Press gets the hard sell from frantic Fringe performers : Artistes join the scrum to beg or persuade reporters to review their shows in Edinburgh. David Lister reports
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Tuesday 18 August 1992
There are 540 productions on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and only enough newspapers, writers and critics to mention a fraction of that number. So the first day of the festival sees the hard sell. The Fringe office hires a room in Edinburgh University Students' Union, throws the representatives of the shows (several hundred) and of the press (a couple of dozen) into the arena together and the scrum begins.
A Fringe official who pinned the press badge on me said that the average survival rate was about half an hour before one ripped the badge off and fled from the quadrophonic hustling. I beat the average by only two minutes, 32 minutes of earnest entreaties, clowns appearing from nowhere and jumping in front of one, King Charles II tapping you on the shoulder and making you drop your glass of wine; each new entreaty an improvement on the last in the fine art of hustling.
'Can I interest you in a play on Chekhov?' came a soft voice from behind. And there was Chekhov, nineteenth century Russian garb, small pointed beard. I switched to orange juice.
Back to the present, almost, was the girl from the Questors Theatre in Ealing. 'We're the only reminiscence group on the Fringe.' What's that? 'We've gathered memories from old people. Our play is all about the Acton laundries. They served west London in the 1930s.' Not a lot of people know that.
'This is Rossini the play,' a lady in a Rossini T-shirt darted into view. 'No one has noticed it's his bicentenary.' Well, they have actually. 'Oh, well not in Edinburgh perhaps.'
Pamela Buchner, an actress for 33 years, dressed as Sarah Siddons for her one woman show, was wearing a forced smile. 'This is a very daunting experience,' she confided. 'I don't know what I'm meant to say, it's terrifying.'
What she should have done of course was to fulfil the performer's biggest fantasy, spout at breakneck pace the review you've always wanted to get. As did a lady from New York - 'It's a comedy, I wrote it, it's fast, funny and irreverent; oh and we're doing a benefit for Aids.'
Sexual favours are said to have been traded in the past for a favourable mention but the most extravagant offer on this occasion was a free T-shirt.
Ingenuity comes in many guises, though. Allen Wright, arts editor on the Scotsman, tells how one company rented an office opposite his merely to hang a banner outside asking him to review their play.
But the top award for ingenuity must go to the director last year who didn't bother with any demeaning hustling. He simply phoned over a rave review of his play to the Edinburgh Evening News, was assumed to be one of the many Festival freelances reviewing shows, and saw the glowing notice printed in full the next day.
- 2 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
University student in court for allegedly covering housemates' food in window cleaner and spit
Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...