GEORGE Mann of Theatre Ad Infinitum explains why he keeps coming back to Edinburgh, whilst comedian Ed O’Meara claims he will take whatever praise he can, in the absence of five-star reviews.
‘The Fringe is a Darwinian event. Only the strongest shows will survive’
STEWART Lee’s “slow death of the Edinburgh Fringe” article was a gloomy start to this year’s festival. But having seen some great theatre this year I think the Fringe is still very much alive with “independent minds”. They’re just in a lot more debt than they used to be.
It’s our fifth year here in a row, and I’m still paying off a loan for our first Fringe in 2008 with Behind the Mirror. A lot has changed, but there are good reasons why we keep coming back, here are a few of them:
1 We get a year or more of work through our time in Edfringe, touring dates and doing educational workshops, etc, much of it because of this crazy festival.
2 Yes it costs a lot, but Edfringe is still the best market for theatre, and it’s where hundreds of promoters can see your work. The Fringe Promoters Office do a lot to help…
3 Local and national press come and see new work by unheard-of companies, something they do a lot less regularly elsewhere and at other times of the year; it can and does raise the profile of your company in just one month.
4 Audiences. You can build an audience base who’ll come back if they like you’re your work; it’s the best place to get an honest response, Edfringers don’t hold back; it’s a Darwinian event, and only the strongest pieces will survive. In the long run artists get a better perspective on their work, though it may be painful initially.
5 It’s the best place to work on Kipling’s advice for life:
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two imposters just the same”
…then you’ll be an Edfringe veteran my friend.
• George Mann is the co-artistic director of Theatre Ad Infinitum. He directed and performs in Translunar Paradise, at the Pleasance Dome, 5:25pm, until 27 August.
‘You’re confident, and a quarter of your jokes are funny. OK, 35 per cent’
BRITAIN has been winning things in the Olympics, and the weather in Edinburgh has been – I can barely believe it myself… sunny. This is not what the Edinburgh Festival is all about. It’s supposed to be about beleaguered, sodden tourists finding a place to shelter, staying to watch comedy or music or a man dancing around a wheelbarrow, until the rain lets up.
For stand-up in particular, gold medals and Mr Whippy’s gains has been comedy’s loss. We don’t want people looking happy. We don’t want them proud of their nationality. We want them to be full of frustration and ire and to be delighted by a disgruntled man in a T-shirt complaining.
The smaller potential audience has been trying at times. My Thursday show was to four people (the festival average apparently). A shy couple, a cockney cab driver on holiday and a permanently grinning Latvian student. In lieu of any actual reviewers seeing my show, the cockney decided to become the armchair critic.
“You’re confident, you’re likeable… and a quarter of your jokes are funny. So that’s something to build on.” I thanked him, but pointed out that doing an hour show in front of four quiet people made it bloody difficult to sustain funny for an hour. “Oh, all right,” he reconsidered. “Let’s say about 35 per cent then.” I could see that this was his final offer. Never have I had to haggle so much with a critic.
The couple smiled and threw some pity money in my pint glass (It was originally a bucket but I have since scaled down my expectations) and the Latvian student approached me and said simply “funny” as if praising a Labrador. “Thanks,” I said, “Did you have any part you liked particularly?” “Sorry,” he said. “I don’t speak English good.”
He may not have understood any of the show, but on the upside he was a grinner with stamina. Audience is audience and this Edinburgh Festival, I can’t afford to be picky.
• Ed O’Meara’s show You Have Nothing To Fear is at Opium, 9pm, until 25 August.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West