Hello theatre fans!
I promised in my last theatre blog that I would report back my findings of the Edinburgh Fringe if I managed to squeeze in a trip and the good news is I did indeed manage to get a day there so here are my findings….
I’m usually of the opinion that seeing a production at the Fringe should be a totally organic process, you should walk up the Royal Mile, get a few flyers and just jump into something totally unknown and widen your horizons a bit. However, having done this the last few times with limited success I did something I’d never done before…I really considered what it was I wanted to see and then booked shows in advance via the Fringe online. As I was only going to be there for the day I wanted to make sure I definitely saw the shows I really wanted to see, not just chancing upon a something then complaining afterwards that it wasn’t my cup of tea.
I decided to see two shows, Othello by the all female company Smooth Faced Gentlemen and Bruce – a wacky play about the adventures of a puppet shaped like a sponge!
Firstly Othello, I’m not hugely familiar with the play, having never studied it nor seen many productions but I have to say this production was really excellent, the actors were all superb – particularly Ashlea Kaye who played Iago. My mum had come with me for the day and we both agreed that this production was really edge of your seat stuff, the direction was spot on and very sharp. There weren’t any moments where the pace dropped and you completely forgot that it was an all female cast as the actors embodied the characters so well. I will absolutely be following this company and I recommend you all do the same.
The second show was the Fringe hit Bruce, a totally barmy and incredibly funny production that was selling out for every show. It was sharp, clever and hilarious – the whole audience were continuously in stitches and the hour passed so quickly you couldn’t believe it was suddenly over! I don’t want to give too much of it away but essentially it revolved around puppet called Bruce (brought to life by two actors onstage) who resembled an old sponge and his adventures meeting and losing the love of his life, avenging his friend and to top it all off going into space and time travelling!
Because of time restraints I decided to only see two shows, and honestly I think this was the best decision. I really considered what I wanted to see, read some reviews and took my time deciding what type of shows I was looking for. I do think it’s a shame that this forethought has become necessary, however in order to get the most out of the Fringe these days I think this is the best way to approach it. Obviously if I was up in Edinburgh for longer I would have taken a chance on some shows on the day, but even so, I think the way the Fringe is these days the audience has to be just as savvy as the performers.
The Edinburgh Fringe is not a nice little festival where everyone looks out for each other, it’s a huge enterprise in which everyone involved – from theatre companies to audience members – need to have their head screwed on and decide early enough in the process what it is they want to get out of it.
As it happens this time I discovered two amazing shows by company’s whose work I will follow and recommend, so from this perspective the Edinburgh Fringe is absolutely a worthwhile venture. However the Fringe has changed from what it’s original roots were, it’s now a pretty corporate set up whilst at the same time not offering much in return money wise for those who wish to put a show on (if you’re not already a very established company with a guaranteed audience) . Naturally you will get run away hits like the fabulous Bruce and sometimes it is definitely worth taking the risk because for every hundred or so shows that make a loss, there will be one show that is a runaway hit that makes money and really raises the profile of the company.
In conclusion, I will always have a soft spot for the Fringe, even though it’s changed (and will continue to change) I would never want to see it come to an end as it’s a wonderful thing that such a big arts festival is celebrated and attended for a whole month each year. Perhaps one day I will even take a show there again, but until then I will continue to enjoy being an audience member and hoping that the smaller companies don’t get totally pushed out in favour of more established money making acts.