Opinion: Injury Time on the Fringe

Update 10/8/13 I've just heard about another performer who has joined the walking wounded. For part of his show in which he explores what it takes to be a legend, Luke Benson took part in the Tough Mudder, apparently the hardest military obstacle course known to man. Afterwards he said "it wasn’t that hard!" but he did not realise that he had fused his hip during the electric shock run. He then came down with flu in the run-up to the Fringe which turned into AMPPI, which means Luke has lost vision in his right eye. This is generally a temporary condition but it can be lengthy. He is now learning to cope with the depth perception, but at least it has given his show some new gags – "There’s only one I in Fringe..." 

2013's Wimbledon tournament was notable for the number of injuries to players. Comedians don't usually perform at high speed on grass so in theory they should be safer. But not, it seems, this year. Last weekend Marcus Brigstocke looked like he had turned into Marcus Breakstocke when he collapsed onstage doing his high energy dance finale at the Assembly Hall. In the end it turned out to be only a torn Achilles tendon but it still meant that when I saw him on the following night he spent part of the gig sitting down Dave Allen-style and part of it on crutches. It is still a funny, frank autobiographical show and even with a gammy leg boy can Marcus move when those hard house hits start pumping out.

And Brigstocke isn't the only performer to succumb to injury. The Guardian has reported that former Perrier champion Will Adamsdale has temporarily pulled out of a production of Stuart: A Life Backwards at the Underbelly's Topside venue due to a back injury sustained during previews. It is hoped that Adamsdale will return to the role, but in the meantime the show will go on with the director reading the part.

It is, of course, no real surprise that there are injuries during the Edinburgh Fringe. Bodies are put under tremendous pressure. Not just by performing more intensively than usual but by partying more intensively than during the rest of the year. If you want to see a comedian off duty in August you are just as likely to see them in A&E as in the Pleasance Dome bar.

But at least Brigstocke and Adamsdale are in good company. Some of our finest comedians have succumbed in the past. Paul Merton broke his leg playing football on the Meadows. Robert Webb's wife Abigail Burdess had to do her character comedy show from a wheelchair after an accident. Adam Riches famously snapped his leg after slipping on some probiotic yoghurt which had been spilt on the floor during one of his earlier sketches. And back in his more chaotic days Russell Brand cut his chest with broken glass during an anarchic appearance at Live 'n' Live, though that was, admittedly, intentional.

Yet if one injury in a production is bad luck, two is positively spooky. Serial blogger John Fleming revealed that out of a cast of three in Pekka and Strangebone's Comedy Showpiece one performer had to go to A&E for a twisted ankle, another had to go there when he fell on some broken glass and injured his hand. If the third member had had an accident they might as well have done their performance in hospital instead of The Voodoo Rooms.

Meanwhile Miss Behave, who has no difficulty swallowing swords during her shows, has had to pull out of an Edinburgh appearance compering the Malcolm Hardee Awards because she broke her heel in Dublin before she even got to the Festival. Forget world class grass court tennis, entertaining people is really tough on the old body.


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