Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Edinburgh Blogpost 5: Postcard From Edinburgh

This was written midway through the Edinburgh Fringe, for the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase blog.

Postcard from Edinburgh
There comes a point when you’ve been in Edinburgh during the festivals for a few days when your body clock separates from the calendar, from the days of the week, and you don’t know when you are. The marker in the week isn’t the weekend anymore, it’s your Day Off. And, er, I haven’t got any of those this year. But in a good way.

As we knew it was going to be, 2013 is proving to be our busiest Edinburgh Fringe so far. It’s going extremely well, though – our best Edinburgh Fringe ever I’d say. Cape Wrath is sold out for it’s original run and we’ve had to put in extra shows for the final week. The audience response has been genuinely moving, and I’ve been really touched by their attentiveness, and the conversations people want to have afterwards.

A Conversation With My Father has just opened and is also going well – the piece suits the intimacy of the space at St Stephen’s and Hannah has really hit her stride here. Again great feedback and interesting conversations afterwards.

And then there’s The Bloody Great Border Ballad Project, which is a pleasure to be part of. A beautiful, rambling, exploratory celebration of an evening: music, song, story and debate. Inspired by the possibility of Scottish Independence, the varied contributions from some brilliant regular and guest balladeers, combine to create a fascinating and joyous discussion about the nature of borders themselves.

Which you would think is plenty to be going on with, but here we are, the island that is the weekend before Week 3, and there are two more shows to get up and running. The Desire Paths is our contribution to Northern Stage & Forest Fringe’s Make. Do. And Mend. event which will be an exploration of the routes we take habitually or by choice, and the idea of naming one thing after another.

And slowly moving from the back of my mind to the front is preparing for What I Heard About the World. This weekend I’m making five litres of fake blood, five cardboard planes, and buying wick for Molotov cocktails. Craig and the venue tech team are working out the logistics of how best to prep a 9.30am show. Rachael is back from holiday and gearing up for a week of Showcase networking. And Jorge, Chris and I will all be telling ourselves stories, separately, before we bring them back together for Monday’s get-in.

Oh, and we’re sourcing the free pastries we’ve promised the audience as a reward for making it down to St Stephen’s that early. And, I’m happy to report, people are pre-booking – so maybe see you there.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Edinburgh Blogpost 4: Postcard from England

Written for the British Council Edinburgh Showcase blog, edited by Eleanor Turney.

Postcard from England

And suddenly it’s mid-July, and the Edinburgh festivals loom massively on the horizon. Venue teams are already up there converting rooms into theatre spaces. It’s just a couple of weeks away, rather than a couple of months.

As What I Heard About the World is a well toured show, performed recently, it has slipped into the background for a bit. The set (including exotic/stuffed animals) is already in Edinburgh, collected by our touring Tech Manager, Craig, from our storage space in Barnsley, taken to Newcastle by van, loaded on to one of Northern Stage’s three wagons, taken up to Edinburgh and finally unloaded into St Stephen’s, where it will hide behind 7 or 8 other sets until we need it in Week 3 of the Fringe. We use a lot of “stuff” in What I Heard About the World, so the shopping list has been updated: party cannons (8), baby shampoo (4 ltrs), food colouring - red (15 bottles), decorators’ overalls (5 + 1 spare).

Rachael’s been down to London to meet with the British Council and do an interview for this promo video. And people are starting to book, which is great – real audiences, and promoters we’ve worked with before. Hopefully the promise of free pastries (and a great show…) is helping to motivate people to come along at 9.30am. Theatre! For breakfast!

Photo: Elliot Roberts

But at the forefront of our minds is Cape Wrath. This is the first time we’ve opened a show at the Fringe – mainly because when we’re opening a show we occupy a space full time, and continue to work on it during those first performances – so we like to have the space to ourselves. (Hundreds of companies open shows in Edinburgh every year, so I understand it is possible…). But Cape Wrath will tour with its own space – a 17-seater minibus - so I’ll have that option. That said, though, Cape Wrath has been made, part time, over the last two years (I did this real-life journey in 2011), so it feels… well developed? Ready for an audience? Last week was our last full-time week on it – working on it as a minibus show, letting go of elements that were designed for a work-in-progress on a stage. And it works. I’m looking forward to welcoming people into the minibus. Yes, ready for an audience. By which I mean it’s at the point where we’ll learn more about it from giving it to an audience than we will from rehearsing it without one.

We’re aware it is Edinburgh rehearsals and preview season all around us. Over the last few years Third Angel has been doing more mentoring of other artists and companies. This mentoring is bespoke and responsive – what do they need for this project? What do they need for this point in their careers? Often this means the privilege of visiting their process, asking questions, giving feedback, and this month I’ve been lucky enough to visit the making processes of St Stephen’s stable-mates Daniel Bye (How to Occupy An Oil Rig) and Fallen From Grace (When We Embraced), and to spend a week with St Stephen’s alumni, RashDash (just trying stuff out).

Sometimes mentoring means collaborating on their show with them, being the other person in the room, which is how we’ve worked with Hannah Nicklin on her show, A Conversation With My Father (also at St Stephen’s), which has been on a mini preview-tour this week – Leicester, Leeds and London, meeting its audience, getting match-fit for the Fringe.

And suddenly it’s the end of July and over social media people are asking if any vans or cars are heading to Edinburgh with a bit of space in them, teaming up, helping each other out. And all over England, (and Scotland and Wales), those vans are being loaded with sets and props and heading north. It’s nearly August.