FRINGE FEATURE – Pippa Bailey, Total Theatre Awards

Total Theatre AwardsNow in their twelfth year, the Total Theatre Awards are a landmark in the Fringe award season – renowned for their rigourous selection and judging process which ensures the awards are highly valued and eagerly sought.

“We have a two-tier system,” explains Awards director Pippa Bailey. “In the first 12 days of the Fringe we have over 15 assessors who see hundreds of shows. They meet every two or three days to discuss progress; some shows are seen again by different assessors.”

“Then, they get together and argue a lot for five hours!” she laughs. “It’s an inexact science, but the selection is then narrowed down to 25 shows, which the judges then assess across the categories.”

“One of the things which makes the awards unique is our judges come from a wide variety of backgrounds: academics, critics, creators. They don’t always know each other, so there are no cliques.”

“Then, finally on the 25th August, the judges will thrash it out and the awards will be presented that evening.”

Pippa has been running the Total Theatre Awards for the past five years.

“I decided to keep them going after they lost funding,” she says. “It’s fascinating to watch the development in theatre which have taken place over the years. There’s a trend to move it out of traditional spaces and put on site-specific works – artists are wanting to create more accessible productions.”

This in part inspired Pippa to become artistic director of Biding Time, an initiative to make a live, collaborative theatre event for London next year. From Aug 5-29, an installation near the Pleasance Dome will be running, allowing the curious to find out more – and even to take part themselves.

“Four years ago, the National Theatre on the South Bank invited people in for an informal chat about theatre,” she recalls. “A third of them didn’t know what the building was for – they didn’t really know the theatre world existed.”

“Biding Time is an attempt to reach a broader audience; identifying gaps and making connections; using fashion, music and other commercial forms as well as theatre.”

“I’ve been talking to people all over the world,” she says, “from Iran, Korea and Kenya as well as in the UK. If all the world’s a stage, then the premise could be considered to be an exploration of exactly what that means.”

“The story is already set: it features a woman protagonist, and includes the topic of climate change. But it’s also funny – it’s not an earnest piece of traditional theatre.”

“It’s a great experiment.”

More details on the Total Theatre Awards can be found on the Total Theatre website.

There will be a free participatory exhibition for Biding Time from 5-29 August at Summerhall, including a free introductory talk at 12:15 every day from Aug 8 – ask at the Pleasance Dome box office for directions and instructions on how to take part.

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