Mark Fisher on The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (from The List)

Mark Fisher with a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle pic: Lotte Fisher

Published in The List

The theatre critic’s new book delivers some essential advice to aspiring Fringe performers


1 Choosing a title takes ages

It’s as straightforward as they come, yet The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide was a title born of months of discussion. The subtitle, How to Make Your Show a Success, was arrived at no quicker. My editor couldn’t believe it.

2 The Edinburgh Fringe is the most exciting place on Earth

Actually, I knew this already, but the process of researching the book really brought it home. Not only were all the actors, comedians, directors, producers and publicists I spoke to passionate about the Fringe, but they reinforced the sense of it being unique. No festival on the planet has such a combination of scale, discovery, opportunity, unpredictability and exhilaration. That’s why it’s addictive.

3 You don’t have to mortgage your house

No question the Fringe is costly and no question it’s only the elite few TV-name comedians who make money, but I heard relatively few stories of financial ruin. Whether you treat it as an expensive holiday or a long-term investment in your career, you should be able to come up with a manageable budget. If you have a clear grasp of costs and a realistic projection of income – plus a bit of fund raising – you should be able to break even.

4 Flyering works

To you, it looks like a load of waste paper, but time and again, performers told me how much difference well-targeted face-to-face marketing made to their audience numbers.

5 Overdoing it the night before can do more than ruin your show

Among the book’s horror stories is the time comedian Ed Byrne stayed up all night, nodded off at Edinburgh Airport and missed his flight to the Reading Festival.

The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide (Methuen) is published Thu 16 Feb.

© Mark Fisher, 2012