Getting the Show on the Road

By Giles Moss on April 29th

It’s early April. The final few slots in our venues have now been filled, and all companies are starting to get on top (we hope) of their production tasks. They’re designing posters, booking travel and accommodation, and thinking about how to transfer their shows from the rehearsal room on to the stage. There is a huge amount of detail to get right in order to successfully transfer a show to Edinburgh. How much set can you bring? What about props? When can you get into the theatre? How do you meet your Venue Technicians? Quite aside from the physicals of reblocking your production to fit a different stage, or handle entrances in different places, there are myriad tips and suggestions we can offer, and a few hard and fast rules in the mix too.

We have a dedicated team on hand to help with exactly this. Our Pre-Production Team is a group of six Fringe veterans, all of whom started with us as Venue Technicians at some point in the past and have since returned as Senior Technicians and Venue Managers, or have just loved the Fringe so much they continue to turn up in their holidays. Between them, Jamie, Simon, Lee, Fay, Cain and Zoe know our theatres inside out, they know every square centimetre of prop storage, know how the lighting is rigged (i should mention they’re also some of the people leading the venue builds)... there is absolutely nothing they don’t know about how to bring a show to theSpaceUK.

In April we send the first email newsletter out from the Production Team, introducing the companies to their dedicated Pre-Production Manager; we assign companies to a single Manager, that way the company gets to know us and we get to know the company in a more intimate way that if we ran Pre-Production as a large group. We give the companies their personal log-in to our Production website which allows them to see ticket sales and upload key information about their shows to us. As with most of our newsletters, there’s a lot to take in!

We also share the full technical specification of our venues. All spaces have a detailed list of technical facilities, and layout and lighting plans for companies to download. Although simple, there is a surprisingly large list of topics from lighting to sound, storage to even how to find the venue in the first place. Every show is different, every company comes with their own requirements, and as companies process all this information they naturally have plenty of questions, and not only are the Pre-Production Team always on hand to answer questions, they relish the challenge of helping companies make a success out of our theatres. They delight in seeing shows they’ve brought through the process open the house to their first audiences.

All companies are required to complete show safety forms and brief risk assessments. This is to encourage them to think about what they’re intending to do and to check it’s safe - our Pre-Production Team sign off every safety form so get right into the detail of what companies are planning. Ultimately we judge the safety aspects but because we don’t know the shows or what the performers are capable of doing we always open a discussion to find out more. In some cases we do have to step in; famously, even though the cast might well be trained in how to spin huge swords around their heads, if a company is hoping to do that in a small 40-seater theatre where the audience is practically on the stage, we can’t let them do it.

Rules and regulations are hardly the most fun and we do try to keep them to a minimum,- but there are plenty of inescapable aspects to staging shows at the Fringe. Some are legal: smoking inside, for example, is prohibited by law. Others we implement to keep our theatres running smoothly: such as prohibiting liquids and messy things - frequently we only have a few minutes downtime in the theatre between shows and it’s just not possible to clean up messes, and we can’t have a show coming into a theatre covered in filth. Often our rules have been learned the very hard way but we always try to find ways around the rules rather than simply saying ‘no’. We hope this gives our companies the best possible balance between their creativity and the constraints of a quick turnaround Fringe theatre.

As Pre-production rolls on, we send further email newsletters requesting further information such as lists of company members (for their Space Passes), and we also verify we hold the correct information on their shows, performances and ticket prices. It’s a bit like getting on a motorway - you just have to put your foot down and pull into the fast lane. Next stop - the Fringe!