Edinburgh Fringe: A Survival Guide
Katie Elin Salt's guide to surviving the intensity of the Edinburgh Fringe
Having hit the halfway mark, you might be starting to find a little depleted in your energy levels at the Edinburgh Fringe - or you might have the dreaded Fringe Flu! Fear not, here is Katie Elin-Salt to give you the low down on how to survive this busy (and exciting) time.
Despite the fact everybody is super supportive and the Scottish air is filled with love and positive vibes, with over 3000 shows on at any one time it can still be hard to feel like you’re not a bit in competition with 2999 others. Some shows are going to be performing to hundreds of people every day and have a returns queue around the block, and others will be lucky to have a handful in. That's just the way it is and always has been... focus on your own game and don't compare yourself to others. Even if you only perform it to your Mum and the cleaner, if you've got here and you've made something you believe in, you cannot fail.
I arrived at Kings Cross St Pancras ready to board that infamous train. Lost and confused in a sea of muggles, I was ushered aboard by a lady holding 3 large rats in a cage and sat next to a man dressed in a full sized cape, so I figured this must be in the right place. I sat with my magical mate quietly munching on my train picnic and eventually a famous castle came into view, and I knew my adventure had started. A bearded wizard waited to greet me and as I descended the train he thrust something into my hand and whispered with a knowing smile; "Hogwarts: The Musical. Come see our show at 2.40 at the Pleasance Dome."
Ah, the Edinburgh Fringe. There’s a quote that goes: “Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream" and this is certainly true for the month of August, when this beautiful city fills itself fit to bursting with enough theatre, comedy, music and colourful clowns than you can shake a bagpipe at. In 2016, there were 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues. When you walk down the Royal Mile, it is impossible not to get swept away by the vibrancy, excitement and sheer scale of creativity on display. It is to the arts what Willy Wonka's chocolate factory was to confectionary. So, why then am I in the middle of it and currently hiding in my digs with nothing but a steam inhaler for company? How in the midst of stagey Mecca does one tiny actor manage to not spontaneously combust into a puddle of over-excited stagey tears before they've even made it to press night?
The first time I arrived here in 2015, much like a theatrical version of "supermarket sweep", I flung myself blindly and manically into as many venues I could find, every night till the early hours. Until I could take no more and ended up on vocal rest and Manuka honey by week 2. The Edinburgh Fringe is a VERY, VERY EXCITING hub of creativity where you can literally watch all the shows, drink all the things and party like it's the season wrap party 24/7, should the mood take you. What self-respecting artiste would not be tempted to go in all guns blazing? However, if you are here to do a job, remember to keep that in the back of your mind before you say yes to that 2am burlesque show every night. Make sure you’re sleeping and not burning that candle at both ends too much. Look after your precious, precious voice and bank balance - both have a tendency to take a battering here if you are not careful. Remember you will be needing them to be in ok shape when you get back to real life in September.
Eat A Vegetable
Some of the delicious treats I have gleefully shoved in and around my mouth during my stay here (aside from your standard haggis and fried mars bar breakfast combo), include a creme brûlée from an actual dedicated creme brûlée stand down the road, a crepe filled with enough molten Manchego cheese inside to feed the entire cast of Showstoppers, and a jumbo-sized piña colada served in a plastic pineapple and a macaroni cheese pie. I enjoyed all of these things very much and I will happily join all of you for a supper date to relive the experience. You’re going to be here for a month and you’re probably consuming your own body weight in Whiskey every evening (I see you). So, to make sure you don't get actual scurvy, I recommend getting yourself down your local supermaché and buying as many of those cheap packets of stir fry vegetables and boring juice things as you can carry, then having a few quiet evenings on the green stuff. Trust me, they will save your life in ways that a four-cheese toastie just can't. I promise your stomach and your wallet will thank you.
Flyering Without Wings
There are two kinds of people at the Edinburgh Fringe: those that want everybody to take their flyers so they can go and have a pint, and those who don't want to take any more flyers because they have no room left in their handbags. I think both parties could learn from each other. If you are one of the fabulous flyering warriors of the Fringe, casually busting out your best Lady-Macbeth-on-stilts routine and then heading straight out after the curtain call to tell everyone about how brilliant you are, then pat yourself on the back immediately. Flyer life ain't easy, and I know it can be hard not to feel like a dejected charity mugger when everyone seems to be looking through you and not taking your wares. But please, please don't lose heart. You have a job which makes you so excited and inspired that you will actually chase people down the road to tell them about it. I think that's pretty brilliant actually. You wouldn't see Laura from accounts chasing tourists to show off her latest pie chart would you?! Go out there and preach the good word! That being said, it is sometimes wise to know your audience. That person sobbing in the coffee shop as they receive the "it’s not you it's me" speech from the person opposite probably doesn't want you to swoop in and tell them about your production of "Abigail's Party" right now. Simply offer a sympathetic look and a flyer to dry their tears; you've nailed it babe.
If you are a punter please, please be nice to flyerers. I know it can be a lot to take on but every one of them is trying their best to make their show a success. They’re inventing new and exciting theatre that they are passionate about and isn't that what we all come here for? Having been on both sides, I always, always try to take every one I am offered and give an interested smile even if I know, deep down, it's probably going to end up being used to block a hole in my bedroom wall later. Trust me, that still feels much better than being ignored and having to sneak a load of glossy papers into the recycling at the end of the day.
Don’t Be A Babe In The Bubble!
Being involved in the Fringe is one of the most exhilarating things you will ever be a part of, but it can be a bit draining on your mental health at times. The constant pressure for a "hit" show, the sales pitches, the frigging CONSTANT RAIN, the reviews that start being emblazoned across the internet and every poster you walk past by week 2. Despite the fact everybody is super supportive and the Scottish air is filled with love and positive vibes, with over 3000 shows on at any one time it can still be hard to feel like you’re not a bit in competition with 2999 others. Some shows are going to be performing to hundreds of people every day and have a returns queue around the block, and others will be lucky to have a handful in. That's just the way it is and always has been for 70 years now. Try as much as you can to focus on your own game and not compare yourself to others. Even if you only perform it to your Mum and the cleaner, if you've got here and you've made something you believe in, you cannot fail. You've climbed a mountain to be here and you are a hero. You are a part of something amazing.
Edinburgh is a bubble. A totally brilliant, glittery, magical bubble, but a bubble none the less. I have absolutely no idea what day of the week it is or what time of day it is, really so I know it can be all-consuming. I suggest having something that helps you to step out of the bubble for an hour or a day or two if it all gets a bit much. If you want to use the gym, or mindfulness, that is absolutely brilliant and namaste to you, but just so you all know I am currently working wonders here with Celebrity Big Brother (#teamtrisha !)
Wishing you all a fantastic Fringe. When I'm not doing my shows, you will mainly find me keeping the gin stand in business at Summerhall. Please come and say hello, and feel free to give me all of your flyers - I am planning on making a patchwork quilt on the way back to Blighty.
Katie Elin-Salt is an actor, singer and musician from Bridgend in South Wales, now living in London. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has done some nice bits of work over the last few years that she's chuffed with. Aside from this, she's most commonly known as Princess Elsa on weekends, and has also starred as Peppa Pig and Supergirl in various children's parties across the UK. You may also recognise Katie from working in the returns section of Ann Summers Cardiff during Christmas 2010. Series regular of Judge Judy (playing 'person watching it on the sofa whilst once again not in the gym'.)