19/07/2013 08:13 BST | Updated 17/09/2013 06:12 BST

Bedlam Theatre: Under Construction


Everyone knows how Edinburgh mutates during August: the hordes of visitors, the venues everywhere you turn, and the infinite flyering. However, this process of transformation starts well before the Fringe: Edinburgh is a city covered in posters in August, but building sites in July.

This was hit home by my walk to Bedlam. During June, this is a rather dull affair; a traipse through familiar, but abandoned, university buildings: after all most of the students have left for the summer and the rest of the staff are indoors getting some academic work done. However, this Monday, my morning saunter was blocked by metal railings, trucks and a herd of bustling, high-vis clad workers: Bristo Square, the central university space, is now under construction, as a massive purple cow is to be erected in its centre.

Just behind the barriers, the Edinburgh University students' union is also undergoing a facelift. The main destination for cheap drinks after work has closed its doors to transform into the Gilded Balloon. This includes the construction of massive medieval themed garden; I've said it before and I'll say it again, people who work at the Fringe are nothing if not ambitious. This isn't even the last construction site I see on my ten minute commute. Just across the road from Bedlam Theatre, the old Forest Café is covered with scaffolding. The constant stream of vans delivering interesting equipment and even more high-vis jackets tell us that the Assembly Checkpoint get-in is well under way.

Similarly, our team at Bedlam have continued their march towards the Fringe. Painting has continued to be a constant feature, with nightly white spirit baths becoming more and more necessary. Our quest to replace all the floors in the theatre - some of which looked like they had had crude oil spilt on them - has been completed, making us unhealthily protective of our carpets. This does not go well with never-ending painting, as two paint covered footprints led to a brief spat. We've also decided to reupholster our stools to look like zebras to remind us of warmer climes - slightly unnecessary in the unexpected heatwave that has hit Scotland.

These developments come alongside the old staple: admin. It's easy to forget just how much paperwork goes into running a theatre. The amount of stuff you need to do is dizzying. There is hygiene training, alcohol licensing, uniforms, venue passes, ever present risk assessments and staff training to think about. Not to mention the amount of rules, procedures and policies that need to be created to run the place; bulleted lists for every situation have become commonplace over the past two months. We also have been bringing together the info for shows' lighting, set and front of house requirements. All of which have been listed in a rather detailed questionnaire and put in a colour coded filing system.

This is all necessary, but it brings up an interesting conundrum. We love theatre and want to play some part in creating it. As a team we're administrative demons, but we're also theatre makers and facilitators ourselves. Sometimes it's hard to strike the balance. We want to put on an incredible programme of shows, but the piles of administration that need to go alongside it to make a building run properly can quickly take over your life and cloud the final goal.

However, this paperwork is the way in which we add to the art put on during August, in the same way that the construction around us contributes to the shows that are put on within the finished venues. Besides, we find ways to entertain ourselves. Our Front of House Supervisors have gotten hold of individual mascots, who have become entangled in a whole host of adventures. We have photo evidence that Stubblington McBeardy (a bear) has taken Moosey McMoose Moose (an aptly named moose) hostage. This had made the senior team slightly jealous. After all it's much simpler to anthropomorphise cuddly toys than it is cacti. Though one of our number has collected three mascots for themselves: a trio of a leaf, a rock and a toy, all named Larry. This kind of fun removes any chance of the mundane creeping up on us.