Cutting it at the Fringe

By Ben Weaver-Hincks 

Harriet-Jade Harrow bagpipesEvery year, several dozen Durham students head up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for the most extraordinary and exhausting few weeks of their lives. But behind each of the handful of shows that go up from the University each year is months of planning, development, and rehearsal. And, once there, it’s no holiday.

Registration is in March, so planning begins a lot earlier. The biggest challenge for any production team is finding the funds to put on a Fringe show, with venues alone costing upwards of £1,000 per week.

As a member of a production team, I would usually meet with the rest of the team at least weekly throughout Epiphany and Easter terms to keep each other updated on our progress.

And in the weeks and months leading up to the festival itself, a script needs to be chosen, accommodation must be secured, and finally a cast has to be auditioned and selected.

Casting is always important, but it is especially so for Edinburgh. Not only must these people work together successfully, but they must also live together, no mean feat given the pressures of the festival.

I have been incredibly lucky to work with lovely people on each occasion and to have made some great friends, but this is by no means guaranteed.

I’ve always had trouble convincing my more athletic friends that theatre can be an arduous pursuit but the combination of physical and emotional strain of three weeks performing in a show can have an impact.

On top of this, most casts will spend several hours a day flyering for audiences on the Royal Mile, or engaged in increasingly innovative publicity stunts around the city.

And, depending on where in the city they are staying, they could be walking eight or ten miles daily just getting in and out of the centre. Maintaining energy and morale is often therefore the biggest challenge.

And yet, somehow, nearly everyone who does the Fringe has an intense desire to do it again and again.

As an actor, director, producer, or technician, it will be one of the first opportunities you have to work in the ‘real world’. Doing theatre in Durham is fantastic, but you are always going to be performing to a predominantly student audience.

At the Fringe, you are playing to paying members of the public, who have often coughed up £10 or more for a ticket. The pressure is higher, but so too is the sense of achievement when everything comes together.

Most importantly, perhaps, Edinburgh gives you the opportunity to mingle with some incredible people in the performing arts, and to be part of the biggest festival of music, theatre, and comedy in the world.

For anyone with even a vague desire to continue performing beyond university, it is an absolutely essential experience.

Just ask anyone who has been to the Fringe, and they will be able to tell you at least one scarcely believable, half-remembered story of their time there, that they will be repeating for years to come.

Much like Durham, the combination of people and place combine to make something pretty special, and much like Durham, my past three years would not have been the same without it.

Ben Weaver-Hincks is co-director of Kronos Productions, which last year visited the Edinburgh Fringe for their second summer with Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard.’ You can visit their website at http://www.kronosproductions.co.uk/.

 

Illustration: Harriet-Jade Harrow

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