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Luke Toulson's 'first and worst' Edinburghs

Tuesday, July 31 2012

Nominations, infidelity, diarrhoea, critical acclaim, collapse, debt – Luke Toulson's been through it over the years

Luke Toulson

My first Edinburgh show was an incredibly successful production of Berkoff’s adaptation of The Trial, back in 1997. We got five stars from The Scotsman, sold out our 140-seater venue, and I thought this Edinburgh malarkey is a piece of piss.

My worst Edinburgh show was the following year when I returned with the same company in a production of Macbeth. The infamous curse hit our play, not least by throwing together a cast devoid of any acting ability, but also the guy playing King Duncan had to pull out, and I, who was playing Macduff, was asked to double up. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Macbeth, will know that this just simply doesn’t work. Before his murder, King Duncan says words to the effect of, “I’m off to bed.” I would exit as King Duncan, walk round the back of the theatre, then re-enter (with no discernible change of costume or performance), as Macduff, and say, “Morning everyone, I’ve come to wake up the King. Oh shit, he’s dead.” No one had a clue what was going on, least of all the actors, and the audience, which was almost entirely American tourists, were amazed to have discovered a group of people who understood even less about Shakespeare than they did.

My first Edinburgh comedy show was in 2005 as half of the double-act TOULSON & HARVEY. We had a fantastic time, and at the end we were exceptionally proud to be nominated alongside Tim Minchin, Rhod Gilbert, Mark Watson, and Charlie Pickering for the Perrier Best Newcomer Award. And again I thought, this Edinburgh malarkey is a piece of piss.

The following year we returned with what we thought was a better show, but it got dismal reviews, we lost £9,000 (I had to go back to teaching, which I hated, to pay off our debt), the BBC cancelled their interest in developing a radio pilot with us, and our agent dumped us via email.

My first Edinburgh solo show was in 2008, and while I had learnt not to think, "This Edinburgh malarkey is a piece of piss," it was an absolute joy to perform stand-up for an hour every night, and I realised that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

I returned with my second solo show the following year, but my body was basically giving up due to years of alcohol abuse, I had diarrhoea for the entire month, and at one point collapsed on stage.

I have essentially had three difficult second albums.

Third “albums” have tended to be ok. As an actor in 2000, I had a great time, despite discovering that my girlfriend was shagging one of the other cast members. Our third show as a double-act was a lot of fun, but I think we both realised we were coming to the end of our partnership. And my third stand-up show was a real break-through for me creatively.

This year, bringing a forth solo show to the Fringe, I am in uncharted territory. Many would argue that Radiohead’s forth album, Kid A, was their best work, but Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol serves as a warning to us all.

• Luke Toulson in Luke Who's Talking is on at 9.05pm at the Underbelly


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