Edinburgh Fringe: the only place where you can use the line “I like your whale” to engage in conversation, a place where you’ll experience a myriad of emotions in approximately two hours and an infinite amount of performances. We’ve been in camp Witness Theatre here in Edinburgh for a week now and I’m happy to say we’re all surviving. No family spats, no tantrums and no enforced activities – apart from the show of course, which I can report has been going well with four performances, one dress and one early morning tech under our belts.
I’ve never been to the Fringe as a company member before so I’ve been particularly interested to see if it really is as mental as everyone says, and to suss out what it’s all about. I arrived at our Scottish home late on Monday night (or early Tuesday morning) after a day of working in the day job and a delayed flight. The madness then began, as we dragged ourselves out of bed for a technical rehearsal that had us arriving at our venue at 6am. Surprisingly this all went smoothly – pretty shocking as we all know how temperamental these things can be, particularly in a venue you’ve never seen before. First up in this rehearsal was practising our get in, fitting putting a shed in place and setting up a projector, microphone and props into our allotted five minutes. We did it fine, and although there have been a few worrying tangled cable moments, it seems you can manage a lot in five minutes.
Our dress rehearsal and preview followed a little shakily, our tentative first steps into using the venue. Following this a concerned bedroom-based rehearsal took place in between dress and preview, then when the preview didn’t hit the level we wanted the show to be at, spirits all sunk slightly low.
It was a tough few days so we decided to let off some steam by going to see some theatre that would inspire us and to the launch party of our venue C nova – a beautiful space that we couldn’t be happier to be in. Getting away from the show for a while and chatting to other companies would definitely be one of our top tips for easing show concerns. Talking to others performing in the venue, we realised everyone’s in the same boat in the first few days of the Fringe and nobody has what they’d call a ‘perfect show’ at this point – even Fringe pros Belt Up said they’re still settling into the space.
So that took a weight off our minds and got me thinking about the level of perfection to strive for at the Fringe. Is this a place where perfection matters, or is it somewhere to experience the excitement of raw and fresh ideas coming into being, into something that could be perfect? As a perfectionist it’s hard for me to settle on an answer to this, but it’s an interesting question to consider and perhaps I’ll have some clearer thoughts on it as I approach the end of my time here. But now back to the question I started my first week with.
Is it as mental? It is, and it’s better than that; it’s exhilarating, exhausting, terrifying and absolutely the best place in the world we at Witness Theatre could be right now. This may sound cheesy but it’s true – yes, we may not really be able to afford it and the financial struggles we’ve had (amongst others) have been hard. But being here amidst hordes of other companies in the same position, or those slightly further along the line, is amazing. Being here now it’s finally completely sunk in that this is it – this company’s real and can only grow from here. So now all we need to do is bring in those audiences… We’ll see you on the Mile.
Image credit: Witness Theatre