Fringe Player

Kath Mainland,Chief Executive of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society,talks about one of the world’s largest arts extravaganzas.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Published: May 1, 2013 12:55:32 am

Kath Mainland,Chief Executive of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society,talks about one of the world’s largest arts extravaganzas.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (better known as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) can be described as the Kumbh Mela for artistes from across the world. In Edinburgh’s 250 venues — ranging from music halls to underground basements to elevators to even parked cars — there is an explosion of physical theatre,stand-up comedy,music,avant-garde dances and performances that simply defy definition.

This August,the Fringe is expected to host more than 4,000 performances. As Indian artistes increasingly show interest in the festival (among those who have performed there are theatre person Sanjna Kapoor and dancer Aditi Mangaldas),Kath Mainland,CEO of the festival,travelled to several cities in India in an awareness-building initiative. Excerpts from an interview with her:

How is the Fringe different from other arts festivals in the world?

We’re different because we are properly an open-access festival,and the largest of its kind in the world. Anybody can come and do whatever they like,and nobody will say that you cannot come and perform here. It’s powerful,democratic and there’s a huge scale of freedom of expression.

This is your second trip to India. Does this indicate a special interest in art from this country?

Our earlier trip as part of the British Council in 2011 was very much an exploration trip to gauge the opportunities that might exist in the performing arts communities in India. We did a roadshow and we were overwhelmed by the interest and enthusiasm. For us,it was also encouraging that there has been Indian participation at the Fringe for many years.

How big is the Indian participation at the Fringe?

The first Indian performance I saw at the Fringe was the play Othello in Black and White in the ’90s. Indian artistes are not present in huge numbers,but there has been music and dance as well as stand-up acts by Papa CJ. My advice to Indian performers would be that it is incredibly risky if you’ve never been there before. Come and visit first. Secondly,understand why you’re coming — would you want to increase your brand profile at home,are you coming because you have a show that you would like to tour internationally or if you have some other reason. All these are very good reasons but you have to know your reason. You won’t understand how to do it,and you won’t understand if you’ve been successful either unless you know what your reason is.

Are Indian artistes hampered by a language barrier?

It is a predominantly English speaking festival and the audience is international but predominantly comes from English speaking countries. Performances that are not language specific — music,dance,physical theatre and theatre that is not narrative or text heavy (stand a better chance). But,at the Fringe,one cannot say with definite accuracy that something won’t work. One of the most amazing things I saw was Antigone in Georgian,but it was a text we were familiar with.

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