Goodbye Edinburgh, Hello London

News   Goodbye Edinburgh, Hello London

The Edinburgh Fringe closed amid a welter of press coverage on Aug. 26.

Although the International Festival continues for a few more days (to Aug. 31) the main event, in terms of the number of shows and publicity accorded to them, is over, and theatre critics can return south to London.

This has not been a particularly exciting year for the Fringe, other than in sheer volume - over 900,000 tickets were sold - and an article in The Guardian on the Fringe's last day wondered where all the money generated by this theatre-going went.

Edinburgh's main venue, the Pleasance, seems to make a profit form Edinburgh, but this is ploughed back into its London base. Edinburgh, as a city, is the overall winner from the Fringe, given the massive cash injection - paying for accommodation, food and drink as well as show going - over the four week period of the Festival. For most performers - unlike the fortunate few, like Ross Noble, heading for a short season at the Vaudeville in early September - Edinburgh sees a net loss of money, but it provides a showcase for writing and performing talent, and a useful bust of work experience for everyone from fledgling producers to lighting, sound and design teams.

As with last year there have been no real surprise hits - Outlying Islands is transferring to the Royal Court, Snatches is going to the New End and Happy Natives will be seen at Soho Theatre but, as with last year's Gagarin Way these were planned events rather than a surprise discovery being whisked off, in triumph, to London.

Although it's dangerous to generalize, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is perhaps increasingly less important as a place where potential West End material can be discovered.

There are plenty of year-round opportunities for shows, actors and writers to be discovered in London on the permanent fringe circuit, and the National's Transformation season at the Lyttleton and the Loft has provided London's own summer showcase for new, young, talent.

Shows in London, even on the outer fringe, are also more likely to be reviewed than anything on the Fringe - at any given time there may be some 100plus shows on offer in London, while there were over 1400 running in Edinburgh in August. It was noticeable that most major papers reviewed the same 10 or so plays, restricting the likelihood of coverage even more.

If you want to make it in theatre, then, 2002 confirms the fact that London continues to be the place to be seen, and to be the place where new talent is most likely to be spotted and break through. Although Edinburgh still has its own special appeal.

—by Paul Webb Theatrenow