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Edinburgh Fringe then and now – success stories from the Scottish arts festival

From 50-seat spaces to West End venues, everyone had to start somewhere

The Last of the Pelican Daughters
© Graeme Braidwood

Let's be honest – the Edinburgh Fringe can be a slog. Constantly grafting for ticket sales, finding a sustainable way to balance life and performance and being bombarded by star ratings is never fun, and that's before the Scottish weather makes itself known. But from small acorns, mighty oak trees grow, and it's always worth remembering that wherever you are now is exactly where some of the biggest theatre companies and shows once found themselves. We ask some of the companies, directors and producers up at the festival to let us know how they first started.

"My first Fringe show was a circus show for one audience member at a time – Ringside. Selling out meant it was seen by 80 people over the month. My shows have grown and the Fringe has seen my work get greater acclaim and this year I'm back with two shows (Like Animals and Little Top)" – Ellie Dubois – Director

"My first Fringe I stayed in a campsite 15 miles outside the city sharing with eight people in a mobile home with one bedroom – unpleasant… Nowadays, we are a 15-minute walk with multiple bedrooms and in our 18th consecutive year. The Fringe has literally been the birthplace of Les Enfants Terribles." – James Seager, creative director, Les Enfants Terribles and Les Petits Theatre Company, producing Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: The Magic Cutlass

"Pretty much everything good that has happened to the company has come out of connections made at the Fringe: Education, Education, Education started life in Queen Dome at the Pleasance and ended up on the West End, which is a crazy journey for a piece of devised work. In the eight years we've been coming to the Fringe we've gone from a 50 seat venue to a 330 seat venue and feel incredibly lucky to be able to make it work." – The Wardrobe Ensemble, producing The Last of the Pelican Daughters

© Pamela Raith

"My first Edinburgh Fringe memory dates back to 2008. We were only a team of two with three bags, one chair and one broom. There were 15 seats in front of us and four lights above our heads. Today, we are touring BIRTH and The Nature of Forgetting simultaneously on three continents... The Edinburgh Fringe made it all possible." – Guillaume Pigé – Director, BIRTH (Theatre Re)

"In 2013 I produced the original stage production of Fleabag in a 60-seat venue at Underbelly; now, in 2019, I'm producing that same show in the West End. Fleabag's ascension is a positive example of why we should all keep coming back to the Fringe and why I will keep producing small but brilliant shows like Remy Beasley's Do Our Best. Humble beginnings, huge potential." – Francesca Moody – Producer, ''Do Our Best''

© Pete Smith

"My first Fringe was in the 80s as a punter. I still remember Lip Service's Withering Looks. I returned in the 90s as a performer. In 2001 I started producing NewsRevue on a 12-month contract, sometimes with only 30 people in the audience. 19 years later we're selling out the Cow and I've just written The Pocket Producer available on Amazon!" – Emma Taylor – Producer, NewsRevue