Climbing Arthur’s Seat: The Fringe experience

And finally, we’re here. Climbing Arthur’s Seat at 5am and crying out our morning greeting to a sleepy sunrising Edinburgh. Weeks of flyering strangers has alerted me to muscles in my cheeks that I never knew I had and I’ve developed a residual elbow crick from the continual showcasing of said flyers. Sleep deprivation is practically a currency and ticket-selling techniques have become decidedly more radical the longer companies have been on the Mile.

Our gimmick of us girls tucked into bedsheets in the middle of the street brought concern for our health from older ladies, bedfellows in sleepy toddlers, and an uncomfortable degree of interest from photographers with long focus lenses. It’s a hard slog convincing punters, non-punters and those who punt to spend £8 of their hard-earned cash on you. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the general public appeared rather supportive of our artistic ventures, particularly once we’d taken the time to chat about the project and speak from the heart about why we’re committed to the theatre. Good news for Rush Theatre, as we will be looking to majority fund our next project through individual sponsors and crowdfunding!

The Fringe truly works on a day-to-day basis (good luck if you can keep track of the day!) and as producer of Rush Theatre, it has been plagued with broken props, charged over-runs, sickly performers, errant reviewers and desperate daily attempts to boost sales.

One beautiful supplement to our Fringe experience has been the series of ‘participant events’ – a selection of workshops and lectures given by a host of industry professionals such as the National Theatre of Scotland, Old Vic New Voices, NT Studio and Cirque du Soleil. A fab lecture on funding in tighter times convinced me that we really ought to relocate to Scotland, which paradoxically has lost a huge percentage of theatremakers to the bombastic lights of London but offers some of the best funding opportunities to emerging artists.

The learning curve has been steep, but when you’re at the precipice, the vast knowledge base you’ve accumulated is laid out exquisitely in front of you. How often do you get to introduce a script you love to a new audience, make friends – be it ‘Fling friends’, ‘Fringe friends’, or ‘Forever friends’ – with people you’ve only known for an hour, stay up all night and regret it in the morning but share that regret with 2,000 other people, get that post-show adrenaline kick over and over again, try new things in performance and see how your character’s psyche evolves over the run, dig up that rusty European language GCSE and attempt an explanation of your lust, betrayal and sexual politics-based show, flyer a disgruntled Jeremy Paxman and, at the very least, try your first deep-fried Mars bar?

Edinburgh is not a cheap experience; by the end you are monetarily bereft and medically aggrieved. But the vast array of incredible, innovative performances that are at your disposal is incomparable. And you get to be part of this huge arts movement celebrating the far-reaching, boundary-pushing and all-enveloping nature of theatre. It’s really rather wonderful. To live in a place where theatre is solely a luxury for the elite, or worse, a punishable act, must be truly disabling of one’s happiness and quality of life. I ponder this as homes and venues are lit up by the new sun, bit by bit, across the Edinburgh skyline. And then the thought passes through my exhausted, gently inebriated brain: this was, indeed, a ‘Really Good Idea’.

Written by producer and actor Francesca Murray-Fuentes

Image: Francesca Murray-Fuentes & Chi-san Howard

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