As we approach August, the buzz of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is upon us once again. Previews are springing up all across the country, props and costumes are being made, last-minute funding is trickling in. The Fringe Festival is one of the ways that new companies can test out their material and get a taste of audiences, criticism, and Scottish professionalism. But why the hype around this particular festival? What about the other gatherings that happen across Britain throughout the year? And what if, heaven forbid, your company chooses not to enter one of these havens for creativity?
Recently, Miriam Gillinson wrote an article for the Guardian wondering if the Fringe is providing a false dream for new performers, whilst neglecting to produce an adequate stage upon which actors can shine. Undoubtedly, the Fringe is a wonderful way to test out pieces on an audience, either for a small ticket price or on the gloriously free Royal Mile. But it is also a place in which actors can get lost, and theatrical gems are abandoned in dusty venues with no audience. Similarly, as Gillinson comments, the Fringe also gives the illusion that even the smallest of parts can mean a future set in stone for up-and-coming actors who have been told that it is the way into professional performance. More so this year than previously, people are hesitating to head to Scotland as London will be filled to the brim with Olympic tourists, possibly detracting from the usual buzz that Edinburgh holds. This suggests that the doors might open up for less publicised festivals – the Brighton Fringe takes place in May each year, is cheaper for new performers to get in to, and provides a forum for more eccentric styles that are, in my opinion, slowly being moved away from Edinburgh.
We are still faced with a dilemma however – does the Fringe really provide a starting block for theatre companies, or is it just an ‘experience’ that is exciting but also expensive? This all being said, I’m in the initial thought processes for taking a show to – most likely – the Brighton Fringe next summer, following one or two performances elsewhere. We are not going into this with the illusion that all our theatrical dreams will be placed in our laps after that ‘perfect patron’ happens upon our show, but rather we are approaching it as just another step along to road to setting up something professional and organised with experience. It may fail, we may lose all the money we raise, and it may declare the end to our projects. But it may indeed push us that bit further into the performance world and open up something for us to enjoy. I think the key when considering a Fringe festival is to know that it is not the golden gate to success, but it can be a calculated move towards furthering your understanding and respect for such a cut-throat industry.