A town where performers just perform for each other
Don’t punch reviewers in the face. That’s the official word from the press office after the Edinburgh Fringe officially started Saturday, August 3rd.
The Edinburgh Fringe is an open access festival, however there are several large companies that run venues and put together their own programs of events within the festival. I’m with C Venues, who mostly specialize in theatre, with a smattering of other acts including comedy.
It was the opening night of a theatre show, where a performer got a bit enthusiastic with a hand gesture, and accidentally punched an audience member in the face. Who turned out to be a reviewer. Who wrote a scathing review, for a show that by all other reports is pretty good.
As a result, the press office has sent a memo to all companies, reminding them, “Please, don’t punch reviewers in the face.” Seriously, that happened. Other memos I’m expecting include:
“Don’t light yourself on fire.”
“No defecating on stage, except for artistic purposes.”
“Live zoo animals should never be props. Only performers.”
“Computer keyboards are painful when taken orally.”
“Sometimes, the audience is NOT interested in being involved.”
How’s my show going? Pretty well thanks. None of those nightmare stories yet where I’ve performed to four, or two, or none people. All around the fringe though are tales where a theatre cast of six has outnumbered the audience every night.
There’s also an overabundance of recent English art school post-graduates with posh accents, who have collected all of daddy’s money for a fringe show, ‘That’s never been attempted before.’ It’s usually Shakespeare in a toilet, and someone does it every year.
Other highlights so far include a children’s show performance, where I read out joke questions including, “Where am I from?” One of the Scottish kids offered, “Austria?” Another guessed, “Canadia?” Close enough, kids.
A female comic friend of mine was told by a promoter who runs a late night show, “Come down any night, we’ve got plenty of room.” I asked for a spot and he said, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ Ouch.
It makes sense though, as male comics outnumber the females about ten to one, and it is important to have representatives from all genders on any particular night. Which means transgender comics are never short of work. Or wardrobe options.
Really though, it seems from the people populating the bars, talking about shows, going to shows and flyering, that the only people who give a stuff about the fringe are the performers themselves, and the venue staff. Who are frustrated performers.
So it’s one of those lovely self-sustaining entities where if enough performers go to see each other’s shows, the whole thing will just survive for another year. The main interaction performers seem to have with any potential audience, is taking their order at a café, or serving them a beer, or apologising for stuffing up their order.
If you’re wondering who makes all the money at the fringe, it’s the street performers. Those mostly talentless fools who’ve learnt one card trick, can juggle three random objects and have memorized a few dad jokes. Really nice group of people, but very little artistic credibility. They do however make a few hundred from every performance. So they’re not fools at all. Apart from human statues. I wish the wind would change, and freeze them forever.
This is the third part of Xavier Toby’s diary of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
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