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Kate Barton: 'The Fringe returning this summer is a testament to everyone's commitment to culture'

The play is based on the events of the 2012 cinema shooting in Colorado

Kate Barton
© Kate Barton

Sat typing here, watching the Edinburgh drizzle from my digs, I realise how hard it is to put into words what it means to be back. In February 2020, we produced a scratch version of Screen 9 at the Pleasance London and were offered the Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve. And then a month later, the world changed forever…

The pandemic didn't stop our ambition to tell this story. It has been nine years since the massacre that took place in a cinema in 2012, taking the lives of 13 people, and we knew we still wanted to share the survivors' story.

Screen 9 is a verbatim account of what took place before, during and after that night, focusing on how everything can change in an instant, and how communities cope and respond to tragedy with hope and determination. We were fortunate to spend the 16 months continuing working on the script and refining the characters. In the quietness of lockdown, there was suddenly a real ability to zone in all my focus on this piece, when the rest of my life felt horribly out of control!

As we improved on the script and process during the pandemic, we partnered with a charity called Survivors Empowered, as we fundraised and raised awareness of their brilliant work throughout our run. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips have been incredibly generous with their time and passion and we are unbelievably grateful to have their support. We were successful in our Arts Council England-funded R&D and rehearsal period earlier this year, which included having to block the whole show socially-distanced and with COVID-19 precautions. With previews in London and Durham now complete, we are ready to premiere this week as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe's big return.

What will this year's festival look like? We aren't sure. Our festival schedule this year certainly looks slightly different. This year, the hybrid approach will see us having cast socials in our own flat and watching productions at home as well as live in town. I think this will offer an exciting reprieve from the constant rushing that the Fringe normally brings. With no Fringe guidebooks and fewer flyerers, it will also be a greener festival with less paper waste. With shows up for a shorter period, I think the festival will feel more changeable and present.

In a year of loss to the theatre industry, and with reoccurring waves of uncertainty, the Fringe returning this summer is a testament to everyone's commitment to culture. From venues, programmers and promoters, to technicians and artists, there is a resilience and energy building in this exciting city. Sixteen months after the world changed forever, I am sat in digs again, and I am beyond words excited to bring Screen 9 to Edinburgh, and to be a part of the largest live and digital international arts festival in the world.

Screen 9 plays to 29 August at EICC's Lomond Theatre.

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