Where from Edinburgh?

| by Alexander Kelly

Alexander Kelly from Third Angel explains how the British Council's 2001 Edinburgh Showcase helped his company not only put on a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, but also take their work abroad.


Every May and June since Third Angel was set up in 1995, I've found myself having the same conversation with several of my friends. It goes something like this:

Friend: So are you going to Edinburgh this year?

Me: Well, I might go up for a weekend/to attend the Television Festival/Film Festival/see a couple of shows, and then go and visit my Mom.

Friend: But Third Angel isn't taking up a show?

Me: You must be joking. No chance.

Friend: Really? Why not?

Me: Well, it costs a fortune to take a show to the Fringe, it's a massive lottery as to whether you get an audience, it's really hard work, and we would have to squeeze a show that normally takes a whole day to set up properly into a 30 minute get in and share the space with six other companies, and we just couldn't do that and do the work justice.

But this year [2001] was different. This year we were offered the chance to be a part of the British Council's Edinburgh Showcase with Where From Here, a show we had originally toured in Britain from November 2000 – March 2001. We were dubious; we take the reasons for not going to Edinburgh listed above very seriously. Where From Here normally takes a full eight hours to set up, an hour-and-a-half to perform, and hour-and-a-half to get out. If we took it to the Fringe we would have to do all of that in four hours. We make it a rule not to pay venues to show our work – we get paid a fee or at the very least a box office split with a guarantee because this is what we do for a living. The Fringe is the opposite of the way we work. We were dubious. But then again…

The British Council were keen for us to go and they thought we could get more international work out of it. This was too good an opportunity to miss.

Where From Here is, commercially and critically, our most successful show to date. We had already shown it at Mousonturm in Frankfurt and it had been well received. The British Council were keen for us to go and they thought we could get more international work out of it. This was too good an opportunity to miss. But there was one other thing. Where From Here was devised and performed by Rachael Walton, my Co-Artistic Director, and Jerry Killick. We couldn't imagine it being performed by anyone else. But Jerry was already committed to another company throughout the summer, and so wouldn't be able to come to Edinburgh.

We decided we would find a way. We got the venue we wanted: Theatre Workshop is the sort of space that Where From Here was designed for. We reprinted our publicity materials, we found a flat and we did our research; we spoke to Sophie and Andrew at the British Council, and to friends in companies who had been a part of the Showcase before. We managed to kidnap Jerry to come and perform the first night of the show, and decided that as I knew the show best after him and Rachael, I would play his part for the rest of the week's run. We prepared ourselves for what we expected to be the hardest week of our careers.

We had been warned that the Breakfast Meetings were vitally important and would be terrifying at first. Hilary Foster, Third Angel's administrator, and I turned up at the first morning's meeting and surveyed the scene from behind coffee and croissants. Everyone was talking to someone. Everyone was making deals, confirming international tours already, and no one had a clue who we were, or wanted to talk to us… or so it seemed. But we were prepared and entered the fray. We met some nice people, none of whom had seen our show.

And then the next morning it all changed. Rachael and I went to the breakfast meeting together; I had performed the show the night before for the first time. It seems obvious now, but people who had seen the show recognised us. Promoters seemed to have seen the show and quite a few had liked it. The British Council officers were able to introduce us to delegates who had seen the show and were interested in booking it, or at least talking to us about it. Where From Here was a well-toured show by the time we got to Edinburgh, but it was enlightening to discuss it with an international audience. For the rest of the week we broke the rules and all three of us went to the Breakfast Meetings early, and stayed until we were thrown out.

And what of those reasons not to do the Fringe? Well, it was hard work, but the show did go up and down in under four hours. We got pretty good audiences for a Fringe show. We didn't make any money. But almost 150 promoters from all over the world saw Where From Here. The feedback has been informative and very encouraging. We're taking the show to the Merlin Theatre in Budapest for seven nights in December. We're talking to promoters about festivals and bookings throughout 2002, and collaborations for 2002 and 2003. It was the hardest week's work I've done in a long time, but at the time of writing this, the benefits for Third Angel could be incalculable. We have rethought our plans for the next two years, and could well find ourselves touring Where From Here, and our new show Believe The Worst, through until December 2002. The Showcase was clearly too good an opportunity to miss. 

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