“I used to be a fairy in a fairytale,” says performer Brigitte Aphrodite, her throaty cockney voice tumbling into a treacle chuckle. “But I’m not a fairy in a fairytale, I’m a bloody woman.” She pauses. “With fairy-like qualities.”
With her new show, My Beautiful Black Dog – a nod to Winston Churchill’s nickname for his depression – Aphrodite wants us to experience what it would be like to discuss melancholia at a dinner party or talk despair at a rave. The show is gig-meets-theatre, a lyrical and visual jamboree about Aphrodite’s own battle with depression.
“For such a long time I thought that the way life was supposed to be was that you can’t get out of bed sometimes,” she says. “And then slowly it was like, ‘no, ok, this isn’t right’, and I needed to do something with all that wasted time.”
So why a musical? “I’m a showgirl; I had a look at what I’d started writing and was like, ‘flipping hell, this is miserable!’ So as a showgirl I need to add a bit of that to the mix. I laugh about it in the piece so people feel like they don’t have to tread on eggshells about it.”
Aphrodite was driven by an ambition to share her experience and encourage others to discuss theirs. “I’ve always thought that I’ve found it quite easy to fall in love with life and with people,” she continues, her words cascading out in a charming, rashdash fashion. “But the self-hate I was feeling was kind of an epiphany. I suddenly realised other people were probably going through this stuff as well.”
During the development process this has proven to be the case with friends admitting their own struggles. She’s thrilled about this but it’s been an emotionally draining experience for her too. “On bad days doing this show—that’s all about me and my head—can be tough,” she says.
Still, she can’t sing the praises of her collaborators enough: director Laura Keefe, dramaturg John Hoggarth, and her long-term partner – professionally and personally - Quiet Boy, who's doing the music. Aphrodite is a lyricist but by her own admission the music she created was always a demo.
“Quiet Boy’s a doctor of music really so he’s made the songs not just charmingly bad guitar parts; he’s made them fucking sharp.” Aphrodite thinks the finished result is enough to enter into the “flamboyant war” of the Edinburgh Fringe with its microphone held high.
“Everyone’s trying to out-flamboyant each other up there! But we’ve got a team, including Gemma Cairney and Rachel Tyson from Boom Shakalaka Productions and they’re properly hardcore, so I feel really chuffed that they’re going to be there on my side.”
Describe your show in 5 words
What are your top tips for the Fringe?
Go watch Antler Theatre's If I Were Me, Tom Allen's Both Worlds and Bryony Kimmings & Tim Grayburn's Fake It 'til You Make It. Go to the jacket potato shop on Cockburn Street. Have a curry in the curry/kebab house on Nicholson Square. Take people's flyers if they are passionate about their show – good flyering is an art form. Edinburgh's charity shops are banging - have a rummage between shows. Timberyard for a glass of something fancy. And finally, chat to people who live in Edinburgh as they know the coolest stuff about their city.
What's in your Festival survival kit?
Wet wipes (a day watching shows at the fringe can be sweaty). BRING CLOTHES FOR ALL THE WEATHERS... The weather at the Edinburgh Fringe can be winter, summer and spring sometimes all in one day – it's quite exciting actually. Red lippy hides all tiredness & all hangovers (sort of).