Page 32 - Independent Schools Magazine
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 Music, Drama, & Dance
Taking a student show to Edinburgh – the work & the reward
Curtain up on the Fringe
Taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe is an incredible experience for students and a massive undertaking for staff. The performance element is, of course, important and provides a focus – but it’s the first time many students will have needed to genuinely market a product and see the immediate results of their approach. They need to learn to engage with different audiences and achieve professional standards. Most importantly they take an idea or script from concept to reality in the space of two weeks.
Caterham School, Surrey, Head of Drama and Theatre Louise Fahey describes how she planned the trip for her students this year, wrote and directed a play, how it all went in Edinburgh, and what the students took from the experience... along with some top tips for other schools considering similar initiatives in the future...
 Taking a play to the Edinburgh Fringe is the ideal performance opportunity for Caterham students, who are passionate about theatre and always keen to embrace a new challenge. We’ve just returned
from our 2nd successful visit to the Fringe, inspired by incredible theatre and in awe of the professional standards our students can achieve in this competitive platform. We participate in local theatre festivals, widening our students’ experience of performing beyond the school theatre and sharpening performance skills through adjudication and friendly competition with other companies – taking a group to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes this one step further. It’s the biggest arts festival in the world – an inclusive and vibrant celebration of the arts that offers our students a unique experience like nothing else at school. They
find themselves within a rich
variety of over 3500 shows from 55 countries and need to use all their creative and communication skills to make their show stand out!
Rather than being overwhelmed by the scale of the Fringe, I’ve found that students embrace everything
it has to offer and quickly throw themselves into a professional world.
I think it is important to decide what your aim is in taking a group to the Fringe. I focus on providing a learning experience for the students, requiring them to reflect and adapt their performing and communication skills throughout the trip. I want to widen their view of the performance industry and encourage critical reflection of the theatre they see. I also want the students to apply their creative and communication skills, working together as a company to perform
at their best every day, attract audiences and make the show a success.
Early planning is important to make sure the many elements of this trip come together. I booked the accommodation and venue in November as these get booked up quickly. There are 317 venues at the Fringe, so there’s plenty
of choice. I opted for a well- established company (theSpaceUK) that I knew had experience of working with schools and manage 18 performance spaces within their venues. My production ideas were far from concrete at the booking stage, but having a general idea
of cast size and performance
style really helped to select an appropriate venue. The venue organisers are really helpful and happy to share their experience
or chat through potential time slots and dates. On both our
visits I’ve opted for an afternoon slot, allowing us to structure the day with leafleting our show on The Royal Mile in the morning, performing early afternoon and watching other shows in the evening.
Our students made full use of their SpacePasses, which are given to company members to allow free access to all Space venues. This significantly reduced the cost
of seeing other shows, created links with other companies and importantly meant that students accessed a wider range of performance genres.
Accommodation is the biggest
expense - staying anywhere in Edinburgh is expensive during
the Fringe! We stay in student self-catering accommodation, which supports the development of independence and preparation for student life. We found affordable apartments about 20 minutes
walk from the Royal Mile that accommodate up to 8 people.
Our students really enjoyed the independence this offered. Preparing group meals became a shared, and sometimes challenging, activity, requiring further planning and team work. Public transport is superb
and once in the centre everything is within walking distance, so it’s not difficult to find a balance between supervising a group and allowing them the freedom to explore.
I registered my show on the EdFringe website in January, which gets the show advertised on the website and in the printed booklet. This also means tickets can be booked through the EdFringe box office, which I’ve found to be the most popular choice for audiences. Early registration means tickets
go on sale as early as February! Registration isn’t complicated, but I do set aside plenty of time to complete the forms, as production information, ticketing details, images, media info and copy for both the programme and website is needed. There’s a lot to complete, so it can be difficult to balance this with immediate teaching priorities, but it’s worth it!
Selecting the Play
I’ve found that students participate in this trip for a variety of reasons.
  Caterham School headmaster Ceri Jones leafleting on the Mile
 32 Independent Schools Magazine
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Photography by Michael Fahey

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