Who Really Runs The Fringe?
No matter how many times you head up to the Fringe, there is always something to be learned from the experience. Back down in Cambridge I've got time for a quick reflect on key discoveries this year:
- It is possible to exist solely on cholesterol smeared on bread for an entire month.
- Sometimes in Edinburgh it doesn't rain.
- The National Monument is amazing at night.
- Edinburgh technicians have created a powerful, mason-like network which holds the fate of all British Fringe theatre in it's hands.
The last of these discoveries is no joke. Technicians have always fascinated me, they are highly intelligent, technically minded, logical people, who have some how ended up working in a poorly paid artform full of the most illogical, unpredictable people in the world. I'm not sure what the lure of theatre is to people who could well be engineers or computer moguls if they chose, but I'm delighted to say that there seems to be one.
I have long suspected that Fringe technicians had a greater purpose than to push 'go' on a lighting desk and I have caught glimpses of the incredibly tight network that exists in previous years, but it was only this year where everything started to fall into place. I was surprised before the Fringe started that a technician who wasn't working on our show, or even in our venue, knew that we were using shadow puppetry. It turns out that he had heard from a technician friend of a technician friend twice-removed from a hire company about the lights that we were hiring. He had mentally cross-referenced the possible uses for these lights with our Edinburgh show from 2005 and a 2009 Christmas show, to come to the logical conclusion that we were back at our old shadow puppet tricks again.
This is how the network works. Technicians are an amicable, talkative bunch, it comes from working ridiculously long hours with each other in confined spaces. They have seen thousands of different shows between them (many more than the average theatre maker) and have had plenty of time to discuss them. Add to the mix the ability to retain incredible amounts of information which seems to accompany technical thinkers and you have a many headed, walking catalogue of years of theatre. Technicians are well-qualified to track the progress of companies, to make comparisons and to pick out trends. They are the bumble bees of theatre, cross-pollinating venues and passing information. I'm pretty sure there must be a bee-like doomsday theory related to the decline of technicians and thus the end of theatre- I'll let you know when I work it out.
Anyway, where all this translates into real power over theatre is in the next-generation techie. These are the technicians who have turned into venue managers, producers and venue programmers. This was the epiphany I had this year: there are a lot of them, A LOT. It makes perfect sense, combining practicality, an impartial eye and a love of theatre with the hands on knowledge of putting something on stage. These are the people picking up hot Fringe tips, selecting where they can be showcased and literally deciding whether to shine a spotlight on them or not. At the giant theatre marketplace that is the Fringe, these are the people you want to make friends with.
So in a shamelessly sycophantic act, this last blog is dedicated to the admiration of technicians. They were up in Edinburgh long before us artists and as always they are the last ones standing. Yes that's right they are still there. They haven't slept for a couple of months now and yet they still didn't drop any lights on heads or set fire to anything they weren't supposed to. Techies; consider yourselves saluted.