Fair fringe?

Aug. 14th, 2017 07:47 pm
swaldman: A sparkly bauble. (bauble)
[personal profile] swaldman
It seems that there's a campaign going in Edinburgh this year, which has popped up on social media for me a few times, called Fair Fringe - calling for everybody who works on the Fringe to be "treated with respect and paid a decent, living wage". Well, I can't argue with the first part of that - respect is good all round - and usually I'm all for fair wages. But in this case, I find I'm not so sure.

Now, I should note that my experience is only my own, that it's out of date, and that it's concerned only with the theatrical, not comedic, side of the Fringe. I should also note that I'm thinking here of people involved with and invested in the art of what's going on; bartenders, for example, who could be doing the same job somewhere else, may well feel differently. But in general, there isn't a lot of money in theatre. Outside of a few investors and producers in the West End, and a tiny minoriry of performers, AFAIK nobody is getting rich. I haven't had sight of the balance sheets, but I've never seen anything to suggest that any but the largest and most prestigious of fringe venues and productions aren't run on a shoestring. Fair Fringe alledge that "events companies make massive profits from the creativity, enjoyment and hard work of people from all over the world". If this is true, I agree that it should change, but they don't present any evidence to back it up.

So yes, it's true that conditions for people working on the Fringe are poor; in my own days as a technician I remember 12-hour shifts, 12 people sleeping in a 3-bedroom flat, and so forth, for a symbolic rate of pay that didn't come close to matching the cost of living. Really, it'd be better to think of us as volunteers than employees - some probably are - and that doesn't even start to touch on the countless performers in profit-shares who make a loss. But, we're not doing it for the money.

People know before they come that it doesn't pay. People do it because they love theatre, and because they want to be a part of the world's biggest festival. Yes, young workers and performers are exploited, but I always worked on the assumption that we were willingly exploited not to make somebody wealthy, but to produce a vast number of shows; shows that are sometimes amazing, sometimes awful, but nearly always totally unviable, financially, to put on in a conventional setting with professional staff[1]. A significant proportion of these shows, perhaps even a majority, still lose money in Edinburgh.

I'm all for the Living Wage, but I don't think the public would put up with a massive increase in ticket prices to pay for it. I can't help thinking that insisting on it on the Fringe would just kill off most of the small venues and the risky, innovative productions, turning the supposedly grass-roots alternative to the International Festival into a slick, corporate operation[2] that only presents big names who are guarenteed to drive the box office.

PS - obviously there are some Fringe employers / organisers who are worse than this, who miss out not only the "fair pay" part but the "respect" part. I worked for one of them for a few days once and quit, due to conditions that were needlessly poor. That's a different matter, because there are also those that aren't like that.

[1] Yes, there are some shows on the Fringe that could play happily in theatres all round the country any time of the year. Yes, there are some shows that do. But it's a tiny fraction.
[2] Many would argue that it already is. Parts of it have certainly headed that way. But there's plenty else still going on.

(no subject)

Aug. 12th, 2017 10:18 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
I have no wish to wade into the stuff around recent events in Charlotteville in general, but seeing some of the reporting has left me wondering,

How the hell does a police force safely and fairly provide a public order and potential riot-control presence while they are watched over by a load of citizens with automatic weapons, who have a clear alliegence with one side but are not themselves breaking the law?


Aug. 5th, 2017 05:17 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
I just got back from the second ever preview performance of a new play entitled "Adam". The blurb reads,
"If you are born in a country where being yourself can get you killed, exile is your only choice. Adam is the remarkable, true story of a young trans man having to make that choice and begin his journey. From Egypt to Scotland, it charts Adam's fight across borders and genders to find a place to call home."
It's a story clearly and sensitively told, without too dark a tone, and it's a fantastic production in every aspect. I particularly admired the lighting, but the only reason that stood out for me is that it's what I have an affinity for; it was a good script, amazingly directed and performed, with excellent design all round. The way they've approached it works really nicely: It's a two-person performance by one male[1] and one presenting-as-female[2] actor and they are both playing the same person (and not in an obvious pre/post-transition way) - as well as various other roles. This works especially well when she takes the role of Adam's mother and treats him - the male actor - as "her princess".

It is very much about binary gender, but... well, it's one person's story, and presumably that is how he experiences things. Fair enough.

This preview played to a full house, and managed a second curtain call and a partial standing ovation. I don't have much else to say except that it's good - at least so far as this cis guy is concerned - and that if it sounds interesting for you and you're in or near central Scotland, you should go see it. It's on in Edinburgh for most of August, then a couple of days in Stirling and a few more in Glasgow.
Content notes for sexual assault, needles, and, er, self-administered top surgery (not actually shown on stage).

[1] Who is, in fact, the Adam that the piece is about, making his professional acting debut!
[2] I don't wish to assume, in this post!


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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."