So that was it: that blurry patchwork month of 47 shows that will slowly begin to knit themselves together into a more coherent whole in my mind was Edinburgh Fringe 2012. Witness Theatre’s The Darkroom has been performed 24 times with an audience every time – which is quite an achievement considering the struggle with audiences young companies faced this year.
Since writing my previous blog in the happy haze of early Fringe, I can now confidently say that Edinburgh is a huge challenge and talk about these challenges with a little authority. Edinburgh Fringe is a brilliant place where your work will get noticed and given much sought-after support – but only if it’s really really good. If, like us, it’s your first time at Edinburgh as a company then it’s likely to be a different place entirely. It can be brutal and utterly lovely all in the same day (much like the weather).
Witness Theatre has dealt with a mixed bag of reviews, audiences ranging in number from two to 27, crises of faith on the Royal Mile and a cast member illness that resulted in my debut Fringe performance. Not to mention the technical difficulties only to be expected when playing with projected film in a Fringe show.
I think a lot of people (and I’m not exempting us from this) go to Edinburgh expecting things to go really well (or in fact just well). The show will run smoothly, audiences will magically appear and golden opportunities will rain down from the sky. Well, yes, in such a theatrical melee opportunity is present, but it is there for the finding and not the taking, and sometimes it comes in different (smaller) guises than you were expecting.
Naively, when we made our way to Edinburgh our heads were filled with dreams of rave reviews, awards and (primarily) Witness Theatre getting noticed and becoming something. What our experience over the past month has taught us is that becoming that something is entirely down to yourselves. Our Edinburgh journey has not ended with us being picked up and taken under anybody’s wing, but with us becoming more determined, focused, driven and aware of what we want the company and our work to be.
The best of the reviews we received have included vast amounts of constructive criticism that we can use to develop our future work. None of them are the kind of reviews a commercially-driven show would want to receive, but for an emerging company in their first year they’re perfect. It is the comments on our promise – along with a lovely mention in Lyn Gardner’s blog – that are the opportunities we will take away from Edinburgh. Opportunities to grow and develop into a stronger company delivering more focused work for next year.
Will there be a next year for Witness Theatre at Edinburgh Fringe? Definitely, and we will take the following lessons with us. Firstly, be organised – even if you think you are already you can probably be ten times more so. Socialise and make the most of being around so many brilliant people (but be aware you have to get up and be organised the next morning!) Be prepared for every crisis – it probably will happen. Finally, only attempt to tackle Edinburgh if you’re absolutely 100% madly head-over-heels in love with what you do. To quote performer Tess Waters from Lyn Gardner’s blog on how to survive Edinburgh Fringe: “the secret of fringe success is a passion for what you’re doing”.
Image credit: Witness Theatre