Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Edinburgh Fringe Wrap-up

If I felt more passionately about the Fringe, I would be happy to declare it as the worst place to make theatre.

Unfortunately, I feel so jaded and apathetic about the whole thing that it's difficult to muster the energy to attack it. It's such an overwhelming institution.

I'll limit myself to some simple expressions and observations.

It was disappointing to see how much the Fringe has not changed since 2006, when I was last here. Theatre certainly has. The hallmarks are still here - the little cliques, the networking, the audiences treating theatre as a supermarket, browsing around, ultimately making bad decisions based on the most trival justifications. It seemed like most audiences wanted to escape something which might be actual, real theatre.

I don't buy the argument that simply having so many people in the same place to watch theatre is enough to justify whatever. Rather, the screws appear to be being turned on artists more than ever. It was so terrifying to see young people there, joining the fray, as it were, handing out flyers, trying desperately to make their money back on their huge upfront investment, to pay back that loan they took from their parents, or that credit card debt.

Some moments of brilliance occurred, of course. Summerhall seemed by far the most interesting place in the Fringe, and the only place where something resembling art might be occurring (although I didn't get a chance to visit Forest Fringe). The rest was dog-eat-dog, theatre meets capitalism in the worst possible way.

The saddest moments in such a scenario is to see someone who has brought something really honest and authentic up north - only to find themselves with little or no audience. This is the real indictment of Fringe - gone are the days when something might be 'discovered'. Now, it's just giant marketing machines dominating the individual. "Where's your venue?" "How many stars?" "Did you see that famous person?" these are, essentially, what Fringe is.

As much as some writing, the Guardian for example, has been critical of some of these hallmarks, they appear to be colouring it with some kind of undertone of "but it's the Fringe! We love it!". I am limited by no such undying love. So I can say, without question, that the underlying structure on which the Fringe is dependant is exactly the problem.

There is some battle going on here - so for that reason, I might well be back. But those living under this 'but its Fringe!' dream need to wake up, fast. When you are supporting something that is so damaging for theatre, you propagate a problem.

Oh good, the passion is there after all. I haven't been completely

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