What is the point of Fringe Theatre 

Convener(s): Andrew Piper

Participants: Laura Macdougall, Tom Latter, Scarlett Plouviez-Comnas, Lucy Avery, Nir Paldi, Jen Lunn, Sally Christopher, Randy Ginsburg, Sarah Johnson, Nicola Sanhope, Katheryn Worthington, Sarah, Oli Townsend, Lyn Gardner, Daniel Pitt


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

Convener’s note: I wanted to discuss this because I have found the fringe a deeply frustrating place to work. Each job I would approach with the hope either of artistic satisfaction or a showcase that would lead to more work or better representation. Out of about 10 unpaid fringe projects I’ve done, only 1 (poss 2) have been artistically satisfying; none has led to more work. Venues such as the Finborough, 503, Arcola, and Southwark Playhouse are attracting critical acclaim; many other venues blur the distinction between amateur and professional in a dispiriting way. What, then, is the point of theatre where no one gets paid? 

  • Development of new writing
  • Showcase for new talent
    • Exposure for actors struggling to get paid work
    • Develop body of work for directors & writers
  • Why does someone work for no money?
    • Want exposure
    • To keep working/maintain skills
    • Artistic satisfaction lacking in commercial work
    • (But does that make an actor’s artistic satisfaction dependent on other people?)
    • To develop new projects that will have a commercial future.
  • Fringe can be both about artistic development in a low-risk environment, and also about exposure to the industry.
  • Anything is possible on the fringe – no commercial constraints
  • Actors (and all involved) need to have a clear sense of what they want to get out of it.
  • Important to play the long game: how does this project fit into where I want to be in 5 years time?
  • Fine-tuning your craft. BUT the saying is that you’re only as good a tennis player as the people you’re playing tennis with: if you want art, but you’re in a showcase then you’re going to find that frustrating.
  • Best chance of artistic satisfaction for actor if involved before start of rehearsals; know the director and/or writer’s work
  • Seek out creative ensembles to develop a long-term relationship with
  • Edinburgh – showcase for shows to be picked up by tour producers
  • National Theatre of Wales: travels around looking for small-scale (not just fringe) shows looking for talent
  • Some language discussion: some prefer ‘studio theatre to ‘fringe’.