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Paul O'Mahony

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The Edinburgh Fringe Experience: Good Things out of Chaos

Posted: 24/07/2012 14:58

Here we are at last - just one week to go until the Edinburgh Fringe, and like thousands of companies across the UK and further afield, we're putting our final touches to this year's show, UNMYTHABLE. We wanted to make a show that included all the greatest Greek myths in one hour (although I am awaiting the inevitable backlash from some nine year-old who will no doubt delight in naming obscure sections of Hesiod's Theogony which we have missed out) and I'm fairly satisfied that it is mission accomplished. We've got monsters, heroes, Gods in abundance and we can't wait to unleash them on the Fringe. My love for Greece is long held and deeply felt and I'm thrilled that we'll be bringing the world of the Minotaur, The Golden Fleece and some serious philandering from the Gods to Edinburgh. There is, however, a strangely unsettling feeling about this year... I feel a bit too...what's the word?...Calm.

At this point in previous years I wouldn't be putting the final touches to the show, I'd be just about to start rehearsals. Or maybe starting to think what the show should be about. This was the only approach I knew - I thought that the Edinburgh process was like the beginning of the Greek world - everything was created out of Chaos. And you could easily be forgiven for thinking that you were in Chaos if you spend anytime at the Fringe this summer. So what has changed this year? I thought it was always supposed to be flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants territory. Isn't that part of the joy? Shouldn't we be surviving on a few hours sleep every night and desperately trying to cut about 30 minutes off a 90 minutes show? I often hear that this is part of 'the Edinburgh experience' - great! Do a show at the Fringe and you get insomnia, malnutrition and increasing hysteria thrown in for free.

But it doesn't have to be this way and I think part of the reason for this more relaxed approach this time round is that we got the madness part of the experience out of the way early on. We started devising the show in Denmark, at the Scenekunstens Udviklingscenter in Odsherred. This is a fantastic facility in the middle of nowhere (well, in the middle of Denmark I suppose, but it was pretty isolated) which provides cheap rehearsal space and living quarters. We had a space there for a week in December in which we were determined to plunge into the Greek myths, share our favourites and start to shape the show. So, armed with Clash of the Titans, Jason and the Argonauts and Disney's Hercules (and some food) we set out intrepidly.

The Scenekunstens Udviklingscenter has beautiful surroundings, situated as it is next to a delightful fjord and set in some very impressive grounds. These grounds contain a very large, secure looking building about 60 metres down the road from where we were staying. On the first evening I casually asked our Danish actor Troels what went on there. Hmm. It turned out that it was the Danish equivalent of Broadmoor - housing all the criminally insane of Denmark. You know, murderers, people like that. Didn't I mention that we were in the middle of nowhere? I think the knowledge that at any moment our rehearsals might be brought to a premature end by a psychopath wielding a blunt object with enormous force really helped to focus minds. I'm sure that focus helped us to make UNMYTHABLE in good time, and taught me that good things can indeed be created out of Chaos.

Everyone says that Edinburgh is mad and chaotic and, of course, that is true to an extent. But it's worth remembering that Edinburgh is not criminally insane, and for that I am eternally grateful.

 
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