As Army@TheFringe 2021 enters its final week, the head of the Army in Scotland has thanked performers and spoken of his own love of the performing arts.
As a student at Edinburgh University in the early 1990s, Brigadier Ben Wrench, was a member of the Savoy Opera Group. At one point he was the male lead in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer, on another occasion he helped with set design and building for a show it performed at the Edinburgh Fringe.
This year has seen Brigadier Wrench renew his links to the performing arts, and the Fringe, as Commander 51st Infantry Brigade, Headquarters Scotland, which is in charge of the Army’s own venue – Army@TheFringe.
He said: “While I was studying at Edinburgh University I was part of the Savoy Opera Group, performing and working backstage – it gave me a real insight into the sheer skill, talent and determination that are needed in the performing arts. And that’s something we’ve seen so much at this year’s Fringe. It’s been so impressive to see what the performers, and the backstage teams, have achieved at Army@TheFringe. Making a return to the stage after so long in lockdown is very demanding.
“The Fringe is world renowned, so, after the year we’ve all had I am pleased that the Army has been making a small contribution to helping the performing arts, and the Fringe, to recover. As society looks to returning to some sort of normality it’s been important to me personally and as a public servant that we are doing something that supports the cultural life of the city and the country.
“Edinburgh is such a cultural capital and the Fringe is so much part of that. It has always been such a breeding ground of great talent. So many people have cut their teeth here. One of the things that Army@TheFringe is doing is nurturing emerging talent. It would be wonderful if in years to come we were remembered as having helped people get their careers underway.”
Army@TheFringe has been taking place since 2017 and specialises in hosting bold, high-quality and independently produced plays and other work about issues facing society and life in and out of uniform.
This year’s productions have been well-received by audiences and critics. Tunnels received five star reviews (including from Broadway Baby) while Dandelion had four star reviews (Scotsman and The Arts Desk) as did The Trick That Fooled (Scotsman, The Arts Desk).
Army@TheFringe 2021 will end on 22 August and during its final week has two new shows, Tickbox from actor and comedian Lubna Kerr and Punch, with Johnny – a play about Gorbals boxer Benny Lynch and safe cracker Johnny Ramensky.
The Army pulled out all the stops to ensure that this year’s event could take place as part of its commitment to support the Fringe and the performing arts. It offered an exciting programme that put a particular emphasis on new writing and on providing opportunities for performers from Edinburgh – including through its two Live @ The Drill Hall variety nights.
The East Claremont Street venue in Edinburgh’s New Town has been configured with a computer-modelled ventilation system, a covered outdoors reception area with sanitisation stations, socially-distanced seating with reduced numbers and one-way traffic flow, a track and trace system, and an intensive cleaning programme between performances.
As well as working backstage, serving personnel have been trained to safely conduct all the front of house audience interaction for the event.
Tickets are available from Edfringe.com or www.armyatthefringe.org.