We spoke with the Edinburgh director, Claire Wood about her forthcoming show in the unusual venue – the Mary of Guise barge in Leith. It’s also thought to be the only show in the Fringe this year that you enter via a drawbridge!
Tell us a little bit about your show – where’s it happening, what’s it about, why should people come to see it?
Shakespeare’s The Tempest tells the tale of Prospero, a girl in our version, who sets out to wreak her revenge on her wicked sister and conspirator King for throwing her out of her homeland. Set on a boat in Leith and featuring live music from guitars and a ukulele, this will be a Tempest with a twist.
What do you think the best things about the Edinburgh Fringe are?
The amazing choice of theatre packed into three little weeks. You can go straight from a professional show by a contemporary playwright at the Traverse to seeing a student group doing a Mamet or a Brecht at C venue. It’s an amazing eclectic experience. Edinburgh buzzes. It’s brilliant.
What changes have you seen – good or bad – over the years?
Ticket prices have gone up. It costs far more now to do a show on the Fringe than it did ten years ago. And with 2,400 theatre shows this year, there’s no guarantee that you’ll sell any more tickets. I’m in favour of keeping ticket prices as low as you can. Theatre is a gamble for a lot of people. They’re pretty sure they’ll get something from a comedy show but are a bit more suspicious of theatre. If we can keep ticket prices down, they’re more likely to give it a go. We need to build our theatre audience of the future.
Where are your favourite places in the city?
The Trav café in the Fringe is my favourite as it’s a great location, lovely vibe and perfect for star-spotting. C Soco’s Urban Garden is a really laid back, unusual location for a drink outdoors. And the Pleasance Dome is hard to beat for a chilly/rainy night. It’s like being outdoors but with a roof overhead.
What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s happened to you at the Fringe?
For years, we’ve done shows in Diverse Attractions at the top of the Lawnmarket, right alongside the castle, so we’ve fought Tattoo traffic to get into the venue and then the fireworks at the end of each show. But in 2007, we did a lovely play by AbiMorgan called “Tiny Dynamite”. Same venue but this time around, we managed to time it so the fireworks went off at just the right dramatic climax to the play. A proper explosive finale!
Describe, if you can, your ‘average’ Edinburgh Fringe day…
I do a bit of a reviewing in the Festival so I’d start with a show at the Trav or the Assembly Rooms as they do great coffee. Vital for a day on the Fringe. Lunch at Elephants and Bagels and write up my first show. And then I’d catch something at the Quaker Meeting House or C Venue as they always have stacks of really good shows to choose from. At teatime, I’d head off to the barge to give the actors a pep talk before they got started and we’d enjoy a couple of post-show drinks under the stars before I did it all again the next day.
If money was no object, what publicity stunt would you do to promote your show?
I’d host a launch party on the Royal Yacht Britannia featuring live music from our brilliant musicians, canapés and Shipwreck cocktails.
Who else are you planning or hoping to see?
Decky Does A Bronco is top of my list. Grid Iron are fabulous – their Barflies last year was excellent – and I missed this show first time around. I love site-specific theatre. It forces you to think much more carefully about how to keep the audience involved in your story.
Beautiful Burnout is also up there. A NTS and Frantic Assembly collaboration, it promises to be magic.
And A Midsummer Night’s Dream by local group Arkle at the Royal Scots Club looks to be a delightful romp through another Shakespeare classic.
What do you have planned after the Fringe?
Next show on the cards for us is a production of a brilliant play called “The Secret Rapture” by David Hare. It’s thought-provoking and very darkly funny. That will be November at St Brides in Edinburgh.
Sum up your show in three words for us
Magic, music, mayhem.
Complete this joke for us: “A man walks into our Fringe show…”
…without a ticket and gets arrested for piracy on the high seas. (Thanks, Neil!)
The Grad’s production of The Tempest runs from 9-21 August, times vary. Buy tickets here.