Monday, 18 August 2008

"Hi, I'm Josephine Baker’s great-grandaughter."

(This Blog post appeared in What's On Stage (Edinburgh).)
Posted Date: Aug 18 - 3:44 PM

It's not everyday that fiction meets reality. Or rather that legend intersects with real life. But it happened to me this weekend.

For some three weeks now, I've been walking around the streets of Edinburgh with the show's t-shirt (don't worry, it's not the same t-shirt day in day out, I've got two.). Now, the t-shirt sports the show's title "There's Something in the Fridge that Wants to Kill Me!" as well as the banana girl created for me by the immensely talented Oscar Grillo. As well as being the show's icon, the banana girl is a reference to the Josephine Baker tribute that I perform half way through the show, wearing a belt of bananas "and very little else.

Now, most people don't remember Josephine Baker or even know of her by name, although a surprising number are aware of her banana dance. So we were a bit taken aback when this very proper home counties middle aged lady who'd been staring at the producer's chest (it turns out she was staring at the image of the t-shirt) volunteered: "the banana dance… like Josephine Baker's." "Yes, that's right!" we said. She carried on "Well, I'm her great grand daughter." It turns out she's called Lynn, and her sister is called Josephine (presumably in honour of her great grandmother). And her maiden name was Baker.

I'm starting to think that Josephine Baker's spirit is looking over me and my show. I've been feeling really looked after. And I'm finding a lot of connections to her… one degree of separation at a time. For example, one of my ex-classmates from Drama School has a great uncle who was Josephine's first husband. And I spoke to a couple on Sunday who had just returned from NYC where they'd dined at Josephine's which is a French restaurant run by one of her sons. (It's south of Times Square apparently).

So Josephine is my guardian angel! I wonder what she makes of my bananas. I bet hers weren't polystyrene. I hope she doesn't mind the song. I'm sure she doesn't! When I look at old footage of her on YouTube she looks like she had a real sense of humour, a love of life, and was quite partial to a bit of clowning.

And I wonder if she comes in and watches every show, or guides my flyers into the right hands. Or simply keeps me feeling blessed and grateful for my first Edinburgh Festival Fringe experience.

Dear Josephine, wherever you are, from one little Parisienne to another: merci, merci, mille fois merci!

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