like a hardcore job, it's really knackering; your show is on at 10 every morning, and they make you do two shows, and they pay you nothing – they pay you £300 for for 2 months’ work. But, you do it for the fun, and obviously we were quite young, so it was a way to get out there. So because I'd been sort of involved with that theatre company – so I was in it the first show I ever went, and the next year, Sara did it again, so did Gemma, Jess Fostekew did it, James Whit – like, loads of comedy people – and so I still knew them, and I directed it the year after that, and I directed it the next year as well – I did 2 years running – but they basically provide accommodation and travel. So looking for jobs like that, I always say to people –
JG: How did you get involved with that particular company? Was that through university?
Cariad: No, it was – how did I get involved? I, Sara did Newsrevue – you know Newsrevue?
JG: Mm, yeah.
Cariad: So, a lot of people I know, we were all involved in Newsrevue – it was quite a big thing for us – so Sara did Newsrevue, and – gosh this is a long story – Sara did Newsrevue, and her director wanted to put on an impro show, because she was interested in doing impro, and she thought her cast were really funny, and it was Sara, Gemma Arrowsmith, Steve Mould and Tim Frost, who are all still comedy performers and Sara said: “My friend Cariad does impro, you should get her along” and the director didn't know how to do impro, so she involved a boy that she met once at the Edinburgh called Paul Foxcroft, and so that's the first time I met Paul: we were all put together to do a one-off charity impro show, to raise money for the Canal Cafe, 'cos that's where Newsrevue is based, and it feeds the Canal, and then director, a guy called Damien Sands, who's directed Newsrevue loads of times, came to see it, saw me in the impro show - already loved Sara from Newsrevue - and then he saw me in the impro show, and he was casting – he wanted an all-female Shakespeare For Breakfast, and we were doing a version of The Taming Of The Shrew, he just offered it to me, he was like: “Yeah, do you wanna do it?” and then they needed a stage manager, and I was like: “Oh, you should ask this Guy, Paul Foxcroft, I've just met him” and then, that summer, we ended up – me, Paul, Sara, Gemma Whelan all lived together – and that's where the Institute came out – my first impro group. And we put on these late-night impro shows, and were like “Oh, we really enjoyed doing that one-off show, let's do it again”, and because of the association with the Canal, they said to use: “Oh we'll give you the space for free twice a month”. So, the Canal at that time, that's where the Idiots Of Ants all started, at that time as well-
JG: And back in the day, The League Of Gentlemen – great pedigree.
Cariad: Yeah, I know – Jess Ransom, everybody – Pippa Evans – everybody knew each other, and then when I came back from Edinburgh that year I did Newsrevue with Pippa and Gemma Arrowsmith, so it was one of those – a bit like David [Shore – improv teacher in London] – it's a bit of community, everyone knew each other. So that's how I got it, and C-Theatre, it's their production, C-Venues production – they produce Shakespeare For Breakfast, they've been doing it for 25 years.
JG: Oh wow, and it's a rolling cast.
Cariad: Yep, every year different cast, different Shakespeare play, basically always a spoof Shakespeare thing. Jon, it sells out to 200 people with no flyering, every single day.
JG: I had no idea it was an ongoing thing – I thought it popped up in the last couple of years.
Cariad: Na. This is the weird thing – you know when you're involved in such a weird thing, but I'm not joking – 20 years, maybe, it's been running – a long, long, long time – and seriously people just come every year, and when you do go out flyering, they're like “Oh no, we come whatever, we don't mind!” and basically they come whether it's shit or good (laughs) It's slightly disheartening, 'cos you're like “Oh, it really doesn't matter what you do”, but obviously the good years get better reviews and more people trying to get tickets, but yeah it's just this very weird thing – and basically it funds C-Theatre to exist – so C-Venues exist because of Shakespeare For Breakfast; it's their cash cow.
So you normally have like 3 weeks to write the whole thing; so they cast it at the beginning of July, and you literally get 3 weeks, and you have to do another show as well, so the year I did it we spent 2 weeks devising, and then 2 weeks rehearsing a kids' show – Hansel and Gretel – which we had to perform every day, so – it's quite Edinburgh-y, it's quite intense and, just everything thrown together, but that's how – long story! - that's how I got accommodation. So I do say to people, if you can find jobs like that, or get in with companies that provide it – like Newsreuve, when they do the Edinburgh run, you get your accommodation and travel paid, so I say to people, if you're desperate to go up there it's a good way to do it and not bankrupt yourself.
JG: Yeah, and also check out the Fringe before you perform there with your solo stuff.
Cariad: Yeah, and that's why it was so helpful to me, because, when I finally did my solo show, I'd already done 3 years of Edinburgh – not in a solo show, but I did Shakespeare For Breakfast, I did a very serious play in the Pleasance that no one went to see and the year after I directed, so I knew the venues; I knew what I needed.
JG: Would you recommend people going up for the first time to perform, doing a scouting year first?
Cariad: Yeah, I really really would. 100%. But I know that a lot people can't – especially if you're international. I've got a friend going this year for the first time, doing a solo show, and I said to him, the whole of last summer, I was like: “You have to come up; come for a weekend”, and he was like: “Yeah, yeah” and he never did, and now he's trying to pick venues, and, you just have no – it's just so hard to get to your head round it if you haven't been there, y'know? And I think the year I did Shakespeare For Breakfast was just invaluable, because it made me understand how you can be in a venue like C Venues, which isn't top of the comedy league, but it gives you an idea of “oh ok, that's what the Pleasance is”, and “That's where the cool people are”, or “That's what I would want to go to”, or “I don't like that venue, 'cos it's far away”, so, if you haven't had that, it's so hard, I think, to try and picture what people are going on at you about when they're like: “You wanna be near the Mile”, and you're like: “What? What does that mean?” So I always say to people: “Go! Go and check it out.” 'Cos also you might hate it; you might get up there and go: “This is my worst nightmare”.
JG: And I guess it's finding a place that suits whatever you want to do, isn't it.
Cariad: Mm, and the first time I went up – actually I went up before I did Shakespeare For Breakfast, I went up for 4 days because my now-husband, then-boyfriend was doing the Film Festival. I had been up, and really enjoying it, really liking it, but it wasn't until Shakespeare For Breakfast that I got up there and was like, I just fell in love with it, I was like: “This is incredible”, you know – this is what I want to do every year, and I think that also makes you more keen to write your show, 'cos you know what you're getting yourself in for: you know how it can be, and how fun it can be. I mean, I'm sure you learn a lot from having been there as well – I know people who just went up and figured it out themselves, so you don't have to, but I think it definitely helps.
JG: So what are your views on free venues vs. paid venues?
Cariad: They both have such massive pros and cons. I would never slag one of them off. When I was in paid, I missed the free, and when I was in free, all I wanted to do was be in paid. So I think you have to really – you have to accept that neither is perfect. 'Cos I know that when I spoke to people – when I was in the Free Fringe, and people found out how much money I was making, they were like: “Oh, you know, that's so great, spirit of the Fringe” and I went on this podcast thing, and this guy made a speech about how it was so great that I was doing the Free Fringe, and he got the audience to applaud, and he was like: “That is spirit of the Fringe,” and I was like: “You're not at a Free Fringe venue.” [laughs] This guy wasn't! No-one there was; the podcast was in a paid venue. What are you applauding? Oh, it's so great that these little guys are keeping it goin'. [laughs]
So, y'know, paid is incredible. It's incredible. The joy of just having to worry about your show is a really incredible feeling; you turn up to your venue, you don't have to panic about letting people in, you don't have to talk to the audience, you don't have to be like: “Oh fucking god, someone's spilt beer everywhere” or, they've moved the light – you're just the performer when you do a paid venue because you learn how to be a producer, you learn how to be a venue manager, you learn how to be an usher.
I feel like some people go straight to the paid fringe, and that can be very exciting. But I also think it's very limiting, and I think that it's not very Edinburgh. And you learn so much doing a free venue. I think it really benefitted me – they just don't appreciate what the other side feels like. And I think you're a little bit mollycoddled, and it can make you very fearful of an audience, because you never speak to them! Whereas when you're at Free Fringe – the great thing about Free Fringe, is that it's so...raw. You've met the audience – you met them all while you were all waiting to get into the room. [laughs]. So I would have to stand outside my room with all these people coming to see me, and that's a very humbling experience – but also your audience then see that, and they're like “Wow, ok, it's a human being that I'm watching” and they see you trying to stop people coming into the room, and they see you setting it up, and – I found that, I mean it's hard for me, because it was my first year, so I'm sure I got a lot of sympathy because it was my first year, do you know what I mean?
But also, I think people would always be amazed; I would have to go down – especially when my queues started getting out of control – I would have to go down and speak to everybody, and I would have to say: “Hello, I'm Cariad...this is the queue for Cariad...like, you need to clear out the way of the Fire Exit” and I'd have to go out the building, because my queues starting going round the corner. And everyone's like, you're talking to them, and you can see they're like – or people would come up to me and they're like: “I'm trying to find this...Carrie...Carrie-Anne show, or something?” And I'm like: “Oh, it's...Cariad” “Yeah, like, it's supposed to be good. Do you know where it is?” And I'd be like: “Um...I'm Cariad”. Like, constantly, every day, and they're like: “Oh, I'm so sorry” and it's like: “No, it's fine”, it's just weird. That was a very interesting experience.
I did have a tech – my friend John did my music for me. When I said “did my music”, he sat at the side of the stage, on a chair, holding an iPod – so the audience could see him, and the barmaid would have to do the lights, so he would have to – 'cos the lights were behind the bar, and weren't allowed there, because we were not working there. So Jon would have to press play on the iPod, and then he would give a nod to the barmaid, who would switch the lights off. And when I say “switch the lights off”, I mean literally just turn a switch, so it wouldn't go dark, it was just be like: “Oh, it's a bit darker, than it was” (laughs). And there was cardboard on all the windows, 'cos we couldn't black out the windows, so someone just brought cardboard.
So obviously it's charming now – at the time, you walk in and you're like: “My fucking venue is so shit”, and you go and see your friend's show at the Pleasance, and you're like: “Oh my god, look at all the stuff they've got”, and so that's the downside of the Free Fringe – you have to do everything, and you have to write a show that involves nothing but you standing there, which is why it works so well with stand-up. And I wrote a show that required nothing, and it was very exciting for me that last year  that I could write a show that I knew I could use lights for, or I knew I could use music for. It was like, oh wow, I can write a character that – y'know, oh we can do that, we can do an effect, we can do something, which – you can't do anything at the Free Fringe, at all. You have to write a show that's just you standing there.
So, y'know, like I said: I loved so much this year having ushers, it was just a dream to be like: “Oh, ok, I don't have to sit people or argue with people”, I can just focus on the show. But equally, I think - “Well, Cariad, maybe it was really good that you had to do that, because it distracted you, so it meant that you were just always running onstage straight away, not worrying about it”, and you're kind of in a like “Ok hey, we've started!” rather than you've had 20 minutes to get in your head and be like: “I really don't know if this is going to work,” or what I'm doing.
JG: And it's also good to know that you can do it.
Cariad: Yeah, definitely. And it makes you appreciate those people – oh my god, I am so nice to my venue staff and my ushers and my tech, and anybody who helps you, because you know how hard their job is, and equally you also know when they're not doing it, because you've done it, so you can see, and you're like: “Well I know you didn't do a good job ushering, because they're not sitting properly, and they're grumpy” - y'know – you know! It's like: “Ok, I now have to fix this.”
And obviously, when you're in a paid venue, you're so hidden, so I ended up – I didn't mean to, but someone wanted to collect for – you know, Waverley Care [charity], a lady wanted to collect for Waverley Care, and she said to me – I said to her: “Oh, why aren't you coming every day?” and she was like: “Oh, we don't have enough people”, and I was like: “Well I'll hold the bucket for you”, and she was like: “Oh, artists don't normally do that” and I was like: “Oh, it's fine” and that's actually when I started enjoying my show much more, because at the end of the show, I would stand at the door and hold the bucket, and that felt like a Free Fringe for me, 'cos it was like: “Oh, I get to see people”, and they would talk to me and I found the weirdness of The Pleasance, that you just go backstage – I found that so weird, that you don't speak to them.
JG: I always wait after the show with flyers – if we're doing another show – with the flyers for that, and it's so nice seeing people on the way out.
Cariad: It's so nice, isn't it! If you don't get to speak to them you're just so isolated; you don't know how they felt. Yeah, it's weird.
JG: So you were collecting for charity after your show?
Cariad: Yeah, I was collecting for Waverley Care-
JG: Oh, was this the Pleasance show?
Cariad: Yeah yeah. Free Fringe it went to me. (laughs) I'm not that nice. Free Fringe – when you do PBH, the show after you has to hold your bucket – that's his rule. So, Tara Flynn – very very amazing, lovely Tara Flynn – would hold my bucket, and I would collect Gerry Howell, because he was for me.
JG: That's lovely.
Cariad: Yeah – Laughing Horse, you don't do that – with Austentatious we have to hold the basket, but actually I think it works better if you hold it – and there's 6 of us, so obviously it's much easier, but – Amy holds it, and the rest of us pack everything away.
JG: It's nice that the person they're giving the money to is the person they've just seen perform.
Cariad: Yeah, and like I had complaints, because some guy went up to the bar afterwards and was like: “Uh, I've left 10, but I would have left 20 if she'd held it herself.”
JG: Oh no!
Cariad: And I was like: “Oh, but I can't! It's PBH rules!” and also: the turnover – you've got 10 minutes, and it's just you, so I had to pack all my costume into my suitcase, and the only way to do it was to for Tara to hold it.
JG: Oh, and that guy thought you were being proud, or arrogant?
Cariad: He thought I was being proud!
JG: Oh that's horrible!
Cariad: It was funny, 'cos I was like: “Oh my god fine – if you can look at me running this whole venue, and then be like, 'oh she's not doing enough'” (laughs) Really? Really what else could I do.
And the weirdest one was when I had The Review Show came to see me – y'know, BBC2, the Culture Show, thing they came to see me when it was like “Oh she's been nominated”, so they came to see lots of people, so I had to reserve seats again, which meant I had to speak to them, which they kept looking for my PR, and I was like: “It's just me”, and Paul Morley came with...oh, I can't remember her name now, Miranda Sawyer, or something like that, and they were very nice, but the other guy couldn't come, and the other guy was Paul Theroux – is it Paul Theroux – Louis' brother. And he had to come another day, and he literally couldn't understand why I was speaking to him before the show, he was like: “Why isn't there someone to do this for you?” And I was like “There isn't.” And then at the end, he was like: “I can't...I just...what's happening...I don't understand; where are your ushers?” - he couldn't get his head around it at all, and I was like: “Dude, that's just what the Free Fringe is”, and he was like: “I've never seen anything like it!”, and you know when you're like: “Wow, you really don't go out and see a lot of comedy, do you?” (Laughs) That's waffling on enough about that, I'm sure.
JG: No that's great. I love to chat about, firstly Austentatious, which was your free show in Edinburgh 2012, which was, by all accounts an absolute smash-hit, although I guess everything's really been covered – I s'pose it was a similar experience, but more of you.
Cariad: Yeah, I was worried, 'cos I was like: “Oh, I can't have two Free Fringes like that”, everyone was like, in my year: “You had a perfect Edinburgh, that never happens”, so when we went up [in 2012] with a free I warned everyone: “Look guys, it's really hard, we might not get the people” and day 1 we had 60 people, and I was like: “Wow, that's a lot”, and then day 2 we had 100, and then we never had less than 120 after that, which blew me away. And yeah, it was Laughing Horse, so different, and I got a little bit of flak for switching sides, uh – I know, the hilariousness of PBH and Laughing Horse.
JG: I'm gonna do a little section on that, just to let people know there is a schism.
Cariad: There is, and also there's a big difference between the two free fringes, they're run very differently. And I didn't want to change – I wanted to stay, because I felt like I owed him, but Austentatious is a democracy, and we voted, and everyone wanted this venue: The Counting House.
JG: It's a great venue – we were there in 2009, it's lovely.
Cariad: Yeah, it's really nice, and it worked for what we were doing, so we had to go there. So that was very different being a Laughing Horse venue, and being early, being one of the first shows of the day. But yeah, it was just like – I think doing impro on the Free Fringe is very satisfying, because you don't obviously need set and lights and stuff like that, so you can totally have a show that still stands up to the paid venues, because that's really all you need to do to have a successful Free Fringe show – it needs to be good, if not better than a paid one.
And I felt with Austentatious we have that, because you know, you're not paying anything, and you're getting a really, really funny show, and it doesn't matter that there's no set or anything, because we're in full costume, we hired different musicians, every day, because our regular cellist couldn't do the whole festival, so we put a call-out, so we were like: “We just want classical musicians”, so one day we had a harpist, we had some classical violinists came down, and they would play as people were coming in, so you get this whole – that's incredible, for a free show!
JG: And also, the beauty of a free show – an improv show on the Free Fringe is, if people love it, why not come back the next day, and see a different show.
Cariad: And that was incredible for us – it made a massive – we had a lot of returners, which is why we're doing Free Fringe again this year , 'cos it was like, we had a – and I found this as well: my first show, my audience was really young – a mixture of young and old, but mainly young people, who would come up to me afterwards and would say: “I'm so sorry I can't leave any money; I'm broke, but I'm going to tell my friends”, and I'd be like: “No, don't worry about it”, because the old people leave £20, and Austentatious the same thing happened – slightly older 'cos it's Jane Austen, but we had a real mix: the older people leave more money, and the younger people don't leave as much, but they tell everyone.
And when I did the paid fringe last year , my audience was very old, and I found that very hard – they were very very – most of them were plus 50, I swear – they seemed to be the people with money. And I found – they were less up for it, and less cheeky and fun, whereas Austentatious you'd have a real mix, but on the front row, sat down on the floor, are like 30 students and teenagers, with their bags everywhere, who are totally willing to laugh, and get the stupid things you're doing, and then they obviously tell everyone, so that's kind of what you need.
JG: Well it's great to have a mixture, isn't it.
Cariad. Yeah...obviously it's amazing to have people leave £20. (Laughs) They are our favourite people. And people would come up to us and be like: “Oh, I left £5 for each of you”, and we'd be like: “Oh my god” - incredible. They left way more than they would have done for paid, I think.
JG: That's the crazy thing, isn't it. If you give people the choice – I mean, you remember the Radiohead album they released – In Rainbows – which was however much you wanted to give online; you could have it for free if you wanted. It was suggested donation, and they made a huge amount of money, because people who loved it, would leave upwards of £50 [in retrospect, this was a wild guess] and some people wouldn't leave anything.
Cariad: I think Amanda Palmer did that with her latest one as well, it was like, I think you could – it was the Kickstarter – you could donate what you wanted: it was a dollar - you had to pay a dollar, or you could pay more, if you thought it was worth more. And I think – that's what I really missed, when I did the Pleasance – I really missed that. 'Cos I really missed people going - at the end of the show, I'm saying: “What do you think it's worth?” 'Cos, when you say to them, “I think it's worth £10”, and you have to pay it beforehand, they come in, and they're so grumpy – they're so grumpy! 'Cos they're like: “Is it worth it? Oh I don't know. She's supposed to be good, but it might be shit” Whereas when they come in Free Fringe, they have no expectations, they're so happy, and when it's good, they are like, over the fucking moon. They're like: “Oh my god – we've seen so much crap - we've paid for so much crap, and you were just free and brilliant, thank you!”
JG: And they feel like they've discovered something as well.
Cariad: Yeah! They feel like they've discovered it, they feel like they're part of a community, they feel like they've watched you discover it, and that's definitely what we had with Austentatious, with a real kind of people being like: “Oh, it was so funny and clever, and we really enjoyed it, and we didn't know what to expect, now here's £20” And you just make a fairer bargain. It's a much fairer bargain. But obviously, you don't get the bloody ushers, and everything like that – and we had a very like – because our crowds got so big, it became very stressful – very very stressful.
The pub started giving us crap, because we were going over the fire regulations, we didn't realise, and people were having to queue and hour beforehand, so they were starting to get a bit pissed off by the time they got in there...so, it was fine – we just had to adapt very quickly. We would go down there, and we would speak to people in the queue, and we would give them their suggestion slips [improvised Jane Austen explanation] – we bought a counter so that we could say to someone: “You are not going to get in, so go away - this is the end point.” And we would always say to them: “Look, you can hang around, you never know, people leave the queue, but just so you know” and then, they were fine – they were like: “Oh ok great – I'll come back tomorrow.” But we were very – we made it very – again, you just have to communicate. You have to communicate.
JG: Make it clear.
Cariad: Yeah, and we just had a couple of days of incredible stress of people barging in, and getting shitty in the queue with each other, and then the pub – once they realised it was happening every day, they became very helpful as well, and they started marshalling the queue for us, stuff like that.
JG: Cool. Next up: how did the nomination affect you, in terms of Edinburgh and beyond.
Cariad: It was amazing... It was amazing, and like, I can't stress enough how much I didn't expect it – I really didn't expect it. You know, the other thing I say to people when they're like: “Oh, you're so good for doing Free Fringe” it's like I only did it 'cos I couldn't get anywhere else. That's why I did it – it wasn't like: “Oh, I don't believe in paid venues.” I applied to the Pleasance, The Assembly, The Gilded Balloon, and the Underbelly, and they all said no. End of January. So that's why I went for the Free Fringe, 'cos I was like: “Ok, I don't have an option.”
And then, my show was going well anyway, before the nomination – it had really amazing reviews, and basically the only thing I ever cared about was amount of people I had in, because I didn't want to perform to 10 people a day, because it just felt too sad, so because of the reviews, I had like 90 in a day, so the shows were going really well. But because I was doing it myself, I had no idea that nominee people were coming in to see me, whereas I now know who they are, whereas at the time I had no clue. So it was going – I was having an incredible Fringe anyway – lots of wonderful things were happening – and I would flyer every day, even though I was getting really busy, every day I woke up and I didn't trust – I thought: “No you can never rely on it, you never know: go out, make sure you talk to people” And I would get people I'd flyered – they would still come in.
And that day I was heading off to flyer, and I knew the nominations were coming out that day – I was aware of it – because the BBC Review Show got in touch with me, and they were like: “We want to come and see your show, because you're so hotly tipped to be nominated”, and I was like: “Oh, am I? Ok.” So they'd come to see the show 'cos they wanted to do a piece on it in case I did get nominated, so I was already a bit like “Ooh, ok.” Yeah I went out to flyer, and they just rang me, and again – normally obviously they ring your PR or your agents – and they were like: “Oh, hi Cariad. It's uh, Anna, from the Foster's Awards. Uh, you've been nominated”.
And yeah it was incredible, but I have to say the shows afterwards were some of the hardest and worst shows I ever did. That's the double-edged sword of the nominations that everyone talks to you about, as soon as you get them. It was more – it was an amazing thing, and it did incredible things for me, but it was more fun after Edinburgh than it was up there, because the day I got nominated I was just so overwhelmed, and they announced it at 3, and my show was at 4, so I was the first show that they all ran to, 'cos you know there's always people they haven't seen, 'cos I think – y'know, like Holly Walsh had been nominated, and Josh Widdicombe – most reviewers had seen them; I hadn't had loads of people in, so that day, Chortle came, the Independent came, someone from The Times came. Somebody rang me, I can't remember who it was – somebody rang me, and they thought I was the PR, and they had a go at me, 'cos they couldn't find the venue, and they were like: “Well I'm near the Stand, where is it?”, and I was like: “This is Cariad. About to do the show”, and I just said: “You need to to turn this way, come this way, but I can't – I have to go I'm afraid; I need to do the show.” And they were just like “Oh oh, sorry”. (Laughs) You know, just so used to dealing with PR.
And that show was hideous. It was hideous. It was rammed, and I just couldn't – I couldn't cope with it at all, and then I think I only had like 3 shows left, because you know the Free Fringe finishes early, so I think I had like another show, when you know all the judges are coming, so I was just really – I just didn't deal with it very well, I was just like – I just couldn't – I was like: “What is happening?” - so I did two more shows, which were rubbish, and then it was announced on Saturday, in the afternoon, and they announced: Humphrey [Ker] won, and then I went off to do my show, and that show was one of the best of the whole run, because I was finally like: “It's fine, I didn't win it, great, I can just enjoy it”, you know? And the last show was absolutely rammed – people were standing in the doorway to watch it, and in the corridor, and it felt like: “Oh great, this is fantastic, and I've had a really amazing time”, and I felt really good, 'cos all the other people in the paid venues had to do like another 3 more shows, so I just went out and got wasted for like 3 days, I was like: “I'm done!”
JG: Get to see some shows, as well.
Cariad: Yeah, and also, because I'd been directing a show, and in 2 shows, I hadn't gone out for a month. I properly went to bed at midnight every day. So I went mental at the end. So it was afterwards – that was the big effect afterwards; it was the doors it opened that – just because you've got that behind you, so many people are willing to meet you, take a chance on you, talk to you. And I think – I'd already – doors would have already been opened anyway, because I got good reviews, but, that just – I'd be in meetings with people, and they had not seen the show, but they'd go: “But you were nominated, so we had to see you”, and it was weird, 'cos you were like: “Oh. Oh maybe you won't like it if you actually saw it” (Laughs) That weird thing. But, it just opened – and I still think it opens doors; I still feel like – it's fading – it fades pretty – you've got a year, basically, so I've used it as much as possible, but there's still an element of: “Oh, she got nominated, so we'll let her have this” or “we'll give her that sketch” or, y'know – maybe I'm paranoid, sometimes. But it was amazing, I would never, y'know, tell anyone: “Don't accept it”. It was amazing. But it was very hard doing it on my own; I found that very hard. I had to go to the photo shoot on my own, and people were talking about me, and they didn't know – 'cos they didn't who I was - people from Foster's were going “Who's this Cariad?” and I was standing behind them and stuff.
JG: Oh, no.
Cariad: Yeah, just because, y'know, it was only the second year someone from the Free Fringe got nominated, wasn't it-
JG: It was, yeah – Imran Yusuf, the year before .
Cariad: Yeah, and I don't know if he had management then, but I didn't have anybody – I didn't even have an agent or anything – I had no Beth [O'Brien] to kind of just be like: “What shall I do?” So there were just a few things, where I was like – a photographer tried to make me do really cheesy pictures, and I refused, and he a bit of a go about it and stuff (laughs) – he wanted me to put the award next to me, and look at it with my head in my hands, as if I was a 6 year old, and I said no, and was like: “Well, I won't take your picture then”, and I went: “Don't take my picture then”. He was like the official photographer. Obviously that's fine, but it was just a weird experience.
JG: Yeah. Ok, we'll wrap this up - this is all really, really great – I wanna talk to you for ages, but I'll let you get on. What advice to you have – I gather you were working full-time around the Fringe – 'cos I've done that as well, and it'd be really helpful to know what advice you have, with regards to balancing a job and the Fringe.
Cariad: It's very interesting, 'cos obviously my life has completely changed after that Edinburgh – I got an agent, and I stopped having to do temping and stuff like that, and so I've done two Edinburghs – one when I was working full-time and I did the Free Fringe, and one where I wasn't working at all, and I did the paid Fringe. And I can't tell you how much happier I was working and doing the Free Fringe! (Laughs) But I think the thing to remember is, it's very easy to think: “Oh, if only I wasn't working! This'd be easier” And it isn't. It isn't easier. It doesn't make it easier if you're not working.
That's what I mean about the Free Fringe is like: working full-time and doing the Free Fringe, it really, really, really focuses you. You have no time to write your show, so you get on it. And now, I have a lot more time, and I spend a lot more time faffing (laughs). Although I have a lot more writing work now, so I am working 9-5 writing, but that's what I would say to people is be positive. Don't look at it as: “I've got a job and I've got no time” - look at it as: “Wow, I have to really focus my time, and I have to be really aware of my decisions, because I'm in charge.” And actually appreciate how precious that is, because if you do become successful, you spend the rest of the time trying to be charge again, and everyone just takes it away from you – that's all that happens.
People come and do the jobs that you did, and you spend the whole time being like: “Oh. I think I can do that, actually” (Laughs). So I would say, yeah, be positive, see it as an advantage, that you are never gonna be more grounded and more aware of how lucky you are when you're working 9-5, and you have to go and gig, and you have a lunchbreak to try and write stuff up, or a weekend.
JG: I do remember those days- [he says, not being remotely successful]
Cariad: It does help. But also, obviously, I'd rather be where I am now, where I don't have to do it, but see it as an opportunity to be really really strict with yourself. But you know, I got so much of my first show – a large amount of it was jokes about being a temp, and jokes about being stuck in an office, within those characters. And you know what, when you're performing to an audience, they're in that similar situation, so they find that funny. When you're like: “You know what it's like when you're a comedy writer, and you've got nothing to do all day?” It's like: “Nope. No one laughs, because no one knows what that's like”.
JG: (Laughs) Really relatable.
Cariad: Yeah, it's like that joke – do you watch 30 Rock?
Cariad: That brilliant episode where Tracey Jordan's like: “My comedy's not relatable anymore”, then it's just clips of him being like: “I've got so much money! Isn't it great!” And then there's this silent audience – like this Bronx audience, and he's like: “Yeah, I need to get out there more”. Really makes me laugh.
JG: 'Cos I remember really struggling to get time off; it's one of the only times I've ever cried, not at a film, because I just got chewed out by this woman at work, 'cos I'd asked for time off to do the Fringe, and she was being slow, so I talked to the big boss, and she was like: “I can't believe you talked over me, you're so unprofessional, you're a little back-stabber”, I was just like: “I just really want to go to Edinburgh, and also keep this job” and I just went outside and just sat on a bench by a church and cried. It was a low point.
Cariad: Jon that's so sad! But y'know what, those low points are so great, aren't they? Because that point for you, must have been when you were like: “Wow, I really wanna do this” That's how much I want to do this.
JG: I was really determined.
Cariad: Yeah, and that's where your determination is formed, in those moments. I was always really lucky, because before I did comedy, I was trying to be an actor, so I've never had a proper job (laughs) like, I always temped, and I've always made it abundantly clear, the moment I walk into a job, I'm like: “I don't wanna be here, this is not want I want to do”. And I've found that's how I survived, is they would offer me: “Oh, you wanna stay for 3 months” and I'd be like: “No, because I'm gonna get a job”. And even if I never did, I would leave that temping job, and they'd be like: “Oh, off to Hollywood are you?” and I'd be like: “Yeah...another temping job.”
And then, when I got - I was working full-time in Southwark College before that Fringe, and they wanted a 4-month placement, I went to the interview, and straight away I was like: “I can't do it. I'm going to Edinburgh in August” and she was like: “Oh, ok”. And then they offered it to me because they were so desperate I think, for somebody who – y'know, temping, they just wanted somebody who knew what they were doing – I'm a good temp. Annoyingly, I'm actually a very good temp (laughs) so that was the problem, I was sort of better at that than the comedy for a while. Then, I agreed to work with her for 3 months, and then I got offered this Shakespeare For Breakfast thing and they said: “Ok, we want you to direct it, but you'll have to direct it the whole of July”, and then I said to them: “Yeah, I'm not even going to do 3 months now, I'm going to do 2 months”, and they were just so – I guess because I never promised anything, they were like: “That's fine”, and then on my last day, she was like: “If you want to come back in September, we'll take you back” (laughs)
JG: That's great.
Cariad: Yeah it was great, but you have to understand it was a really hard place to work – it was like a further education college in Bermondsey, and – so I think it was just like: “Oh my god, you coped, please come back”. It was one of those places where someone got signed off for stress every week, 'cos they were just crying, horrible teenagers and stuff, so it was very-
JG: So the trick is to be up-front with your employers, and say: “I'm doing this, so I'm not going to take this job unless...”
Cariad: Yeah, I would say, I know loads of actors - this is my big bugbear, is loads of actors lie, they lie about it, and then as soon as they get the acting job, they leave, and that perpertuates the myth that actors are unreliable, so if you want that job, they'll be like: “Oh we had an actor, and they pissed off after two weeks; we don't want to hire you” So my bugbear is like: you've got to be kind to the other actors in this world, you have to go: “Yeah I'm an actor, and I'm a comedian, so this is the situation – I won't be able to do this” but y'know, you what it's like – if you're good and you're sensible and you've got a bit of common sense and you know how to work a Mac and a PC, you're a valuable office member (laughs).
So I would always just try and be honest – 'cos I also really hate lying, I get really guilty about it, and feel really awful, so I would always be honest with them – and if you are in a situation – 'cos I know some people who've worked in a job for a long time, and it's really awful, but that's when your crying on the bench moment happens, it's like: look, if you really want to do this industry, if you really want to do it, you're gonna have to piss people off, you're gonna have to upset people, you're gonna have to let them down, because you're following your dream, and your dream is messy and complicated, and involves going to a different city for a month. That's mental – no one else has to do that – if you want to be an architect, you don't have to disappear to Oslo every August with everyone else; you just go and study and you get a job, and it's like: if you want to do this, it's complicated and messy, but you just have to accept that, and then accept that what's more important is that you do what you want to do. So when you were crying on that bench, it was like: “Yeah, I really want to do this”
I remember I worked somewhere for a long time, and I had an audition at the National Theatre – it was for like one of their touring things – and I'd agreed to work there for longer, and I had to go to my boss and say: “I've got an audition, I'm going tomorrow.” And she was so pissed off, but I just didn't care I was just like: “Dude, it's the National Theatre, I'm going”. And they got the time wrong, and so I'd rearranged my lunchbreak and everything and I was like “I'm gonna be no problem”, and they rang me and they were like: “You're supposed to be here now, it's 2 o'clock”, and I just literally got my coat, picked up my bag, and said “I'm going”, and I got a cab. And the woman was so annoyed, but I was like – and I got the job, and so it was like, ok, you just have to – y'know, be polite, say sorry...
JG: And have your priorities sorted before you go in.
Cariad: Yeah, I think that's the big thing is don't lie, don't be like: “Yeah, I definitely want to be an administration assistant for mental social services” yeah I never said that, I was like: “I'm an actor, I'm a comedian, so I go to Edinburgh every August – I just want you to be aware of that” And Austentatious, I'm the only one who doesn't work full-time – like, in a normal way. Amy's a teacher, so she gets summer off, so that's fine. Rachel also teaches. Andy and Joe have full-time jobs. Andy works for QI, and he has to-
JG: He's one of the elves, isn't he?
Cariad: Yeah, he's one of the elves, and he takes his holiday, so he saves up his holiday, and does it that way.
JG: That's what I used to have to do –
Cariad: Which is hard, isn't it-
JG: I used all my paid leave, and had to have unpaid leave as well.
Cariad: That's what he does; he has to have unpaid leave – and luckily QI is obviously a very cool place to work, so I do think they understand – and Joe works for a magazine.
JG: He's a music journalist, right?
Cariad: Yeah, so he – y'know, again that's the thing of they have to work around it, they have to talk to it – and I'd be like: “Oh guys, why don't we go up three days earlier; I just feel like it” and they're like: “Well we can't, Cariad, because we've scheduled this, and we can go then, and I have to be back at work in September” but luckily most of them are all very understanding, and because Graham's an actor as well, he works in a bar at the moment, and has worked in various places, so his is a bit more – he's very honest, like “This is what I want to do”. But you just have to try, you just have to try, and hope that it's worth it.
JG: Ok, just a couple more quick ones. We've touched on it before, but do you have any flyering advice?
Cariad: Um...(laughs) the only thing that really worked for me, is...I got recommended by the Guardian, and I found saying “Guardian recommended free show” was like a magic key they'd given me, it was incredible – suddenly everyone stopped, 'cos just saying free show is not helpful, is really not helpful. I didn't flyer this year  for my own, I flyered after Austentatious, but I just gave them out, so I don't know about flyering for paid venues, but just shouting “free” is not enough, and that's my big bugbear with the Free Fringe, is your show has to be as good if not better than the paid, so it doesn't matter that it's free; it shouldn't matter, it should be like: “It's an amazing show, plus it's free.”
So I would say, just talk to people – the people I got to come were the people I talked to – human beings, I looked them in the eye and I was like: “How was your festival, what have you seen?” have a little chat, and then I'd be like: “Oh, I do this show, and it's completely free” and I would always say: “Oh, it's so expensive, Edinburgh, isn't it?” and I'd be like: “Oh god, how much did you pay to see so-and-so?” and they'd be like: “Oh it was £12” and I'd be like: “Well, my show's free, so if you feel like -” and I would always say something like “You know when you just feel like you've spent enough money and you just want to save some pennies – come see me” so that worked.
And I would also – my venue was really nice – The Voodoo Rooms – despite being a free fringe venue was a very posh bar, like a posh cocktail bar, and lots of the local knew it, so that was very lucky as well, like I'd say The Voodoo Rooms, and they'd go “Oh, well that's nice” and they didn't do food, but they served like – it was almost like a coffee, they served post coffee and posh cocktails, so I'd say to the old ladies: “Oh, do you wanna just get a cup of tea and a sit-down? Go to this venue-” and I'd go: “Do you know what's so nice about it? Once you've seen my show, you can just go upstairs and you can have a really nice cocktail, and they don't kick you out, it's really nice” and they'd go: “Oh yeah, it's nice there, isn't it” (laughs)
JG: Oh great, so you tailor it to your venue.
Cariad: Yeah, sell your venue. And also I would say to people, once they were in the Voodoo Rooms, because there are three rooms in the Voodoo Rooms that are shows, so I'd be like: “Oh go next door, there's another show” you get 'em to hang around. And I would have - at the very beginning, before I'd had any massive publicity – my audience was like, 50% old ladies, and they fuckin' loved it, those were my favourite audiences. They would come in groups, and they'd go: “Oh we've sent Margot next door 'cos you recommended that, but we didn't see you, so we're coming to see you today, but Elizabeth is going to go upstairs to see that show you recommended” and they'd be like: “We haven't left the venue – we love it here!” So they would just go room to room, and again I was really lucky, I had two good shows before and after me, so Gerry Howell – obviously amazing stand up, and Tara Flynn is a musical comedian – really really lovely charming shows, so I could say to people “Hang around afterwards, see the show before me” and the venue was lovely, and you didn't feel like “Oh god, let's just get in and get out of here” like some free fringe venues.
I think with flyering it's just talk to people, just talk to people. And if you properly talk to them, and don't just shove a flyer in their face – I mean obviously, you have to do that, and you have to watch people take your flyers and throw them on the floor in front of you, and you have to think: “I've just worked 2 months at Bermondsey College to pay for those flyers, and you're just throwing them on the floor like they don't matter!” So it is hard, it's really hard, but the 10% you get through to, when they come to your show, they enjoy it so much, and everybody would come up to me afterward and go “Oh hi, we're the people you met earlier, we really enjoyed it,” so I found that incredibly satisfying – I mean obviously, not all of them, there were people who'd walk out, and be like: “Oh, she was wrong. I hated this”. But most people would come up, and you'd see them in the audience, and that would give me such hope, 'cos I'd be like “Oh wow, I spoke to these people and they turned up, how nice”
JG: One of the most satisfying things for me is, I picked a guy with a Batman shirt, 'cos I thought: “if he likes Batman, he's probably gonna like our stuff” and I saw him in the front row having talked to him about it, and he came and chatted to me afterwards, and he just was really thankful to have been informed about the show. And it's so satisfying when you see the person you remember speaking to.
Cariad: Yeah, those are the best ones, and again I would target people that I thought, y'know, looks like me – y'know, group of youngish girls, that looked a bit different, and I'd be like: “What kind of comedy do you like?” and I was like: “It's kind of like this”, and I think the other thing is, people are very nice when they realise – I found people very nice when they realised it was me, and it was just me. And they were like: “Oh, it's just you on stage for an hour?” and I was like “Yep”, and they were like: “And you're flyering?” and I was like “Yeah. It's just me!” and you could see they felt sorry for me! They were like: “Poor girl. Poor child”.
So that helped – I would play the sympathy card as much as possible – I used to do that quite a lot. I used to say at the end of my – y'know for getting the bucket: “Oh, you don't have to leave me any money if you want to, but as you can see, I really need to eat.” (laughs) “You can see I'm pretty skinny, so if you want me to have a sandwich today, please leave some money” and then one man came up to me afterwards and just pressed 5 pounds into my hand and said “Just go and eat something” (laughs).
JG: Oh no, that's lovely, but...
Cariad: I know, but I felt bad for quite a long time.
JG: Yeah, but having a patter after the show with the bucket is so important.
Cariad: Yeah, you absolutely need a, uh...what's the word? A spiel, you have a spiel. I'm friends with someone who's friends with Stuart Goldsmith, who y'know started out in street theatre, and these two guys both used to do street theatre with Stuart, and the end bit is the most important bit – you have to say an amount. You can't say: “Oh just leave what you want”, you have to say: “If you enjoyed it, leave five pounds”, because then people go – they need something to judge it by. If you don't say an amount, they have no idea.
They're like: “Oh, I don't know how much I enjoyed it” but if you're like: “If you enjoyed it, leave five pounds, if you enjoyed it more please by all means, leave more” and then I used to say: “Don't leave coppers, I can cut myself, thanks” and as soon as I said that, I never got coppers – people started leaving notes, and I was like: “Oh, great” (laughs) So yeah, you have to get your spiel good, because you're funding this, so that's important, so you need that bit at the end where – and that's so satisfying, because when you've had a really – that's the other thing I love about the Free Fringe – when you have a good show, your bucket is heavier. It's a simple as that. And you have this physical thing you can be like: “Wow. That's how well I did today. I did this well”.
JG: I used to love in 2009 and 2010 when we did our free shows, going back to the flat and counting the money. It's such a nice group activity, where you're like: “Right, you do pounds, I'll do notes”
Cariad: Yeah, with Austentatious, we all had shows to run off to, so Amy, Graham and Andy didn't, so they would take it in turns to go back, and then Amy brought us 6 tiny little kiln jars, and you'd come back to the flat and they'd all be lined up, and you'd all have your money in your jar with your name on it, and there'd be a post-it note on the fridge saying how much the total was, and we'd come back, and we'd just be like: “What?! How have we all got 100 pounds today!? What the fuck, like?! Oh my god!” Every day! And it was delightful, and then you're just like: “Graham, you owe me £5, I'm taking it out of your jar!” (laughs) Money, everywhere! And that was again the greatest feeling, that – when I was on my own doing it, my bed was covered in pound coins, and I was staying with the cast that I was directing, and I got them to come in, and I was like: “Just look at this”, and they were like: “I've never seen that many pound coins”. (laughs)
JG: So you were just sleeping in money?
Cariad: No, that's when I was counting it – I then moved it off, I didn't sleep on the money.
JG: Scrooge McDuck style. (laughs)
Cariad: I did once roll in it. [JG pisses himself] I just put it all down on my bed and I just leapt on it and I was just like: “I can't believe – this is amazing”. You know what it's like – you've worked so hard, when you're working full-time and doing the Free Fringe – the build up to it, that's what I mean, you're so tired, you've worked every day and every night, that when you can see something at the end of it, you're like: “Oh my god, thank you, that's like a physical thing I can see”, you know? That's why I'm here, that's why I cried, that's why I left that job.
JG: Any advice for dealing with reviews?
Cariad: Don't read them. But you will. (laughs) Try not to. I dealt with reviews really badly last year. Really badly. 'Cos it was the first time that I – you know what I mean, I had that difficult second album, I knew it was going to be hard, and I intended not to read them. I told my PR not to tell me about them, and then I...somebody told me, or I said to my PR: “Oh, we haven't had any reviewers in.” and he was like: “Yeah yeah, we have”, and I was like: “Well they're obviously bad, because you haven't told me.” so then I Googled one when I went home, and I found this review, and to be fair, it's actually fine, but it just broke my heart, it just absolutely broke my heart, because it was from someone I knew, someone who before had really liked me, and it was kind of saying the show wasn't ready, and I knew the show wasn't ready, and it really made my – it destroyed my first week.
Because I had all this hope, that I thought: “Maybe this show is ready”, and then when someone was like: “I don't think it's ready” and you know when someone says your worst fear. That was the first week, and then I got really sick, and I got concussion, I bashed my head and got concussion, and it took – and then all the reviews that came in the last 2 weeks when I'd kind of gotten myself together were much better, but they weren't anyone important – all of the important people came in that first week, so I really definitely say do your utmost not to read them.
Sara Pascoe normally lives with – there's a house of female comedians who live together, it's like Sara Pascoe, Jess Fostekew, Claudia O'Doherty, Josie Long, and I think Dan Schrieber was there this year, 'cos someone dropped out – and Roisin Conarty lived with them the year before - they have a rule: no reviews in the house, so you're not allowed to bring back Three Weeks, you're not allowed to pick up Fest, there's nothing, and also no one talks about them; they don't talk about other people's and they don't talk about their own, which I think is really, really healthy.
And I found that really hard for Austentatious, because we were reading reviews for Austentatious because we needed to do our PR, but also we had good reviews, so no-one minded, but there was like Three Weeks, and then one time Andy was reading, and he was like: “Oh Cariad, you're reviewed in here” and I literally went mental, I was like: “Don't fucking read it to to me, don't fucking read it to me!” and I was like: “What is it? Tell me the stars!” And I was like: “How bad is it, how bad is it?!” and he had no clue, because Andy's not, y'know, he's not a performer in that way, so he's like: “She'd like to know, right?” Maybe it's easier for you because you're living with the Betas so you're all in the same headspace, like you all know how it feels.
JG: It is lovely to feel like it's not on you, exclusively.
Cariad: Yeah, when it's just you, and I was the only one in the flat doing a solo show, so, y'know they had camaraderie in Austentatious for when we got reviewed for that – we had a couple of bad ones that said: “Oh, it wasn't improvised enough” so we could all talk about them, and we could all talk about that show and go “Oh, they're such dicks, that was a really good show, and do you remember we got loads in the basket that day – that was a good show. Yeah, fuck them, they've only seen short form, dadada” but when it's just you, and you get this review and you remember the show and you're like: “Oh, I thought that was a good one, and the audience really liked it that day”, y'know, so it's really hard when you're doing –
I think solo stuff is very difficult anyway; it's very isolating, and I would say you need to find a buddy; you need to find somebody you trust, who's also doing a solo show, who you can talk to. So I had Sara [Pascoe] and Jess [Fostekew], and I would go to their house, and I would talk to them, and they would be really, incredibly understanding and if I said “Oh I said I had a shit review” they'd be like: “Well you should've have read it, don't read it, your show's brilliant” y'know, just tell you what you need to hear. And I think you have to be, and that's when - going back to the beginning of our conversation – the morning pages come in, because I would write down: “Oh I got this, and this” and then I would think: “Ok, you've gotta do a show today. You've gotta move past that.” So I really would say don't read them. If you can bear it. If you're doing Free Fringe you have to, it's impossible, because you're organising it yourself. Just try and have somebody to talk to about it, because it's so...
JG: It can be really poisonous.
Cariad: Yeah, it really destroys you. Especially – you must have this – I don't think I've ever read a Beta review, but – if they've ever said something personal – I don't know if you've ever been singled out...
JG: I don't think I have, but I live in fear of the day when it's like: “They were really good, but that Jon Gracey looked like he was a dickhead” I don't think I could take it. I think my heart would break.
Cariad: Yeah, it's really hard when they're like – and the way they use your name in reviews, like: “Lloyd seems to think this is funny”, and you're like: “Well I did, obviously I did.” Or, the big complaint I got this year, from – which, y'know, my husband and friends would say I'm being picky, but I did get some really nice reviews, but I also got some middling ones, which were like, most of them said “She's a really good performer, but this is wilfully obscure”, like she's created this show that no one can understand, and she's forgotten about the audience. And it's stuff like that, where you're like: “I didn't! I thought it was...”
I genuinely thought these weren't obscure references – I am amazed you don't know what a TED talk is. And it's great – I've learnt, I've really learnt that lots of people don't know what TED talks are, and I've had to rewrite this section with a small bit where I explain what a TED talk is, so it's just, then you spend – everytime you get to that bit in the show you're like: “It's that bit in the show that no one understands, it's not going to go well” so yeah, don't read them. Just don't read them. They're balls.
And if you read other people's, like I remember reading shows you've seen, and you're like “Oh that's rubbish” - Showstopper famously last year got one star, because it said there's no way this is improvised, and they made – they complained – and they made the person come back, who then gave them like a five or a four, and was like: “Oh, sorry”. I read so many reviews, I read a review for Claudia O'Doherty saying: “Impressive debut show” and it's her fifth time there, her third solo show, stuff like that, you just have to accept, and it's the thing of don't read the good ones, don't read the bad ones.
JG: Yeah. It's not worth burdening your brain with this extraneous information.
Cariad: And it doesn't you ego any good either, reading the good ones, being like: “Oh wow, I'm so brilliant”. Great, now what have you got to prove? Just prove it to yourself every day. But, I didn't do that, so it is really hard to do – I read every fucking review.
JG: Me too.
Cariad: But yeah, I know lots of people who don't, who manage it. Just try. Do your best. At least leave it to week 3 or something.
JG: Cool. Ok, best Fringe Flu remedy.
Cariad: Ah. Go to Napiers. Do you know Napiers?
JG: I don't, no.
Cariad: Jon Gracey, how long have you been there? Napiers is the herbalist opposite the big purple cow, it's on the corner – opposite the Bedlam Theatre, on the corner from the purple cow, it's a very old herbalist, it's been in Edinburgh from 1812 or something? I'm a proper hippy, so I always go there, and I speak to them, and they are wonderful, and they're like lovely mums, so they're like: “Oh, you must be having such a hard time. So stressful” And they're really sympathetic, and they do an echinacea tincture, and I bought their super-strength one this year, which was echinacea and garlic, and it tasted disgusting, but the whole Austentatious house ended up taking it, and-
JG: Can I ask what a tincture is?
Cariad: It's like a concentrated version of something? It's like a liquid – it just means it's in a liquid so instead of a pill, it's in a liquid form – it's almost like what orange squash is to oranges – concentrated down. So it tastes really foul, and so you do a little bit of it in your orange juice in the morning, so you can't taste it, but that kept us all – we did all get ill, but it does help. And eat fresh food. People just forget, they're like: “Why am I sick? I got to bed at 3 in the morning every single night and I've been eating burgers all month” - that is why you're sick. It's really simple. Get an early night - before you go to bed, buy a massive bag of spinach, and have a sweet potato with loads of spinach and loads of vegetables, take some echinacea, and sleep. And that will probably do you a massive amount of good, (laughs) but it's so hard to do, isn't it? Y'know, I say that – I do try and do that, but it doesn't always happen.
But I'm pretty good – whenever I think I'm getting sick, I'm pretty good at not going to parties, because I don't drink very much, so it doesn't bother me at all, going home early; I'd rather go home early and have a cup of tea, anyway (laughs). But yeah, just look after yourself. But Napiers is amazing, and they – I went in there after I had my concussion I went in there, and they gave me this homeopathic – some people think I'm mental! – arnica stuff which is good for shock, and I also hurt my – I got a massive bruise, and they gave me this arnica cream which helps with bruising and stuff like that, and I got a lavender spray for calming down and stuff – so, it's weird - I love Napiers, I go there and next door they have a treatment centre and they do massages and stuff like that, so on my day off I went and got a Tibetan massage for like £30, and it was just amazing, and exactly what I needed, so I find that – it's not for everybody – but that really works for me.
JG: Great. I was just about to ask about how you spend your day off.
Cariad: It was amazing. I went shopping, and then I went and got a Tibetan massage, and then I went and saw a show that I wanted to see that clashed with me. And I really was choosy about it, I didn't go and see a friend's – I didn't go and see “Oh just 'cos I'm fucking friends with this person I've gotta go and see this show” I went and saw this person I really wanted to see – I saw two actually, I really wanted to see, tha
JG: Any travel tips? How do you get up to Edinburgh?
Cariad: I've always gone – as I say in the past my travel was always paid, so I just got on the train – I always get the train, train is the only way to travel, it's the best train ride in the world, you go past the sea and it's incredible. But, last year I did something which I would highly recommend, is that I went first class, and it was incredible, and it wasn't that much more expensive, and myself and Sara Pascoe went first class – we had tea brought to us, we had food brought to us, there was loads of space, and we just relaxed, and it just was amazing; we went first class there and back, and it meant the stress levels of turning up at King's Cross with all your stuff were just completely diminished, and I can't recommend that enough – people are like: “Oh, save money”, it's like: “It's 20 quid, and you will never regret it” you won't regret it, you'll be so happy you did (laughs) But yeah, train. Always train.
JG: That's great. 'Cos if you're a solo performer, you'll be able to most likely take your stuff up, because we've been piling into vans recently.
Cariad: Yeah – to be fair, someone took a little bit of stuff up for me – my tech was in a van, and on the way home they took a trike for me. My rule is that everything has to fit in one suitcase – my stuff – because I have to preview it, and I can't take it around, so...
JG: Cariad, you're amazing.
Cariad: Thank you, sorry I talk so much!
JG: This is all gold.