Blog Article / FringeReview.com / Writing: Journalism

Why ‘free’ doesn’t mean ‘worthless’

This is written in response to Denis Krasnov’s blog Why ‘free’ means ‘worthless’ on Chortle, I’d recommend reading that first.

Well, no blog entry in a while, apologies loyal readers (hi Mum!), but the article above has jolted me out of my work cycle. It seems that, as the Edinburgh Festival expands in all of its myriad directions, that some among us are less than pleased by this process. While I’ll admit that the increasing amount of ‘stuff’ squeezed into the months in and around the Edinburgh Fringe does dilute the experience, it also shows how popular live work remains, and how exciting a field it is to be involved in. Mr Krasnov’s article, and conclusion, is simplistic and reductive.
First, let me say the obvious: more shows means less audience for each specific act; this is undeniable. While it is unfortunate that such free shows are taking the revenue from acts that are trying to make a living, as Mr Krasnov stipulates, I believe this to be a minor worry at best. A big part of the Edinburgh experience is hoping to experience something excellent, something big, a show that can be taken places and may be, though I hate the phrase, the next-big-thing. More money, no matter how it’s sliced, means a show will be more qualitative, if only from a technical and productional perspective, thus encouraging more people to take a chance on a show. No one assumes that a free show will be better than a show that has revenue, which will support itself. Free theatre has its place, and will not detract from the audience hoping to see something incredible, which assumes at least some money spent on the little things (lights, sound, set, etc.)
I think it is indefinitely more exciting that the interest in live-acts is clearly still strong, so much so that more and more ways are found to perform. I have an enduring worry that live theatre and comedy will fade, that the simplicity of television and cinema will make it obsolete. The fact that the Edinburgh Festival experience is expanding, despite a recession, is a wonderful indicator that we are working in a field with promise, a field which will have its place in a world where entertainment is as easy as switching on a TV or going online.
I also postulate that Mr Krasnov’s assertion that there are ‘too many bad shows at the Fringe’ is actually a good thing. The more there is of something, the more you focus on how good certain parts of it are. How amazing is it to find your favourite type of Revel, if you’re like me and only like the orange ones? How much more fun is a Festival where you do have to trawl, where you have to explore far and wide to find the true gems? I cannot wait to review up in Edinburgh, to scour the streets for the shows I will like, love, and maybe see more than once. I feel that that’s the aspect of Edinburgh which makes it special, which makes it so exciting, and this influx of acts will only make more so.
For another view, have a look at Paul Levy’s blog (aptly named The Column), and I hope my two cents in this debate are appreciated.
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