Penguins with Fringe benefits

By Ross Dungan

“You are going to lose a lot of money.” “This is a bad idea.” “You could, you know… not go.” These are just some of the things Matthew Smyth and I heard when we decided to bring our show “A Betrayal of Penguins: Don’t Run With Scissors” to the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The festival is the biggest arts festival in the world, with over 2500 separate shows taking place all over Edinburgh over the course of the month of August. This statistic not only serves to show how expansive and impressive the festival is but also just how insignificant you feel in the grand scheme of things going over, especially coming from a place like Players where there roughly 55 different shows produced during the year.

However, while all those shows and all the big names of the festival may appear highly intimidating in terms of bringing a show over, this all blends together to create an incredible and unique atmosphere that sees the whole city transformed for a month.

In Edinburgh the Fringe, whether it’s through a poster, a marquee tent or a persistent flyerer, is literally everywhere you look. The nerves and pressure of the first few shows are totally unparalleled by anything experienced while performing in College before, and they only get worse when you see the first audience members file in, and the reality that “these people have paid to come and see us” really sinks in.

It’s no longer doing previews of the show for audiences in Dublin made up of people who you’ve personally invited to go, or in Players where students have paid two euro to go and see a show and are almost always a warm audience. This is something very different, and something altogether more terrifying. But as time went on, bit by bit we got less terrified of the people who had paid to come and see us. And as we got less and less terrified of the audience, the less they seemed to hate it, even getting to the point where it appeared they were genuinely enjoying it, surprising us all.

We were then further dumbfounded to find our ticket sales to be in a very healthy state. Aided by positive reviews for the show, we soon found ourselves selling out on a daily basis. The final bow of the final show and the relief that came with it was something I don’t think we could have anticipated. Not immediately of course, as our stage is usually covered in paper airplanes, teddies and gunge (something I was also covered in) and we had about five minutes to clean it up every day before the next show came in, resulting in a daily hilarious and frantic few minutes.

But following this as we packed up our stuff and headed for the airport, the idea that we had actually survived the month began to hit home. Through all the late, late nights and early mornings, no one in the cast had killed each other, people in the audience and in the press didn’t hate the show, and somehow for reasons unfathomable to us we had the honour of being one of the sold-out shows of the festival.

If you haven’t been over to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, go next year. Even if it’s for a few days, even if it’s for a few hours, it really is one of the most amazing events in the world today and any person who has been will tell you that; just go. If you want to bring a show over, there really is absolutely nothing stopping you. If we were somewhat successful, and considering the fact that I can barely dress and feed myself, you’re definitely in with more than a fighting chance.