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The trials of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

She saw like so many others, what a great opportunity it was for showcasing work with more than 20,000 performers and almost two million visitors descending on the Fringe each August.
Katherine, a former pupil at Cranford House School, Moulsford, and Bradfield College, was inspired to write the piece after a few years in London and a series of classic out-of-work actor jobs such as waitressing, envelope stuffing and temping.
But it wasn’t until she found herself dressed up in a full Easter bunny costume at 9am one Monday morning to entertain children and her boss complimented her on how well she suited her outfit that she realised she needed a change of direction.
Taking pen to paper at her desk in Hampstead, Katherine started writing Playing Fate as a form of escapism.
“Writing sometimes is like reading a book, yet you get to invent where the plot goes next and you can take the characters anywhere,” she says.
“Most of all, I love immersing myself in my own world.”
Playing Fate tells the story of Gem and H, whose relationship is tired and worn.
The drama-comedy is based on one of Katherine’s own relationship break-ups. “I decided to write something that I knew about, something that everyone can relate to – a couple breaking up.”
The play explores whether the couple’s future rests on the small, insignificant annoyances that seem to be driving them apart, or whether they should stop fighting against something bigger – fate – that is pushing them together.
Katherine never intended for Playing Fate to be read by anyone else, let alone performed, as she was scared what people would think.
With her parents and husband her harshest critics, there was only one way for her to find out if the piece had any potential.
On an off-chance she managed to put on the play with her sole audience being her husband Chris.
“After [the performance] he said: “The thing I most feel is relief that it’s not rubbish because how could I ever tell you that it was awful?”
This was all the encouragement Katherine needed and she subsequently entered it into the
Camden Fringe Festival and Edinburgh soon after, taking on the roles of producer, director and actor.
“It meant a lot to me,” she says. ‘“I was on my own. It was a huge learning curve but I was quite proud of myself for pulling it off.”
Costs for putting on a play at the Fringe can spiral exorbitantly.
Katherine saved money by entering the Laughing Horse Free Festival and got the venue for free, otherwise it would have been a huge financial drain.
However, she learned that even cutting costs comes at a price.
“The venue was interesting. Among other things, when a reviewer came, he sat at the back of the theatre with loud air-conditioning blasting out, which the venue staff kept forgetting to turn off, making it really difficult to hear anything.
"Of course he complained about that in his review.”
When a technical glitch occurred one day, Katherine realized the importance of knowing what you’re doing behind the scenes.
“Ten minutes before curtain call, as the audience were coming in, I discovered that all the lighting and sound cues had been recorded over. Luckily, Jen Watson, my light and sound technician, saved the show and managed to re-programme everything within five minutes.”
The highlight of Edinburgh was the last night where there was a fantastic turn-out and a responsive audience laughing in all the right places.
Katherine was finally able to let go and enjoy the show.
‘As the writer and director, you sometimes think too much about every element but this was the first time I was acting, I was completely involved in my character and I wasn’t thinking “that prop should be there”.’
Katherine, who now lives in Great Shefford, will return to the Fringe this August with an adapted version of Playing Fate.
She hopes this time that paying for a venue will be worthwhile with more chances of reviews and a prime slot in the programme.
“[The Fringe] is a great platform to have your play stand on its own two feet.
"I want it to go out with a bang.
"I want people to enjoy and appreciate it. That would be a great send off.”
Playing Fate runs until August 18 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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By Michelle Vilk.

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