To mark the launch of Ideas Fund Edinburgh, our £10,000 theatre funding award, Jo Caird talks to the experts to find out why the Fringe is well worth your blood, sweat and tears...
If you’ve been to the Edinburgh Fringe, or even ever had a conversation about the world’s arts largest festival with a fellow theatre-maker, chances are you’ll have heard horror stories of terrible audiences, truculent reviewers and the inevitable accumulation of thousands of pounds worth of debt.
But don’t be put off: the Fringe may be a challenging environment in which to present work, but for those who pull it off, the rewards are many and varied.
Lucy Morrison, Head of Artistic Programme at the theatre, education and new writing company Clean Break was initially wary of taking Rebecca Prichard’s Dream Pill to the Fringe following a successful run at the Soho Theatre. Her concerns were more than assuaged, however, when the show received multiple four- and five-star reviews. “What’s great about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe,” she says, “is that there is an appetite for such a diverse range of shows; there’s room for everything there and your show is taken completely on its own terms and celebrated for that”.
For Liam Jarvis, co-artistic director at Analogue Theatre, two-time Fringe First winners for their shows Mile End and Beachy Head, “it’s the transformative potential of Edinburgh that makes it so vital... It’s remarkable what can be seeded if you are able to capture people’s imaginations with your work”. Following the company’s first appearance at the Fringe in 2007, a relationship with Germany’s Oldenburgisches Staatstheater was begun, ultimately resulting in a co-production of a new piece, 2401 Objects, at this year’s Fringe.
Part of what makes the Fringe experience so satisfying for theatre-makers is the sense of camaraderie that comes with being surrounded by so many other artists (around 20,000 every August, Edfringe.com estimates). Jon Edgley Bond, co-founder of the performance troupe The Fitzrovia Radio Hour comments that “you’ll feel as though you’re part of a community of performers and producers, more so than at any other time”. Presenting work at the Fringe is also beneficial when it comes to the relationships within your own company, says Bond. “You’ll have a stronger company for the experience of testing it under a stressful situation.”
From an actor’s perspective, the Fringe represents a fantastic opportunity to showcase your skills and network with theatre professionals. Anna Brook starred in Made from Scratch Theatre Company’s Body of Water and found that “it’s a good idea to research and see the companies that you would like to work with as early as possible. Then you can get in touch with directors/producers and ask them to come to your show. Everyone’s looking for things to go to so it’s a good way to meet people you’d like to work with”.
And last but not least are the myriad media opportunities available to theatre-makers during the festival. Theo Bosanquet, deputy editor of Whatsonstage.com, the UK’s leading theatre website, believes that “despite its size, the Edinburgh Fringe is still one of the best places to get spotted for young theatre-makers. Yes, it’s a bit of a lottery, but your work will at the very least get reviewed and at best be shortlisted for a range of awards. From a journalist’s perspective, it’s the one time in the editorial calendar when fringe work is the primary focus”.
So start planning early, do your research and make sure your work is the best it can be. Taking a show to Edinburgh won’t be plain sailing, but for theatre-makers young and old, the Fringe is an experience like no other. What are you waiting for?
Apply for Ideas Fund Edinburgh to win mentoring and £10,000 of funding towards your show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011.
Photo credit: Ambra Vernuccio.