The Edinburgh Fringe, Not Quite the Yellow Brick Road!

After all of the excitement of last week’s bingo, I think it’s time for us all to calm down slightly and have a moment of reflection. Do not gasp my friends, for gasping is unsightly, and you don’t want to turn out like the Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.

It is at this time that thespians up and down the country are rehearsing and prepping and fine-tuning their shows, ready for the eager eyes and ears at the festival later this summer. Acts that have taken months of preparation are in their final stages, and preview shows are taking place in order to gauge audience response, and provide a appetizer, if you will, in order for the performers to encourage the audience to follow the yellow brick road to Edinburgh.

But the journey to Edinburgh isn’t all plain sailing – instead it takes heaps of organization, and whole lot of patience. Planning your visit to the festival is one thing, but putting on a show for what could be a month-long run is a whole different kettle of Scooby snacks.

You want to see the bright lights of Edinburgh. Maybe you’ve visited before, but the role of spectator wasn’t enough to satisfy your theatrical desires. Or maybe you’ve never been, but just know that that’s the dream. But where do you start?

Well, (as I’m sure you’re aware) I’m no expert. I’m just a kid who loves the sound of other people’s laughter. I’d always wanted to perform at the Fringe, and this year I thought it might be happening. I’d successfully auditioned and become a part of a comedy sketch theatre group at my university; we collectively wrote, directed and performed a two night sell-out show, and the idea of performing at Edinburgh Fringe was a delicious one. And are we on our way to Scotland this summer?

Unfortunately not, no.

But never fear, this is not my X Factor style sob story, designed to drown your computer screens in tears! Whether you did or didn’t expect it, it requires more than this to take to a show to Edinburgh. To draw in crowds, you need reviews. To get reviews, you need amazing preview shows, and if you’re lucky, great contacts. And for an amazing show, you need to put everything into it – all the commitment and talent and creativity that you can muster.

In our case, the collective enthusiasm dwindled slightly when we weren’t chosen for the National Student Drama Festival, where reviews would be guaranteed (we were blissfully unaware that we were the 100th act for the judges to see, and that there were only 12 spaces. Oh, and that they weren’t really looking for comedy this year. Not that I’m making excuses.). Ultimately this was a confidence knock, and hand-in-hand with the diminishing self-belief came a burgeoning sense of mild panic for some of the members with regards to our funding and future plans, and work came to a steady but fairly permanent halt.

Looking back, I now know that we shouldn’t have placed all of our eggs in one sparkly top hat. For a show to be successful, yes it needs the dollar, and of course reviews that let the audience know that at least someone likes it. But more importantly, it requires the self-assurance and the desire within the group, to create and continue to work at a goal, and to sculpt something stunning that they can all be proud of – despite the unavoidable obstacles along the way. And once the dedication is there, you can be sure that the eagerness and relentless drive will come trundling along behind in their jazz shoes pretty darn quickly.

Next week I’ll be interviewing members of the comedy group Politically Erect, who are about to embark on their second journey to performing at Edinburgh, and they’ll be divulging all of their tips and secrets to successfully organizing and putting on a show at the Fringe Festival.