I came up to Edinburgh with the intention of sussing out the festival, seeing a few venues and maybe seeing a few shows. I wanted to do this purely because I have thought about taking my show to Edinburgh Festival 2015, and it would be somewhat foolish to do so without ever actually visiting the festival. I’m glad I did.
There are many decisions to make regarding the Fringe, and I’m very sure that there are many more that I have yet to think of. My first decision was whether to choose between doing the Free Fringe or the “real” Fringe. I was given a list of free fringe venues to visit by my comedian friend and director of my new show, Andre Vincent. I was impressed by them which I wasn’t expecting. As I understand it, the advantage of the free fringe is that you are less likely to lose a lot of money doing it, but the disadvantage is that you are a lot less likely to get reviewed. I’m sure there are more, but I’m trying my best to force it into the shell of a nut. I met a few friends at the festival and tried to pick as many brains as I could about the festival but I heard a lot of “what you should do is this”, “you don’t want to do it like that” and worst of all “don’t worry, you’ll be fine!”. A day of conflicting conversations, unknowing false praises and desperate flierers (sp?) made for quite an overwhelming and slightly unpleasant experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fantastic festival, full of a lot of amazing shows and I love it for that, but I guess I didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t get it. I didn’t and still don’t know how to approach it. The sight of seeing quite well known comedians of panel show fame fliering (sp?) their own shows left me feeling quite unsettled.
I have heard stories of VERY famous comedians doing Edinburgh Festival for three years on the trot, selling out big venues every night, through certain VERY big comedy production companies, and only just breaking even. I find it very hard to believe, to the point where I am sceptical, that Edinburgh Fringe Festival is about the artists, but yet, in general they are the ones who come out financially at a lose, or if they are lucky, break even. Alternative comedian Red Bastard says “people do Edinburgh in order to not do Edinburgh. They are hoping someone will come along and pluck them out of Edinburgh and put them somewhere nicer.”. That is definitely not an exact quote, but you get the point, and I agree with it. 15 years ago, if you wanted to get to bigger and better places in show bizz, then you needed to get on TV. Due to the increase in channels and the growth of the internet, this is no longer true. I’ve heard that to get to these bigger and better places, then you need to do Edinburgh fringe. I simply don’t know if this is true yet or not. And what on earth are these bigger and better places!?
More positively, after I managed to check out all of the free fringe venues that I wanted to see, I managed to see three shows. And they were all good! Firstly, I went to see my friend and fellow cruise ship juggler Luke Burrage. He was at the festival just to test the water and was doing the free fringe. Luke’s show Bitterly Autobiographical Song Book (4:05pm at The Capital Bar) was a comedy music show which is a side of Luke that I have never seen and I was impressed. It was great to speak to him afterwards about the free fringe and to see his somewhat unsurprisingly organised spread sheet on his finances over the run. Secondly, I saw David O’Doherty’s new show David O’Doherty Has Checked Everything. I have been following O’Doherty’s work for a few years now and I am quite the fan so as expected, I loved it. Finally, I saw Richard Herring’s show Lord of the Dance Settee. Again, I am a massive fan of Herring. I have seen all of his shows and listened to most of his podcasts. I loved the show! Really loved it. So you can imagine my surprised to hear that Mr Herring was thinking of stopping his Edinburgh career. That evening I looked on his blog and was upset to see that he really was not enjoying the run this year, and he was approximately getting 200 bums on seats a night for a 500 seater venue. Now I really don’t understand. Herring has doing 23 Edinburgh festivals. This is his 11th year of doing a new one hour show every year on the trot. Yes his show was programmed late in the evening at 22:45pm, but if Richard Herring, the King of Edinburgh, can’t fill the theatre with a show which in my opinion was truly phenomenal then what hope does it leave for the rest of us. I for one hope that Richard Herring’s statement about not doing another Edinburgh was said flippantly.
Before leaving the festival I met up with a friend who was also in the same position as me about thinking of doing it next year. Surprisingly he had very similar views to me which instantly made me feel less alone. We have given each other a deadline (and no I’m not telling you when) to decide whether we will be performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015. I’ll keep you posted.