News: Fringe 2012

Fringe 2012 on Twitter

Author: Mark Fisher


Press area

Press coverage


Site map


The city and its festivals

The Fringe Office

The timing

The motivation

The show

The venue

The accommodation

The law

The marketing campaign

The media campaign

The awards

The show must go on

The next step

The money

The interviewees


Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Actors Guide to Surival documentary review

JUST watched a documentary called The Actors Guide to Survival (yeah, the lack of apostrophe bothers me too), which I stumbled across the other day while thinking about how to promote my book, The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide

If you are actually an actor looking for tips on survival, Mark Ashmore's low-budget, fly-on-the-wall film will tell you virtually nothing. But if you are a performer wanting to get a sense of the chaos, desperation and exhilaration of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, then it's definitely worth a look. 

You get a sense of it in this YouTube video:

Ashmore followed actor and comedian Jody Kamali as he performed his show The Backpacker in 2007 (or maybe 2008; the documentary is not big on detail), following him backstage, observing the different audience reactions and charting his sometimes tense exchanges with director and techie. If you learned how to "survive and thrive" from this, I'd be impressed, but you will get a real flavour of the intensity, passion and gung-ho spirit that the Fringe cultivates.

I found lots of it very funny, but that might because of my love of Annie Griffin's 2005 movie Festival, which is also set on the Edinburgh Fringe. Some of this feels like Griffin's out-takes or like something Christopher Guest might have done as a spoof. You can never quite tell if Kamali's show is brilliant or awful, which is kind of appropriate: isn't that exactly how it feels for every actor as they arrive full of hope in the first week of the world's biggest festival?

Also valuable for the would-be Fringe performer are Ashmore's scene-setting sequences in which Glasgow actor Vivien Taylor accosts performers, directors and producers on the Royal Mile as they publicise their shows. Some of them have useful tips to share, especially in the extended interviews included in the DVD extras. But rather than offering straight advice, the footage works best as a taster of Edinburgh at festival time. There's no substitute for the real thing, but this gives some pointers about what you've got in store.

It's nice that the documentary focuses not on the big success stories and the famous names, but on the average performer doing their best to be heard above the hubbub. Most of them have that special shell-shocked look that the Fringe generates. It accompanies the feeling of tremendous excitement and tremendous exhaustion, a sense that even if you're not enjoying it right this minute, you'll look back at it one day and think it was the most amazing time of your life.

So well worth picking up for a tenner off Amazon or direct from the filmmaker for even less - not so much because it teaches you a lesson but because it gives you a bit of a warning.


  1. Hi mark, I directed this! stumbled across this review tonight! - cheers, i agree that the film's title is a bit mis-leading - should be Edinburgh fringe uncovered or something, but the film's distributers thought a survival guide would sell, and help performers at the fringe, it has sold well, and we have had great feedback! - i think you should also check out invisible circus film google it, will be right up your street, we are involved in that too!

  2. Thanks for the comment. Glad the film's gone well. I'll keep an eye out for the other one. You should check out Annie Griffin's "Festival" if you haven't seen it.


© Mark Fisher 2012. Powered by Blogger.

About Me

My photo
Follow me on Twitter @MarkFFisher, @WriteAboutTheat and @LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology and What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.