FOMO is one of the cornerstones of the Edinburgh Fringe. As a performer there are so few hours of the day when you don’t feel like you can, and therefore should, be doing something, whether that’s plugging your own show or seeing other people’s good work. It’s a month long. It’s relentless. With the colossal financial and emotional investment made by acts, there comes an enormous pressure to make the Fringe time, money and effort well spent.

Sasha Ellen

Sasha Ellen

Ask any performer and they will tell you that the Fringe is a marathon. They’ll leave out the part where half the runners are off their tits, the charity you are raising money for is called Will I Be Able To Afford My Rent This Autumn and the cheering crowds are occasionally six well-meaning strangers, who wondered in because they confused you with that juggling act they were told was great. The sweat is real though. How is everywhere you go in Edinburgh uphill?

The main problem for most of us is the cost. The Edinburgh Fringe is an expensive investment, one that is not sure to pay off despite our best-laid plans. With rent soaring over the last few years, a lot of performers have been bringing up multiple shows in order to offset those costs. There are benefits to doing multiple shows at the Fringe beyond financial gain for selling two lots of tickets. Cross-promoting shows and using one show to bring in an audience for another can be a hugely effective way to get your work seen by more people. Not to mention the fact that most people who commit to bringing a show to the Fringe are incredibly passionate about what they do and want to use the once-a-year opportunity the Fringe provides to do the hell out of it. As one of the directors at my drama school enjoyed repeating, “Your family will not understand, your partners will leave you and your pets will die”. I always thought what he was saying was that we love what we do with an irrational intensity that takes a toll one other areas of our lives, although seeing it written down it does look like a veiled threat.

There is no denying that doing multiple shows takes a toll on your emotional resources and mental health. In previous years, I went to the Fringe with multiple shows and came home under so much stress that I didn’t know where I lived or what my name was. One year, I brought up three shows, as well as helping out in a mate’s sketch show. But who wouldn’t spend midnight every night dancing in a mask to further the artistic goals of a dear friend? I was fully dressed, I move like a bear and it was hella funny. I regret nothing.

The only time outside of the Fringe when I experienced this type of pressure to work all hours of the day was the early months of lockdown, when working from home became the norm and all notion of work-life balance went out of the window. Suddenly, we all lived in the workplace and finding an equilibrium took many months of dodging total burn out. In the pre-plague times, performers who were working day-jobs remotely to cover the financial losses they knew they would make during the Fringe were seen as maverick workaholics. “How are they managing it?” the rest of us would wonder, while stumbling from venue to venue doing spots to promote our shows. At least it was a choice those acts made. Now that remote working is completely standard and everyone has to be reachable all of the time, I can already see performer friends being forced to keep doing everything they are doing all year round, on top of all of the demands of the Fringe.

This year, I’m taking up two shows which I am extremely excited about and proud off, but I will also be doing some gamemaster work on Zoom, where strangers from the internet pay me money to host roleplaying games for them, as well as teaching some creative writing workshops. I’m fully aware that there will come a point when something’s gotta give. My prediction: week three of the festival, when my internet gives out and one of my six flatmates eats my emergency cheese.

On top of all of that, whether you’re an artist who treats the Fringe a summer camp or boot camp, there is a huge importance placed on socialising and networking. You will find even the most single-minded, work-focused comedians doing their dozens of shows a day while battling hangovers they got in the name of furthering their career. It’s not to say that going out, meeting people and enjoying many delightful but overpriced drinks isn’t done for the joy of it. The Fringe is a month where all of my artsy friends are in one place. There’s nothing like catching up, sharing show news and gossiping about the latest Fringe drama to take the edge off. The reward at the end of the day you convince yourself you need in order to be at your best tomorrow. Outside the Fringe, it’s not often you get to ask yourself, “Have I been productively drunk, or just drunk?”

The same performers who call the Fringe a “marathon”, will also often refer to the month of August as “surviving” the festival. With so much pressure on this one month of the year, not to mention the financial and emotional investment, it’s easy to enter survival mode. In the past, I know I have. That is one of the things I regretted the most when I learned that EdFringe 2020 was cancelled: working hard but not working harder to find a balance that allowed me to appreciate the good times. So my mantra for this Fringe is: “Just because I can do everything, does it mean I should”. That and “Bring back the joy”. Also “Sasha for the win”… I’ve overworked my mantras; I don’t have a prayer.

Sasha Ellen: Creeps and Geeks

Underbelly, Daisy 3-29 August (not 16) @ 4.15pm

Character Building Experience

Counting House (Loft) 4-28 August at 1.45pm

Tickets for both shows are available from