The Acts v. The Hacks – How I survived the Edinburgh Fringe’s Meet the Media event

by David Visick

Thirty minutes into the queue for the Meet the Media event at The Speilgeltent I realise I’m wasting my time, but that’s okay, because I have time to waste. The cast are speedrunning lines for tonight’s opening show and at times like this it’s the writer’s job to go away. A long, long way away, somewhere like Brazil or The Moon, where they won’t be able to make helpful suggestions or attempt to re-write the entire third act from scratch.

It’s three hours until I have to amble down to Stockbridge to thrust Waiting for Hamlet flyers at the crowd gathering outside the McKellen show at Ashton Hall. Because they’re waiting for Hamlet, you see. So I’m in this coiled snake of hope and delusion, two places behind the seven-foot drag queen and two in front of a lad with a blow-up doll on his shoulders. Beside me is an Australian one-woman musical who’s opening show last night had an audience of two, which she took much more giggly delight in than I would have done. Her friend has gone off to get water, but comes back with wine. I like them both immensely.

But then someone says that the reviewers at the head of this snake, the ones from the Nationals at least, are more interested in your own personal story that your show pitch. This is a blow to me, because I’m a writer. We don’t have to live our art; we make stuff up. I thought that was the whole bloody point. It’s so much easier than having to be your story. Looking towards the front of the queue, I calculate that at the age of 58 I’ve got about twenty minutes to become a more interesting person.

As it happens, when I do enter the venomous pit The Times, The Guardian and The Stage have already left, having presumably found all their Fringe highlights in the first fifty or so pitches. I give my tight ninety seconds to the guy from The Scotsman. His pen hovers and then falls. We chat for another minute to make it look better. But The Wee Review laughs at my joke and the Fringe Review team offer their usual cocktail of welcoming smiles and free sweets, so that’s all good.

When I leave, the queue’s still as long as it was when I joined it. Perhaps it’s unfair to assume the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, star-speckled and fairy-winged kids are deluded about their chances of success. Maybe they know exactly what they’re going to get. They’re going to spend a month doing and seeing shows, sleeping on floors, drinking at the table next to that woman from Mock The Week, making lifelong friendships, and at the end of it, and for the rest of their life, they’ll have been in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe.

That sounds pretty much like success to me.

David Visick is writer of Waiting For Hamlet