A nice chat with Jessica Fostekew: Edinburgh Fringe
Andrew Mickel26 July 2011
‘Posh but slumming it’ seems a fair description of Jessica Fostekew, although ‘comedy actress and writer’ also covers it. She tells SSP about vomiting down herself, fear, and her first full-length solo show.
Tell us about the show.
It's the first one I've done, so it's quite autobiographical, about trying to be everything to everyone, and how I've realised I should stop doing it. And it's also about how I'm quite posh but can also be a massive skank as well.
The show's called Luxury Tramp; how luxury are we talking, given that you live in Peckham?
Yeah, that's the trampy side of me. I live in a really nice flat in Peckham though. My dad worked for a champagne company for years, I'm well spoken...it's the really weird posh things about me when I'm actually pretty scabby.
What about the tramp side, what's the trampiest thing you've ever done?
I got very drunk at a friend's birthday, drinking beer and then some bloody Marys. It got to 11pm and I thought this'll be fine, if I go I'll be alright. I remember walking out the bar in Angel, and the next thing it's the morning and I'm on the nightbus. It must have gone round and round. I looked down and I was covered in my own tomatoey sick from my chin down to my toes. Everyone had kept away, I had a puke barrier to stop me being mugged. As I woke up, the nightbus was right outside my house. I crawled out and went to bed.
What's the reception been with the previews?
Yeah, they've been really good fun and totally invaluable. I don't know how people go up without doing a lot of previews. I still feel like I want to do more and more. I'm not sure if I'll ever be totally ready but I'm really excited now. There have been some pretty weird previews so I feel well tested; there was one in a village in Portsmouth where I just played to an incredibly old couple and a woman they introduced as their mum, and three adults with quite severe learning difficulties. And next to the stage the whole time I had a dog.
Did you adapt the routine at all, put in a bit of Makaton?
I did about 20% of my regular show. One person just wanted to talk about how she couldn't eat Toffee Crisps because she hasn't got any teeth.
Well, for a debut show going straight to the Gilded Balloon is a sweet spot.
I know, I'm very lucky. I've got a brilliant and lovely producer who helped with all those gubbins. I love the little venue I'm in. The only downside is that it's notoriously sweaty, a proper little sauna. So I've made 1,500 Luxury Tramp fans to give people on the way in. It's something different to a badge.
It's your first solo show, where are your fear levels?
9 out of 10, 9.5? It fluctuates. You get a bit of good news and within seconds you’ll be <vomiting sound> about it. I’ve realised the things I’m worrying about now aren’t tangible, there’s no way I could deal with them until I’m up there and stuff’s happening. I’ve prepared for everything it’s possible to predict, but actually the show’s going to be so different. Now’s the case of waiting and seeing what happens when I’m up there. Good reviews, bad reviews, lessons to be learnt when they happen – I can’t do any more preparation and I think I’ve got the right attitude.
And what are your coping methods to go on stage? Drinking or prepping lines right up til you go on?
Middle ground, I’m afraid. I wouldn’t get drunk before the gig, but I wouldn’t nerd over things too much either. I’m of the mindset before the show of anything negative that’s been going on, forgetting about it, and just remembering to enjoy it.
That’s a very meditative approach.
Well…I’ll try. We’ll see how it goes. Any really bad reviews I might have to cure with eight to ten pints but we’ll see. But I’m planning to be bloody sensible.
You could take pictures of the reviewers, befriend them and they can’t write bad things.
I know what a couple of them look like. But it’s hard to find an opener to start a cracking conversation, like ‘ooh, I saw you gave my friend one star…’
How are you with all the other side of things – flyering, that sort of thing?
I’m much better at flyering other people’s shows, but I know how important it is to do. I’ve got a really cracking team of flyerers as well so I suspect the more useful thing I can do for making sure my show is well-attended is make sure they’re well-stocked with the vices they enjoy – chocolate, booze, whatever else to keep them chirpy and sell my show for me. I get very annoyed by the sheer volume of flyerers. I think it really be stressful to walk through and maintain any sheen of politeness. I’ve just finished designing them.
The one thing to hope for now is that they have cheap vices.
Hopefully they hate cocaine and love Freddos and Tangy Toms. Most of them will be Scottish so that should be sorted.
Anything you’re excited to see yourself?
I’ve got a ticket for my day off to go and see Sarah Millican, Bridget Christie – I saw a preview without the characters and it was amazing – I think Sara Pascoe is going to have an amazing show this year, but she clashes with me. I want to see as much as I can, theatre, art, that sort of stuff. I think when you’re up there you have a window of ten days maximum of being able to enjoy stand-up comedy and then after that I think you have to go see something else.
Sell your show in three lines.
It’s uniquely honest, and I think I’ve managed to walk the line between a story-based, brutally honest show and one that’s actually full of jokes.
And you get a fan.
Yeah, a fan you can keep. No free chocolate at my show – generally at Edinburgh if you get free chocolate or sweets it’ll be crap.
Whereas a fan is on the right side of that line…
Pretty much, yup.
What’s the plan after Edinburgh?
If there’s the chance to do touring I absolutely would do, yes. It’ll feel like an achievement getting through this first Edinburgh. I feel so excited it’ll be either anti-climactic or it’ll put me on a roll. There’s so many writing projects I’ve had to put on the backburner while I’ve let this take over my life, I’m really looking forwarding to finishing them up – I’m writing some radio sketches with some people, and a couple of things of just mine. And a sitcom about a zombie scare attraction.
Your rating: None