The Edinburgh Fringe has more than its fair share of household-name comedians and high profile actors generating many column inches in the press, but at the heart of the festival are the small theatre companies generating incredible work on a shoestring budget. Pete Shaw spoke to Kingsley Walker from Green Stag Theatre about their EdFringe show Brotherhood and the challenges they face.
It's nice to be able to flyer to an audience that are actually there to see shows as opposed to people that are just in town to explore the charity shops.
Tell us about your EdFringe show, Brotherhood
“Brotherhood is a new piece of writing based in the First World War and focuses on the relationships of both the poor soldiers going off to war and a broken family left at home in Wiltshire. Whilst it is fictitious, the story is drawn from stories of those of actual soldiers from Chippenham, the town in which Green Stag Theatre is based! The play looks at a different side of the war; it's not so much why or how, but who. We focus on what drives individuals to live, or in lots of cases, die.”
There are a lot of shows at the Fringe this year about the First World War, how did yours come about?
“Our show is based on a board in a local venue, The Cause Music and Arts Centre (that commissioned the project) that commemorates all the soldiers from Chippenham that were lost in the Great War. The thing about this board is that the descendants and families largely still live in Chippenham and it got me considering that whilst nearly 900,000 soldiers were killed expendably, that figure really does not reflect who these deaths affected. Which leads us on to what the play is about: who these boys were really fighting for and who their unnecessary deaths involved.”
This is Green Stag's fourth visit to the Fringe. What keeps you coming back?
“There is something very special about the Edinburgh Fringe; there is no other place or festival like it. It’s strange, really, that we keep coming back, because it costs such an unreasonable amount of money to sustain a company for a performance period, but we just love it. Where else can you get such a diverse range of talent? Plus, it's nice to be able to flyer to an audience that are actually there to see shows as opposed to people that are just in town to explore the charity shops.”
Do you get a lot of local support in your home town to raise funds to go to the Fringe?
“The amount of support from friends, family and the local community has been huge. Whilst we haven't been so lucky with local grant foundations, people have been going out of their way to help out with getting the word out verbally and on social media, making props, even letting us use their print balance to print programmes on their work computers! Not just friends, even strangers have been happy to put up posters and push the project. It really makes a difference to have everybody's support and means the world to all of us.”
As a small theatre company, how do you get noticed amongst the 3,000 others at the festival?
“Of course, reviews help! We also find that a personal touch is important, not just on the Royal Mile but also by supporting companies that are in similar positions by seeing their shows. We are performing with TheSpaceUK and they give everybody a pass to see any show in a TheSpaceUK venue, which is great for building a rapport with companies that may support you in return. After all, getting to share our work with an audience is why we all do it. Whilst it is an expensive venture, it's not about the money - shown in the fact that all the members of our company are volunteering.”
Finally, what one thing are you most looking forward to during Edinburgh this year?
“Personally, I'm looking forward to being blown away by something new. It happens every year. Last year, it was a show called It's Dark Outside by an Australian trio that I really don't even know how to describe and before that an incredible immersive piece called The Boy James by Belt Up Theatre. I'm more than happy about not knowing what it will be yet!”
Brotherhood is at theSpace on the Mile from 1st-9th August (not Sunday).