Video Blog: Soaking up the Edinburgh Festival

The Drama Student team were out in force at this year's Edinburgh Festival soaking up the unique atmosphere and meeting a passionate community of young performers at venues across the city, writes Phil Matthews.


The Drama Student: Editor Phil Matthews and Art Director Fabio Marcolini on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

Having fun is one important factor to any project, yet making it work to your advantage is another vital aspect

I have a special affinity with Edinburgh. In 2003, fresh out of The Central School of Speech and Drama, I spent an extraordinary month there performing in a play on the Fringe. Although I already had professional credits to my name before I trained, that hot summer really felt like my journey was truly beginning. The play Hardcore, written by the brilliant Jonathan Hall, was about four young guys who had aspirations to become porn stars. A controversial topic possibly, but a theme that received a lot of attention from the press and punters alike, and resulted in a sell-out production for much of the Festival with welcome rave reviews.

It was a fun time. Looking back I really felt part of this unique cultural event, probably a combination of it being my first experience and the success of the show. My fellow performers from the play, all recent graduates themselves, had a shared sense of optimism. We would walk around the city being approached by fans of the play and although on a very small scale, the positive response made the experience all the more fun.

Having fun is one important factor to any project, yet making it work to your advantage is another vital aspect and that particular experience was a key example of how the Edinburgh Fringe can move your journey in the right direction. Graham McLaren, the founder of award-winning Scottish company Theatre Babel, was scouting for young actors for a production he was directing at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre. He was looking for English actors to play Percy Shelley and Lord Byron in a revival of Liz Lochead's Blood and Ice. He had heard of our play through contacts in the industry and duly came to see it. The four of us were asked to audition the following day and after a series of meetings, Alex Hassell and myself, were cast.

It meant returning to Edinburgh for three months that autumn and performing at one of Scotland's most exciting theatres

It meant returning to Edinburgh for three months that autumn and performing at one of Scotland's most exciting theatres, working with some of the country's most innovative writers and directors. It was remarkable. The following year, Hardcore transferred to London for a two month run, something that would not have happened without the success of the Edinburgh production. It all seemed to tie up well for everyone.

Katie-and-Edinburgh-200_newSo it was thrill to return to the Fringe this year, albeit in a different capacity. Since we launched The Drama Student Magazine in January, I receive weekly emails from our readers who tell me how much they love the publication and how much it has helped them in their own journey. Not just prospective and current drama students, but young emerging performers are getting hold of the journal and it's a pleasure to hear their comments.

Many of those emailing me are involved in this year's Edinburgh Festival, taking their career in their own hands and often producing their own work. The Royal Mile, very much the core of the Fringe, was buzzing last weekend with performers eager to promote their work and ultimately get bums on seats. Confidence was in abundance and it's difficult not to admire the enthusiasm that spills out into the city's streets. Although Friday was a complete washout with non-stop rain, the sun managed to make an appearance at the weekend and it was a pleasure to get out  and soak up the atmosphere.

Even those small productions with limited resources are producing quality work

There is nothing quite like the Edinburgh Festival anywhere else in the world. Companies come from afar to showcase their talents and judging from what we experienced during our visit, even those small productions with limited resources, are producing quality work. I can see that they are having fun and I am sure their commitment and hard work will see the Fringe working to their advantage, hopefully moving their journey in the right direction.


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