Liam Rudden: Hope you’re ready, it’s time to tech

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WELL the Fringe is here. The previews have started. The pavements are crowded. The flyerers are preparing to pounce and actors, directors, producers and venue managers across the Capital look like they are about to have a nervous breakdown.

This week, the thousands of shows coming to the Fringe arrived in town and had to tech. That’s what it’s called in the business, a technical rehearsal, where, usually in the shortest period of time possible, they must not only make sure that they have their lighting perfected, no point in doing a show if the audience can’t see what’s happening; their sound levels spot on, again no use having backing tracks blasting over vocals or sound effects coming in randomly; and, finally, an opportunity for casts to get a feel for their new venue with a run-through of the show in full make-up and costume, otherwise known as the dress rehearsal.

It never ceases to amaze me how the simple addition of a costume can throw some actors into a frenzied panic. Simple actions, that they do every day without thinking, such as slipping your arm into the sleeve of a coat, suddenly take on the complexity of solving a Rubik’s Cube. Often with hilarious results.

By the end of this week I’ll have sat through six such rehearsals, ranging in duration from an hour to eight hours. The latter certainly proves testing for the performers. It’s like being on a film set, there’s a lot of waiting around while the technical folk, reduced to ghostly voices in the dark, echoing from a lighting desk hidden deep in the shadows, do their thing... it’s usually painstakingly slow as every lighting cue has to be first agreed, then achieved, and then plotted, or recorded, in the desk, which is basically a big computer. Gone are the days of sliding faders up and down manually, and God help us all if the board crashes.

Next week though, it’s time to start enjoying the experience. Join us.