Sharing life in jumble of limbs

Louise Jury recalls her own days at the Fringe
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The Independent Culture
Erecting the six-tier seating was tough. The 5am dress rehearsal the day we were due to open was less than ideal. The debate over why our allegedly flame-resistant black drapes caught fire when the brigade tested them with a match for safety reasons is unresolved.

Probably the biggest nightmare of three weeks as a student thespian on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe was sharing a two-bedroom flat at huge expense with 13 (or was it 15?) other people. A holiday it wasn't.

The flat was an improvement on original arrangements. In a moment of madness we had decided to cut costs and stay in our hall-turned-theatre next to a bus station in Leith.

The insanity of this living-on-the-job arrangement became clear on the first night. Even the allure of cheap food in the bus canteen paled as our suspicions grew that the incomprehensible bus-workers did not approve of a bunch of Oxford undergraduates.

But it was all part of the experience. Anyone going to perform on the Fringe has to be mad if they think they will eat, sleep or make money.

You fly-post when not performing, entertain at the strangest hours and adjourn to the Fringe Club for the terror of reviews in the first-edition newspapers.

The cost of hiring a venue, and publicising and staging your shows is considerable. Unless a big-name performer, your chances of an income from the venture are virtually nil.

Topping living expenses are the drinking and the tickets to the Polish state theatre and cutting-edge comedy. Renting accommodation is the final blow to the bank balance as canny Scots leave home for the month and charge the earth for the pleasure of your tenancy. Which was why I ended up sharing with 15 in a jumble of limbs, luggage and sleeping bags.

The shrewd survive. Choosing a school exam set-text tends to boost attendance. We made Arthur Miller's The Crucible a (relative) hit. The financial triumph were 4pm readings from The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole with a cream tea, which drew legions of parents desperate to silence their kids. Our acting was certainly less remunerative than our catering but it did not matter. My brief appearance in the limelight was fun.

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