Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer In The City

I'm not going to the Edinburgh Festival this year. No, not at all. No, not even popping up for a few days. Aren't you going to miss it? Yes, I expect I will miss visiting that beautiful city for a year, and I will miss all the little things I do there to distract myself from the fact I'm at the festival. Will I miss doing a show in the Fringe? No, no I don't think I will.

I've written a show for the Camden Fringe. It's a bit wonky and I don't know if it all works and it's got stuff in that I'm proud of but audiences might hate and it's got some wiggle room to include things I've written and pored over but haven't yet properly performed.

I'm not taking it to Edinburgh because I don't think Edinburgh is the right place to try out a Fringe show. I'll take it next year when it's polished and I'm ready to field the criticisms and the fringe audiences.

When Rik Mayall died this week the outpourings of grief and tributes from comics towards him was really moving and it made me think about the Fringe quite a lot. There were so many comics applauding Mayall for being their inspiration and being the first person they saw letting go and doing something different. He started something very cool.

Reading all of those tributes I started thinking about all the current TV shows and stars and TV comics and trying to imagine if any of them were different enough to strike such a reverberating chord with someone. I'm not sure; maybe? Nick Helm certainly has that renegade chaotic element about him. Maybe Frankie Boyle's loose tongue is inspiring? Russell Brand I suppose. Probably Russell Brand.

I think there's a link between the Edinburgh Fringe and this slight lull in exciting, inspiring comedy on the screen. Edinburgh is so expensive and draining, it is a huge pull down on a creative career that doesn't make enough money the rest of the year to support itself. I was told if I wanted to do my show with the company I used last year in a small venue I would need 10k upfront and I'd lose 6k of that. How can I afford that without working full time along side my comedy? Or, already being an established act who can invest that without worrying?

When the stakes are so high for a show, the room to be creative shrinks I think. If you've invested 10k in a new product for an exhibition are you going to attempt "Something Marketable" or really try and patent "The World's First Possibly Useless Terrible Thing"? Most people wouldn't have much of a choice but to try and pull something together that's not going to ruin them. I certainly don't.

Of course, the Free Fringe has really helped and I can think of a few people who are pulling together unique stuff that's exciting and different; Matthew Highton  and Adam Larter immediately spring to mind. On the paid fringe there are a few people who stand out as different; Pat Cahill, Sam Simmons... but most don't, including myself.

I'd love to be able to run some tests on the Edinburgh Fringe and see what happened:

* No reviews for a year. What happens?
* All shows are free to put on for a year. What happens?
* Shows cannot have been previewed. What happens?
* Nobody with any form of TV exposure can do a show. What happens?
* Nobody without any form of TV exposure can do a show. What happens?

I wonder if it would just help put something into the Fringe that I always assumed was there until I started going; a sense of silliness, messing about and trying something out without failure being so utterly devastating. If there isn't so much riding on the outcome, would the outcome be much more creative? Could we breed something new? Something that is struggling to develop on the circut where work is so scarce?

I have no idea. And I won't be there this year to have a think. But I might find that free little space to play in Camden. I hope so anyway.

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