ED2013 Columns ED2013 Comedy

Tim FitzHigham: Three week challenges

By | Published on Saturday 10 August 2013

Tim FitzHigham

Fringe legend Tim FitzHigham has been on many journeys and set himself many challenging tasks over the years to provide the marvelous stories that fill his shows, though this year there have been more journeys than ever before, as he tackles a flood of crazy challenges with which he has been set. Though the challenge we set him – to write a guest column – probably doesn’t feature.

Dear ThreeWeeks Readers,

Thank you for reading the first eleven words. Obviously ‘words’ was the twelfth but I wanted to start with something of an exciting cliff hanger. I hope now that we’re on word thirty-seven (or is that two words (37 and 38)), the ice has been successfully broken, you’ve reclined in your chair, bench, seat, best leg for leaning on and are mildly interested enough to read on.

It’s a terrifying challenge often just to get through the first couple of words. At a wedding recently I got nervous, the conversation had gone drier than the Gobi, so I scrabbled, floundered and looked helplessly at the mother of the bride as a life raft. “I haven’t seen your daughter dancing – is she not having a good time?” “She only has one leg”.  The final desert shrub died.

We have challenges in everyday life and in some way all my shows have been a challenge, but normally I think them up. This year I’ve been set many supremely horrid challenges: at least 30. I’ve attempted them in the name of science, history, archaeology and other lofty ideals. Though the academic publications and lofty societies of those disciplines have again barred me from presenting the results. Not specifically with police injunctions (they wouldn’t be so impolite), more by not answering my letters, calls, emails (politely impolite)…did I even send them (not asking is the laziest form of obtaining refusal)?

So I’ve come to Edinburgh again in the hope that an audience here might enjoy them. Some of the challenges come from a TV show I’ve been working on called ‘Super Human Challenge’. Some from a Radio 4 project that comes out in the New Year (currently working titled ‘Tim FitzHigham: The…’), and some are just good old fashioned challenges in the knights, dragons and damsels tradition.

Many performers at the festival are talented enough to put in no effort. Some just comment hilariously on super market trolleys or phones. I’ve never had that talent: I need to work furiously and hope that something interesting enough to share with an audience might just happen.

This year’s challenges threw me out into far flung places – further than even knights of the round table would go – Iceland to run across ice caps and swim with icebergs; the Grand Canyon to test my crippling fear of heights by balancing on chairs; Qatar to swim with sharks and climb up the outside of some of the world’s tallest buildings (not at the same time). and Staffordshire for an ancient challenge involving sheep (no sheep were harmed or in any way emotionally impeded in the making of the show).

The trips getting there have been gruelling but, having spent everything planting trees to offset the carbon I made getting there and back, I’ve made one last trip – to Edinburgh to hopefully share these challenges with you.

If you’re yawning about the above and thinking “oh not another show about a man running across icebergs in his pants or sheering sheep on top of the London Torch Building”, there have been other challenges that you might prefer. These involved crippling cramp, running across Death Valley in searing heat, lifting unfeasibly heavy weights, trying to live blinded, learning to free run, and various missions that I thought were usually left to James Bond, not a slightly dishevelled ‘Muppet Show’ understudy.

I’ve been put back together by more paramedics than for any Edinburgh show I’ve done to date. Make their efforts and training count – come see it and be in the show.

Doing the challenges that make ‘Challenger’ has been quite a journey and I can’t wait to tell you about it. And hear your challenges too of course. Challenge is a weird thing. It’s something we all have to try in different ways and to different levels. And hopefully, we’ll look at that during the show – for me, some days it’s just a challenge to get out of bed. Through the extremes of things perhaps we’ll find something interesting out – or just have a good laugh at my insane level of physical discomfort chasing nothing more than the ending to a story.

Tim FitzHigham’s ‘Challenger’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.fitzhigham.com