Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Taking place over the month of August, it’s a showcase for performing arts as well as a place to discover new, innovative work. It’s also a totally un-juried festival with no selection committee, so any type of performance can participate. Since 2009, we at Kickstarter have seen hundreds of Fringe projects come through our virtual doors. It’s been an awe-inspiring array: ensemble pieces, one-man shows, musicals, gritty drama, comedy, surrealism, and many, many works that don’t fall comfortably into any category.
A large number of artists, collectives, and groups travel from far away to Edinburgh to attend Festival Fringe. We talked to three creators about their performances, what it was like to put them together, and how they took them to Scotland.
Would you briefly describe your piece?
Lucy Benson-Brown, Cutting Off Kate Bush: My piece is a one-woman show about a young girl called Cathy who finds a box of her Mum’s Kate Bush records and starts listening to them. As she does so, she starts to remember these stories… about her childhood, about her mum. Amazed, she starts to blog her findings on YouTube by making videos. She talks to the camera, she dances to Kate Bush’s music, all in the aim to try and remember as much possible. With that, of course, comes a certain amount of consequences. Kate Bush’s music has been so central to my adolescence, I really connect with her storytelling and her musicality. In my opinion she has some of the best lyrics out there and her music lends itself so well to the theatre.
Kate Jones, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: It’s an ongoing, ever-changing and always original attempt to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. Created by Greg Allen, written and performed by award-winning Neo-Futurists from San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, the show is never the same twice.
Ben McFarland, The Thinking Drinkers’ Guide to the Legends of Liquor: With the catchphrase “Drink Less, Drink Better,” we celebrate the men and women who have used alcohol to light a fire under the rocking chair of moribund ideas rather than those irresponsible imbibers who have given drink its devilish reputation.
What did you do to prepare for Fringe?
Kate Jones: We’ve been preparing for quite some time. After we settled the venue, we needed to cast the show, and we wanted the three companies represented. We started to curate the menu of our show, which is comprised of 30 original plays in 60 minutes, all of which are authored by a member of the Neo-Futurists, and on some level, the plays are autobiographical. We asked the three companies to put forward work that was representative of their unique ensemble. We started with almost 400 on offer, and got down to 80. Plus, we’ve left room for new work to be written about the experiences, giving us a different show every night. (Somewhere between one and six plays will be cut from the menu and replaced with another play every single day.) Putting the show together over the last few days has been a non-stop adrenaline rush — building props, memorizing lines, learning dances, learning blocking and cues… But it’s also been really fun! We’ve got three new plays we’re world-premiering tomorrow, all written in the last two days (including references to our apartment fire!), so we’re quite excited.
Lucy Benson-Brown: I’ve performed at the Fringe twice before but I actually haven’t been back for about nine years. I always wanted to take a solo show and at the beginning of the year I had this idea and before I knew it, I had applied and here we are. We are currently in full-time rehearsals and we open next week so at the moment, it’s just working the story and trying to tell the best version of it that I can.
Ben McFarland: We wanted to do a show as we wanted to take the “tutored tasting concept to another level – beyond just talking through how something tastes and how it’s made – and putting it into a historical and cultural context. Our whole approach is designed to urge people to “drink less but drink better” This is the fourth year we’ve done the Fringe but the first year of a new show, so we’ve been preparing for it by feverishly learning lines, lyrics, dance moves, getting costumes and set together etc…it’s a fairly intense time but really good fun.
What was it like traveling with your show, and have you traveled before?
Kate Jones: Traveling was a bit difficult. The ensemble was converging on Edinburgh from all over: San Francisco, Chicago, New York, London and one performer had to fly in directly from a performance at San Diego Comic-Con, after being on tour for a month prior.
While the majority of performers were in the air, our accommodation caught fire when the landlord tried to use a bug bomb to fumigate the flat. It was uninhabitable and made you feel like you were giving yourself black lung while you were standing in it. Our managing director had to phone up friends to get extra beds until we could find a suitable replacement, though some stayed in other rooms in that flat that were in better condition. The air quality was terrible. It was really stressful — we had nowhere to rehearse and tried meeting outside, but the weather is unpredictable and we need a lot of electronics to run the show. We were quite unfocused until we got into our flat.
Lucy Benson-Brown: This piece is brand new, it will be premiering at Edinburgh so I haven’t travelled with it before. I have, however, experienced some strange coincidences that I think perhaps only come with working with Kate’s music; I’m convinced it’s magical or something. First of all, I already wrote the piece and had my offer and had pretty much signed the contract and then ten days later, Kate Bush announced that she would be performing again after 35 years. We finish on the 25th of August, and Kate’s first Hammersmith date is the 26th. Our opening show in Edinburgh is the 30th of July, which just so happens to be Kate’s birthday. It’s all very strange and I’m sure we’re to find out what it all means as we embark on our run at the Fringe.
Ben McFarland: We’ve performed the show at The Soho Theatre in London and The Cheltenham Festival and we’re going on a tour around the south east in the Autumn.
To catch Cutting Off Kate Bush, The Thinking Drinkers’ Guide, or Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, see the schedule of performances here.
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