A fringe outside the fringe

Pleasance Theatre is raising £1.5 million to directly support a theatre network that is currently not 'effective enough.'

Anthony Alderson, the artistic director of Pleasance Theatre, sees the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as the best launchpad for theatre works in the world. He describes the festival as a ‘microcosm of the theatre industry,’ but notices that ‘there is a neighbourliness and community about the Edinburgh festival whereas the industry is a bit selfish the rest of the year.’ The festival presents exciting, innovative work and people come with an open mind to support and see new plays. He is investing in a model that will essentially create the network that works so well in Edinburgh, outside of the festival and this will hopefully, bring more theatre to the city, as a result. He hopes to improve the communication between a larger network of mid-scale regional venues and smaller-scale Fringe venues around the country. Instead of one theatre having to market one show, a centralised brochure will market the plays that are going from one venue to the next. If theatres work together, costs are reduced and support is increased. A circuit is created that theatres will regularly appear on.

The problem at the moment lies in the lack of support for the fringe outside of the festival. Alderson explains that the ‘fringe remains invisible because we’re obsessed with the mainstream with the likes of Britain’s Got Talent and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s reality show. At the bottom of our culture we have the fringe which is taking place every night but has become disjointed out of Edinburgh. We need to connect it back together again.’ He emphasises the importance of ‘communities’ gathering together to support the fringe. This investment will mean companies don’t miss out on showcasing their work if they are struggling with funds. Theatre companies usually cannot afford to do five week shows, however this model hopes to make the idea of long runs for shows in different venues around the country into a realistic goal. Alderson’s plan is to formalise the model, which the arts council may see as a structure they could fund. He describes a streamlined network where theatres work in collaboration with each other. ‘Imagine what could happen if the Fringe theatres in Brighton, Birmingham and London, Liverpool, Leicester and Nottingham were connected together...a proper support mechanism could be put in place.’ Theatre would become more important as the network is celebrated; smaller fringe venues would send work to London and then onto the ‘firework display’ of Edinburgh.

Alderson explains that the Eastern Region has ‘got it right.’ They created a fund called ‘Escalator East’ which is a scheme that gives direct funding for companies to take their shows to Edinburgh. ‘People want to use that fund to present themselves to a wider body of people and buyers across the world; the knowledge they get from spending time in Edinburgh’s melting pot is incredible….I don’t understand why the Eastern Region is the only one who offer specific funds for work going to Edinburgh.’ Oliver Lansley, the Artistic Director of Les Enfants Terribles, stresses how significant Edinburgh is to him. ‘Our company has grown through Edinburgh; as a company starting out you don’t get that level of playing field anywhere else. I’ve toured all over the world since our launch at Edinburgh; Prague, Poland, Australia but we always come back to Edinburgh because it is so important for us…it is crazy that the biggest arts organization in the country has a blinker to it.’ Lansley is launching an award for young companies to take shows up to the festival because the process of transporting a show to the city resonates strongly with him; ‘that was me ten years ago.’ Many regional theatres find their work at Edinburgh, so this communication between the Fringe and regional theatres would formalise a support that already exists but is not practiced effectively enough.

The system will bring in the festival buzz of a community and break down the idea that theatres that are close to each other have to be in competition. Alderson has been in discussion with Lorreta Sacho who has just bought and refurbished the Old Market theatre in Hove, Brighton to start up this network with venues working more closely together. Battersea theatre is already in discussion with Cambridge. Riverside Theatre and Pleasance are pushing their box offices together so the infrastructure is starting to take shape. ‘If we were to expand this network to Greenwich, Kilburn and West Yorkshire playhouse and we all sat down and spoke of the work we were going to present then all of a sudden you’ve got a tour for a theatre company ’ This network is starting to come together and could democratise the way in which theatre is governed. Alderson explains that he doesn’t want every theatre looking the same but for the venues to work together in a festival environment, which would in turn be a greater support for the creation of new work. Pleasance’s £1.5 million investment is to offer a production development fund aimed directly at supporting the work submitted to Edinburgh, including free rehearsal rooms.

The most important development with this investment is that marketing costs would be greatly reduced. ‘The dilemma for fringe has been if you spend all your money on art, not enough money is spent on marketing, if all your money is spent on marketing then not enough money is spent on art.’ One of the strengths of the festival is that it puts all its acts in one magazine and all its tickets are sold from the same place. If a network of box offices were to join up, then costs would be greatly reduced and the focus could be on the art. As theatres have 52 weeks of the year to fill, they become inherently selfish which, as Alderson explains, is all the more reason to share. ‘If the Pleasance were to sell tickets for the Udderbelly in Southbank, convenience is increased and there is no booking fees, the money would go straight to the theatres.’

The traditional way of producing a show can limit press, exposure and money is wasted. Twelve theatres in London at the moment have less than 1% cross over audience. If we combined these London theatres with small regional theatres, and took plays as a season, communication would be increased and the print market would be the same. Edinburgh is a brilliant launchpad but a connected infrastructure with London and smaller venues needs to be choreographed. Jonathan Holloway, from Red Shift theatre company, emphasises that ‘unless you have an awful lot of money to throw at publicity, London is difficult to make a mark and the audience is limited, in Edinburgh you are suddenly amongst a community of enthusiasts who are looking for new work.’ He supports Alderson’s observation of the Edinburgh community and describes the relationship between art and audience at Edinburgh as unique and mutually supportive.

Pleasance’s investment will offer theatre companies the artistic freedom to bring their vision to life without the constraints bought about by lack of funds or having funding that comes with a catch. Holloway controversially refused funding from the arts council. ‘We felt our work was being prescribed…I wanted to go in a different direction that wasn’t what the Arts Council wanted.’ Pleasance’s investment directly towards theatre companies will offer artists artistic license so they can create the work they really want to make. If the Arts Council invests, the funding can be filtered productively towards publicity. A greater number of people will be exposed to theatre through this Edinburgh-style programme and a collaboration between box offices. As productions are spread widely across the country, theatre will be seen by more people and become more accessible. This network will change the way art is created and marketed for the better.

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy