Welcome to our Edinburgh Festivals coverage!

EDINBURGH49 +3

At Edinburgh49 we believe producers and punters deserve informed, informative reviews. Our main purpose is to critique shows during the 49 weeks of Edinburgh’s arts calendar outwith the summer festivals, supporting emerging and established talent in Scotland’s capital throughout the year. But when the Fringe hits town, our Edinburgh49 + 3 team are there to extend our coverage and provide our unique and considered insight into the shows we see from around the world.

Our team know Edinburgh at the Fringe and beyond. Our select reviews are written solely to help punters pick and producers promote, with no hidden agendas. Have a wonderful 3 weeks!

Steve Griffin, Editor – plus3@edinburgh49.com



Read our recommended shows for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016.

See all our reviews and features from 2015 here.



49 THINGS (+3) YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE FRINGE

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is unique. Uniquely big as well as uniquely varied, and therefore uniquely competitive. Here’s our very thorough guide to our favorite three weeks of the year…

Introduction

  1. Locals can be slow to embrace the Fringe. They are often annoyed by the crowds and since many of the venues operate under different names during August are sometimes left feeling like tourists in their own city. BUT the Fringe is worth over a quarter of a billion pounds to the Scottish economy annually and brings in £245m to Edinburgh alone.*
  1. AND thriving year-round venues such as Summerhall (Europe’s largest privately-owned arts centre) and Assembly Roxy (part of the international family of venues) are blurring the lines between August and the rest of the year.

Getting Noticed

  1. Standing out from the crowd is hard. The streets are filled to bursting with the weird and wonderful. Even the brightest and best-conceived attention-grabbing stunt can be drowned out by the background hum of excitement.
  1. That’s why no serious festival goer (producer or punter) should be without the free Festival Fringe Programme, published by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It’s also available in digital and app formats, but reading the paper copy cover-to-cover is essential if you are going to know what’s happening, what you’d like to see, and what else your potential audiences might also be interested in.
  1. Cross-pollinate your publicity! Ask yourself, ‘What should your audience see after attending your show?’ Contact the other shows’ producers and ask if you can hand flyers to their audiences before or (more usually) after their show is over. Offer them the same.
  1. Punters like to talk with informed and informative promoters. If you have friends or have hired someone to help sell your show, make sure they are as enthused and excited as you are. Have they all seen your show? Why not? It’s so uninspiring to hear, “Would you like to see some comedy tonight? Well, I’ve not seen him myself but I’ve heard he’s really funny.”
  1. Use the VIP lounges. ‘Important person’ is a relative concept but each of the main venues has a lounge where producers and pundits can escape the crowds. You’ll find as much friendly advice, support and sympathy as you will posturing and preening.
  1. The Fringe features live performance from across the genres. Media editors covering the spectrum from stand-up to ballet will develop their own standardised measures for critiquing each piece of work.
  1. Understanding how each title balances its reviews and awards its ratings is essential if you are going to manage your resources effectively.
  1. Some shows come into the Fringe as part of a wider tour. Others make a standing start. Whatever the genre of show, it’s important to demonstrate media interest as soon as it happens. Get stapling! No flyer or poster should be without fresh ratings and reviews.
  1. With the rise of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, more projects than ever are beginning online. How do you stack up against what other producers are already doing? Check out Edinburgh49’s previews of shows coming to Edinburgh using Kickstater and make up your own mind about what does and doesn’t work. Are the producers talking about the work, or are they talking about themselves? Have they explained what they are trying to do? Are you at all interested in what they are doing?

“The essential marketing tactics of the Fringe: online, in print, face to face and (most importantly) word of mouth.”

  1. There is such a thing as bad publicity! If your materials are unengaging, badly formulated, contradictory or plain uninteresting then you might as well not have bothered. You won’t have time to waste. Here, 13 to 16,  are some examples of bad deployments of each essential marketing tactic.
  1. Online. Make sure essential information about times and venues are on your front page. Punters using smartphones with uncertain connectivity don’t want to trawl through your entire online back catalogue of old rehearsal photos before finding what they really want to know.
  1. In print. With so many posters and flyers vying for attention, most will only be glanced at. Final judgements are made in seconds. Your printed materials are your main channel of communication, so keep it clear! Examples: Victorian costume drama = frock coat. Hamlet = skull.
  1. Face to face. Working a line of cricket fans queuing to see the blokes from Test Match Special, explaining to each in turn the background to your biopic about a Hollywood producer from the ‘70s, may keep THEM occupied until doors open, but YOU won’t sell many tickets. Read the schedules. Target the audiences most likely to be interested in your show.
  1. Word of Mouth. There’s no such thing as an empty house. Behind the lighting and sound desk is likely to be a seriously astute critic. Techies talk, so do front of house folk. Engage with them. Get them along and get them on board. When punters ask box office staff for recommendations you want your show to get first mention.

THE ONE EVENT YOU CANNOT AFFORD TO MISS

  1. ‘Meet the Media’ is organised by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society. It’s an event unlike any other where you can spend face-to-face time with media representatives from the various titles. Remember to bring hard copies of your marketing materials and be prepared to queue! Meet the Media 2014: Aug 3: 14:00 (4h): Fringe Central: Free & Non-ticketed.

PULL-OUT QUOTES & STAR RATINGS

  1. The use, usefulness and misuse of star ratings remains a hot discussion topic among producers and pundits. Are stars the best shorthand for what a reviewer thinks, or do they obscure the overall impression? Is a three star show worth seeing? If not why not? Are some titles offering too many stars for too little? How do 5 stars for stand-up equate to 5 stars in traditional theatre?
  1. Include pull-quotes from each review to sit alongside the star rating. Pick quotes that express some insight into your work, rather than just selecting the most favorable single adjectives. If you’re not confident in the number of stars, just include a pull-quote.
  1. Pull-quotes make for reliable daily Twitter content. You should try and draw multiple quotes from one review (so long as you properly reference each).
  1. When tweeting pull-quotes, try including the reviewer’s & title’s account to encourage retweets.

TRADITIONAL PRINT MEDIA

  1. Don’t rely too much on the traditional print and broadcast outlets. Budgets are like tyres, if you slash them you won’t get far. The big titles have fewer resources to cover the Fringe than ever. If you concentrate exclusively on household-name brands you may find you end up with no coverage at all.
  1. Not all reviewers are the same. Some are experienced arts writers with production pedigrees of their own, while others are enthusiastic amateurs starting out their careers through practical training schemes. Some are writing for highly commercial operations, others are taking time out from their paid engagements to pursue their passion for the arts.
  1. A good review from The Scotsman remains the most valued endorsement at the Fringe. But with its last reported daily circulation figures dipping below 30,000, you will still need to make a lot of noise in your own marketing to feel the full benefit.
  1. The Herald is dangerously easy to overlook; it’s The Scotsman’s big local rival and an increasingly important voice at the Fringe. Their highly prestigious awards, Herald Angels, are almost unique in the fact that absolutely any show is eligible to win one – but you’re only in with a chance if you manage to get one of their reviewers in.
  1. The Edinburgh Evening News is from the same stable as The Scotsman, but it’s editorially independent. It has a quite different readership too, so it’s well worth approaching both. Controversially, they rate out of 7 stars rather than the conventional 5.
  1. Don’t discount the free paper Metro – it has relatively extensive Fringe coverage and a large circulation. A good review in Metro isn’t (yet) a badge of pride, but we’ve heard anecdotally that it does great things for ticket sales.
  1. UK national newspapers also have a presence in Edinburgh, though they’re not the force they once were. If you manage to get coverage, enjoy your good fortune. The Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail are among the most visible, while a review in the Financial Times is one of the most prestigious.
  1. Founded in 2002, Fest Magazine has grown to produce 125,000 free copies in six issues during the Fringe. Published every Tuesday and Friday, including a July preview guide. Fest’s online archive is impressively comprehensive but rather old skool to navigate. Fest is notoriously (and proudly) stingy with its star ratings.

NEW MEDIA

  1. Quantity is no guarantee of quality! The more shows a title covers, the more writers it will require to review them. Being in Edinburgh in August is expensive – accommodation costs are especially eye-watering. None of the new Fringe media can afford to pay the living costs of their reviewers, relying on the self-funding capacity of their staff. Whilst there’s no denying seriously good writers operate at the Fringe, this self-funding requirement limits the demographic, distinctiveness and diversity of the talent available.      
  1. The Festival Media Network strives to improve the coverage of arts festivals and promote collaboration between member media. FMN’s members are Broadway BabyEdinburgh Nights, Fringe Guru, FringeReviewHairline and ThreeWeeks.
  1. All Edinburgh Theatre is run by Thom Dibdin, freelance journalist and Scotland Correspondent of The Stage newspaper. The website started out as the Annals of the Edinburgh Stage in 2009, before transforming into All Edinburgh Theatre in 2013.
  1. Broadway Baby has existed since 1996 when it launched as a free resource for actors to publish their CVs. In 2004 publisher Pete Shaw started adding reviews, since when Broadway Baby has become a major force with over 6,000 reviews published of work staged at Edinburgh, Brighton, New York and London. As well as sourcing articulate and lively writers Broadway Baby copy edits everything that it publishes and boasts cutting-edge behind the scenes IT wizardry.
  1. Edinburgh Nights is a weekly show for Scotland’s Capital City promoting shows, events, and music that will be taking place that weekend across Edinburgh. Rooted in the Fringe the show is available online and as a podcast. Edinburgh Nights is produced and hosted by the BAFTA nominated broadcaster, and Edinburgh49er, Ewan Spence.
  1. Fringe Guru, co-founded by occasional Edinburgh49er Richard Stamp, aims for selective quality coverage, in preference to ‘completism’ or rapid growth. Fringe Guru is about trust over size.  In contrast to most independent media, Fringe Guru‘s reviewers are generally professional writers rather than active arts practitioners.
  1. FringeReview, covers Fringe Festivals from Adelaide to Edinburgh and is a passion-project by founder Paul Levy, FringeReview seeks out innovation, challenge, competence and creativity putting an emphasis on supporting producers with peer-review style insight. Billed as ‘The Good Fringe Guide’ FringeReview does not offer star ratings, or publish reviews falling below minimum standards.
  1. ThreeWeeks is the longest established magazine at the Edinburgh Festival. The stable includes not only a free weekly magazine but also a daily update, website and podcast with coverage of all that goes on in Edinburgh during August, including the International, Book, Art and Politics festivals as well as the Fringe. Since 1996 ThreeWeeks has run a media-skills training programme, providing formal on-the-ground arts journalism training to hundreds of young writers.

COUNTING DOWN TO FRINGE 2015! 

  1. Each venue will have its own Press Office. Some are better than others. Even the largest press office staff don’t have time to do your stapling for you. However, if they do display reviews or attach ratings to posters shown in house, make sure they’re doing it promptly. You’re the customer. You paid to use this venue. Demand a quality after-sales service.
  1. The Fringe is home to some really great chat & revue shows where punters can hear directly from participants. The legendary Merv Stutter is among the best established. Don’t be shy in approaching producers and asking to feature on their sofa in front of an audience. Unestablished revue acts in particular need reliable content.
  1. There’s a whole article to be written about Twitter and the Fringe. It ought to start with the obvious warning that not every Fringe-goer is on social media. Our 5 golden rules for Twitter: don’t pester; don’t churn; don’t quarrel; don’t insult; and don’t forget to retweet, follow & favourite beyond the usual suspects.
  1. Read Broadway Baby’s How to write a press release journalists will want to read. Then re-read it and pass it on to every public relations professional you know. Then read it again.
  1. Even if it’s just a single side of black and white A5, consider providing your audience with a programme. There are sound audience engagement reasons for doing so (introducing your company, script, vision etc.) Besides, reviewers can’t name names if they don’t know who anyone is. If you have, or are in, other shows, it’s a good place to mention it. Don’t forget to include your social media contact details.
  1. Always use a local printer to avoid disappointment. If you need something fast, try talking to Paul at Pace Print and tell him we sent you. [NB. They didn’t pay us, or even ask us to write this. We’ve used Pace Print for a long time and they consistently impress.]
  1. The Free Fringe is among the most interesting developments within the Fringe for some time. For established theatre companies the Fringe is a trade show. Their priority is as much to sell shows (to national venue managers) as it is to sell tickets. The costs/benefits involved in setting out their stalls at the Free Fringe may one day be in competition with traditional big venues. Less in doubt are the huge advantages the Free Fringe offers to new players.
  1. Free Fringe audiences exist on a spectrum running from folk who won’t stay past 5 lines of bad dialogue; to those who stay rooted in a venue from dawn till dusk seeing everything in the lineup.
  1. Late to the party? If you arrive in Edinburgh after the start of the Fringe, don’t despair. You’re fresh and eager. Lamentably, few Fringe-goers abandon hearth and home for the full run, so there is always a steady stream of audiences. Still, take nothing for granted.
  1. See Edinburgh! It’s a great city and there are plenty of low and no-cost ways to see it, from the Radical Road to the Walter Scott Monument. The sunsets over the Firth of Forth this time of year are gorgeous, especially when viewed from the Starbank Inn. On the far side of town, the Sheeps Heid in picturesque Duddingston village offers traditional fare on a site which has been continuously occupied by a pub since 1360.
  1. Say goodbye to your money. For many coming to the Fringe is a once in a lifetime experience. For others it’s the start or end of a continuing tour. For everyone it’s a place to workshop ideas in front of an actual audience, night after night. That doesn’t come cheap, so make sure it stays cheerful.
  1. Don’t Panic!


+3: EDINBURGH49 GOES TO THE FRINGE

  1. The eye cannot see itself except by reflection, so to thine own self be true! Does what you’re doing sell tickets to your show? If not, why are you doing it? Does your marketing discourage exactly those punters you should be trying to connect with? You’ve been working on this production since forever. You’ve poured your heart and soul into it. You’ve survived the tantrums and the early triumphs. But are you so close you can no longer see the wood for the trees? Mapping your route to market is something you need to do before the first week of the Fringe, but you also need to be sufficiently flexible to adapt your tactics once you’re on the ground.
  1. Hell hath no fury like a Twitter storm! Sad, but true, trolls exist and have been showing up at the festivals since waaay before social media. Armed with a puffed up sense of their own moral worth, Fringe trolls try to inflate their own profiles by deflating those of whom they don’t approve. The nastiness of boycotts, demonstrations and slut-shaming is nothing new. Anna Kesselaar’s Nude Happening – at the McEwan Hall in the 1960s – caused a sensation, followed by angry howls of self-righteous fury from the nation’s self-appointed censors and moral custodians. Then, as now, trolls believe they should determine the content of other people’s art. The only reliable remedy is to ignore them. Don’t feed the trolls – it’s attention, not change, they’re after.
  1. Have patience, good people! While for some success can literally happen over night, for most it really is best to be patient and let word spread. Good shows have a very sneaky way of bubbling into conversations with the right people and can help build momentum during the festival.That doesn’t mean you should expect it: keep plugging away with marketing your show, not forgetting to actually speak to people. Audiences can be fickle and bring their whole family to your show if they like the sound of you in the street – it only takes a couple of those to give you a real boost. Being nice to those in the seats, backstage and front of house can get you a long way.