This year's mixed-media Edinburgh Fringe allows for a more democratised festival
Phoebe Angeni discusses her new piece Ithaca, available on demand to 30 August
The Edinburgh Fringe returned this month, although not quite as we know it. With a mix of live and online shows, the festival makes the best of the current global pandemic, offering artists a chance to re-connect and share their work with much-missed audiences.
The Fringe is one of my favourite times of the year. I love the artistic camaraderie that comes from the festival and I love seeing shows that inspire me in my own work. This year the Fringe has been especially significant, notably to smaller companies and emerging artists like myself. The Fringe has always been an incredible opportunity to showcase work, but in the past it could often feel like quite an unreachable one. This year's mixed-media format allows for a more democratised festival – both for viewers and performers.
Online work can be less expensive to produce than a live show, and it can connect artists and audiences around the globe who might not have had the chance to meet. In addition, digital accessibility accommodations such as subtitles or audio description are an amazing way to ensure that no part of the theatrical community is left out.
While industry and audience members can agree that we miss the vibrant atmosphere of the stage, digital work presents a valuable opportunity to experiment with theatre. For example, adapting my show Ithaca from a play written for stage to one written for screen was a great creative challenge. Since the start of the pandemic, I found myself as a one-woman operation both on and off-stage. Creating a piece for the Fringe gave me a project to focus on: its digital format allowed me to not only write and perform Ithaca, but to produce the show, direct myself, film, and edit the piece.
I was also able to take inspiration from experimental film to dive into an entirely new level of visual performance. I added overlays, voiceover recordings, and presented myself onstage in multiple places at once through masking layers of footage. These effects would have been much more difficult, if not impossible to achieve in live performance. Translating Ithaca from stage to screen helped me grow as an artist and take my show in a direction I never expected.
This year's Edinburgh Fringe is definitely different, and it's also important. Fringe Central and venues are working hard to safely bring back the live shows we crave while also supporting an amazing, diverse, and inclusive programme of accessible digital work.
At the core of it all, artists are working hard to keep creating shows that make us laugh, inspire us to hope, and bring us together. Now is the time to support their work.