What works at Edinburgh?

What works at Edinburgh?

By Jo Caird 19/07/10

Andy Jordan is a theatre director, producer and senior lecturer at the Lincoln School of Performing Arts. Each year he brings work to the Fringe with Andy Jordan Productions and The Lincoln Company, which is comprised of students from the university. He draws on 30 years’ experience at the Fringe to tell us what works at the festival...

It’s only right and proper that new work dominates at the Edinburgh Fringe.

After all, the critics and the artistic intelligentsia are interested in the new, the different, in what is innovative and edgy. But it is also right and proper that people can see canonical texts, especially texts that are being rethought and having fresh approaches being taken to them.

My own personal bias towards the new, the unexpected and the fresh is because I think that that has always been at the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe. That’s why I bring actors, writers and directors to Edinburgh every year –many of whom have not done the Festival before – and they invariably have the most extraordinary time. It’s also why I insist on my students going to Edinburgh, so they can see a range of different and exciting work, and so they can start their careers there, as indeed I did.

In my opinion there are a handful of playwrights who’ll always sell tickets in Edinburgh, and every year with The Lincoln Company I do one of those playwrights. Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, William Shakespeare and a few others will always find an audience. We did an adaptation of Wilde’s Dorian Gray and it sold out before we opened. Last year we did a mix of new plays, new writers and established texts and all of them, bar one of the new plays, all of them found an audience.

In past years, when I’ve presented a programme of entirely new work – unknown plays by unknown writers – they’ve invariably struggled. So now, with my own company, Andy Jordan Productions and my student company, I do the kind of balanced programming I do as a commercial producer the rest of the year, a mix of new writing and established playwrights and plays; and it’s much more successful.

There are many different reasons and impulses for people bringing shows to Edinburgh. There has to be integrity to it, of course, but there are different kinds of integrity. One form might be a young director or company reappraising a classic text and wanting to do it because it speaks to them and they want to create a piece of art. My student company are working with top directors and writers, putting together a season of work that is highly challenging. Those students are making their professional debuts in those shows and getting an extraordinary opportunity to learn in the citadel that is Edinburgh, this unique place. That process of empowerment and opportunity is another form of integrity.

The fact I present revivals as part of my Edinburgh programme in order to be able to bring the company back next year doesn’t lack integrity. I see it as a form of professional responsibility. And also, of course, I want my students to be engaging with great writers like Wilde, Stoppard and Pinter. They’re not going to learn if they only do plays written by their peers. They should certainly do that work, but they also need to work on Shakespeare and Chekhov. Everybody deserves to see the best art, experience the best art, work on the best art, of course they do. That’s how we learn.

Andy Jordan was talking to Jo Caird


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