Entering a show for the Edinburgh Fringe can be quite demoralising, at times. Yes, we were all hugely enthusiastic about the show itself, but before we even entered the rehearsal room there was the task of raising thousands of pounds to secure our venue, transportation and accommodation for a 17-strong company. Fortunately, we are all ‘half glass full’ types, and were pretty certain that we would raise the money needed to make it up to Edinburgh, whatever it took! ‘A Jilted Bride’s Parlour Party’ at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, and a Cinema Soiree back in our old stomping ground, Leamington Spa, added more pennies to our piggy bank as well as being theatrical events in themselves, and a lot of fun for company members and punters too. On the less shiny side of the coin, there were the copious emails and letters to potential sponsors, past school teachers, family members and, of course, funding applications… and more funding applications.
Although this financial reality is common to anyone who’s ever been to the Fringe, a large number of people do fail to find enough funding to support their ambition (with the recent rise in the licence fee, theatres have seen their hiring cost multiplied tenfold, to which you can add transport, accommodation and food). The majority of these theatre companies are young – students, or recent graduates, already in debt, and doing the Fringe for the love of theatre.
For us, bringing Belleville Rendez-vous to Bedlam Theatre this summer was a knock on the formidable door of the big man: the Theatre Industry. Thankfully, the response was generally extremely positive, the door has been tentatively opened and we are jumping right in, beginning a Spring tour of Belleville in January 2012. We are, however, achingly aware of how fortunate we are to have sold out our run in Edinburgh and to have been offered the chance to further develop this show for more audiences around the UK and perhaps France. Winning the NSDF Emerging Artist’s Competition also gave us a massive confidence boost, transferring to the RSC’s Swan Theatre followed by Pleasance Theatre, London, both within a month of leaving Edinburgh – something we never dreamed of happening.
Whilst we’re hugely excited to return to the wonderful world of Belleville, we are also already itching to create new work – and hopefully, it could be a little easier for us this time. It’s actually been quite strange getting our heads around the idea of coming back to a production for the third time; each revival has been in a completely new space which has meant we’ve had to throw away set and re-choreograph whole sections of the show. But, if you have a good thing, you keep hold of it for a good while. This doesn’t stop us from creating, and we are already thinking about future projects. But what we have realised is that we have an audience to please, an audience to reach. Yes, this is about creating for the art that we want to see, but it is also about entertaining, and engaging (slowly, region by region) with as many people as possible through our work.