Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Ed Blog 3 | The Dreamer | EdFringe Top Tips

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As everyone gears up for the start of the festival this week – here are 3 top tips for enjoying the festival from our Associate Director Rich.

1. GO DIGITAL

Don’t worry about picking up flyers; social media is the new flyering! Save the trees – let’s go digital! Every time you walk down The Royal Mile you can end up politely gathering a huge pile of paper and card. You look at it once, write down what you want to see, then bin the flyers. Instead, make a note on your phone as you walk along, (or take a photo of the cast holding their flyer) take down all the companies that look interesting and the names of all the good people you meet, and check them out online. Always have a list on the go.

The Fringe has an app and Twitter has all the word-of-mouth you could possibly need… Also, why not get involved? Share feedback about the shows you see on Twitter and Facebook – help others choose what to see!

If you send us your poster with dates attached, we will happily add it to our Facebook album.

2. EAT SOMETHING GREEN

If you are planning to hit the Fringe head first, you may find yourself on the move for 12 hours a day (or more). So remember to eat proper food, ideally something to help you fend off Fringe flu! Healthy snacks in your bag will keep you going as you run between venues; and when you do finally sit down to eat don’t just tuck into the nachos in the Gilded Balloon Library Bar… or the delicious (yet insanely expensive) Assembly garden burgers… which are totally irresistible late at night… Also, beer is not food but Black Medicine coffee is in fact medicinal.

3. MOST IMPORTANT GIVEN THE YEAR WE ARE ALL HAVING – FEEL THE LOVE

Make friends with everyone: other companies, audiences, the lovely locals, anyone you can. If you are up with a show, never ever slag off a show in public – you never know who might be listening and why waste vital show watching energy. Every Fringe participant is trying; everyone is doing their best to make the most exciting work they can. Some people have no resources or time, others have everything they need apart from a great idea… The arts are up against it, but pretty much everyone at the Fringe is on a mission to make something brilliant. As artists and makers, it’s essential we stick together. Treat the Fringe like a competition and you are in for a hellish time. Treat it like a festival of art and make as many friends and positive connections as you can, and it’s an amazing place to be.

Click here to book tickets

Ed Blog 2 | The Dreamer | Article In The Stage

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For our second Ed Blog, we thought we’d share with you an article The Stage wrote about The Dreamer after its first performances in Shanghai last October. In it, Rich and Chris explain how the idea for The Dreamer came about, how Gecko and SDAC made the show together and what they hoped would be next for the show.

Click here to read the article in full.

Luckily, these hopes came true, and Rich and Chris are both currently in Shanghai again now re-working the show before its run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe 2nd – 15thAugust at the Pleasance Grand.

Click here to book tickets

Click here to watch the trailer for The Dreamer


EdLog | The Dreamer | Shanghai’s Marriage Market

As the team head back out to Shanghai to re-work The Dreamer, Rich reflects on one of the most influential moments of last year, and how that impacted on the creation of the show. The Dreamer is Gecko’s first ever international co-production (with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre) and was created in 2016 as part of the British Council’s Shakespeare Lives programme.

“We were in the middle of devising a show, which focuses on Helena from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I found myself stood in a beautiful park, in the middle of a very modern city, surrounded by thousands of people desperate to find love.

That sunny day in the park changed everything, not only with regards to the show, but also how I thought about relationships. In China, they have a derogatory term for women in their late 20s who are not yet married… they are referred to as ‘Left Over’.

Being in the market itself is pretty much just a surreal walk through a very beautiful park, but at the same time it’s a bit like being inside a live-action-super-analogue version of Tinder. The main difference being that it’s the parents of single people who have set up a large proportion of the ‘profiles’, not singles themselves. Often the people who are on ‘offer’ don’t know that their parents have made a profile for them in the park.

If you haven’t heard about this unusual form of matchmaking, this video, which is doing the rounds on Facebook pretty much sums the place up. (Despite obviously being an advert, it does have a interesting message). The markets happen all over China, several times a week in some places, and they are really popular. You can walk for about 20 minutes through the market in Shanghai and still be in the market. It’s big. I tried to take some photos and interview some of the ‘agents’ who negotiate the ‘matches’ but every time I got my camera out, people covered their faces and told me to stop filming.

This video is a really positive attempt to break down the idea of ‘Left Overs’ and, on the whole, women in China found the market a strange place. Performers who took me to the park found the experience very uncomfortable. It’s obviously not for everyone, but it’s clearly a known way to date in Shanghai.

Making The Dreamer in Shanghai was really fascinating for so many reasons, but the day I visited this place, was the day I could see how a 400 year old character (Helena, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) might find love in Shanghai in 2017.”

To watch the video mentioned above in full, please click here.

To watch the trailer for The Dreamer, please click here.

For more information on the show and to book tickets for the Fringe, please click here.

EdLog 2015 - Save The Trees!

During the last week of the Edinburgh Fringe I mentioned to some of the Gecko gang over coffee that I hope that within five years the festival will be completely flyer-free. If you haven’t been to the Fringe, you should be warned that you can’t walk through any major pedestrian area without companies and paid flyering teams shoving A5 pieces of paper in your face. It’s relentless.

I have been thinking about the idea of a flyer-free Fringe a lot in the weeks that have passed. I have some thoughts on how we ‘sell’ our work, at the festival and beyond.

For around 6 years I flyered hard in Edinburgh, through rain and sleet and wind, day and night, often shifting upwards of 15,000 flyers a week with small devised teams I was working with. We organised our whole team to hit the right spots at the right times to get the word out about our shows. I don’t know if it worked. I don’t know if it was more effective than good reviews and word of mouth. But I do know we always sold about the same tickets on the days we flyered en masse as the days we did not.

I was always the worst flyerer on the team, always. I was shamefully bad at it. Selling a show you have made, a piece of art that you love, that you have to condense into a sound-bite to convince a passerby in under 10 seconds that they should give you their tenner and not everyone else, just to get a bum on a seat; that’s hard work. And I think it’s rubbish – The arts shouldn’t be a competition. We should be flyering for each other, we should be working together to build and satisfy audiences on a massive scale.

My Feeble Attempt

This year Gecko were lucky enough to be able to employ a small team to flyer for us, so I was exempt from the responsibility. It was a huge relief, but after 15 years of Fringe shows I feel I have done my hours on the Mile. Out of interest, one cold day I tried to flyer for another show – I spotted a (drenched) flyerer really struggling to hand out his flyers for Trygve Wakenshaw’s Nautilus, a brilliant show. I asked him if I could help for a while and he gave me a handful to try and shift. 20 minutes later I’d got rid of one. One! And it was definitely a sympathy take. People don’t want flyers. Why would anyone want a flyer? Eventually I shifted another and called it a day! It was horrible.

Lots of my friends spent a huge amount of time flyering this year, professional actor friends who don’t do the marketing for their touring shows for the rest of the year. Professionals who should be concentrating on being outstanding in their shows. That’s just the way the Fringe works. But all this got me thinking – does it work? Is it worth it? I saw over 150 shows at the festival this year and not one of those was because of a flyer I was given. I spent 31 days in Edinburgh and I walked down the Mile three times and that was specifically to watch street performers.

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What does a flyer give you that the Fringe programme, venue brochures, the Fringe App and website, Twitter and Facebook, reviews and most importantly good word of mouth don’t? Well, flyering can give a personal relationship, a moment of interaction between company and potential audience. A human touch. But could we find that without a piece of paper? Probably.

With companies forking out so much for the Fringe nowadays I wonder if a more creative marketing strategy could be more effective. We distributed less than 10,000 flyers this year and our venue was 750 seats. I would very much hope that next time we go to Edinburgh we would have even less. Maybe none at all. I wonder if small performances, creative online activities like videos and more engagement with the festival as a whole may be the way forward? Perhaps small, high-quality street performances and a clear banner that people are encouraged to photograph on their phones as they pass by (with all the venue details, times etc.) might be the next step. Sell the show with talent, with creativity, with something that sparks the imagination.

If you have been to Edinburgh, how many times have you had a flyer shoved in your face and then seconds later thrown it away? Or thought, ‘That person was rude, I’m not going to that.” I bet the shows you saw, having been given a flyer, were shows you already had on your list or special occasions when someone actually spoke to you about their production and it really excited you.

The Bigger Problem

That aside, I think there is a bigger problem: Flyering is taking up too much time! I spoke to over a dozen people in Edinburgh who said they had spent more than 6 hours a day flyering for their show. Others I spoke to had been at the festival for the entire month and they had only seen two or three shows, because their directors and producers were making them flyer.

This makes me sad. No one is making money at the Fringe. We are all there to share our work and to make meaningful connection, we are there to meet and expand our audience, and most of all we are there to be better artists for the audience in Edinburgh and beyond. Aren’t we? Anyone who claims to make money isn’t paying their staff properly. Or they are making a commercial gem (which is very rare).

I wonder how quickly the skillset of all the young companies at the festival would expand if they were seeing shows instead of flyering. I wonder how much better I would be at making theatre now if I had been watching shows instead of trying to sell mine to people who were probably coming anyway. I am still a young director after working on almost 30 Fringe shows and I learn more from watching brilliant work in August than I do from the rest of the year. If everyone who offered me a free comedy show went to see another free comedy show in the hour they were trying to sell me theirs then new comedians would have more audiences and they would be seeing what works and what doesn’t in comedy… and then they would get better!

Considering a majority of audiences for student work is made up of other students, I wonder what would happen to the arts if they all stopped flyering and started swapping tickets with other companies to share their work and get bums on seats? I’m not saying people should just give tickets away, I am not saying people shouldn’t sell their show. But what if companies set a limit – say 1,000 for four weeks (some companies are shifting 50,000 into the recycling bins of Edinburgh)? What if companies spent an hour a day on the Mile or wherever doing something really brilliant? They could spend the months leading up to Edinburgh growing their online audiences so that they can share what they are doing each day. In the meantime they can, as a company, be seeing work which improves their own practice, supports other companies, and ultimately improves the quality of work for audiences beyond the Fringe.

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I know full well that it’s expensive to see lots of shows. I am still shocked at the prices of the festival this year with Summerhall and the Traverse being particularly overpriced. There has to be way of making the Fringe more affordable for companies and for audiences – Perhaps the savings they could make on print is a start.

Obviously it would take a lot more than that and the festival ticket price bubble will have to burst at some point or we will all be performing to filthy-rich royalty exclusively… But that’s one for another day.

– Rich

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EdLog 2015 - Rich's Survival Guide

1. GO DIGITAL

Don’t worry about picking up flyers; social media is the new flyering! Save the trees – let’s go digital! Every time you walk down The Royal Mile you can end up politely gathering a huge pile of paper and card. You look at it once, write down what you want to see, then bin the flyers. Instead, make a note on your phone as you walk along, take down all the companies that look interesting and the names of all the good people you meet, and check them out online. Always have a list on the go. The Fringe has an app and Twitter has all the word-of-mouth you could possibly need… Also, why not get involved? Share feedback about the shows you see on Twitter and Facebook – help others choose what to see!

We have ordered only a handful of flyers this year but we will be having a lot more fun on Twitter (@GeckoTheatre) and Facebook.

2. EAT SOMETHING GREEN

If you are planning to hit the Fringe head first, you may find yourself on the move for 12 hours a day (or more). So remember to eat proper food, ideally something to help you fend off Fringe flu! Healthy snacks in your bag will keep you going as you run between venues; and when you do finally sit down to eat don’t just tuck into the totally amazing nachos in the Gilded Balloon Library Bar… or the delicious (yet insanely expensive) Assembly garden burgers… which are totally irresistible late at night… Also, beer is not food and Black Medicine coffee is in fact medicinal.

3. FEEL THE LOVE

Make friends with everyone: other companies, audiences, the lovely locals, anyone you can. If you are up with a show, never ever slag off a show in public – you never know who might be listening. Every Fringe participant is trying; everyone is doing their best to make the most exciting work they can. Some people have no resources or time, others have everything they need apart from a great idea… The arts are up against it, but pretty much everyone at the Fringe is on a mission to make something brilliant. As artists and makers it’s essential we stick together. Treat the Fringe like a competition and you are in for a hellish time. Treat it like a festival of art and make as many friends and positive connections as you can, and it’s an amazing place to be.

4. CHOOSE YOUR OUTFIT CAREFULLY

Dress to stay dry and warm outside then cool and awake inside… And most importantly, choose the right shoes! Cobbled streets, torrential rain and loads of walking means it’s essential to get your footwear right. Look after your feet and give your calves a little love, especially if you are not used to the hills. Avoid baggy jeans and long skirts – it’s easier to dry off wet ankles than sopping wet, heavy jeans (there’s nothing worse than having drenched legs watching a show). Having wet jeans is the fastest way to Fringe flu! Carry a waterproof everywhere and ideally a change of socks. And just when you think you’re prepared… the Sun will come out!

5. TAKE A MOMENT: BE CARED FOR

Look out for GECKO CARE STATIONS – A NEW INITIATIVE RUNNING ALL MONTH. Throughout the festival our performers will be offering up to 2 minutes of care at various places across the city, in the street, in the bar and all around our venue. We’ll tweet the location and the ‘open hours’ and you can come and find us! For a few moments you can receive free, loving care (in various forms) and we’ll even write you a theatrical prescription to help you get through the festival in one piece.

 

Enjoy the Fringe!

– Rich

EdLog 2013 - go out and explore!

Three shows and a Pleasance press launch in and the Fringe has most definitely arrived. It felt like the festival crept up on us; having come to Edinburgh last Friday for our weekend of technical rehearsals, well before most companies, it was almost a surprise to see bars open and shows performing when we returned for further rehearsals on Wednesday.

And suddenly it’s upon us. Tree upon tree of flyers. Choice so vast and varied it seems impossible to know where to start. Best to start with what you know, right?

Wrong.

The Edinburgh Fringe is a treasure trove of creativity, spilling with ideas, talent and, I’ll be honest, the odd duff. But these duffs, too, are an important process – often allowing artists their first taste of performance on a grand scale, and providing an environment in which to grow.

Edinburgh is a place where audience members can take risks. Go and see the big name comedians, but also try something new – take a punt on those engaging young artists who flyered you on the Royal Mile and spoke so eloquently about their performance and ambition.

And performers can take advantage of the glorious community that surrounds them. We’ve met with young companies on the Royal Mile that are flyering every hour of the day, leaving them no time to learn from other shows and companies, a vital ingredient in the Edinburgh experience. In contrast, the New Wolsey Youth Theatre has been instructed to see at least two other shows a day by their mentor. Now that’s more like it!

I’ve heard two opening speeches, from Anthony Alderson at the Pleasance and Lorne Campbell at Northern Stage, which celebrated the unique community created by the festival. Which were humbled by the honour of people from all nations descending upon the city to engage in this spectacular feast. And which cited the importance of continuing to foster this atmosphere and provide opportunities for young artists in these difficult economic times.

Already at the festival I’ve been lucky enough to have seen I Could’ve Been Better by Idiot Child, The Little Soldiers by Theatre Re, Stuart, A Life Backwards by HighTide and Major Tom by Victoria Melody. I have hundreds more shows on my hit list at Northern Stage at St Stephen’s, Summerhall, Dancebase, Forest Fringe and Pleasance to name but a few.

For me, it’s exhilarating to be flooded by shows of all different styles and journeys.

August in Edinburgh is the month to go out and explore.

Roz

EdLog 2013 - In J.K. Rowling's Bed

HOW ARE YOU SETTLING IN?

Our flat perches on top of Black Medicine, Edinburgh’s finest coffee shop. How dangerously easy it is to tumble out of my ex-J.K. Rowling bed (more on that later) for a macchiato and a smoothie.

Ryen, my onstage husband, follows me down for a soup bowl of cappuccino. Every morning since being here in Edinburgh we have told each other that this really must be the last time, and still we tumble in, imbibe and tumble out. Talking of taking a tumble, it is physically impossible to fall out of my once-owned-by-J.K. Rowling bed, or should I say ISLAND! It’s massive; even extreme ‘starfishing’ will not allow you to reach the coastline of the mattress.

NERVOUS NIGHTMARES

I have to say that I was totally freaked out the first night, as I lay there minding my own business and suddenly the bed began to move. I kid you not; I was convinced that someone was underneath it, pushing up my mattress with a murderous intent. Perhaps it was Machete Man (the mythical figure we imagined stalked Jawbone Walk through the Meadows). I prepared, choreographing my defensive moves with apt emotional breath. I was ready to leap from the bed to the light switch so that Machete Man could not grab my ankles… Turning the lights on is the best way of defeating intruders who hide under the bed. We all know that.

Poised on the bed, I leaped, ‘full stag’, off the bed for the switch, at least two metres up. But just as I was about to illuminate the room, mid-air I spotted a swirl of shadows all around me. I was suddenly frozen, held mid-air… Dementors! Dementors in my bedroom, Dementors in my nightmare?! They screeched, their mouths open ready to suck out my soul. I managed just in time to rip out one of the twisted metal poles that adorns the corners of my/JK’s bed and do a quick expelliarmus. Thank goodness I had paid attention in class and all was well. Perhaps this has happened before; perhaps she too had a nervous Edinburgh stormy-night-nightmare fuelled by too much coffee at the Elephant cafe…

HOW ARE YOU FEELING?

It is so exciting being here and before it all starts… You feel the pressure build, as if the storm is about to break. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to know that in a few days’ time the city will breathe creativity, the streets will be teeming and we, Gecko, will be part of that. I am so in awe of my colleagues. They are not only some of the greatest performers and technicians but they have hearts that swell with love and generosity and booze. I feel blessed to have the chance to be with them for this whole magical month, to be bought drinks by each and every one of them : )

WEATHER SERVICE

Before I go I must tell you about this service that Ryen and I are offering. It seems that whenever we leave the house the heavens open and we get drenched, only for it then to miraculously dry up as soon as we reach our destination. Today for example, wised up to this, I put on my mac. Ryen assured me the mac was not needed. Ryen had checked the weather forecast; Ryen said no rain, perhaps a few droplets. I opted for my poncho (not of the waterproof variety). We stepped out… golf balls of rain. Sodden, sodden poncho; SODDEN SODDING RYEN. So we will be broadcasting when we are about to go outside so that you know when not to… There will be a minimal charge. Terms and conditions apply.

Over and out.

– Georgina