The Sum of Two Unbearable Parts
If she’s lucky, an introverted person will find an extrovert friend who finds her mysterious and fascinating; laughs expansively and publicly at her dark, quiet humour; repeats her whispered witticisms to anybody and everybody and, in-so-doing, nurtures her funny side. Over time, if the introvert’s natural suspicion that the extrovert must be intrinsically shallow and unreliable is disproved, the friendship will deepen. As trust grows, so will the introvert’s ability to be hilarious and the volume of the extrovert’s laughter until one day, the introvert - totally out of character and a million miles from her comfort zone - calmly suggests “Let’s become a double-act.”
That’s what happened to me, Joanna Eden, a singer-songwriter and life-long introvert (I often need a lie down at parties and believe that the invention of the text message may have added years to my life). Fate dictated that I would meet Leigh McDonald - an extrovert; my extrovert. Leigh McDonald is the French to my Saunders; the Walters to my Wood. If you want it in musical terms, she is the Paige to my Dixon. If you are over sixty, she is the Bracket to my Hinge. She has a laugh so loud that people stare, which would be impossible to tolerate were the laugh not directed at me and what I’d just said. She makes me feel funny . . . and that makes me funnier. I’m not proud of this total narcissism on my part . . . but it works. The fact that I can even mention our chemistry in the same sentence as French and Saunders, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters et al means that I must believe deep down that I’m funny. But it's a lonely kind of 'funny'. I need someone to take my funny parts out there into - God forbid - social settings, theatres, clubs, comedy festivals.
Leigh and I have both been professional singers for years. Leigh in musical theatre, (including The National Theatre, if you please!). She even played Julie Walter’s character Rosie in Mamma Mia on stage for a year! Me in the jazz and songwriting world. You probably haven’t heard of either of us. My biggest claim to fame isn’t even me - it’s my singing student of ten years, the incredible Sam Smith; he of the beautiful, golden tonsils. Leigh McDonald and I are part of that vast swathe of performers who have busy, successful careers but have the audacity not to be famous. This is very awkward for friends and family members as it leads to those doomed dinner party conversations: “My friend/daughter/sister’s a singer/actress” “Oh really!! What will I know her from?”.... and from that moment the excited tone descends to a shame-filled whisper and - as the tumbleweed of shared disappointment rolls - both parties regret ever being part of the unfortunate exchange.
Our show, THE UNBEARABLE PLEASURE OF BEING A WOMAN is a collection of songs - mostly our own - about our specialist subject: being a woman. Some are ‘in your face’ funny (guess who sings those?); some are ‘are you listening carefully?’ funny (yes that’ll be me) and some aren’t even funny at all...on purpose. We were advised not to mix up the funny with the poignant but that meant dropping songs we loved. And that’s where friendship comes in. When we’re rehearsing, Leigh laughs and cries in all the right places. If my mate thinks my song is funny/sad then it must be. Since we started listening to each other and trusting our instincts we’ve had audiences who talk about laughing and crying (in a good way!); we’ve had standing ovations and we’ve just won the Brighton Fringe Cabaret Award! People rave equally about the material and the rapport. But the rapport is the exciting bit...the human bit...the intangible bit...the friendship bit. The material would be nothing without it.
So, this introvert would like to thank fate for her unlikely, hot-headed, big-mouthed friend Leigh McDonald; for her brilliant performing skills and fearless, inexplicable desire to communicate directly with other people; for the ‘sum’ of us; for the way she charms and seduces my funny-side into showing up; for our award which has brought about a plum slot at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer; for allowing me to perform alongside a force of nature; for being able to sit at the piano and listen to her loving my songs (and nailing them) in front of all those scary humans!
You can watch The Unbearable Pleasure of Being a Woman at the Vault, Merchant St, Edinburgh from 15th to 20th August. Find out more at www.joannaeden.com.