It happens every year so I really shouldn’t be surprised. The Edinburgh Fringe programme drops (like an old fashioned telephone directory) on the mat and I’m bowled over by the eclecticism of that three plus weeks: 4-28 August this time and it’s a septuagenarian celebration for 2017.
What, as ever, impresses me most, is the range of seminars and learning opportunities because there’s a lot more to performance than, well, performance. In fact there are now so many leaning and training opportunies that these days they are helpfully listed in a supplementary booklet.
Many drama schools, for instance, sensibly see Edinburgh as an opportunity to get out there and meet potential students on neutral, buzzy territory. Mountview, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, East 15, Central and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School are all running events, for instance. So are Equity, The Stage, The Independent Theatre Council and many more. You could, in fact, take say a week at the Edinburgh Fringe and treat it as a learn-about-theatre-and-training-for-it course if you organised your time carefully.
There are top up training experiences aplenty too for those who are already working professionally – a voice and movement workshop provided by East 15 for instance or Q/A sessions with eminent actors laid on by Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.
And what about the huge number of people in the early stages of their careers who’ve actually managed to get a show to Edinburgh? Well the Fringe includes lots of sessions relating to what to do next, how to develop your work, advice on producing, how to get the best out of touring and much, much more.
I had a snobbish, narrow minded relation who lived in Edinburgh for many years. He loved the main festival with its top brass classical concerts and big name drama (as long as the actors weren’t gay) but was witheringly dismissive of what he called “that dreadful fringe” which he spat out with contempt. I often think of him as this time of year because he was so very wrong. Every year the Fringe gets more interesting and more of an all round developmental experience for everyone who engages with it.