Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016

This summer, the theatre company I work with, aka my housemates, took a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a week.

If you’ve ever been to the Fringe then you will know that no matter how small the show or how simple the set, this is a serious undertaking.

To cut costs we decided to do the show, ‘Death and the Data Processor’, as part of the Edinburgh Free Fringe. This meant that we paid only a very small amount in space hire and in exchange we asked the audience to donate what they liked, rather than charging a flat rate.

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Overall, this worked well as a system and we were lucky to play to large and generous audiences. However, when it’s a free show the stakes go down somewhat for the venue. This meant that when they lost our posters which we had pre-ordered, their response was to shrug their shoulders and say that it wasn’t their responsibility. So if you’re thinking of taking a show to the Fringe, the Free Fringe is good and it does make it a lot more accessible for a student theatre company such as ourselves, however you have to be entirely self-sufficient and not expect any help from the organisers.

Doing the show was great and stressful in equal parts, and having done the lighting tech (basically me just hitting a button or a slider three or four times a show) I now know the whole thing off by heart and am probably quite ready to give it a break.

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What was really wonderful was just being up in Edinburgh and seeing the wealth of theatrical talent (and to be fair, also a lot of rubbish) that was there.

Two of my particular favourites were ‘Infinity Pool’ which bills itself as a modern retelling of Madam Bouvary and Walrus Theatre’s ‘Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons’. The first is entirely unspoken with the dialogue delivered through projectors and computer screens. When it was described to me I admit that I was initially dubious, but it was in fact utterly captivating. ‘Lemons’ on the other hand is all about words and speech. Set in a Black Mirror-esque universe in which the government has implemented a ‘Hush’ law that prevents you from speaking more than 140 words a day, a young couple have to find new ways to connect and communicate. Their only pieces of set were two microphones, proving just how effective a tight script is in carrying a play.

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This was the Fringe mascot this year…um, yeah

Overall, I had a great time at this year’s festival and would love to go back again next year if I can find a job at one of the venues – that or my housemates decide to write another show. Although I think I will need the year to recover.

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Reading ‘the right stuff’

Hello All!

Goodness, August has been a busy month. I’ve been the literal length and breadth of the country over the last two weeks and am now quite exhausted.

However, during that time I have received a few interesting emails from readers (all soon to be Literature students) asking about how best to prepare for uni. One question that particularly struck me was from a UEA fresher who was worried that they hadn’t read ‘the right sorts of books’ before coming to uni.

This question particularly stayed with me because it made me realise that before coming to university I was one of those people who might be perceived to have not read, ‘the right sorts of books’. It had never really occurred to me before that that was something I could have been potentially worried about when I arrived as a fresher.

It’s probably worth outlining now what people usually think of as the right kind of books for literature students to be reading; Classics such as those of Dickens, Eliot, the Bronte sisters… you get the gist.

Now, I have always been a book worm. As a child my teachers used to complain to my parents that I read too much and wasn’t playing with other children enough. I used to get in trouble for staying up past my bed time reading, and right up until sixth form I was happily getting through at least one book a week (then A-Levels and being able to go out at weekends began to take up my time a lot more). But at no point during that did I worry I was reading the right stuff.

Since I was very little I knew that I wanted to study English Literature at uni and so I always supposed that I would get around to reading the classics then, when I was older, wiser, and would understand them better. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t read classics when you’re young, just that you shouldn’t feel like you must or that otherwise you’ll not be qualified to be a literature student.

I read handful of classics before starting uni but they were all ones I was interested in. Other than that I read what I liked, and I am pleased to say that it has not hindered me at university at all.

We study literature at university because we enjoy it and because it interests us, so there’s no point slogging through something in your free time just because you feel you have to.

Every literature student arrives at uni with a different reading history behind them and it is meeting all these different people who have been exposed to different kinds of books (don’t even get me started on how a lot of the books we’re told we’re supposed to have read were written by dead white men) that makes it an exciting and interesting environment to be in.

Long story short, read what you want and enjoy it to the max.

My Summer Work Experience 2016

Well we are now well and truly into the summer break and although the Autumn term doesn’t start until late September it doesn’t seem that long until uni begins again.

However, I am currently very much enjoying my break from academia. Over the last few weeks I’ve been filling my time by doing work experience at my local museum and reading a real mixture of stuff – importantly, the stuff I really want to read.

My time with the museum has been great in many ways, I’ve really enjoyed my work with the Development Officer which has allowed me to make use of and expand the admin skills I have gained (all through my work with the Drama Society) over the last year, and it has opened my eyes to career possibilities beyond graduation. Whilst I’m planning to do a MA in Medieval Studies/Literature I’m still having to start to imagine what life will look like after graduation.

Not only do I enjoy the work I have been doing (and the opportunities I have been given to come up with and implement my own ideas) but the setting is gorgeous as well. The museum is housed in a building known as The King’s Manor and sits directly opposite Salisbury Cathedral. Of course, this means that my walks to work are beautiful and it often strikes me how lucky I am to have lived so much of my life in the shadow of this amazing monument. The school I went to for my last two years of primary school is only a few doors down and one half of the sixth form college I went to is on the other side of the Cathedral close, so I really have lived a good chunk of my life in its shadow.

The work experience I have been doing this summer has been interesting but also very helpful in giving me a better understanding of the kind of work I would like to get into. But importantly, this wasn’t a placement organised by my uni but one I went out and found myself.

I researched and wrote a cover letter explaining why I thought I was a good fit for the museum and found the most relevant person to send it to. I then had an interview in which I had to justify the things I had written and pitch why they should take me on. I suppose what I’m trying to get at is that being proactive and making opportunities for yourself is so important and, in my experience, very rewarding.

I’m now off on a short break to Wales and then to produce a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival before coming back to do a few more weeks of work at the museum. No rest for the wicked and all that.

Best of luck for those still waiting for exam results – not long now!