“Edinburgh,” says actress, comedian and New York downtown legend Ruby McCollister, “just feels like the live-performing Olympics of the world. It’s a lifelong dream. As the world becomes more complex, and our conversations about AI intensify, my political belief is that live performance and live events are going to be ever more vital. I so don’t think it’s outmoded.”
This August will mark McCollister’s first plunge into the pandemonium of the Fringe. As an actress she’s appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm, BBC Three series Search Party and cult indie horror movie Uncle Peckerhead (trust me, if you love punk music and Evil Dead-style gore, you absolutely must check that film out). As a comedian and performer, she’s a stalwart of the scene in her hometown of New York.
So her Fringe debut isn’t so much about making her name, as it is about proving she’s equal to the challenge of the biggest arts festival on Earth. She’s part of a wave of US performers taking advantage of favourable exchange rates this year to blunt the expense that comes with “doing Edinburgh”.
“I don’t feel like I’m going alone at all,” she says. “All of my best friends are going.”
This August is also a chance for McCollister to spend a whole month immersed in her obsessions – the stage… and tragedy. Those twin passions started way back in her offbeat childhood in LA. Growing up in her dad’s theatre – “in the late 90s, and 2000s, you didn’t do theatre in Los Angeles” – she was surrounded by actors who “just couldn’t get jobs in television, so that was a splash macabre”. An only child surrounded by pathos, she became fixated on the theatre’s resident ghosts, “with the idea of having friends that I couldn’t see, and never being alone”.
Chief among the ghosts at the Coronet Theatre was Shakespearean actor and movie star Charles Laughton, who directed 1955 noir thriller The Night of the Hunter.