Ruminations on Gallantry

Edinburgh

A guest post from cast member Tom who has some thoughts ahead of the opening night of A Gallant Life next week. Unlike the rest of the company who have a variety of qualifications, predominantly in history, English and theatre, he has a degree in philosophy  (although we try not to hold it against him). You might be able to tell… 

The Oxford Dictionary offers two definitions of ‘gallantry’; the first is “courageous behaviour, especially in battle”. Given the historical and contemporary tendency for men to outnumber women in the military, this gallantry of medals and machismo leaves little room for anything but the masculine. The second definition is “polite attention or respect given by men to women”, explicitly reinforcing the quiet presumption that gallantry and its rewards lie firmly within the domain of men. 

Not until the 1st of January 2014 did women eclipse men in the number of state honours bestowed by the Crown, an impressive 61% of the roster. But just ten years prior, 34% of recipients were female, 28% in 1994, and only 17% in 1974. This trend for underreporting the contributions of women to the sustaining of societies and the expansion of empires runs right through to the birth of western literature; as Mary Beard notes in her book ‘Women and Power’, the primary introduction of the Odyssey’s female lead, that of the protagonist’s wife Penelope, is one of silencing and implied powerlessness; and it is her own son who wields the malignant self-righteousness to which men have been accustomed against her – “speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all…for mine is the power in this household”. Whilst it may not be surprising that women in the 12th century BCE were being unjustly treated, this tale is one of the foundational texts in European culture. It may be possible to extricate the misogynistic mores of history from our present state. But such associations do not die quietly, or without cost, and for many who enjoy positions of influence and privilege, they see no incentive to do so.

Where do Muriel Thompson, and all the women engulfed in the Great War who were not permitted to see battle by an establishment saturated in the bitter syrup of patriarchy, fit into this? A Gallant Life is a small window onto a planet at war with itself, throwing light on the lives of a few who were willing to risk everything. Not to destroy their enemy, but to rescue as many as could be saved from the maelstrom soon to be known as ‘The War to End All Wars’. These women did so even as their efforts were ignored or abhorred by the very sovereign powers intent on delivering humanity into suffering never before seen. Muriel herself was a pioneer not just on the battlefield, but on the racetrack, as one of the foremost drivers of her day (an activity condemned by some as dangerously unfeminine, as it is in some countries to this day). While it is true that they were eventually honoured in their own time, their story has largely been forgotten from the history books they helped to write. We hope with our production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018, that we may change that, and keep the spirit of the women of the war, alive in the 21st century.

 

The Six Types of Flyerers at the Edinburgh Fringe and How to Deal With Them

Edinburgh

Picture the scene. It’s the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe. You know that you need to get down the Royal Mile to see a show you’ve booked at the space, which is apparently a feminist mime reinterpretation of unpublished Oscar Wilde letters (your friend is in it). But to get down there, there is one obstacle in your way.

Well, a couple of thousand obstacles in your way.

Flyerers. A persistent, difficult and dangerous species which have the power to make you feel guilt, frustration and deep confusion. Here is the unofficial guide to the different breeds and how exactly to handle them.

The mercenary often moves in a pack, making them considerably harder to avoid.
photo credit: byronv2 Fringe on the Mile 2016 052 via photopin (license)

The Mercenary
This breed of flyerer has been hired by a show to flyer on their behalf. Maybe the show is that rare show which will make enough money to justify this extravagance. Maybe the organisers couldn’t face the Royal Mile everyday. It isn’t for the weak. Either way, mercenaries are likely to have little to no idea about the show they are advertising. They probably couldn’t tell you where or what it is, let alone how much it costs and how on earth to get there. They usually have obnoxious hoodies.
How to deal with them – they are easily dissuaded by people with little to no interest in their show. A simple “no thank you” and a hasty retreat ought to do it.

The Hunter
This particular beast will clock you as you are walking down the mile. If you fit into their target demographic (which is usually broad), they will approach you tactically, cutting off all avenues of escape. If by some miracle you manage to avoid them, they are likely to chase you down the Mile until you accept a flyer as a way of shaking them. It’s entirely possible that if you don’t take a flyer, they will follow you around for the rest of the day out of sheer persistence.
How to deal with them – just take the flyer. There is no getting out of this one and there are plenty of bins around further away. Just don’t throw it away in plain sight of them or they will begin the chase again.

The Snob
Every so often, you will get flyered by someone who acts as though they’re bestowing a truly wonderful gift upon you by giving you their flyer. You should be grateful to share Mile-space with this particular thespian and they will let you know that. They might even make disparaging remarks about being forced to flyer for audiences. Even though their profit-share is about as likely to be profitable as the Tories are to increase Arts Funding.
How to deal with them – they’re probably too lazy to flyer you anyway but avoid getting into a conversation with them about the show, for fear of being subjected to a description of their commitment to method acting.

Flirt to Convert
This one is easy to spot. Their costume looks good and they know it. They are attempting to bring in an audience through sheer animal magnetism. The male edition is a particular favourite amongst older women – vaguely cheeky remarks and lots of getting far too close to the person you are flyering. They’ll probably promise to come and see your show too, which is a blatant lie unless there is any chance of sex.
How to deal with them – this one really depends on whether or not it’s worked on you. If you’re into what they’re offering, by all means go and see their naked ventriloquist Cabaret set entirely to the soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain. Otherwise, smile politely, and accept that you are very unlikely to see them at any of your shows, regardless of what they’re promising.

Just to prove how edgy his show is, this man is wearing an ineffectual blindfold. But think of the ART.
photo credit: byronv2 Fringe on the Mile 2016 0227 via photopin (license)

GCSE Drama Students With A Lot Of Feelings
Also pretty easy to spot, mainly because they’re actually not going to try and flyer you. Instead, they will recreate crucial, emotional sections from their piece about identity/dystopia/emotions/shouting indiscriminately/fear (delete as appropriate). The scenes are often threatening and/or confusing, but by golly they’ve got a lot of feelings and they’re keen to share them. With anyone who will pay. Their parents think they’re wonderful.
How to deal with them – this group may not actually try to flyer you at all. They are often quite happy to stand in the middle of the mile and shout things for a few hours, then go away pleased. You might get one earnest looking fifteen year old run up to you and ply you with one but most of them prefer to have feelings.

Stunt Flyerers
Similar to the GCSE students but almost more concerning in that they are adults. So they know what they’re doing and they probably funded it themselves. Stunt flyerers can be found shouting off-putting things like “Worst show on the Fringe” and “You will hate it”, which are not wholly inaccurate. Other variations include terrible puns, such as pretending their flyer is a telephone (it isn’t) or a piece of litter (it is). Sometimes they will just make themselves and everyone else feel very uncomfortable, by doing something faux-outrageous and really rather silly, like tying yourself up or pouring wine over your own head repeatedly. (A rare exception to this is the actual stunt acrobats on the mile who are usually extremely talented. And also smug)
How to deal with them – Walking round most of them will do the trick since they don’t want to break the illusion of being mad/uncomfortable/angry simply to catch a punter who isn’t utterly enthralled.

The Hungover Flyerer
If you happen across this sorry soul, have mercy. They are in their own personal hell, surrounded by bright lights and noisy people after a late night and too many pints in C Main. No need to approach; they would probably rather not have an audience today anyway.
How to deal with them – keep a respectful distance. If requested, take a flyer, offer your condolences and move on.

Disclaimer: this post was written entirely in love. I love the Fringe, and I
even love the madness of the Royal Mile. For anyone headed there in 2017, I am a self proclaimed Hunter and I pride myself on getting anyone to take a flyer from me. Happy flyering!