Chris Grady: A plea to Edinburgh Fringe companies - print a programme
In his latest Edinburgh bulletin, Chris Grady flags up an issue that has bugged many critics and punters over the years - the lack of information about the participants
If you bring a show to Edinburgh then you, usually, ask a lot of favours. The actors are likely to be less than paid, the director will have slaved, any designers will probably have put their own sweat and tears and fabrics into the show, and the writers or rights holders may well be waiving much of their fees. They are doing it for you. But they are also doing it for themselves... and too many companies are letting their creative down.
We, the audience, come to Edinburgh (or at least those who read blogs and WhatsOnStage and trade publications do), to see new talent. We want to see unexpected shows about which we know very little and we want to go away with great memories. We want to take a chance when someone invites us to see a show about which we only know the title. Too many companies are letting us down too.
Sorry to bang on about it - but last week I saw a fascinating new company because one of the venue managers suggested I should (I forget the company name, sorry). But I have no idea who the five performers were. I don't know why they had come to Edinburgh. I don't know whether they want to be spotted. I spotted that they had got some arts council funding so I guess they are professional. I will remember some of their ideas very clearly - shame I may not ever know who they are.
I then took another recommendation to see a production of a play because it had a powerful cracking cast who knocked our socks off. They did. Great show. But again, no idea who was in it (they were grown-ups rather than students I think). No idea whether they were directed by someone interesting - whoever you are, you did a great job.
I have about five slots a day to see shows. I want to go away from here with people to watch out for, and recommendations to make. So Fringe companies without programmes are wasting my time, and their own time. I don't have time (or a good enough portable IT) to go searching for their info on the website.
One lesson I learned from the legendary Christopher Richardson, founder of the Fringe, when I was his General Manager, is that mistakes have to be fixed very fast. There's no point in deciding to do better next year. Dear companies, dear venue managers, dear writers, actors, directors, producers: Go to the Fringe office this morning; type up a slip of paper with cast and creative and contact details; get it copied and offer it as we leave.
Example... I saw a wonderful one man show on the World War One Christmas Truce. It was called Our Friends, the Enemy. It was written and performed by Alex Gwyther. It was directed by Tom O'Brien. It has a twitter tag of @OFTEplay and a website . I know that, and share it with you, because I was handed a piece of A6 paper as I left with this information and a request to tell my friends.
It was a beautiful, gentle piece of very moving storytelling taken from detailed research from letters sent home by troops in the trenches. I know that because I was told by someone involved who was outside the venue talking to us. Alex is getting very good houses, and the buzz about this young man is going around. I wonder why... go figure.
I'm in the Fringe Central office regularly. I look forward to seeing whether any company comes in and makes a programme just in case there is a talent scout in their show in the next week. Or just because it is polite to say thank you to all those who helped to make the show possible.