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Whingein' in the Rain

Fringe 'DOs and DON'Ts' from Stage Manager Damian Robertson

By • Scotland
One of the first results if you Google my name is last year's Whatsonstage.com blog, hurriedly written the night before the deadline: a testament that you should not leave work to the last minute (a lesson I really should have learned at school).

So why am I now sitting in bed at 02:30, tapping out this year's effort, and making exactly the same mistake again? Put simply, Edinburgh is busy. Really busy. There's thousands of options for what you could be doing at one time, dozens of things you should been doing, and often a handful of things you must do at that very instant or else. I was so busy I forgot to eat properly, and promptly fell ill. I drank a couple of litres of orange juice, was told that "That's not how five-a-day works", but felt better anyway.

I was so busy it took a few days to message my flatmates and check my home has not been burnt down in the London riots. So busy that I have currently seen only one show other than my own. So busy I'm trying to remember how to run, in order to get from one venue to another in time. So busy I showed up to a lunch party yesterday and had to leave before food was served. I'm surrounded by hordes of people I like and respect, but my usual conversation is: "Hey, good to see you, but I've got to go."

Ultimately, I can't complain. I brought it all upon myself, agreeing to tech five shows a day (cockily asserting that I've done four in the past, and wanted to push myself). And I genuinely believe there are many other people here who have it much harder than me: the venue techs with late night comedy shows going on until 5am, the actors and comedians with multiple shows where they have to give 100% throughout, whereas I can drift onto autopilot between cues, and the street teams and flyerers, for whom bad weather isn't so much an inconvenience as a nightmare.

Anyway, before I send this off so I can look at it online with regret six months later, here are a few key DOs and DON'Ts for the festival:

  • DO keep it simple. Set can be great, as can video, or fancy lighting. But when you're sharing a room with seven other groups, you've only got four hours to tech before your first performance, 15 minutes to change around, and you are using equipment set up as generically as possible, maybe you'd be better focusing on a good script and good performances, and trying to keep stress to a minimum.
  • DON'T say "We'll figure it out up there". See above. Tech time is massively limited, and the more detailed your preparation, the less painful your few hours will be.
  • DO say "Thank you" and "Sorry". On any occasion when it's even vaguely appropriate.
  • DON'T walk into a venue with a cup of coffee, finish it, hand the litter to crew and say "I think we should keep a clean venue, don't you?". True story.
  • DO exploit your venue pass. See as much stuff as you can for free. Take a risk. I don't normally watch physical theatre, but have seen multiple physical shows at the Fringe that I've really enjoyed.
  • DON'T forget you can learn just as much from bad shows as good ones.
  • DO get out of the city centre. Climb Arthur's Seat, or if you're less energetic Calton Hill (near Waverley station - it actually has better views). Try to escape the madness for at least a short period of time. Make sure you see the sea at some point.
  • DON'T forget non-Fringe parts of city. There's a cool Museum of Childhood on Canongate. There are places to eat and drink other than the burger vans. Allegedly Edinburgh is still a pretty good city when the Festival isn't in town.
  • DO eat properly. Including fruit. Every year I lose weight and fall ill. Be smarter than me.
  • DON'T stay up late writing more words for a blog than were required. Especially when you have work at 10:30 in the morning. Be smarter than me.

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