Former East Enders, Celebrity Big Brother and West End star Johnny Partridge makes his debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival with his self-written semi-autobiographical musical theatre show Stripped.
John spoke with The Fountain about performing at the Fringe for the first time and who he plans to see whilst in Edinburgh.
TF: You are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, how exciting?
Yes! I have never played The Fringe before. I have only ever played the Edinburgh Playhouse, which I have played many times with Cats, Miss Saigon, and most recently with La Cage Aux Folles. I am playing the Assembly Checkpoint at 1830h. I’ve been told this is a good time slot! Obviously, as I hadn’t been at The Fringe before, this took some convincing!
TF: The show certainly sounds intriguing, what is the premise?
Stripped is a new beginning. A reinvention of myself in many ways. Life has a way of hardening you, at least mine had. This is my attempt at shedding those skins and saying goodbye to a part of myself and embracing somebody I knew a long time ago. Through film, music, poetry, song, and dance I tell my story and in turn ask the audience to consider theirs. Six, twelve, twenty-six, forty-six, sixty-six… I will never be sixty-six! Not all at the same time anyway. Love, loss, sexuality, sobriety, success… the soundtrack of my life. With original music and choreography alongside Bush, Bowie, Buckley, Jerry Herman, SIA, Cole Porter, and more. You can get through quite a lot in sixty minutes!
TF: And what drove the project, where did your influences lie?
When my show opens in Edinburgh I will be over three hundred days sober. This has obviously been monumental and life changing for me. I am well aware that everything that comes out of my mouth at the moment sounds like some self help manual.. but that is my reality. The personal peace I now feel is at times overwhelming. It informs many aspects of my life and therefore my show. I’m not here to tell anybody how to live their life and god knows I’ve made enough mistakes! You have to focus on the similarities and not the differences. Anybody who has been to NA or AA will understand that line. If you haven’t been to one of those meetings it doesn’t matter because when I previewed the first version of Stripped at The Other Palace in London in February a good friend of mine, who just happens to be head of casting at the BBC, said after watching my show “The thing is John… it started off being about you. But it ended up being about me.” That had a profound effect on me as this lady is not a flowery type! She is a no nonsense, salt of the earth type. In writing my show, exploring my pain, I hadn’t considered other people may relate to it. But that’s what we make art for. Or music, books, plays, shows. Its about communication. Wanting to communicate with an audience. Wanting to relate to the audience and have them relate to you. Performing in Stripped has given me not only clarity but comfort. Comfort that I am not alone in feeling the way I had, or indeed do.
TF: Have you been to the Fringe before, is there anything you are keen to see whilst in Edinburgh?
I’ve not performed at the Fringe before, but I have been performing in Musical Theatre for over thirty years and know how difficult it is to perform nightly. Making each audience feel that it is the first time that you have delivered this performance. Stripped is incredibly emotional for me, and if I am honest, I am still working through some of the themes from my show. Losing a parent is incredibly painful… getting sober has been incredibly painful. Reimagining that nightly, as you can imagine, is exhausting! But in a strange way liberating and empowering. There is nothing more powerful than having an audience in the palm of your hand. When you can hear a pin drop. I think this is what feeds all live performers. So I will be taking great care of myself. Sleep, water, food, show, repeat! How I did all of this when I was drinking I will never know! I am keen to see so much while I am there. I have many friends appearing: Choir of Man, Zoe Lyons, Helen Lederer, Claire Sweeney, Ria Jones, Danielle Hope, Vivalicious, Velma Celli… so you see I’m going to be very busy!
TF: And what are your future plans beyond The Fringe?
As soon as I finish in The Fringe (My last show is Aug 26) I go straight to Cambridge to open in The Case Of The Frightened Lady. The Edgar Wallace thriller. I have four days rehearsal! So I really will be a frightened lady!
John Partridge: Stripped, Assembly – Checkpoint, 6.30pm, 4th – 26th August (except 8th, 13th & 20th)