Dicker and Drama: Harvey On Performing At Edinburgh Fringe Festival
In March this year, I was lucky enough to be cast into a professional theatre company (Hungry Wolf) to perform the newly written (Dave Jackson - ITV, BBC Radio 4, National Youth Theatre) comedy - The Electra Project.
The story follows a group of four A Level theatre studies students (Alfie who I play, Martin, Malachi and Ellie) whose devised piece (based on the greek tragedy of Electra) goes horrifically wrong live on stage. A clip of the students' performance up on YouTube, is re-tweeted by the education secretary (formerly Michael Gove) and eventually goes viral.
Although it might be presumed, due to the conventions of a tragedy, that this media glare would ruin each characters lives, The Electra Project shows positive repercussions for the characters.
The story is based on true events that occurred in 2012 where a horribly uncontrolled devised piece on sexual abuse led to children crying and vomiting. There is a lot of slapping and vomiting in our play too, which also leads to the sacking of the fictional drama teachers who were responsible.
The production is designed to prompt questioning - as was undertaken by the current government - into whether drama is really an 'academic subject' with no purpose or reasoning, and whether drama should be viewed as an extracurricular activity.
The play also contains a political satire, mocking the current affairs of the government and we performed the piece three times at Brighton Fringe in early May. We were heavily praised for the quality (especially considering we only had week of intensive rehearsals) and were lucky enough to receive a 5* review.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival came around in mid-August and, although the play had adapted slightly, the whole cast were eager to show Edinburgh the quality we have as a company.
We were up there for 8 days and performed 7 times.
Edinburgh Fringe itself is incredible. Even without being in a show it's an experience I can't justify enough and would encourage all aspiring actors, directors, or writers just to visit for a week out of the month it's on for.
There are 3,000 performances crammed into the month, from dark, gorey tragedies to improvised musical comedies, there really is a bit of everything. In the week I was there, I saw roughly twenty shows, all of which ranged in quality, price and genre. You don't have to go and spend lots of money to go and see brilliant performances either, with 30% of the productions available being free and another 40% priced at under £10!
The commitment, consistency and passion the companies and actors showed whilst we were up there was incredible, remembering some of which have performed their show twenty eight times!
During the day, if we weren't rehearsing or running off to catch a show, we would leaflet across the royal mile, Edinburgh's famous strip. From 9am-9pm thousands of people would be advertising their shows, all trying to catch your eye in a unique way, whether that be through street performances, playing music, shouting, organised street fights or simply interacting with passers-by.
We, like them, had to find unconventional ways of getting people's attention, which we did through singing, dancing, rapping or talking to the public in character. This process helped us achieve an average audience of 35-40, which wasn't bad considering that the average Fringe audience is 9!
We were fortunate to receive a couple of 4* reviews whilst we were up there, and of course we were overjoyed. Moreover, having the ability to wake up and potentially perform in one show, watch three more then return to perform again in one day was a unique accomplishment in and of itself.
With all of the above taken into consideration, and the addition of the buzzing atmosphere and passion shown by literally everyone I met, I can't begin to thank my director and fellow cast members for giving me the opportunity to take part in one of the best performances of my life.
Then, to top it all, we have also recorded the play for radio, with the outcome to be aired on Radio 4 in the near future!