Our Edinburgh Fringe expert speaks with El Blackwood about their debut show Tending


This is part of a three-week nearly everyday series wherein polyamorous ex-nun nurse nonbinary queer comedian Kelli Dunham explores all the queermost edges of The Edinburgh Fringe, performs her own hilarious and hopefully hopeful show, annoys and confuses people with her gender, and drags you along for the ride. 

I’m learning to appreciate a phenomenon folks call “the spirit of the fringe.”

Spirit of the fringe is a concept idealistic enough to make my middle-aged queer activist heart sing. It’s also vague enough to be used in a startingly diverse and unbelievably handy set of circumstances; making good luck or bad, chatting with strangers who turn into friends, and navigating a serendipitous convergence.

Luggage with all your socks and knickers lost in an airline black hole? Convert costumes from your show to be makeshift unders, and perform your show naked.

Spirit of the fringe. 

Have you fallen down a well and remain trapped but unhurt?

Make use of your time waiting for rescue by performing a pop-up show.

Call it “Well Then.”

Or “Well, Well, Well”

Or “May As Well”


Well, you get it. 

Spirit of the fringe

Venue occupied by a hostile ghost?

Consult a pay-what-you-can paranormal expert to persuade the aforementioned ghost to be part of the performance. 

Spirit of the fringe.

Literal spirit of the fringe. 

On my girlfriend’s last day in Edinburgh earlier this week, I had my own spirit of a fringe moment (the serendipitous intersection kind, not the knickers down a well type). What are the chances of two queer nurses stumbling into a play about nurses written by a queer playwright? 

As we watched, I wondered, is there a word for being so emotionally impacted by a piece of theatre you feel you were kicked in the heart by a wild horse while simultaneously being reassured of the potential goodness of each human on the planet?

Ah yes. Spirit of the Fringe. 

I talked with El Blackwood about Tending. 

El, what are you doing at the fringe?

My debut play, Tending, is the first verbatim show that explores the experiences of nurses in the NHS. It’s been called heartwarming, hilarious, and surprising. 

Who likes the show?

 What’s brilliant is that it includes voices from a huge range of different backgrounds, ages, genders and so on. Anyone who wants to see a deeply human production and laugh too!

How did it happen? 

My oldest friend (of 20 years!), Izzy is a Paediatric ICU nurse. I listened to her stories over the years, which were often phenomenal, and was shocked to realise that there wasn’t a verbatim play about nurses. So, we set about interviewing 50 nurses and developed the show. In the development process, we’ve developed a real community and introduced nurses to each other. Many of them are coming to Edinburgh to see the show and having dinner at the flat with the cast and crew! We’d love for folks to come and see it.

What do you hate at a potluck?

Anything sweetcorn-oriented

You can see Tending at Thistle Theatre, Riddles Court, at 11.30 am August 14-26. Link for tickets and much more on the Tending website.

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