City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Fringe's Unnoticed Enablers


By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 31 July 2008

Setting Up Baby Belly

They've nearly all finished by now, and a number of venues have already opened for at least preview business. 'They' are the folk who actually make the Fringe and all the other festivals happen in Edinburgh in August - the 'tech crews' as they're generally known.

Like
'service' teams everywhere, they're generally unnoticed and unregarded, but without
all their work over the past couple of weeks, the city would be merely a
pleasant tourist stop-over for those doing 'Europe in a Week', instead of the
buzzing cosmopolitan melting pot of arts activity it now is.

Bare halls have been
transformed into theatre spaces; lighting rigs hang from airy ceilings, cables
stowed along panelled walls, box offices and temporary bars erected and
equipped, and shows will soon be turned around in an hour or less. Technicians
are more regularly employed than actors, though there's even less career
structure, nor I imagine, much in the way of guidance; in spite of much-vaunted
'conservatoire' education for performers, there doesn't seem to have been a
'trickle down' to the lowly level of technicians.

Yet an evening spent in the
company of techies is often far more rewarding and stimulating than one spent with
actors endlessly analysing their brief hour on stage. For one thing, they're better
read; one technician friend was particularly keen on eighteenth century English
literature - Addison, Steele and Pope were his bed-time reading.

Another enjoys
Rohinton Mistry as well as James Meek (as he says himself, he likes 'em bleak).
Not all actors, of course, are self-obsessed, and the intensity of performance
can lead to explaining, sometimes endlessly, what ultimately can't easily be
explained. Technicians are blessed with no necessity to do so, and a shrewd
understanding that others are uninterested in the fine nuances of
follow-spotting, or the differences between profile and prelude lamps.

Apparently
the earliest stage hands were unemployed sailors, used to the management of
ropes and ballasts for 'flying' stage cloths. Perhaps that's where the
tradition of the 'can do', phlegmatically philosophical theatre techie arose, drawing
their lessons form other areas of life and art, letting others strut and fret
their way trough the Fringe, waiting while the parade goes by, knowing they'll
be the ones to tidy up afterward.