Highs & lows of Fringe “reality”

Well, we are officially “launched”. Yesterday 7 different shows were featured in a tightly controlled press preview show directed by John Brant and technically masterminded by Tom Lishman, Andy Harris, and the phenomenal Pleasance technical team. A goodly selection of press, cameras, and PR representatives joined us – and it was great to see a magnificent double page photo of DEPARTURE LOUNGE in the Evening News today, and hear other good comments coming back. They opened in George 4 last night and it was packed. Congrats to the Brits on Tour, Andy Barnes Productions and their great PR reps – Paul Sullivan and Kim Morgan.

Today saw the first preview of BIG BRUVVA THE MUSICAL with a lively audience texting away their votes. It was great fun, got the afternoon off to a good start, and there was even a bit of inoffensive gratuitous nudity which got suitable whooping and cheering. Over the next couple of days we open THE PIPER’S TRAIL from the Army of Scotland, and there were half of regiment on stage today building what looks like a complete Scottish town – gawd knows whether they will be able to strike it fast enough – we’ll see. We also have the final dress of THE JONAH BOY and SPITFIRE GRILL by RSAMD which I’m really looking forward to – I sense from the tech team that these may be very special shows.

But now we have most of our menu on display, there are some very painful moments to contend with. Noone likes harsh criticism, and whilst most of our reviews have been fair and supportive, there was a vicious one in the Scotsman this morning which will have hurt one writer and one company very deeply. Fortunately there are many more favourable views of the show – but still it’s the one they’ll remember.

Some lessons are coming through looking at box office returns now. Early days, but its very clear that whether a show is great or not, initial audiences are drawn in by four key things – companies who were really well prepared with their pre-marketing, those who have thought about and managed the press relations themselves or brought in one of the exceptional guns-for-hire. Those with a strong image which instantly draws you into the world. And those out there doing promotions, getting spotted in costume, and meeting the potential audience of the day. It takes a moment for new arrivals in Edinburgh to get just how essential this is.

However much you tell them, and the Fringe writes guides, and the Roadshows give hints – until you are in Edinburgh seeing it happen (or not), you just don’t believe. If I have one recommendation to anyone contemplating Edinburgh – don’t bring a show until you have been to the City at Festival time and studied the ground. So anyone planning for 2009, should be up here for 3-4 days now looking at venues, studying promotions, talking to companies with big queues outside, and talking to the “despairing ones” with empty houses. I guess all of the key venues have a mix of both highs and lows, come visit.

One thought on “Highs & lows of Fringe “reality”

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