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

SOME ARE in costume, some are virtually naked. Some leer, some look like frightened rabbits. They brace themselves for two hours of hard sell, several hundred in one large room, sweating, cajoling, begging, hustling.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One Direction's Zayn Malik gazes at a bouquet of flowers in the 'Night Changes' music video
people
News
people
News
'Free the Nipple' film screening after party with We Are The XX, New York, America - 04 Feb 2014
news
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

Election 2015

Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May