The priceless cachet of having a hit Edinburgh Fringe show - Liam Rudden

IT’S impossible, when you live and work in the Capital, not to see August as just another month in the city’s never-ending events calendar and to fully understand the power the brand ‘Edinburgh Fringe’ boasts.

By Liam Rudden
Friday, 6th September 2019, 3:41 pm
Frances Barber as Billie Trix
Frances Barber as Billie Trix

I’m not even convinced it’s the ‘Fringe‘ tag that producers and audiences value these days - ‘Edinburgh’ alone seems enough.

Showbiz types refer to “coming to Edinburgh”, rather than to the Fringe as they once did, and marketeers announce their shows as ‘Direct from Edinburgh...’

The city’s name is now synonymous with August in the entertainment world.

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If the words ‘sell-out’ are added to that phrase, the prospects are that the producers have a hit on their hands - look what has happened to Six, 2018’s ‘Edinburgh’ hit, which is now on the West End and Broadway.

I first understood the impact a successful ‘Edinburgh’ brought when my play Thief was invited to be part of a prestigious festival on Broadway, New York, in 2016 as a result of its reception in the Capital.

Even New York had heard of ‘Edinburgh’ and watched with interest, cherry-picking the best product for the discerning 42nd Street audience.

In Toronto too, everyone was excited when another of my shows, I Ran With The Gang, was given an airing there ‘direct from Edinburgh’ in 2016 and 2017.

That said, when you’re on the inside, caught up with the trials of a production, it’s easy to miss the phenomenal buzz a successful season on the Fringe can create.

On Tuesday, I understood, finally, the full impact, when I nipped down to the Leicester Square Theatre for the opening of the London run of Pet Shop Boys and Jonathan Harvey’s musical cabaret Musik, starring Frances Barber.

A sell-out here in August seeing it revived in a proper theatre was an invigorating experience and, to be honest, it worked much better there.

The expanded staging allowed Barber to luxuriate in the role of the outrageous Billie Trix, something the constraints of a Fringe venue never allowed.

Suddenly the outside distractions that come with performing in a glorified tent were gone - no cramped seating, dodgy sight-lines and drunks caterwauling outside.

With new projections, a few tweaks to the script and a glorious new lighting plot it was like a different show.

Barber was on fire and relishing every laugh, cheer and spontaneous round of applause.

Beforehand, the atmosphere was electric, partly because both Neil and Chris, the Pet Shop Boys, were there, but also because London was finally getting to see the smash hit ‘Edinburgh’ show for the very first time.

Musik’s London run is coming to an end as you read this - it deserves a much longer life.

Let’s hope Billie Trix returns before too long and that an extended run can be brokered.

It’s nice to think it all started here, Edinburgh saw it first.