It seems impossible. It’s mid-July and the Edinburgh Fringe is waiting, just around the corner. Two weeks to go! Gulp. As I write, I sit in the back row of The Old Town Hall Theatre in Hemel Hempstead (we’re rehearsing here for the next two weeks) and I suddenly feel scared, nervous and excited all at once. Us lot at How It Ended have ventured to the Fringe once before. Last year in fact, with a one-woman show called Waterproof, and it was certainly a steep learning curve for us.
There’s so much ‘talk’ about Edinburgh. So much written and rumoured. We called it ‘Fringe Folkore’. Everyone has an opinion but you don’t begin to fathom it all until you’ve given it a go. And, well, for us, it all went pretty well. Great reviews. Audiences fluctuated a little (but hey that happens). We met some amazing people, made great contacts but once we returned home, but we couldn’t help but feel a little unsettled. We asked ourselves: “Was all that really worth it?” Y’know, all the money, the blood, the sweat, the tears, royally selling your soul on the mile day after day?
We played it down to everyone around us, but of course we went to Edinburgh with the hope of being plucked from obscurity, discovered as ‘theatre’s bright young things’. When that doesn’t happen – when that doesn’t even come close to happening – you can’t help but feel a little disheartened. It was this woeful mood that defined our September.
Then October arrived and the phone started to ring. That Christmas we played the show at Tristan Bates and we were inspired to make new work again and get back into the rehearsal room. Slowly but surely we realised just how much Edinburgh had aided our development as a company. Venues and local authorities sat up and listened to our reviews, and the contacts we made across those rain soaked benches in Bristo Square were proving to be ever so valuable.
The new year brought even more exciting opportunities; we were awarded arts council funding and were accepted onto the prestigious Escalator East to Edinburgh Programme. We are certain that none of these amazing opportunities would have presented themselves without the exposure of the Fringe. So last year wasn’t ‘pretty good’ after all. It was really good. It’s just about the long game. So we’re back.
This year we’re bringing our new show You Obviously Know What I’m Talking About to the Underbelly (1.30pm daily) and, with last year behind us, we’ve adjusted our expectations. We’re not expecting stardom, all the awards or our faces on the cover of The Stage or The Scotsman. (That would be nice though. Like we’d turn that down!) We’re just hopeful and really excited because who knows what Edinburgh will bring. The unpredictable nature of the Fringe is what makes its so great.
Last week someone asked us what advice we’d give to emerging theatre makers like ourselves. We thought a lot about this and ultimately we’d say: work hard. Working hard really pays off. All those Saturday-nights-in sewing costumes and devising spreadsheets will one day make you cool. That’s what we’re hoping anyway. Be brave and specific, don’t be afraid to take your stuff to the Fringe and fight for it to be seen. There’s a reason why you decided to make that show in the first place – you felt something that made you believe in it. We think it’s important to remember that. Remember the reason why you wanted to tell that story. If the work is good, it’ll speak for itself.
And so, with that in mind, I better get back to rehearsals. I just experienced another wave of that scared, nervous, excitement thing. I’m growing to like it.
For more information about How It Ended Productions, see its website.