Over the past couple of months there has been a question at the back of our minds: can the fringe and professional worlds play nice? This is not an original thought, but a session called at Devoted and Disgruntled 7 back in February. The discussion that ensued between various members of the theatre community has been niggling at us ever since.
Over the past few years we have been part of many a fringe festival, but even we found ourselves a little tongue-tied when asked to explain the differences between ‘fringe’ and ‘professional’. Perhaps ‘professional’ isn’t the right word to describe non-fringe work as it insinuates that anything seen on the fringe is deemed ‘unprofessional’, which is simply not true in terms of the quality of some of the work. But in that case, what do we say? Should use words like ‘mainstream’? Commercial? Popular? Who knows!
The reason for our feelings of discontent is simple: as we mentioned in our last blog we are now creating work for young people and our goal is to eventually get involved with venues specific to that target audience or venues which have a dedicated family programme. The dilemma is: when you have spent so long on the Fringe circuit, how do you make the transition into festivals or venues that are deemed to be (dare we say it) mainstream?
It was not until last week that the fog surrounding this issue began to clear. Thanks to a chance encounter on Twitter, two of our Filskit Ladies found themselves at the London Press Launch for Brighton Fringe 2012, which we are very proud and excited to be a part of. The CEO of the festival, Julian Caddy, gave a rousing talk about the festival and the jam-packed programme that lies ahead. He began with an anecdote about a dinner party where he found himself attempting to explain the difference between the Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe. According to him what it came down to was reputation – and in some ways we agree.
At the Brighton Fringe, as with many other fringe festivals, anyone with enough passion, dedication and ideas can put on a show, and is offered the opportunity and platform to make it a success. This passion and dedication is of paramount importance, especially as many of the productions that make it to the fringe do so with little or no funding. The fate of your show is in your hands. You do not have to rely on having a following or a reputation for a certain type or quality of show – although naturally it helps! – but really the fringe is a level playing field. For this reason we feel that fringe festivals are a fantastic starting point for any young or emerging companies, like us. This is certainly not to say that fringe should be used exclusively as a springboard and nothing else – of course if you present enough work at different festivals a reputation will start to develop (fingers crossed it will be a good one). Could this be where the evolution into a professional/mainstream/commercial/popular company begins?
So, going back to the all-important question “Can the fringe and professional worlds play nice?” Our answer would have to be “we certainly hope so”. We can’t stress enough how important fringe festivals have been in the development of Filskit. They have unquestionably helped and continue to do so, allowing us to build up our repertoire and experience. We have also been fortunate enough to receive support from more ‘mainstream’ organisations, which has been a huge boost for us. As for our transition between the two, we will have to keep you posted.