Blending comedy and thoughtful storytelling, Dan Cardwell has brought Patience: Zero to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Detailing his experiences of trying to become a father, when the route to get there becomes difficult, he discusses this, while bringing laughter of equal measure.
Telling us about this, Dan has answered a few questions to give you more of a taste.
What is Patience: Zero about and how did you create the piece?
It’s about my wife, Jacqui, and me trying to have a baby; it’s been a long ‘journey’ as you are supposed to say. Maybe that’s why we’re so tired. Although, in my case, it might be the 3am bedtimes. We’ve been through a lot of rounds of IVF and suffered a lot of loss during this time, which has been tough. But it also made us realise that it’s something that still isn’t spoken about enough. So, I (and to a large degree, we), thought it should be something we spoke about. I first started thinking it could be spoken about in a show but still be funny when I took to the stage about 48 hours after we had a loss. I don’t know if it was grief, if it was anger, just a need for a cathartic laugh at the horror, or the several vodkas, but a largely improvised piece on what had just happened and what we were going through got good laughs and people seemed to find it moving, even in a short set.
Sounding like it deals with some pretty heavy themes like conception struggles and IVF, how does this turn into a comedy featuring aliens?
The whole through line of the show is about trying to have a baby – but also about me wondering if I’m good enough to be a father and if I should pass my genetically weird DNA on – I’ve got a lot of odd ailments. I’m considered a treat for student doctors. And then, to hammer the point home, I had a serious accident smashing up my femur, despite it being just a little slip that caused it. It was so bad, they gave me Ketamine. I’ve never done hard drugs in my life, but as the doctors administered it to me, they promised it was 100% medical grade stuff, so there wouldn’t be anything weird going on.
And then I was being operated on by the aliens. They were the sort of creatures it looked like Jim Henson might throw in a bin marked ‘Only to be used if Kermit has a major physical trauma and is administered Ketamine’. Which, to be fair, was a classic episode.
Sadly, the aliens no longer feature in the show. Whilst it was a genuinely terrifying occurrence (at the time, I 100% believed it was real), the show was clocking in at about 2 hours. Which is, well, long. So, the aliens are now locked away again, in my terrifying drug flashbacks.
How much of the script is based on real-life experiences?
All of it. I have swapped one incident around, chronologically, for narrative purposes but it all happened. It’s more like comedic reportage.
How have you prepared yourself for standing up and discussing such touching topics in a lighthearted way on stage?
Normally, with vodka, but the start time of 11am is a bit early even for me.
It’s my personality to be almost debilitatingly honest about what I’m feeling but to couch it in humour. So, it’s not a big stretch to do it on stage. One thing my friend Richard, who helped me out by directing me a little at the beginning of developing this, said, was not to fake anything. When I get to the emotional bits, if I cry, let it come, if I don’t that’s fine also.
It’s probably a thing that a lot of performers up here have, but I genuinely feel better about terrible things in my life by making strangers laugh at and then cry with me over it. Because I’m a very psychologically balanced individual.
How are you feeling about performing this at The Edinburgh Fringe?
I love the Fringe. Nowhere else do I get to perform an hour long show almost 30 times. It’s a weird one this year, because it’s definitely the most emotional show I’ve done, so it’ll be interesting to see how I feel at the time. And how audiences react. But I at least got to do one preview (others were cancelled due to various ill planning and also a heatwave) and that went really well. The audience loved it – and she was a real nice lady.
What’s your favourite thing about telling a story to an audience?
I love being able to take them on a bit of a rollercoaster – sadness or tragedy always seem much more affecting when dressed with laughter. But I love that moment, a gasp, a tear, or a laugh, when you are telling a long-form story and all those puzzle pieces finally come together and are revealed to an audience – it may not be as showy, but essentially, it’s the live version of Rosebud, of Bruce Willis realising he’s a ghost, of realising why Andy Dufrene got that Rita Hayworth poster. It’s a fantastic feeling.
It's brilliant to have heard a bit more on this one- huge thanks to Dan for sharing. All the best for the run!
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