Fighting out of the Fringes: taking a school show to the Edinburgh Fringe
When I first thought about taking a group of ten Year 13 students to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival it sounded like such a simple and wonderful idea. When I first told the group of the plans the idea was pounced on with characteristic wide-eyed optimism. Since then, reality has bitten hard and I’ve turned into a complaining old troll and while they bicker and fight on the bridge above my head. Should every teacher and student then look to avoid the “greatest cultural event on the planet” (edfringe.com) and just spend holidays on warm beaches instead?
In a bid to make the experience as ‘real’ as possible the organisation of our visit has been down to the students. That means the budget, the fundraising, the accommodation, the contact with the venue, the lot. However in reality it’s been far more work than if I had just handed it over to our dedicated administration people and given the students a bill. And it’s not just been more work for me. Ellie, a member of the group who has taken on one of the lead roles, is frustrated that:
When you say to people ‘Yeah, we’re performing at the Fringe this year!’ – That’s about as much as you can say. Truthfully, I want to say ‘We had a cake sale but no one came to help me so we only made £20 and then we rang the hostel but they didn’t answer so I had to write an email and risked being late for my lesson and everyone in the group is being lazy and blah blah blah’.
And remember this is even before we’ve dealt with curfews and flyering and the inevitable Scottish summer rain. So why does Natasha persevere in getting the budget perfectly up to date and workable? Why has Dan spent hours in front of a computer screen getting the promotional video right? Why has Amy wracked her creative mind on the poster design (see left)? Well, because, as Ellie continues:
Having said all that, this is the best experience I have ever had… The entire experience will benefit me profoundly when working in the Performing Arts industry. Knowing that I will be performing in the greatest arts event in the world pushes me to succeed.
The experience of doing it for ourselves is utterly empowering. We haven’t got all our fundraising set yet so we may well not even end up going, but this is an opportunity that goes far outside the classroom walls and that counts for something. In my experience when the theatre industry hands students the chance to get involved in a real way they produce fantastic work displaying genuine hard graft as well as inherent talent. Recently the student shortlist was announced for the National Theatre’s “New Views” competition, which gives students the opportunity to work with National Theatre playwrights in producing a politically-minded play as explained in a previous blog. The ultimate winner will even have their play performed in Westminster Hall. Out of the shortlist of twelve, who all receive a staged read at the National, two of them are from my school and it’s no surprise that one of those students, Rachael, says that at her time in the school:
My highlight has been being a member of Rare Notions Theatre Company; in preparing a show to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’ve been able to act, write and direct others. Through it, I’ve discovered that I love the process of getting a piece to the stage, from writing to performance.
So, in welcoming student theatre Edinburgh I think the Fringe becomes an incredibly formative experience in the lives of British (if not world) students and programmes like New Views are desperately appreciated in providing access to some of British theatre’s hallowed institutions. Theatre is often effortful and theatre is also often blissful, the sooner students experience both sides of the coin the better set they are to excel.
All views expressed here are personal and not the views of any institution or business I’m involved with. “Letters, Boxes and Other Things That Shouldn’t Be Opened” will be at C Nova 2-11 August 14:05. Follow @philjcking for more.Tagged in: Edinburgh Fringe, education
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