To Edinburgh And Beyond

What an AMAZING experience that was !!!

A month ago my daughter and I went overseas together to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.  I wrote about the lead up to this event in another blog post – Soldiers and Saxophones.

We got back a couple of days ago.  Quite simply, we have had the experience of a lifetime.

The group we are lucky enough to be involved with – Nuworks Theatre – put together two shows to take to the Fringe Festival: That Bastard Brecht and The Electra Legacy.  We have been rehearsing for many months in the lead up to this epic adventure.

We performed 2 shows a day – one of each in the morning and the evening.  To suggest that as a group and individually we are now exhausted is an understatement.

I am pleased to announce that we won the Best Overseas Show award for the entire Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.

This is a huge honour and privilege.

But let me go back and fill in some details.

 

London.

 

A 27 hour plane journey is never fun.  Nobody really likes extended plane journeys.  However, the good thing about air-planes is the destination.  Whether you are going somewhere or coming home, getting off the plane at your destination is usually going to be a pleasurable experience.

Travelling from Melbourne to London is a long flight.  I am fortunate in that I have done it several times.

My daughter and I landed in London in the late afternoon, took a train from Heathrow airport to Victoria Station, found our hotel, had a quick bite to eat then went to bed.

The next day was my daughters 15th birthday.

We got up, had breakfast, then bought SIM cards for our phones.  With the boring but necessary things on our list done, we then started on the birthday proper.

 

Hamilton.

 

Given that we are a theatre and musical family, no trip to London is complete without visiting the West End.

London’s theatre options are vastly superior to Melbourne !

We had bought tickets to see the musical Hamilton as a birthday present for my daughter several months ago.  She was very excited.

The show was fantastic.  The chorus/ensemble were VERY good, as were the leads.  If you’re in London (or New York where it is also playing), and you are looking for a professional, slick and very impressive musical theatre production, then I highly recommend seeing Hamilton the musical.

The next day we spent as tourists – a wander to Buckingham Palace, a walk to St Paul’s Cathedral, a mosey to Covent Garden Market.  Very relaxing and great fun.

An all too brief night in Cambridge with an old friend, then up early the next day and a flight from Stansted airport to Edinburgh.

 

Bump in until 1 am.

 

The population of Edinburgh in Scotland allegedly quadruples during the month of August for the Fringe Festival.  When we arrived, it was easy to see that this was no exaggeration – I have actually never seen so many people, consistently and everywhere, for such an extended period of time.

Edinburgh was packed to the rafters.

We navigated / battled our way through the crowds with our rolling suitcases and found our AirBnB apartment.  It was basic but perfectly functional – but it was in what turned out to be a fantastic location, just on the edge of the Edinburgh University complex in the Old Town area and very close to the main Fringe venues.

Our performance venue – Paradise In Augustines – is a church for 11 months of the year.  It holds three performance spaces for August.  It was a 15 minute walk through the crowds (8 minutes walk without crowds) from our apartment.

We all met at Paradise In Augustines at 9pm for our allocated “bump in” time slot.  Our group of 19 people had all arrived at different times throughout the last 24 hours.  Very exciting !

For those in the know, “bump in” is theatre speak for “setting up, checking out the stage/wings/backstage layout and sound check”.

We set about building our props – a bed, some chairs – and setting up the band.  Sound check proved to be a little difficult with 10 wireless vocal mics, plus drums, bass, saxophone, keyboards, but eventually we got it all happening.

At 1 am we called it a night.  We were absolutely knackered – especially the people who had come straight from Melbourne, to Edinburgh, and directly to the venue !

 

Show Time.

 

Monday morning started with our first performance – That Bastard Brecht.

After a few minutes delay caused by sound issues, we were off.  We were pleased with how it all went, as was the audience.  We got some wonderful feedback from appreciative audience and staff.

We regrouped immediately afterwards at the apartment of some cast members for a read through rehearsal of The Electra Legacy.  This was also a good bonding experience.

Lunch / rest and the temptation to go and see some shows and other acts of the Fringe Festival was on the agenda for the afternoon.  With so many shows, acts, bands, music, comedy, theatre, circus, dance, buskers and action, it was very easy for everyone to find something to see and do.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has hundreds of venues big and small, all hosting acts from all corners of the globe… including an amateur theatre group from Australia that included me and my daughter.

The place was buzzing.  Different accents, different costumes, different languages, different cultures and everywhere a gazillion people.

After dinner it was back to our venue for our evening performance of The Electra Legacy.

Again it went well, again the audience feedback was extremely positive.  Finishing by 11 pm, we were exhausted and most of us went back to our accommodation and bed by midnight.

 

A Pattern Emerges.

 

This proved to be the routine for the next two weeks.

A morning performance of our own, a break for lunch plus seeing a show or two, dinner, another performance of our own, then collapsing into bed.

Someone in our cast noted that there was a bigger gap between our shows during the day than there was at night between the evening show and the next morning show.  A few of us built afternoon naps into our daily schedule.

It actually all turned into a Groundhog Day concept.  Repeating the day with minor details changing was the norm for the next two weeks for all of us !

 

So many shows.

 

With such an incredible choice of acts to see, we all took advantage of the opportunities available to us.  We as individuals and as a group saw so many shows.

Interestingly, some of them were great – like ours !!

However, some of them were absolute crap.  Some had great actors, but were terribly written and directed.  “You can’t polish a turd” as they say (because it’s still a turd after all, albeit a shiny one).

Surprisingly, some shows were polished turds.

Most of the shows I saw were between our venue and my accommodation, which was very handy.

There were bars and beers, gatherings and groovings, dinner and dancing – and people everywhere.

The stand out show for me that I saw was Six the Musical.  Everyone in our cast saw at least 10 other shows, as well as performing in our own.

Unfortunately, we did have to cancel a couple of our own shows due to illness.  The exhaustion and “Fringe Flu” caught up with some key members of our cast(s).  But this gave us the opportunity to see more shows and still get to bed early.

All in all we performed 21 of our planned 24 shows.

 

Awards, Reviews and other Niceties.

 

It was a very pleasant surprise to have what appeared to be a random person hijack the stage during the final bows of our second Tuesday performance of That Bastard Brecht and announce to both us and the audience that we had won the Best Overseas Show award for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018.

When you consider the fact that there were over 3500 shows of all possible live art forms, for us to win this award was both humbling and gobsmaking !!

We got plenty of nice reviews and writeups – from professional reviewers, newspaper writers and random audience members.

All in all we did well.  As a group and individually, it was a fantastic experience.

From a personal perspective, simply being lucky enough to share a stage (yet again) with my vastly more talented daughter, watching her perform as well as interact with, learn from and teach her much older fellow cast members, was the highlight of my trip.

It put a tear in this proud Dad’s eye on more than once occasion !

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Did you go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year ?  What were your highlights ?

Thanks,

Matthew