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Guest blog: Witness the Fringe

Posted on 27 July 2012 by Ellen Carr

Preparing for Edinburgh Fringe has been somewhat similar to preparing for a family camping holiday where you think you’ve got everything ready to go the night before, but actually you haven’t at all. You can’t fit everything in the car, then it rains. You can’t get your tent up and sometimes the car breaks down; lots of problems to overcome. We haven’t quite made it to Edinburgh yet but if we’ve managed to haggle with a van driver to take our shed set up then I think we’ll be able to make it there ourselves, too.

Witness Theatre’s journey to Edinburgh Fringe began in October when we settled on an idea for the project we wanted to develop. After lots of playing, a showcase performance and writing and re-writing, we ended up with The Darkroom, a “multi-sensory adventure through the act of remembering.”

Word of advice: if you want a stress-free journey to Edinburgh don’t take a multi-sensory adventure. We’ve encountered lots of hurdles (many of them financial) that we’ve had to work very hard to overcome.

Hurdle number one: the films. We’ve created a gorgeous set of black and white high definition original films but of course they came at a price. Luckily, we managed to get funding for these all the way back in October from Farnham Maltings’ No Strings Attached bursary (a great opportunity for companies in the South East who haven’t received any funding). So that was that one sorted. But of course we knew Edinburgh was going to cost us lots of money which – having only established the company in September – we certainly didn’t have.

Hurdle number two: the money. Our solution: put on a show at Brighton Fringe, crowd fund the entire budget for it and put all the profit towards going to Edinburgh.

In November a wonderful company called WeDidThis launched a Brighton Fringe crowd funding group. It was heavily pushed and promoted by them and we managed to raise above our £1000 target by Christmas Eve – more than our budget for Brighton Fringe and a lovely Christmas present! In May our Brighton Fringe production of The Importance of Being Earnest was a complete sell out and a nice chunk of money flew into the Edinburgh fund…

…and straight back out again to pay for registrations, a venue, transport, props, costume, publicity etc.

Then came hurdle number three: the projector we desperately needed to continue work on the show. Nights spent studying technical specifications ensued; we attempted to crowd fund another £1000 for our dream projector. This time it wasn’t so successful – turns out sometimes you just can’t reach the crowds. Eventually we found a projector that would do the job at a lower price and, weeks later than was ideal, our projector (name of Garry-Barry if you’re interested) arrived.

Next we realised the computer we had wasn’t powerful enough to run our tech off; that we wanted to use a microphone in the show; that we didn’t know how to run the software we need to play the films; that we didn’t have the right cable to connect computer to projector… all problems that I’m proud to say we’ve overcome.

We’re left still needing to raise money through an upcoming fundraiser and our Brighton preview of The Darkroom – all in the week before we head to Scotland. We need to purchase lots of coffee and there’s currently 500g of lavender sat in my living room.

Preparing for Edinburgh has been a host of ups and downs. We’ve had a number of unsuccessful schemes for raising money and sourcing props, but then we’ve also had some excellent experiences. We’ve gained a lot of knowledge as a company, and probably not had as much sleep in the last year as we should have. Now Edinburgh is a week away and it all comes down to how we can draw in the crowds from the Royal Mile and put on a magical, adventurous and exciting show.  Here’s hoping we can clear this final hurdle!

Catch Witness Theatre at C Nova Venue145 for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing The Darkroom at 3.15pm. For more information or to book tickets, visit www.Cthefestival.com or to find out more about Witness Theatre, visit www.witness-theatre.co.uk.

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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