EDINBURGH FESTIVAL: THE EDGE OF INSANITYDate: 6 August 2011You know what? The lead up to Edinburgh is crazy: there are so many things to think about, problems to forsee and money to throw away...uh, invest in your production. You get through it thinking 'I just need to get the show ready in time for Edinburgh. Then everything will be okay'. Then you get to Edinburgh. And you suddenly realise that the work hasn't even started.
I think -for me- that arriving in Edinburgh, walking down the Royal Mile and seeing theatre companies posing in terribly dramatic positions, shouting random fragments of text at you and stripping off to their underwear whilst reciting Shakespearian monologues, makes you really understand for the first time quite how many shows you're up against. The one show that has become the centre of your existence for the past however many weeks or months suddenly shrinks into insignificance as you try to take in the variety of viewing pleasures actually available to the average punter.
How does your show stand out? Sure you can sell it to a newspaper or persuade your friend to give it a go. Hey it might -in some circles- even be something special, but here? Here where everyone from the independent theatre companies harbouring the next-major-as-yet-undiscovered-talent, all the way to some of the biggest names of the moment, are staging their slaved over theatrical masterclasses.
I might like to pretend that I'm personally this next big thing, the prodigal undiscovered talent, but truthfully what I'm really doing here in Edinburgh is learning from the beginning how to write, direct and produce theatre. I'm used to coming here every year to attend classes and watch one-man/woman shows and new writing at the traverse, but this is the first year I've produced my own work. It's both a humbling and a highly terrifying experience.
Edinburgh isn't perfect. I'm not convinced it's quite the opportunity for new theatre makers that it once was, I think it's too expensive, too commercial and a little too comedy centric (which coming from me, a self-confessed comedy devotee is, I can assure you, quite a statement). Having said that, it's a tremendous opportunity to put yourself on the line. Whether you're at a major or minor venue, any undertaking this fringe means you'll have spent time and money creating a show and getting yourself to Edinburgh with some flyers in your hand and somewhere to stay. Every day you'll be trying to sell your show, persuading people you're worth their time, respect and money and backing up your pitch by producing a professional/entertaining/interesting piece of theatre. That's every day. For a month. Most of us spend so long trying to get someone to hire us in this industry that having to be this proactive can be quite a shock to the system and, frankly, a test of anyone's commitment to staying in the world of theatre. Every day this fringe I have felt the following emotions: scared, angry, elated, nervous, frustrated, disappointed, excited, despairing and calmly pleased. It's only day 4 of my trip here - day 1 of the official fringe opening - I hope I have the constitution to stay the course.
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