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Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

John Hegley
BISCUIT OF DESTINY
VENUE 26 - Summerhall - Cairns Lecture Theatre
Aug 3-14, 16-21, 23-28 - 14:00 /  Tickets
July 5, 2022

John Keats met a woman in Ireland, being carried in a kind of mobile kennel. The Romantic poet observed that she seemed to be suffering from a scarcity of biscuit.

Hi John, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe this summer?

Good to be coming to Summerhall’s creative hub and good to be seeing my Edinburgh chums amidst in the festive hubbub, aiming for moderate, but quality frolicking. In my early days at the festival, my aim was to have no more than three and a half pints of beer and eight hours sleep every day, but sometimes these figures would get confused.

You have a lot of events coming up ahead of the Fringe and on 20th & 29th July you’re previewing your new show Biscuit of Destiny, when previewing a new show do nerves ever set in?

Rather than nerves, for the previews, there is a wondering…you are trying out new bits and wondering how they will go, but you also know that amidst the wondering, you must keep an eye the wandering. And if there are nerves, they are not to be treated as enemies. More as pets.

2022 will be your 32nd Edinburgh Fringe, what makes the Fringe so special to you and do you remember what your first Fringe experience was like?

Not being a frequent Edinburgh visitor, the Festival is my chance to revisit the permanent marvels in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and to reap the rewards of a run of shows rather that the one and then run that is the usual way of my livelihood. It is the firmest fixed marker of my working year…First Fringe offerings were in 1983 - songs about spectacles, busking with the Sue, Russ and Keith as The Popticians. I learned that in our case, it was more fruitful to secure payment before the performance.

What has been the wildest review or comment you’ve gotten for you Fringe shows?

‘Roger McGough should sue.’ The Scotsman (1987).

How does it feel bringing Biscuit of Destiny to Summerhall this summer?

I am glad to be sharing some of the new John Keats pieces. My time as Poet in Residence at Keats House in London was an inspirational and this is my first opportunity to bring to the festival some of the musings songs, speculations and drawings inspired by his genius. He says in a letter, ’I have pass’d my time in reading, writing and fretting - the last I intend to give up and stick to the other two.’  The show provides other unrelated, but also hopefully resonant and relevant sentiments alongside several drawings of horses.                                                                                                                        

John Hegley poster Summerhall.jpg

"It doesn’t need to be read out to the many or the few attendees; in some productions, it would be inappropriate to do so."

Can you tell me how Biscuit of Destiny came about, what was your inspiration for this new show?

The title stems from a phrase John Keats used when describing a person he met, who he thought looked liked they could do with a good feed. He describes them as suffering from ‘a scarcity of biscuit’ - This  phrase, I have used as the title of my new book, which is itself quite thin and relates to the letters, life and celery sword-fencing of John Keats The show goes into other areas and I felt perhaps, warranted another, and possibly related title. My partner Mel suggested Biscuit of Destiny.

When writing and performing in a new show how flexible do you allow yourself with it once it’s running?

It is good to be asked this question. So, I remind myself - be flexible. And responsive to the room you perform in and its inhabitants. And, be ready to go off somewhere new. It is what John Keats would have wanted. Take hold of something and…’wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect upon it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it, until it becomes stale - but when will it do so? Never.’ Which brings to mind to something an audience member offered me in one of my Fringe performances at The Pleasance -‘a fig roll of the imagination.’

What would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from the shows you create?

People like a bit of fun.

People like to experience some performing expertise.

People like to marvel.

People like to know that what they are seeing and hearing has a freshness an immediacy.

If they are given the above, people may tolerate attempts to smuggle in unwanted polemic or a bit of  biscuit-juggling.

Also, people generally like joining in, but try to remember that some don’t.

Have you always had a passion for poetry and comedy?

I have since I can remember been nourished, enlivened by a joke, a rhyme, a startling image.

How much has your style and the approach to your writing changed since you started out?

My brother once said it has become ‘more considered’ which I think is fair.

Is there any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer anyone making their Edfringe debut?

There is  something of this type which could be evinced from some of the other answers to your jolly questionnaire. Also, perhaps a debutante could make their way with a friend or newly-made Edinburgh acquaintance to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, purchase a postcard and  in an undisturbed spot, write a few lines to their next, or perhaps first audience. It doesn’t need to be read out to the many or the few attendees; in some productions, it would be inappropriate to do so.

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Biscuit of Destiny?

A feeling of being well fed. But there will be no biscuits.