FIT’s Edinburgh Adventure - Lauren Flynn on teching at the Fringe
In the first August without an Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 1947, we’ve got nostalgic about the Found In Translation adventure in Scotland two years ago. We asked Company Technician Lauren Flynn to reminisce about following a FIT show to Edinburgh and what it takes to tech on the Fringe.
After operating FIT’s run of Cassandra at the Blue Elephant Theatre in 2018, Rose and Ollie asked me to be their technical support in their Edinburgh Fringe team later that year. We left for Scotland in two months so there was no rest for the tech team, especially faced by the mountain of EdFringe where you need to know everything before you get there!
Although I wouldn’t step into our venue for a while, my first job was to get as familiar as possible with the space we would be performing in. So I reached out to TheSpaceUK tech team and went through all their specifications to find out what was in my arsenal of lights. The structure of Fringe venues (which can host upwards of 10 shows a day) relies heavily on a standard rig that you aren’t able to change, except for a few specials - provided you can rig and de-rig them quick enough!
The next step was to get to know the script we were taking up, FIT’s Aristophanic Brexit comedy Leave. To Remain. I had a meeting with Ollie (the writer/director) to establish what elements he wanted me to bring to the piece, which involved numerous sound cues and lots of moments where I’d have to isolate parts of the stage. The good news was (isolation aside) the show was perfectly suited to be put in a suitcase and showcased to the world in a flexible space with a standard wash rig.
My final, and most important preparation stage was getting to know the cast. Although I had worked with FIT on their previous production, only a few of the Edinburgh cast had been in Cassandra. Plus, this time I was going to be living with them for the duration of the run… I met the team during one of their last rehearsals in London and finally saw the piece brought to life before me, which clarified many moments in my design as well as inspiring some new ideas!
Then, with marked scripts, stuffed cars, and a bit of Fringe mania, we hit the road. On the drive up the actors in the back slept while Ollie worked hard combing through the (massive) Fringe booklet of shows, finding companies that were trying to do the same thing as us. As I drove, I became more and more aware that I was going to be spending the next 14 days with people who were complete strangers a few weeks ago. I’m not quite sure why I worried! As soon as we arrived in Edinburgh we took a group trip to the shops and cooked that night’s dinner all together. Although we were all exhausted from the trip, we laughed, drank, and celebrated the fact that we were actually here, at the Fringe, and ready to show the world just what FIT could do.
The next morning was the most important day of the Fringe for me: the tech rehearsal. Many technicians travelling with a company probably have nightmares about their tech run. I know I did. What you’d normally have at least a whole day to do, you have to do in two hours, in a space you’ve never seen, with technology that may be unfamiliar. Props are unpacked from suitcases and you have to hope and pray that all the actors remembered their costumes.
There’s no time for a real run between the safety walkthroughs, the introductions to the venue, and the rigging of lights, so a cue-to-cue is really all you can hope for. Luckily for us we only needed one special, which, with the help of the venue techs I was able to rig and patch quickly. Except for minor hiccups, the company pulled together for a wildly successful tech rehearsal, proving it really is possible for a good team to make miracles in no time. It felt like we had literally taken the play from its rehearsal space and dropped it into the Fringe with no problems.
Of course the fortnight was not entirely problem free, including an entire batch of missing flyers (to which the printer said they ‘could not rule out foul play’) and keeping sane after unflattering reviews in The Times. My favourite moment of “really?” was when Ollie got a call that the BBC wanted to film our cast on the Royal Mile for a report on the 6 o’clock news. Of course that was probably the most exciting thing we could’ve been told, so I stood and took photos of our cast showing off their best Brexiters and Ol’ Niges to the BBC, only for our segment to be bumped by none other than Boris Johnson.
From a technical perspective, it’s impossible to imagine the sheer pressure you could feel supporting a company at the Fringe. The cast feel as though they are on the precipice of ‘making it’, everyone is far away from home and stressed about everything, and you have next to no time to pre-set and strike before and after each show. But hey, my design made it to the Edinburgh Fringe and people actually came and watched it!
But the best memories that stand out from Edinburgh are the ones that helped me form meaningful connections with the company. Working with a group in the high stakes, high pressure of the Fringe causes unique connections of creativity. When you stand together on the Royal Mile flyering for hours, or travel all the way across town to go to a Greggs in a converted bank, or nail a strike in minutes due to seamless teamwork, a bond is forged that goes beyond words.
Lauren Flynn has designed and operated widely in Off-West End venues including the Pleasance and Hope Theatre, and has been working with Found In Translation since 2018.