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Choosing the right moment to hand out flyers – experiences from the Edinburgh Fringe 2022

And so, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022 has come to an end.  I’m back home in my London flat, nursing a heavy head cold which broke hours after our final performance last Saturday.  Talk about good timing!

Our 5 metre by 3 metre performance space at the Hilton Hotel…

The name of our theatre space in Edinburgh was the Argyll Theatre, a rather grand sounding name for a small 50 seat venue, converted from a conference room on the first floor of the Hilton Hotel.  Doing a play about Hiroshima in the Hilton Hotel struck us as a little odd.  But perhaps some rich Americans would pop in and take a look at the play and rethink their attitudes to nuclear weapons?

We were performing at 10.45am each morning, a little earlier than I might have preferred, and a bit of a shock to the system, but it worked in our favour.  Our audience demographic was a little older and those people were up and about in Edinburgh and in the mood for some mid-morning serious drama.  We were also blessed with a fab technical team, and three excellent operators of the sound and lighting cues for our shows, Isaac, Adam and Emma.  They all want to come on the world tour with us – should such a thing ever happen!

Emiko and I had just one day off but we got into the rhythm of doing our demanding work in the morning then recovering, chilling and heading off to see other shows in the afternoon and early evening.  I was in bed by 10pm pretty much each night, then up again at 6.15am in order to wake up my body and brain in time for the play…

Emiko Ishii and myself

The word of mouth about the play was excellent and my having chosen a small 50 seat venue, it did mean that it was often quite full and in the final week often sold out…

The responses from audiences were heart-warming.  They seemed so engaged with the material, moved by it, challenged by it, wanting to talk to us as soon as we’d finished the play.  We tried to do this while striking our set and clearing our props as the next play in the space was due in ten minutes later!  A fast turnaround – that’s the Fringe for you.

One man, Larry, told me that he’d found the play very healing, helping him to resolve issues within his family – where his father had always believed the atom bomb was necessary to end the war, whereas Larry had passionately disagreed. 

Another man told me that his father had been a ‘back-room boy’ on the Manhattan Project – there were many of those – and that his father had in fact been at the very first atom bomb test on July 16th 1945 – which we reference in the play.  I was lost for words when he told me this. 

Then after the final performance, a Japanese family came up to me, saying that their son, who was there with them, was one of the singers in the recordings we use in the play of Japanese children!  The boy attends the Japanese School in London – where I had made a contact earlier this year with a teacher, who very generously organised a number of students to sing and record children’s songs in Japanese and English to be used at key points in the play – songs which are terribly affecting.  It was the family’s first visit to Edinburgh and we were the first play they went to.  What’s more, they told me that the boy’s grandfather was a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, and that at the age of 94 he was still alive and active, now living in Tokyo.  The boy’s father told me that the grandfather never cursed or blamed the Americans for what had happened.

I found it very humbling to hear these testimonies.

Edinburgh in August is like a huge mad carnival of street theatre and performers, stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, vast crowds, alongside the constant dishing out of flyers for shows left, right and centre, and on this occasion, in the last two weeks of the Festival, overflowing bins due to the strikes in Scotland.  It did turn this beautiful city into something of an eyesore…I hope the Japanese family weren’t too shocked by this.

Flyering – hmm, I felt that I was really getting a bit too old to be doing this but I gritted my teeth and had some very good conversations with people, a number of whom did then come and see the play, which was gratifying. 

The most outrageous example of flyering that I was subjected to myself – seconds after we had finished our performance one day, and the applause had only just stopped, a lady stepped forward and accosted me saying that ‘Our show has just the same set as yours!  We too have a blackboard!  Exactly the same!  Here’s a flyer!  Will you come and see it?’ she said, with a bright smile.  ‘It’s about suicide.’

‘Erm, would you mind waiting till we come out front in about ten minutes and you can tell me about it then – right now we have to clear our set away…’

‘Just like our set, exactly the same as ours!’ she went off muttering to herself.

There is an appropriate time and place to flyer – but that was not it.

By the time I got out into the foyer, she had gone though…

After the final performance last Saturday, Emiko and I celebrated with tea and cake in Clarinda’s traditional Tearooms.  I was delighted to learn that she loved tearooms as much as I do! 

In conclusion, we had a ‘good fringe’ – a very good Fringe, all things considered.  Still not remotely a profit-making venture, but I didn’t lose as much as anticipated. 

We received some very good reviews, five stars and four stars, won a Carol Tambor Incentive Award, were short-listed for the Sit-Up Awards – for plays that strive to have a social impact on their audiences.  And THE MISTAKE was long-listed for the BBC Writers’ Room ‘Popcorn Awards’ for New Writing at the Fringe.  (Can’t recall when I last saw anyone eating popcorn in a theatre…)

Finally, and most fun perhaps, Fringe stalwart Mervyn Stutter, who for 29 years now has had his show Pick of The Fringe running each day throughout the Festival, gave us a Spirit of the Fringe Award – still presented in a clip-frame as it has been these last 29 years.  Mervyn felt that if anyone exemplified the ‘spirit of the Fringe’ then I did – what with doing all the writing, admin, venue-hiring, laundry-supervising, etc etc, you name it!  

But many thanks again are due to all those who have supported this venture through crowd-funding etc.  I felt that it was an investment worth making to bring this important material to life and to get THE MISTAKE up and running ready for a tour next year hopefully.

A tour of the UK – and yes, who knows, maybe a world tour?  One can but dream…

The Spirit of the Fringe Award – in its clip-frame!
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