Hundreds of Fringe acts queue for hours to pitch shows

The Scotsmans Brian Ferguson (in the glasses) and Roger Cox spoke with Fringe performers during the Meet the Media event at the weekend. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Scotsmans Brian Ferguson (in the glasses) and Roger Cox spoke with Fringe performers during the Meet the Media event at the weekend. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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They queued for up to five hours just to get the chance to try to sell their Fringe show in a handful of minutes.

From a “Singing Psychic” and a former star of Hi-de-Hi to a retired police officer and a husband-and-wife comedy duo, each had taken time out from flyering on the Royal Mile to pitch to journalists.

With competition from more than 3,000 shows this year, finding a unique selling point is often the first priority at the “Meet the Media” event.

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A Sherlock Holmes improv night, puppetry inspired by trawler fishing, a gentrification-themed comedy and a Danish play about an 18th century Scottish explorer were among shows pitched to The Scotsman.

There was also a hit punch and judy show from the Sydney Mardis Gras and the story of the civilian broadcasters who provide TV and radio for Britain’s forces in war zones.

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Italian musician and singer Elyssa Vulpes and New York-based director Mahayana Landowne have joined forces to create a play about a Croatian refugee turned sex counsellor in Scotland.

Ms Vulpes said: “Our story really exemplifies the spirit of the Fringe. We actually met in the queue at this event two years ago and then just kept bumping into each other everywhere. We thought there was maybe a reason for it.

“We then just fell in love with other’s work. We kept in touch and started working on this show in September. I’ve even been out to New York to perform it.”

The “Singing Psychic” – Marysia Trembecka, a half-Polish, half-English cabaret performer and actress – went into showbusiness after quitting her career as a bond trader in London.

She said: “I think I’m the only person on the planet that looks at your life and your relationships by looking at the songs I hear live in your heart.”

Isabel Patterson is playing “Snapchat” in You Tweet My Face Space, a satire on the modern-day obsession with social media, being performed by former graduates of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London.

She said: “We’ve crowd-funded more than £8000 to bring it to Edinburgh and pay for the accommodation for the 10 of us in the cast. None of us have performed here before, so it’s all so new and fresh for us - it’s really exciting.”

One of the best-named acts to pitch to The Scotsman was a capella group Nuns ‘n’ Roses, a new all-female outfit formed by five professionally-trained singers, who perform everything from hits by Imogen Heap and Katy Perry to medieval chants and folk songs from Bulgaria and Estonia.

Artistic director Sarah Tenant-Flowers, who mentored Bradley Walsh on the BBC series Maestro, said: “Our name is obviously deeply ironic. But we wanted to choose something beautiful and funnily enough, there are a lot of pieces about flowers and the beauty of the natural world in our programme.

“We’ve only been going for around two years, but this is our first big adventure. We really wanted to test our programme and decided in February we decided to go for it.”

Rob Carter has spent two years developing a show about a hapless novelist, Christopher Bliss, who is trying to get his break break at the Fringe, even developing a marketing campaign and website for the character to try to build interest before his arrival in the city.

Carter said: “It’s all about the worst novelist in Shropshire taking on the the largest arts festival in the world by telling stories, but he gets it all wrong.

“It’s almost like an idiot’s guide to Edinburgh. If this guy actually had a show up here it would be really bad.”

Former police officer Liz Reid, from West Lothian, has spent years creating a First World War musical production with her best friend, Mary Boylan, after discovering a bundle of letters from a young soldier when she was cleaning in her great aunt’s house.

Ms Boylan: “The show is based around the story of the solider, David Dinwoodie, a second lieutenant who got badly injured when he was shot in the face, but was send back to France after he got patched up and was shot and died after getting a bullet in his head.

“The show is about him joining up, the war hospitals, the work that women were doing back here at the time and the experiences of the war that people from West Lothian had.”

Jilly Bond is playing a retired detective in Criminology 303 - a thriller set in the Scottish Highlands, written by American student Rose Miller following an international exchange visit to Scotland.

She said: “The interesting thing about it is actually started life as a classic American ghost story, which has been relocated to Scotland. It was also written for a retired male detective.

“I was involved in a series of readings of new plays at the University of Westminster. I heard the first 10-minute monologue and decided I wanted to play the part. We will be setting out to frighten the audience.

“I’ve been an actress for 35 years, but I’ve not been at the Fringe for 30 years, since my husband and I were in a double bill of Macbeth. They both ran for an hour each and had a 20-minute turnaround between the two shows.”

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