I wondered when someone was going to mention that doing Edinburgh can seriously damage your artistic health.
Director of the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, Nica Burns is reportedly worried that performers are coming up to the Fringe when “they are simply not ready” and providing poor shows as a consequence. She further added that acts playing the Free Fringe don’t have as much at stake and are tempted to “give it a go”.
Though she later clarified her comments to say that any act doing the Fringe too soon endangered show quality, Free Fringe curator Peter Buckley Hill countered by pointing out that if acts are prepared to pay, why wouldn’t the venues take their money?
Both sides of the pay wall claim they are carrying out quality control. I must admit that I have yet to see anything bad at the Free Fringe, though I am sure readers will be only too happy to fill in this gap in my experience. I have, however, see a lot of shows that are not of the greatest quality at established venues, and in some cases they have caused me to ask myself if anyone was effecting a process of selection.
The message should be don’t do it to yourself, Mr or Mrs Worthington. Take your time
These shows were often brought up by people who have been doing stand up for a comparatively short period of time, and it has shown. The cache of Edinburgh has essentially lured comics to their early deaths. It’s understandable, established acts pine for the festival when they are not here, but there is no rush, even they recognise the wisdom of leaving years ‘fallow’.
The message should be don’t do it to yourself, Mr or Mrs Worthington. Take your time. Holly Walsh is among the acts who took her time before putting on her debut show, an hour that was ultimately nominated for an award.
To a large extent the responsibility lies with the acts themselves to police their expectations. They have to balance this with the knowledge that their careers could have a narrative arc that will take them from the ridiculous to the sublime, and they know that the discipline of Edinburgh will assist this.
Because of the comments made about gate-keeping this week, the debate about the responsibility of the venues is out in the open, and so it should be. What protects the venues is that punters will put down bad experiences to the lucky dip of the Fringe and there will always be a gamut of perceived quality, otherwise there goes another nail in the alleged coffin of us critics.
Promoters and performers should never forget is that the clamour for learning the ropes and the tropes in a Fringe-assisted way is greater than ever. Before we start putting health warnings on shows, let’s all have a word, take a long hard look at ourselves and say ‘what’s my motivation?’