Even before arriving in Edinburgh for my first Fringe as a participant I had heard the same phrase being used repeatedly 'Spirit of the Fringe'. I think I'm getting a sense now of what that phrase means, at least to me.
Take our creative team for example and the effort they have put into this production in the absence of any financial guarantees - simply because they want to be here. The advanced ticket sales and sponsors, thanks to whom we were able to pay the venue fee and Fringe registration (in the absence of public funding or a rich benefactor). A local printer who gave us flyers and posters free of charge when I explained we are at the profit share end of the spectrum. The person who contacted me via facebook to offer a free spare room in central Edinburgh for the month of August. A policeman being told by a Glaswegian that the kitchen knife I'm stabbing the kerb outside the venue with is actually a stage prop I've been asked to blunt (him then going on to assist me with the job of making it safe).
The look of surprise on Royal Mile faces when I explain I wrote the play and don't work for a distribution company (on one occasion I had to show ID to prove it). The unexpected thrill I got from the dreaded flyering. I'm actually quite shy, like many writers, but after I got over that I began to really enjoy practicing my 'elevator pitch' on such a wide variety of individuals and nationalities. The pub next door to the venue who gave us a function area free of charge for post performance chill outs.
The other performers I have met from every corner of the globe and the way they support each other. One of them was averaging one audience member and had a reviewer coming. Her fellow participants rallied round and ensured the reviewer had some company. None of them are here really expecting anything other then the opportunity to be part of it. Forget sell-outs and five star reviews, like me they're just happy to have made it here. The last poster I have, in my man bag, waiting for just the right spot (I suspect it'll go home with me).
There has been some negatives though. News that Michael McIntyre is charging £30 a ticket (for an unfinished show). The sight of the big players huge corporate cattle sheds. Their main objectives? Well as far as I can see it's all focused on exposure to sponsors and merchandise. Along with the herding of large numbers into a fenced off area where they can be contained for as long as possible. Discouraged from wandering through this beautiful city in search of hidden gems at smaller venues.
The big operators in no way resembles my Fringe, or the spirit of it. Nor does the local who gave me a mouthful when I attempted to engage him in conversation over a flyer (all my flyers come with a conversation). An interesting 'debate' ensued around the £250 million generated for this economy by his annual inconvenience.
It's been tough getting here, plenty bumps and challenges along the way and I'm expecting more to come. The most important thing of all? My new play is premiering to its very first audience. There hasn't been huge numbers in the auditorium to date but there's enough. Some of them come to our function area afterwards and share their reactions with the team. It looks to me like they are enjoying being listened to. I know one thing for sure - we are enjoying hearing them.
Serve Cold by Mark MacNicol Aug 1-11 & 20-27 Gryphon Point Hotel Bread Street (Venue 109) www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/serve-cold
Follow Mark Nicol on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markmacnicol