Fringe performer life ‘lonely, isolating & alien’

Bryony Kimmings made her Fringe debut in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow
Bryony Kimmings made her Fringe debut in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow
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AN AWARD-winning theatre-maker has warned Edinburgh Festival Fringe performers that taking part in the event can be lead them to a “lonely, isolating and damn alien place”.

Bryony Kimmings, speaking at the official opening address of the Fringe, said appearing for the first time in Edinburgh was like “doing the first day of school times one million, naked”.

It’s like the first day of school times one million, naked

Bryony Kimmings

However she said Edinburgh was the only festival in the world where thousands of people were willing to help their fellow performers out.

Kimmings, who made her debut at the event in 2010, said Edinburgh had been so instrumental to her career that the festival now runs through her veins. And she said she was “irked” at the commonly held view that the Fringe was a loss-making exercise for performers and companies.

She was speaking days after Kath Mainland, the Fringe’s chief executive, had defended the cost of staging a show in Edinburgh, insisting the city did not have a “unique problem”.

The Fringe, which boasts a record 3,314 shows in its line-up, is going head-to-head with the Edinburgh International Festival, which also opened yesterday, for the first time in 18 years.

Kimmings told the audience of several hundred performers: “We all know the Fringe is a marketplace. But this doesn’t mean it is a one-way street. You also control the market.

“You plough your heart and your hard-earned cash into getting here. You pay for your venue, brochure and marketing, as well as all that money that goes into the making of your show and it costs money.

“So if that is the case then you should be paying a little bit of attention to the fact that you might get some of that back as a return.

“If you are a savvy businesswoman like I am you can make sure that you don’t just break even but you pay yourself too. Yes, the first few years may need to be an investment, but after that you can begin to expect a return.

“I like to see the Fringe as not only the chance to showcase your wares for booking, for profile-raising and for potential press, but also as an excellent chance to hone said craft, to learn something new every day, about audience reactions, about the way you write, about the effect you are having on the minds sitting before you.”

Kimmings, who is performing in a show about mental health and the clinical depression of her partner this year, is a previous winner of a Scotsman Fringe First Award. She told the performers at her talk that her second Fringe had been markedly less successful than the first, when she had a critically acclaimed show.

Kimmings, who is based in London, added: “The Fringe can be a lonely, isolating and damn alien place. Especially if you are new. It’s like doing the first day of school times one million, naked.

“Everything seems out to trip you up, you don’t know what the word PR means, your venue doesn’t look like it does on the floor plan and your flyers haven’t arrived yet.

“But what you do have at your disposal, that you are about to learn, is about 10,000 people who are willing to help you out. I’ve been to festivals all over the world and never at any of them have I ever seen so many people so happy to help one another.

“My one gleaming recommendation to everyone, old or new, is to talk to people. Everyone. Nothing bad ever came of being friendly and helpful and supportive of strangers and this Fringe is built on the goodwill of artists and comedians.

“Asking for help is allowed, encouraged and how I learnt everything I know today.”

Asked about whether it was still worthwhile producing flyers for Fringe shows, Kimmings said: “I’ve never flyered my own show, I’ve just refused to do it. It would kill me. I find it soul-destroying. But I’ve always employed a flyerer on the basis that if they get four extra people in it pays for itself.”