On Taking a Show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Co-artistic directors, David Woods and Jon Haynes share their thoughts on playing Edinburgh 2014

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland

David says…

Edinburgh generates a turbulent set of feelings in my guts – excitement, trepidation, anxiety and determination.  Having had successful and unsuccessful visits in the past the build-up is informed by the knowledge of these previous experiences. I include visits I made as a student with and without shows. Its great to be in stuff or connected to it, lonely and expensive if not. And the more going on the more options we have if something bombs. It took years to recover from our last visit where all eggs were in one progressive basket in the wrong venue and category.

Bombing on all fronts would be a spectacularly depressing scenario.

I hope to be able to concentrate on the work but even months in advance feel the omnipresence of other work – work that is raved about already, will no doubt attract huge audiences and critical acclaim and seem to have endless resources of marketing that will drown our miniscule efforts.

The budget is tight, the accommodation is tight and we cling on to this thread of hope that enough people will discover the work to make this expensive loss leading effort and indeed our next few years viable.

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland

Jon says:

Although I’ve never done Edinburgh on drugs (I did a pantomime at university under the influence of nutmeg), the prospect of being part of the largest performing arts festival in the world, which last year boasted a record-breaking 2,695 different shows staging 42,096 performances in 279 venues by 22,457 performers from over 47 countries, sorely tempts me. On previous visits I’ve become a recluse, emerging only to do the show, refusing to see anybody else’s work or read any of the never-ending shit about it. This time I’ll probably do the same. I can’t afford to see things anyway (though I’ve been given a ticket for the Oedipus story staged as mytho-poetic post show discussion by an ensemble of Iranian refugees with learning difficulties – 5 stars on thebeyourowncriticblog). There’s also the fact that I’m going to be very busy working on the two shows I am in.

‘The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland’ is a play concerned with therapy that is itself in therapy. We can’t seem to leave it alone and no treatment we’ve applied so far has been completely successful. We’re throwing various treatment methods at it, particularly Open Dialogue, an approach to life that, if embraced, is actually an enormous psychological relief. It’s just occurred to me that Edinburgh itself could well do with a series of Open Dialogue sessions, and I’ve now decided that this will be my mission. If anyone approaches me with a flyer for their show or begins to act out a piece of self-publicising street theatre in front of me I’ll respond to their every utterance, invite them to tolerate uncertainty and repeat their outpourings back to them word for word, so that we can find a
shared language and then wait patiently for a solution to the stress of being part of a multi-million-pound trade fair to emerge.

The worst response, as the Russian philosopher Bakhtin so perceptively observed, is no response, yet this is the prospect facing half a million wannabes throwing their life savings at an event to which hardly anyone will come in a church hall where they are squeezed between other wannabes doing exactly the same. No response, no critics, no
reviews (not even on blogs by twats), no audience, no money, no future. Forget about artistic fulfilment.

If all this sounds rather negative then I’m sorry. Let’s try to brighten it up a bit. Well, on the plus side I’m looking forward to doing some acting, but on the downside, I know from experience that very few people will like it. Back on the plus side that doesn’t bother me too much. I didn’t get where I am today (and where is that?) being deterred by critics who describe my acting as ‘perfunctory’ or say the stage seems fuller when I leave it. It’s what I enjoy doing and it doesn’t matter what people think.

Perhaps this is what Edinburgh will be for us: a kind of message to people, a statement that we’re still around and doing our stuff after twenty-three years and we’re not going to yield to fashion or wait to see if we’ll be part of it again.

We are ourselves and not one angstrom otherwise.
We’re messy and chaotic.
We don’t write blogs about our work attracting more attention than the work itself.
We just do the work itself and keep on doing it and even if they cut our funding or don’t programme us we’ll do it (but fucking how?).

That’s all I want to say for the time being. I feel a rant coming on, you see, and I think it’s better that I stop it.

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