Why did you choose the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Malcolm: It’s the biggest festival of its kind in the world. Ideally, before taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s recommended that you take it to one or more of the many other smaller theatre festivals so as to test it, accumulate a number of positive reviews, and hopefully gain some traction. In our case, we’ve been performing this particular show to Maltese schoolchildren ever since we developed it for the 2013 edition of the ŻiguŻajg Fesitval although this will be its first international outing. We would have like to work our way up to the Edinburgh Fringe by attending a number of smaller festivals first but it wouldn’t have been very practical for us. Joseph Zammit (who also stars in the show) and I tend to have pretty full theatre seasons and it’s quite tricky to find a time when we’re both available at the same time for more than a week or so. Since the Edinburgh Fringe is in August, when theatre in Malta is usually at a lull, it was the perfect time for us to take the show abroad for a full month.
Steve: It is the third time I am performing there (second time I am doing a full run, and first time I am doing a solo show) and the opportunities to network, meet incredible artists, see other creative shows, improve your skills and actually test yourself with an international audience is second to none!
How will you be promoting the show?
Malcolm: Our venue has actually been very helpful in this regard. Apart from giving us a free upgrade to a larger theatre, they have also given us a long list of UK media contacts to get in touch with. Apart from that they will also be displaying our poster and flyers at all their outlets. Additionally, we’ve also taken out a couple of adverts on the popular magazine The List. However I suspect that the bulk of our audiences will be drawn by our flyering and through word of mouth if the show is received well. We’ll also be getting a dedicated company to help us distribute flyers to families. This is my first experience marketing a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and I’ll certainly be looking out to forge relationships with media contacts and learn from any mistakes I’ll almost certainly be making in this regard.
Steve: Posters and flyering are big things in Edinburgh. And because there is so much competition you need to have a “hook”. Mine is the lasagne! Also as a comedian I have an advantage in that I have already been invited to take part in numerous showcases and compilation shows. These are shows where each act is asked to do 10 minutes of material as a taster for audiences. They are ideal for promoting your shows.
A typical day in your life as a performer at the festival may look like this...
Malcolm: Since children’s shows are usually scheduled early, we’ll have an early start. However since we will also be dabbling in stand-up comedy, we’ll also have a lot of late nights. A typical day would have us handing out flyers to passing families at 10am before performing our show at 11:15am. Then we’ll hand out flyers to families exiting from similar shows before stopping for a late lunch. After that we’d spend the rest of the day watching shows, networking, and attending seminars and workshops. We also have a number of stand-up comedy slots booked on various days between 4pm and 11pm and we’d be on the lookout for more.
Steve: There is no typical day as such. I do try to get a bit of “me time” in the morning, because otherwise the festival can just engulf you. And I try to get any work that needs to be done – checking of emails etc – out of the way before leaving the house but apart from that, anything can happen! My show starts at 4 in the afternoon, but I will be doing compilation shows all day at very different times – including a few late-night ones that are always fun. Also, I intend to try to catch as many shows as I can. And then there is the networking. Comedians and artists tend to congregate in certain bars and these can be ideal places for new projects to come into existence. I toured Eastern Europe a couple of years ago thanks to a chat I had in an Edinburgh bar! As well as all this there seems to be a lot of Maltese people coming up this year, so I want to see as many of their shows as I can, but I hope we also get a bit of time to hang out.
What are the 5 essential things you will be packing to survive the Edinburgh Fringe?
Malcolm: A light coat and a solid pair of shoes: it’s hard to imagine in the middle of a Maltese summer that Edinburgh could be so wet and chilly during the same time of year – but it totally is. I’ll also have my trusty Fringe guide which always starts out pristine at the beginning of the festival but ends up full of rips, stains and personality by the end of it. Naturally I’ll have a laptop with Skype so I can sort of see my family during a long month away from them, and last but not least I’ll be taking my A-Game.
You top tip for other artists who have not yet ventured into presenting work on international platforms.
Malcolm: Firstly you need to create a show that is easy and inexpensive to travel with as regards set, props and cast. I can’t stress how important this is if you want to travel with your show or just plain want it to be sustainable. Equally importantly you need to know your turf. Unless you’ve been specifically invited, you shouldn’t take a show to a festival unless you’re very familiar with it. Attend as a spectator first, and then go up with your show once you know what you’re getting yourself into so as to minimise the risk of making unnecessary mistakes.
Steve: Go for it. Make sure your product is something you are proud of. And try to make it as good as it can be. But don’t hide behind any excuses. Just do it. Also, always make sure you have enough undies or access to a launderette. Being chaffed is never fun.