“What The Edinburgh Fringe Means To Us”

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A few weeks ago we were asked to contribute to a piece on what the festival means to us. The outlet that asked didn’t publish in the end, so we thought we’d stick it on here, in case it’s of interest to anyone else.

There’s nothing like the Edinburgh Fringe anywhere else on the planet. We love it because of the artists, the atmosphere, but mostly the audiences.

Where else can you have a world-famous theatre director and a 14-year-old enthusiast sitting side-by-side in your audience? Where else can you attract any and every theatre programmer, and then sit down for a drink and some open feedback from total strangers after the show?

Where else can you be surrounded by so many extraordinarily talented artists, creating amazing work – and then have the chance to share your ideas right back at them?

Just being here, the air crackles with creativity. In every cafe, people are debating the arts or the latest Fringe First winner. In every bar, people are sparking ideas and forming collaborations… some of which they might even remember in the morning. Each year, new themes emerge, reflecting what the arts world feels from year-to-year.

One thing we’ve found is that Shakespeare on the Fringe is tragically (ahem) overlooked. Most people think of new writing when looking for innovation, but we’ve found some stunning new theatre based on Shakespeare. I’m thinking of Clown Macbeth at C Venues this year, or The Handlebards‘ riotous Macbeth last year. Or Jethro Compton’s amazing Bunker Macbeth in 2013, or Macbeth in Scots in 2012, or Who Is That Bloodied Man a few years back. And that’s just the Macbeths…

Titus Andronicus (Henri Merriam) watching the audience watch Titus Andronicus at the Edinburgh Fringe

Titus Andronicus (Henri Merriam) watching the audience watch Titus Andronicus at the Edinburgh Fringe

Shakespeare is unique because it gives a theatre maker two opposing things: loads to work with, and loads of space to play. That allows artists to create some amazing innovative theatre. The Fringe is a breeding ground for innovation, so combine the two and… well, let’s just say, it can be mind-blowing. I think a lot of people feel that if they want to catch “the next big thing”, they’ve got to focus on devised theatre or new writing. Which is an unfortunate oversight.

It’s also a rare chance to develop work. There’s not a lot of other opportunities for artists at this level to simply get in front of an audience every night for a month. With the huge breadth of audiences – artists and “real” people – we get a broad range of feedback and then iterate and tweak most days. Only a fool brings work in progress to the fringe (unless you’re Alan Davies), but we always leave the fringe with a product that’s slicker, more precisely honed, and just better than the one we arrived with. That’s both rare and precious.

Overall, for us, the Edinburgh Fringe is about sharing and being inspired. It’s about being part of a community. It’s about seeing the state of theatre, right now – today – and trying to make a small contribution to that, trying to further it and subvert it at the same time. And mostly, it’s about connecting with a unique, amazing audience.

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Othello TrailerRoderigo (Hannah Morley) and Brabantio (Terri Reddin) in Smooth Faced Gents' Othello. Photo: Richard Davenport.