In early April, the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe was canceled owing to the threats of the Coronavirus pandemic. A first in the world’s largest arts festival’s 73-year history, the cancellation was a big blow to the 30,000 performers and 2,200 shows from 48 countries who travel to Scotland to showcase their work. Hence, in order to not lose an entire year of Fringe, the festival was taken to online platforms by theater-makers and fans, reported Alice Jones of The New York Times.
London-based theater producer who staged the original version of Fleabag in Fringe 2013, Francesca Moody had planned to stage three plays in this year’s festival. However, upon cancellation of the festival, her fellow theater-make Gary McNair joked that they would have to stage a “Shed Fringe” which led to Moody coming up with the online festival of drama and comedy streamed live from garden sheds, Shedinburgh.
The two six feet by eight feet sheds were set up onstage at the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh and the Soho Theater in London. “This is an opportunity to acknowledge how magical the festival is,” said Moody, “how important it is to me and to a lot of the artists who have had success there.”
Due to space restrictions and social distancing rules, Shedinburgh is dominated by one-person shows by artists like Deborah Frances-White, Tim Crouch, and Jack Rooke. The shows are streamed on Zoom at donations of at least £4 ($5) per ticket with the profits going towards a fund for artists willing to stage their show at the Fringe in 2021.
Alongside Shedinburgh, other theater makers are adapting to 2020’s online Fringe. Fringe on Friday is an hourlong cabaret streamed from the performers’ homes every week; Fringe of Colour is a daily screening of films by artists of color; comedy festival in audiobook form, Edinburgh Unlocked from Penguin Random House is featuring 15-minute sets from canceled stand-up shows.
Comedy producer and agent, Corrie McGuire staged the first online “Spank!” with comedians Emmanuel Sonubi and Lauren Pattinson performing out of their bedrooms; break-dancing magician Magical Bones performing tricks in his kitchen and Vikki Stone singing from her attic. However, to combat the monotony of online events and meetings, McGuire created a virtual front-row wherein ten audience members would volunteer to “sit up front” by unmuting their microphones and letting the performers hear their reactions throughout the performance.
At the end of August, comedian Mark Watson will be hosting a 24-hour Fringe gig on Twitch from his sofa to raise money for stand-up comedians whose lives have been affected by the pandemic. According to Watson, his “insanely ambitious” plan is to recreate the feel of the month-long Fringe in a single day.