Terri Paddock is the Editorial Director of Whatsonstage.com. She’s seeing 22 shows – and counting – in three-and-a-half days during her trip to Edinburgh at the start of the Fringe festival.
Not only have I managed to secure just a measly four days out of the office during Whatsonstage.com’s summer “downtime” – two for a long weekend in Sardinia, two for a long weekend in Edinburgh (as I mentioned before) – but I’ve got them the wrong way round.
I returned Monday night from Sardinia and am heading off tomorrow afternoon for Edinburgh. But clearly I should have booked Sardinia post-festival in order to recover. Any peace and relaxation I gained on the beach has already disappeared. In truth, I never really switched off as, part way through my indulgent beach-read novel, I was gripped with the panic of not having figured out my Edinburgh schedule yet. Out came the stack of press releases I’d packed along with my sunglasses.
For journalists – and, I’m sure, any really avid theatregoer – planning your Edinburgh diary is just one big, constantly changing jigsaw puzzle with an almost (hair-tearingly) limitless array of possible compositions. And it always takes so much longer than you imagine. With so many shows to see (2,088) at so many different venues (247), you of course have to take into account not just the many different show times throughout the day and night but also the time it’ll take you to commute from one show to another.
It amazes me how few press releases include vital information like the performance length (or even the dates, time or venue in some cases). As a result, my diary planning involves consulting a combination of said stack of press releases, the Fringe programme, a map of Edinburgh and random notes I’ve made over the past few weeks – then, when I just can’t find the relevant piece of paper, logging on to www.edfringe.com, www.whatsonstage.com or various venue and show websites.
So I started the planning in earnest while on holiday, sketched out a rough outline over a few hours at home on Monday night and then got really stuck in yesterday back in the office. After firing off ticket request emails to all the relevant press offices, I realised I’d got the start time wrong for one play and the end time wrong for another. But I absolutely couldn’t miss this one or delay that one … back to the drawing board.
I’m also perennially torn about what shows to prioritise. With my Whatsonstage.com newshound hat on, do I opt for big-name productions that are likely to transfer? Or do I focus on shows that I’m unlikely to get another chance to see outside Edinburgh? It’s a bit of both in the end. Amongst the transfer candidates that I just haven’t been able to squeeze in are Bill Kenwright’s production of Surviving Spike starring Michael Barrymore and the adaptation of Carl Hiaasen’s Lucky You, presented by Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures co-founder Katharine Dore. I’m relying on the sizeable producing talents of Bill and Katharine to ensure I will get a second chance with those in London before long.
Once I finally thought I’d got my schedule sorted, I emailed some of my actor, producer and director friends who are already in Edinburgh, alerting them to my imminent arrival and beseeching them to include me in any late night, post-show festivities. The emails started pinging back that afternoon – why did I leave their show off my theatregoing schedule? Couldn’t I squeeze another one in? Oh brother … back to the drawing board again.
I really will need another holiday after this next week. I’m already fantasising about that Sardinian beach again. Well, having just looked at the Scottish weather forecast for the next four days, I can at least comfort myself with one thing about having booked my long weekends the wrong way round: I reckon I’ll be one of the few people in Edinburgh with a tan (even if it’s already starting to peel away).
- Terri Paddock, Editorial Director, Whatsonstage.com