"The best way to deal with this is to identify the people you feel most comfortable with and spend time with them."Louisa Keight

In my first year of the Fringe, I thought I was magic. By this I  mean believing I could survive on 3 to 6 hours of sleep and the food groups of alcohol, coffee and things that can (but maybe shouldn’t) be covered in peanut butter. Cue three weeks later and I’m sobbing in the bathroom where my well-meaning but misguided medic flatmate checks me for signs of meningitis.

Now that I’m returning to the Fringe for the third time, I thought I should share some pearls of wisdom that I managed to glean from the giant, turd-like mistakes I made in my first and second year.

1. Yes, read your reviews.

Its become something of a cliché amongst thesp/comedian/performer types to never read your reviews. This is a terrible idea. At the Edinburgh Fringe, shows live and die by word of mouth and reviews are a crucial part of this. That said, reviewers are not all-seeing, all-knowing deities whose word is final - far from it. Try to see their words as akin to the contents of a suggestion box written by giggling primary school children. Build from them but don’t take them too seriously. They’re probably right that a chocolate milk slide and a dinosaur will vastly improve your performance – but maybe just start with some Nesquik and a lizard.

Have the occasional night off and actually go to bed

2. Cook (some of) your own meals.

Apart from the obvious financial and health benefits, cooking is a great way to bond with your flatmates. Knocking out a decent stir fry as part of a team is just about the most wholesome and relaxing thing you can do. However, Edinburgh is filled with great places to eat, so if your budget can stretch to it then give them a go. The Pavilion Café in The Meadows makes the most incredible wraps, Söderburg near George Square does genre-defining savoury scones and at The Elephant House I ate a peanut butter brownie so good I nearly wept.

3. Contrary to popular belief, you do need to sleep.

At the Fringe, it’s very easy to not really sleep. Shows trundle on until late into the evening; venues stay open until 5am; parties and predrinks begin in the wee hours. Coupled with last minute rehearsals, frantic re-writes and the need to flyer your show all morning, you find yourself clocking an average of four hours sleep. This has the tendency, after a while, to plunge you into a hole of complete despair. Have the occasional night off and actually go to bed in time to get enough sleep. It sounds like common sense, but when you have to spend the day acquiring audience members for a show you must perform without openly weeping, you will thank your past, sensible, well-rested self.

Proper self-care involves cucumberMillie Foy

(P.S. I have openly wept during a show before now. On stage. Whilst dancing.)

4. Don’t use parties and venue bars as your only way of socialising.

The theatre scene in Cambridge is tough. When it relocates to Edinburgh it can feel even more isolating. The best way to cope is to identify the people you feel most comfortable with and spend time in their company. Hang out with your cast and crew. Play board games, go to the pub, climb Arthur’s Seat and find your actual friends. It’s the only way to stay sane.

5. Talk to strangers.

That’s right - ignore everything that primary school and public transport in the home counties taught you. Chatting to other performers when flyering or waiting to set up in the venue is a great way to make friends, get the scoop on the best shows and just make the time go by a bit quicker. Who knows? They might even come to your show.

6. See stuff that’s out of your comfort zone.

Enjoy everything about Edinburgh, not just the showsSam Johnston

Launch yourself into something you would never normally watch. Comedian? Go and see a Mike Leigh. Thesp? Sit yourself down in a stand-up set. Musical theatre? Check out some spoken word. Whether your goal in Edinburgh is life experience or learning experience, seeing something completely different will be fun and give you a great new perspective on your own performance.

7. Spend some time doing nothing.

With more than 3,000 shows in over 300 venues it’s quite easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of things to do and see at the Fringe. Which is why it is absolutely vital that you perfect the art of Doing Nothing. Watch TV. That’s right, I’m not kidding. Sit in bed and watch TV, or a film. Read a book, go for a walk or run, stare at the walls. Do it, seriously. Just stare at the walls. If you don’t have time, make time. Doing Nothing is a skill I only learned in my second year at the Fringe and by God it changed my life.

8. Don’t do more than two shows.


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Laughs and a leaky tent: My week at the Edinburgh Fringe

The reason why Doing Nothing became so vital to me in my second year was because I was technically involved in three shows, in addition to the open mic nights to boost sales for our sketch show. If at this point you are already doing more than two shows, then it’s a bit too late and all I can say to you ridiculous people is look after yourself. You need this guide more than anyone. I love you.

9. Congratulate yourself.

Again, this one goes out to my poor multi-showed suckers, but applies to anyone having a particularly difficult Fringe. Every single day remember what you’re doing, how famously difficult it is, and how cool it is that you’re doing it. The Fringe has dizzying lows but also spectacular highs. It’s pretty amazing, and so are you.

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