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Tag Archive | "Royal Mile"

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Fringe guest blog: It’s all over…for now

Posted on 31 August 2012 by Ellen Carr

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”.

For more about Witness Theatre and their future work, visit their website at www.witness-theatre.co.uk or follow them at www.twitter.com/witnesstheatre.

Image credit: Witness Theatre

Ellen Carr

Ellen Carr

Ellen is Artistic Director of Witness Theatre, a company she established after graduating from the University of Sussex in 2011. Ellen writes, directs and produces for Witness Theatre and spends the rest of her time doing more writing. She is currently writing her own blog witnesstoexperience daily, contributes regular features to One Stop Arts and can also be found writing the occasional screenplay.

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Climbing Arthur’s Seat: Producing greatness

Posted on 20 June 2012 by Rush Theatre

There are times when you look back and wonder if what you once thought was a Really Good Idea was actually a gin-and-tonic-induced disintegration into madness. Be warned: taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is an experience that puts the fear of God in your heart and the bottle of gin back in your hands. It’s the only place where you 100% don’t just turn up and do your job – not least if you want your show to be a success! Producing and performing in a show is both a blessing and a curse, you get incredible insight and responsibility into differing roles, but you also get double the amount of work, stress and headaches.

Producing for the first time at the Fringe can be so full of unintentional trip-ups that you can sometimes feel like you’re starring in your own version of Total Wipeout. Firstly, it is vital you start to prep everything way before deadlines, as changes are about as common as rain on a British bank holiday. Secondly, you must adopt that classic Spiderman/Shakespeare mantra: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Regardless of which category you fit into, you must believe that you and the show will be great, and unequivocally roll with the punches. Finally, having a functional working relationship with your production team and cast is imperative for your sanity and your mobile phone’s longevity. Fortunately, there is a whole network of people available for support, to answer the little questions and help you figure out the big ones. This network is mostly embodied by the Fringe Office and your venue, which should also be praying for your show to be a success and should be happy to talk you through mind-numbing things like contracts and insurance. Not to mention the multitude of other Fringe performers and goers across Twitter and IdeasTap who will readily dispense advice.

Funding your project can, and will most likely, be a pain in the ass. There are gabillions of trusts and foundations to which you can apply for funding, but usually they’re only interested if you’re staging your piece in aid of something more honourable than your own ego, such as community development or working with disadvantaged kids. IdeasTap also offer a huge monetary prize but beware of the very early application deadline. Then, beyond contacting local or national businesses and asking for sponsorship as part of their community ventures, there’s always crowdfunding – an excellent, cheap and easy way to promote your show and garner online donations from friends and strangers alike. You should try to exhaust every fundraising possibility you have time for and be creative! It is desperately important that you begin to fundraise from the word go as the majority of your payments will be in advance of the show and you will not be reimbursed through ticket sales till after the Fringe ends.

So why do it if it is such hard work and feels like you are straddling a tectonic plate? Because where else but at the Fringe do you meet a hoard of generous folk (besides your doting parents) who are willing to invest their time and money by watching you flounce around a stage hoping to communicate the profundity of a text? Where else do you get to do everything yourself, learn everything the hard way, stay up half the night rehearsing, sell your soul on the Royal Mile, or race up Arthur’s Seat in order to bare your naked skin to the sunrise over beautiful Edinburgh?

Come the 28August, when we leave Edinburgh, we can look back at it as the train speeds away, laden with bags in our hands and under our eyes, an empty bank account and a sense that, yes, we did that, all by ourselves: We Conquered the Fringe.

Written by producer Francesca Murray-Fuentes.

Image: Rush Theatre’s Francesca Murray-Fuentes and Chi-San Howard.

Find out more about Rush Theatre by visiting their Twitter or website.

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