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Dear West End Producer: ‘How has your first week at Edinburgh Festival Fringe gone?’

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What a good question, dear! Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, this is the first time I’ve taken my own show to Edinburgh. I took on the challenge with tremendous excitement and trepidation. Me, searching for the leading actor in my Free Willy musical – among thousands of other artists in the biggest performance festival in the world. What’s not to like? Well it turns out, a lot.

I’ll be honest – I came up to Edinburgh expecting my show to sell out, giving me plenty of time to get sloshed, watch other productions and have lots of sex. How wrong I was. Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a difficult nut to crack, and the novice (like me) can easily be swallowed up by it, never to return the same again.

The competition is huge – Eddie Izzard was sharing my dressing room – and trying to get an audience to watch your show can seem impossible. But it’s a sport worth enduring.

Mentally, the fringe can ruin you. On my second show, I performed to an audience of 14, all of whom seemed to hate me and my latex mask. I found it thoroughly depressing. Putting my heart, soul, and finances into a product that I believed in – only to have it seemingly not work – was heartbreaking. I spiralled. A couple of days of panic attacks – helped only by my dear colleagues and friends (and vodka shots) – proved hugely challenging. We had meetings with the lovely people at the Assembly Festival, and I felt like cancelling the entire run.

My inflatable whale was a joy to ride. But it’s an uphill climb

That was the low point. Apparently, it’s something everyone goes through. We did the show again, and it was marvellous – wonderful audience, great guest and my inflatable whale was a joy to ride. But it’s an uphill climb.

There are constant things to do. As a producer, I don’t usually perform – so on top of my normal job I have the added stress of remembering lines and shouting in the right direction. I also have to do several other things: flyering, rehearsing, marketing, sorting comps, inviting press, filming, social media coverage, organising stunts, industry meetings, sourcing props and even stapling quotes on to posters. It’s relentless. I haven’t felt this stressed since I watch the Stephen Ward musical.

But, finally, I‘m beginning to enjoy myself. There are countless shows to see, and wonderful people to meet. The atmosphere is electric, and everyone is driven to create and perform.

If you are working at the fringe, remember that by being here you have already achieved something. Be kind to yourself, try not to compare – you have brought something unique and important to Edinburgh. Don’t just work, take time to breathe in the atmosphere and take in shows and events. Look after yourself mentally and physically – escape the festival, do some physical activity, and put it all in perspective. It’s just a month, and it’s just a show.

And finally, be proud. You have made this happen – you have followed your idea and turned it into reality. Embrace the highs and lows. And embrace your friends. And come find me and embrace me too. I’ll buy you a drink. We are not competing with each other. We are working with each other. Bravo. I can’t wait to meet more of you, my dears.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer. Read more of West End Producer’s weekly advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/westendproducer

Diary: West End Producer to take the plunge with killer (whale) show


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