Why is it Fringe?
15th February 2009
It’s “Fringe” because it sits on the fringes of the “mainstream”. It’s Fringe because it isn’t “West end” or “Broadway”. It’s Fringe because its spaces are often on the “fringes” of other activities, primarily the consumption of alchohol and honey- and wasabi- dressed nuts.
It’s Fringe because its creative material is on the “edge” (sometimes the cutting edge) of writing and dramatic experimentation. It’s Fringe because it is eclectic, different, not quite accepted by the “middle of the road mass consumption”.
It’s also Fringe because it’s a bit cheaper, at a kind of borderland between profit-share and salaried, earning a living and dreaming of earning a living. These days it can also be fringe on fringe, as some Fringe tries to be corporate and mainstream. The Edinburgh and New York Fringes have their own Fringe fringes.
Fringe Theatre sometimes occupies a kind of twilinght zone where “professional” can mean many different things. It can be unproductively elitist, marvellously and tragically underfunded, realising potential and being a place where, with just a few more thousand pounds, potential could be realised. It is a fiver upstairs at a pub with a “young, emerging group (students) curling up in foetal positions and screaming to the sound of Franz Ferdinand (hard-hitting physical theatre) and with an equally young group (possibly students too) creating genuinely awesome, original, ground-breaking performance.
Fringe is not just a festival in May, July or August. It is also an ongoing festival, all year, all over the world, celebrating creative endeavour, making work possible, creating access of current and new theatre-goers. When it mainstreams, it kind of dies in spirit (though it may arise as something else). It needs to be literally on the fringe of something to keep alive. When it becomes corporate, something is lost. Yet when it remains under-funded and half-baked, something is not found that should be.
Fringe theatre will always be hard to define, will always be multi-disiplinary, will always embrace poverty-funding along side arts-council-elitism. It will also be an open and a closed door, prohibitively expensive, and often raucously community-based and open-door. I love it all. I hate it all. But mostly, I love it all.