In Edinburgh for my debut at the Fringe, Neil and Chris of the Pet Shop Boys arrive as my support co
It's early afternoon, and I've just stepped out into the balmy sunlight in George Street after seeing Reginald Rose's classic Twelve Angry Men performed by a group of comedians in an inspired production by Guy Masterson. How I adore Edinburgh: the dynamics of the geography, hills and chasms throwing up monuments, towers and turrets. Then there are the calm, broad thoroughfares of the New Town, where I am ensconced in a fabulous Georgian flat for three weeks during my debut at the Fringe.
There are not many things I haven't done, but nothing prepared me for the fear that made the sturdy, hill-climbing Street-Porter knees shake uncontrollably in the final two minutes before I went on stage for the first time last Saturday. The first half-dozen steps out in front of the audience were the most difficult of my life. Half of me just wanted to grab my bag and make a swift exit via the back doors. Luckily, the plucky Brit spirit prevailed, and on I went.
Since then, I've been gaining confidence, and the show has got more polished, helped by some rave reviews (I'm now anxiously awaiting the backlash) and very enthusiastic members of the public who come up to me in the street and reassure me they have enjoyed the Street-Porter tirades. Because the show is a string of invective about my life, my mother, my career and my weird background, I have to approach it like running a marathon or boxing, psyching myself up to go out there at full throttle.
Things didn't get off to a great start - I arrived by train from Darlington after a birthday supper at which the highlight was a drunken impersonation of the Krankies by a lady called Bev. Feeling the worse for wear, I attended the press launch of the Fringe and sat through snippets from the Soweto Gospel Choir, Def Poetry Jam, Linda Marlowe's one-woman show and a very unfunny fat American comedian who droned on about working for Amazon. All sorts of anxieties welled up - I can't tell jokes, I can't sing, I'm not an actress. Then the technical rehearsal was disastrous, as the video I use wouldn't work and I realised I had to change in a space the size of my Hoover cupboard. Plus, you have 15 minutes to get in and on - it's an assembly line of talent at the Assembly Rooms.
Damien Hirst has painted and photographed me to create a wonderfully grotesque, double-headed monster JSP for the show's poster. Sadly, it's become a collector's item, and any not stuck up have to be locked up before they're stolen. The little postcards of it are being snapped up: I hope they'll buy tickets, not just stick it on the fridge door.
On Saturday, I climb Blackford Hill with a reporter from the Scotsman. I try so hard to be nice, super-friendly JSP, and ruin it only slightly by kicking at a yapping dog. Neil and Chris of the Pet Shop Boys arrive as my support committee bearing a gift: a silver necklace emblazoned with one word - Cunt - which gets a mention in the show. I pop it on for good luck and reduce Jo Brand to hysterics. She wants one. Her show, set in a mental hospital, starts at 6.40pm, half an hour after mine finishes; I am urging people to attend both as a horror double bill. After a nap, I'm ready to go for it. By 6.15, it's all over. We are all very relieved. It was a sell-out, and the C word seemed to offend only a few. Champagne and a leisurely supper on the patio, then we hit the town.
My second show has a quieter, more passive audience, but I'm learning not to panic. Then a fish supper and off to the Pleasance for some late-night drag - Topping and Butch in Take it Up the Octave!. I shamelessly schmooze all the queens in the queue to come to my show. T and B are hilarious, but I am pretty pissed. Anyway, the sight of a 60-year-old man in a black rubber minidress with a pleated skirt belting out "Music of the Night" from Phantom has me in stitches. They resolutely ignore me when I try to join in the audience participation section. Can't say I blame them.
Janet Street-Porter is performing All the Rage at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, until 24 August (0131 226 0000)