Rosie Curtis is producing Killing Time (Bedlam Theatre, until 25 August, more info here)
This is my second year of being a student fighting through the Fringe. Fortunately, I go to Edinburgh University, which makes bringing a show to the Festival ever so slightly less daunting – for a producer, at least. Where most people foot an enormous bill for accommodation, we’ve already signed leases and frozen enough batch cooked meals to last us the month. Plus, the entire cast and crew isn’t forced share a flat, so, while we still spend an inordinate amount of time together, it’s at least possible for us to occasionally escape each othe for an evening. The show I’m involved with this year, Killing Time, comes from the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. Each year, the EUTC presents 2 shows at Fringe; one is normally the lovely, hilarious Improverts and the other tends to be a piece of new writing. These shows are staged in Bedlam Theatre with no venue fees attached and a team of people you’re already probably familiar with, which removes another enormous cost and eases things a little. What we experience, it sometimes seems, is a kind of ‘Fringe Lite’.
But, with our ties in Edinburgh, and with facing Fringe in general, we still have a whole bunch of things to battle with. With living in Edinburgh comes a mild frustration at the Festival. While I do adore it, it’s slightly exasperating to suddenly find that your flat is close enough to the Meadows to hear every word of every song accompanying The Ladyboys of Bangkok’s latest routing; or to discover you can’t walk down the street without having to fight through gaggles of theatre companies, all wearing hoodies displaying the name of their show in an invariably terrible choice of font. Perhaps worst of all, drinks get really expensive. And, if you’re doing a show, this is the month you really need them.
Presenting a show at Fringe affords a student company a chance to present their work to a much wider audience than they may before have been able to. It’s easy to see Fringe as a way of starting to make a name for yourself or your company. To do this, though, you need to get people in to see it, and that’s one of the major, ongoing struggles of the Festival: rain or shine we need to rally the team together and send them out flyering; and to chase up every reviewer who you manage to get in with constant phone calls and emails, before sitting down and stapling star ratings to all the flyers you have left, ready force them into people’s hands once again. It’s time consuming and it’s draining, but, when people see your show and like it enough to come and tell you, it’s all pretty worth it, I think.
Perhaps the hardest part of Fringe for a student, though, is the balancing act that it becomes. This year, I am producing Killing Time, which has a full Fringe run, plus working in a venue, as well as trying to resit 4 academic exams and do the odd bit of writing for NSDF. Somewhere in between these things my mother will ring me and make sure I am eating and sleeping, at least on occasion. Resits were one of those things we had to deal with as a student company that another would never have to. One of our performers, Callum, had a resit scheduled that clashed with a performance of Killing Time so Andy, co-director and actor, filled in for a performance. It was, as it goes, all fine and well and really rather good – but, an unexpected thing to deal with.
But the unexpected things are kind of the best things about dealing with shows at the Fringe – for a student, at least. A lot of young companies who come to Fringe have members aiming to work in theatre once they graduate. I, along with a fair section of the Killing Time team, am working towards this, too. The Festival is a brilliant opportunity, as lame as it sounds, to learn and develop – and the way the EUTC operates, with the opportunity to use Bedlam, allows us to have a fair crack at Fringe, with a bit of a safety net beneath us. There are also plenty of people out there willing to support young companies – press are out searching for new talent, IdeasTap ran a hub to ask questions, the Participant’s Centre is always willing to offer help and NSDF run a competition, and you can track down feedback from it. For all the sleeplessness and stress Fringe inspires, it is a brilliant thing to experience and to learn – sometimes you’ve just got to find where to go and who to ask.