Cabaret Whore Sarah-Louise Young on creating, directing and surviving the Fringe


Sarah-Louise is an internationally renowned cabaret performer, actress and writer. Named one of Time Out’s Top 10 Cabaret Acts and voted Best Musical Variety Act in the London Cabaret Awards, she has also guested with Fascinating Aïda and is a member of award-winning improvised musical group, The Showstoppers. We discuss the inspiration behind her new play Night Bus written with Linda Marlowe and directed by Russell Lucas. She explains how honing her skills in standup helped her to use music more carefully: “I've noticed in cabaret, if you start with a song the audience will breath a sigh of relief. Music is a way to wrap you audience up and set an emotional tone. Sometimes though you can use silence and the uncomfortableness of silence as a kind of music.”

How to tell a story

Her most commercially successful piece is Julie Madly Deeply (written with Michael Roulston). It presented the challenge of telling the life story of Julie Andrews without it sounding like “Wikipedia live”. She says, “You have to decide which story you're telling. You can't tell anyone's life in an hour so you have to decide which thread and what matters. In the case of Julie Madly we told it from the point of view of the fan.”

Working with a director

We discuss the high level of trust that's required between the director and the artiste. It works both ways. As a director herself she says her aim is to give the artiste the tools they need, a framework, and then leave the artiste to get on with it. “Ultimately the artiste should render the director redundant.”

“You can tell actors who really understand the world. They're the ones who hang their costumes up at the end of the day and don't assume someone else is going to do it for them.”

Surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival


This is Sarah-Louise Young's twelfth time performing in Edinburgh. She shares her tips for performers thinking of coming along for the first time. The costs can be as low as £2000 but you can easily spend £10,000. Check out the Free Fringe (it's getting better all the time), flyer carefully (Sarah-Louise hasn't been on the Royal Mile for 5 years) and watch out when people have “please don't flyer me faces”. Perform as a guest on variety shows to spread the word. Sarah-Louise has made her own free “survival pack” for anyone coming to the Fringe for the first time and she's happy to share it. You can contact her via her website here. In the first place she advices performers to come along to the festival and see what's going on. Look at the places you'd like to perform in and see what other people are doing.

Taking good care of yourself

Sarah-Louise is in Edinburgh to work. She sees others shows for her mental health but takes great care of herself physically. It's tempting to spend all night partying but she never drinks, steams her voice three times a day and tries to get to bed before 1am everyday. Clearly it's a formula that works.

Recorded in Edinburgh 18th August 2014

You can read more about taking good care of yourself in chapter 13 (Rock Stars Live Like Nuns) of Cabaret Secrets. It's available in paperback or click to download your copy now from AmazoniTunesNook or other formats.