My Festival: Adrienne Truscott

The New York-based actor/director/choreographer/comedian on late-night basement bars, risky performances, and flirting with Robert Downey Jr

What are you doing at this year’s festival?

I’m doing a two-hander with Feidlim Cannon (one half of Brokentalkers) called Masterclass. It’s a collaboration we wrote/finished over Zoom during lockdown. I absolutely love performing this show. It’s really funny and brutally honest. We say things to each other in this play that are so true and so excruciating and funny. Not just about us, about our industry and culture, but also SO about us. Please come!

What do you most want to see this year and why?

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    Figs in Wigs always delight me – they are brilliant. I’ll see the Briefs show right away, and also Blunderland, a home-town, NYC favorite. Another NYC artist, Justin Elizabeth Sayre, has the show Lottie Plachett Took a Hatchett, a bonkers take on Lizzie Borden that I have to go all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe to see because I missed it in New York! I always love what Lucy Hopkins is up to and where and how – BlundaBus, and a yurt, I believe! And the best part is always word-of-mouth surprises that you don’t know about until the end of week one, you know?

    What’s your favourite place in the city and why?

    My favourite place in the city is either anywhere I find myself, unexpectedly, at some ungodly hour, possibly in front of some brilliant bananacakes performer I’ve never encountered before, with friends I largely only see in Edinburgh – my last memory of this was seeing Alexandra Tatarsky’s Americana Psychobabble in a basement bar in the New Town. Or, coming around the corner from the Traverse when the Castle suddenly comes into view, seemingly from out of nowhere.

    Who do you most like spending time with at the festival?

    Adrienne Truscott in Masterclass PIC: Ste Murray

    My friends who hail from all over, and populate the drag and circus world. They know how to have a special kind of fun in big groups while wearing ridiculous outfits. Seeing people from NYC is fun because it’s like we’ve accidentally planned a bizarre vacation together. I’ve become friends with a lot of techs and producers and venue folks over the years, and it’s always brilliant to see them and it feels a bit comforting to know they’re still doing it! The first 24 hours of walking around, getting stuff for your show in some manic fugue state is so hilarious, and meanwhile, your heart is kind of exploding because you’re running into all these incredible people you love, one after the other. This year will be a bit overwhelming because we all haven’t seen each other in such a long time because of Covid.

    What do you remember about your first ever Edinburgh festival appearance?

    I genuinely thought it was the most insane thing ever, and that I would never make it through and never come back. That’s not to say that I didn’t also have a blast, meet incredible people and see amazing shows. I just thought, ‘What the ____ is this beast?! How do you get through it? When do you rest? Does it rain every day?’ Of course, I’ve been back over ten times since and love it.

    What are the best and worst things that have happened to you in Edinburgh?

    The best was taking a deeply experimental, personal, provocative and risky show there, a solo, and having it succeed beyond my wildest dreams – by which I mean it was received by really open hearts and minds, appreciated formally and just really engaged with fully and wholly. I think it changed some minds and it released something in me. That’s a bit corny, but true. The worst was following that show the next year with a show that wasn’t quite ready and got brutal reviews! That season was, however, one of the hardest but richest performance experiences of my career.

    How was lockdown for you? Did it change you, and if so how?

    Le Gateau Chocolat and I were about to tech and open a show we’d been working towards for years, in Melbourne, and we just had to abandon it (for the moment – stay tuned!). That was heartbreaking! We were lucky to get out of Australia before borders closed. I got Covid right away, and gave it to my beloved, at the height of it all, which in NYC was really scary and sad. There were so many sirens and deaths in New York. We are privileged white Westerners, healthy and lucky, and both made it through. That made us much safer for the rest of it, able to help our families without endangering them and all that jazz. I finally watched Breaking Bad, you know, all that stuff. I wasn’t interested in putting anything online. I realised how tired I was and did very little art – a few things here and there online. My fella and I have a small bit of property north of the city with a little cabin and we built another even smaller cabin which we made available to friends, artists and activist folks who were exhausted and isolated in the city. Some people did residencies, some rested, some partied. I weirdly had the most social summer. It was such a strange time. It changed me immeasurably. I love making art, but it changed my standards of how I can let that affect other aspects of my well-being. I will never return to the level of hustle required to make a living as a performing artist in America. Like, once you stop, you could never ramp up to that level again. Or something like that.

    Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

    I’m not that angry of a feminist, you guys. No, ummmm, something more fun, ooh! In high school, I worked on a terrible movie in Atlantic City at the height of its Mafia-run, prostitution and cocaine glory, with some of the US’s finest actors – Warren Beatty, Dennis Hopper, Harvey Keitel, Danny Aiello – (worked round the clock and saw some THINGS!) – but all I really cared about was Molly Ringwald (also brilliant) and Robert Downey Jr (ditto), who I tried to flirt with and who invited me into his dressing room... and all that happened was I tried on his slippers when he went into the bathroom because I wanted more out of the exchange and that was all I could think to do. Did you just want an answer like, ‘I like to cook’?

    OR, shorter answer:

    I lived by myself in high school for two years and ate mostly pancakes for that period because that was all I could cook.

    What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

    Drink coffee. Nothing beyond a lazy sort of nestle with Carmine (man) or Louis (cat) can happen without it.

    And what’s the last thing you do before you go to bed at night?

    C’mon now…

    Thanks for the interview! We’d like to buy you a drink. Where are we going and what are we drinking?

    Loft Bar after 1-2am. We’re in Scotland, so, a Scotch whisky please. If you’re buying, I’d like to try an Ardbeg. I like smoky ones. Probably don’t have that at the Loft Bar!

    Adrienne Truscott appears in Masterclass, Pleasance Dome, 5.40pm, until 28 August