Taking a Show to the Fringe (For Beginners)

So you’re thinking of taking your show to the Fringe this year? I’m not going to say think twice. It’s an amazing experience. What I will say is, think carefully. Make sure you have every detail worked out before you even think of stepping on to that train. Chronicled here are a list of mistakes you should try to avoid making (in the attempt of which I failed). This is by no means a comprehensive guide for Fringe first-timers – all you need is Google if that’s what you’re after – but I do present to you some honest advice garnered from my first experience of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer.1. There is a van.Do not jam six swords into your parents’ car, store them in your family’s garage over the summer, use a golf bag to hide them on the train journey back to Edinburgh, then carry them from Waverley to your flat. There is a Mermaids van for that purpose. If you leave them in St Andrews they will get loaded onto this van and delivered direct to you in Edinburgh.2. Ask for pictures of your rehearsal space.If a rehearsal studio company offers you any location named ‘the vaults’, ‘the dungeons’, ‘the crypt’ or anything of this nature, it may not be a playful nickname. It may in fact have been flooded and have fungus sprouting from beneath a never-opened door. You may in fact feel uncomfortable breathing. The lighting may be dim and the room cold, while outside in Edinburgh it’s sunny and warm. There may also be a pillar bang-smack in the middle of the space. You may want to double check this.3. Make sure you all like each other.You will be living and working with these people for anything up to a month. You will see a lot of them. You may even see too much of them if the bathroom door’s not properly locked. Make sure your relationships can stand it.4. Flyer in costume.If you don’t have a costume on, people on the Royal Mile do not want to hear from you. There are enough people in their regular clothes and paid flyerers in sponsored t-shirts. At the very least, wear a hoodie with your show’s name, dates and location. Give the impression of uniformity. If you can, dress like a gryphon or a hawk. The tourists love it. Then, when they stop to photograph you, jump down from your bollard and flyer the crap out of them.5. Don’t get up early.If your show is on at ten o’clock at night, don’t be out there flyering at ten o’clock in the morning. It is highly unlikely that the people you hand a flyer to now will be on their feet looking for something to see in twelve hours’ time. If they have any sense, they’ll be in bed. Flyer in the run-up to your show. And don’t overdo it. Two hours per day each (if you have a big cast and can afford to do it) is plenty.6. Bring money. Lots of it. As much as you can get.Edinburgh during the Fringe is an expensive place to live. No, you will not get by on £150. Don’t be so naïve! You will have to buy food. You will have to catch the bus. You will have to buy props and costumes and coconuts. And while we’re on the topic…7. Never pay for a show.Your venue, if it’s worth its salt at all, should give you a pass to get into other shows in that venue for free. I saw 25+ shows this August and I paid for two of them. And if you love a show, make the most of it. Go and see it again. Maybe even three times. It’s not costing you anything and all actors want an audience!8. Give away your tickets.If your show isn’t selling well, do whatever you have to to get audiences in. Two for one deals. £1 tickets with a secret password. Free tickets if it’s looking bleak. There’s nothing worse than a theatre with five people in it. We all agreed we’d rather be performing to a full house where the audience had paid a fiver between them than have six people sitting there who all paid full price.Remember, kids – it’s about the theatre, not the money…But do try to break even.Alex MullarkyImage: Magnus Sinding