Charmians Blog Title

Calm after the Raj.

4th September 2014

I’ve been back from Edinburgh for eleven days. Eleven days in Edinburgh goes slowly, and a month really slowly, with each day broken up into hours of intensity and variety where things can turn on a pin; black moods saved by a swim and a sauna, uppity moods drowned in a horrible feeling of invisibility, then relieved by a Zen moment of knowing we are all in the end invisible, plus a custard tart.

Watching one of the many shows about World War One felt a bit like watching a show about the Edinburgh festival itself. The insanity!  Regiments of drama students on the Royal Mile, at first so proud and optimistic,  trapped in dark burrows  with inadequate lighting for which they paid an arm and a leg.  Reviews handed out like white feathers by those who never go to the front themselves.  The WW1  one I saw was actually very good, and the audience member who had to leave before she heaved up from the smell of the chopped liver allegory business going on  had to walk through the actors to escape. A tip worth remembering.

My show  evolved and tightened all the way through the Fringe. I am not an actor and I wasn’t going to act stuff out or mime elephants, and I wasn’t going to tell jokes either, but a story has to go through its different paces, and entertain. Any comedy had to come from the truth and observation of a situation.  When things are funny people laugh, but when parts are interesting or dramatic, people don’t do anything. In between the laughy bits I felt a bit of panic. I still find this hard to get used to.  Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we emoted over everything? Gasped! Cried out! Scratched heads to express deep thought. But we don’t. After a while I felt a bit like the young Isobel Adjani who says there were no mirrors in her childhood home and she had no idea of what she looked like or how she came across, and she felt very disorientated. I got feedback from friends, a four star review and audience members but what I needed was a director in situ to consistently tell me why it was better on some days than on others. The fab Colin Watkeys worked with me in London but now I was mirror- less.  The comedians before me solved this for themselves by forming a team between three stand-ups who did all the flyering, teching and feed-back for each others shows, and I think this is an excellent model.

A couple of people asked me if the stories in Raj Rage were true or if the letters existed. Hundreds of escaped women – and men- wrote their accounts of the Mutiny and these can be examined in the India Office Records Rooms of The British Library.

Mrs Goldneys letters are in this collection, donated by my Great Aunt Alice. But you can read them here:

They had to be cut down to the chase for the show otherwise we would have been there all  night but otherwise all the words used in the Mrs Goldney sections are her own. The Victorians weren’t that unlike us. They spoke like us, they used the same words. They were a bit more private and all their social relations were conducted with a bit more formality- even under duress.  Hence best friends formally addressing each other as ‘Mrs.’ My account of our modern Indian journey is further down this blog. The spectacular revelations in the show are not in the blog to protect the innocent.

Now I am back. Raj Rage is being performed as part of Face to Face Solo Theatre Festival on Wednesday 8th October at 7.30pm.