Theatre producer and IdeasTap member Dan Baker has taken a show, Norman Shadowboxer (pictured above), to Edinburgh for the first time. Here, he recounts his experience as a first-timer...
Before this year’s Fringe Festival, I’d only visited Edinburgh once before. It was six years ago, when I was a poor student finishing my first year of university – subsequently, my visit was fraught with much penny-pinching, and not enough trips to go and see shows. I did go to the zoo, though.
Fast forward to 2010 – and I now find myself as a proper theatre producer with a show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Bringing a show to the Fringe is a pretty unique experience. I’ve a fair bit of producing experience under my belt, but the Fringe is such a unique situation that you might as well abandon any pretence of working in your normal way and steel yourself for a month of emotional highs and lows. Let’s get the lows out of the way first...
Before anything else, you have to prepare yourself to lose money. Alas, Edinburgh Fringe is not a place where you’re going to make millions as first-timers; there are a handful of companies who’ve enjoyed such success, but they’re most definitely the exception, as opposed to the rule. And let’s not forget the joy of flyering, where you constantly wander up and down the Royal Mile competing with huge street teams working for comedy promoters and seemingly hundreds of companies trying to out-do each other with the most offensive title they can think of.
With that in mind, there are HUGE benefits to being here. More than anything else, the Edinburgh Fringe is the biggest shop window any new company could wish to find – although you are competing with nearly 2,500 other companies (this year, at least), the press and various members of the arts industry all head north of the border at some point during the festival. If you’ve got a show which has some real strengths, the chances are that someone will see it who will believe in your work, and will support it.
Additionally, there are some amazing people up here. The camaraderie between companies sees everyone really supporting each other, and friendships form – already, I’ve met a number of people who I’d happily have a drink with. As we’re largely targeting family audiences for our show, it’s great to see some of our peers watching, and to find out what they think of the show. I’ve also stumbled across people as diverse as Clarke Peters (from The Wire) and Elaine Davidson, the world’s most pierced woman. The former was buying a coffee; the latter was queuing in front of me in Homebase. Madness.
We’re now into the final week of our run, and it’s only in the past few days that I’ve really been able to go and see some shows – although this is frustrating in one respect, it’s good to know that it’s because I’ve been working hard. Now, though – I should have more of a chance to see shows and enjoy my time here.
If you’re up in Edinburgh, I’ll see you at the bar. Mine’s a pint.
Dan Baker is Producer for EmptyBox Theatre, whose show Norman Shadowboxer is on at C Aquila until Sunday 22nd August (11:05am daily).