My First Fringe | Roann McCloskey

Ever wondered what it’s like to become an Assembly Festival performer? Here’s a first-hand account. Roanna McCloskey is busy prepping to take My Father the Tantric Masseur to Assembly this year and ahead of her first solo show at the Fringe took some time to recap on the process.


My First Fringe by Roann McCloskey


Like anyone in this industry, I often hear the same question from family and friends alike, ‘Ok, so you’re an actress, what’s your dream?’ I always respond with ‘Either win an Academy Award or take a solo show to Edinburgh Fringe’. If I am honest, the Oscars always felt like an easier dream to achieve. To stand on stage alone means I’d need to have something to say and have written it… nah, that probably won’t ever happen.

August 25th 2018 – The deadline was midnight for Vault Festival London 2019, I had come back from my first Edinburgh Fringe as an audience member and was exhausted from seeing 6 shows a day (nothing to do with the copious amounts of alcohol that had quickly filled up my bloodstream). It would be my first 3rd application so there was an element of ‘at least I’m applying, I’m sure I won’t succeed’…. This attitude probably allowed me to write with clarity and freedom because a month later I received an email with an offer of a week’s run of my show My Father The Tantric Masseur… SH*T!

Straight into rehearsals with my directors, Lolo Brow and Joel Samuels, in the most supportive, authentic and queer rehearsal space I have ever been in. For the first rehearsal I brought along some stories of my life that I had typed up, I handed them out and we three sat for five minutes reading through. ‘No, Roann. This doesn’t work, take each story but can you just tell it to us?’ Then began 6 months of me standing/sitting and telling story after story. It was great, free therapy for me; I felt very lucky. There would be moments where I would be telling a story for the fifth or sixth time and then suddenly a new line would emerge, causing our eyes to widen and sending Lolo and Joel off to furiously jot down everything they could remember. This is how we slowly pieced together our show.

Vault Festival couldn’t have gone better. We sold out nights and we won the Vault Origins award for Outstanding New Work. I was in total shock. In fact on the night I thought they were reading out the nominees not the winners, so I arrived late to the stage. I could not believe it - I’d finally done my own solo show! I’d got through 6 performances and didn’t die… (that’s often my go-to for anything… just avoid death… we’ll discuss my anxiety levels in another blog, maybe). Not only did I not die, but Assembly Festival came to see the show and offered me a place in one of their venues… IS THIS REAL LIFE?

After the offer was accepted I went on the hunt for a producer... That’s when David Shopland and Fake Escape came aboard, thank goodness! David, amongst so many things, organised the show’s fundraiser, Kickstarter campaign and preview performances - all of which meant we could pay our accommodation, venue upfronts and marketing fees in good time - so we could actually make it to the festival with three months to plan! Sourcing the money to pay for this and all of the work that goes into it, the asking of friends and family to give money and the emails to organisations to ask for money has been a severe cause of stress (not to mention what happens if none of things make us any money!) It has been great to share that stress slightly through social media; however I am looking forward to not having to tweet about myself for a little while come September! On top of that I was part of the ‘Soho Theatre Young Company’ Edinburgh lab which has taught me a lot about what to expect up in Bonnie Scotland.

The problem is, no matter how prepped you are (which I think I am… or at least I trust my producer is - David has essentially become my parent/guardian at this point) Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a beast. I have no idea what performing twenty four shows of autobiographical content is going to feel like, or whether I am going to be able to stick to my plan of eating healthily everyday and not eating chicken burgers or pizza or crab sandwiches from all of the incredible food trucks. I have no idea how I will maintain my will power when I see so many of my friends boozing into the wee hours when I know I should go to bed and treat this as I would any other job that isn’t as fun. I have no idea. All I know is, every morning I want to wake up and feel incredibly grateful that I am achieving a life goal at 30, that I have a platform to speak about subject matters that I believe to be important and that essentially I am alive and well and doing the thing I love. My father told me when I was a child ‘find a job you love and you’ll never work a day of your life…

I told him not to plagiarise Confucious, but also that I’d remember that when I get to perform my solo show for a month.


My Father the Tantric Masseur runs from 31 July -25 August (not 12/29) | 22:10 | Assembly George Square Studio 4