Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, with thousands of comedians and theatre companies descending upon the Scottish Capital each year. Determined to achieve glowing reviews, peer recognition and roars of laughter from sell-out crowds and new fans alike, competition is high!
Returning to this year’s festival in August with their new space epic SCI-FI?, award winning comedy trio Sleeping Trees spoke to Money Means. Discussing everything from how their career started, to what it takes to run an accomplished comedy theatre group and how to succeed at ‘The Fringe’.
You’ve performed at Edinburgh for the last 6 years now. What’s involved in producing and performing a show there?
A lot of planning! It’s not just the weeks and weeks it takes to conceive, write and create the new show, but also booking enough previews in the lead up to the fringe so the show is ready, finding and booking accommodation, arranging travel, booking the venue, all of the marketing, writing the brochure entries, the list goes on!
Thousands of artists and theatre companies perform at Edinburgh every year. Your previous shows have been extremely well received and frequently sold out. How much work is involved before and during the Festival?
Having a finished show that we are all happy with is only the beginning really, once we’re at the Fringe the work really starts. We spend all afternoon handing out flyers in the lead up to the show, drumming up as large an audience as we can, and once the show is finished we spend each evening networking, speaking to people who came to see it and getting feedback, as well as meeting with venues, programmers, promoters who may be interested in taking the show on at their venue later in the year.
First MAFIA? then WESTERN? Now SCI-FI? Why did you choose the science fiction genre and what was your inspiration behind this?
Since we began this project back in 2014, we were always keen to tackle the Sci-Fi genre, we’re all huge fans of films like 2001: a Space Odyssey and Star Wars, and thought that by trying to create our own Sci-Fi story with no props or set would not only be a huge challenge for us and push us to our creative limits, but that we would also do the genre justice too.
Who are The Physics House Band, and how did that partnership come about?
They are an instrumental, prog-fusion band and have been good friends and collaborators of ours for a long time! It was something that we had wanted to do for a while and once we had done the first show, MAFIA?, we knew that we were keen to do a few more and see how far we could push the format. We were unable to keep the guitarist for SCI-FI? though due to other commitments, so this year they are performing with us as a two piece, composer Adam Hutchison (guitar/bass/keys) and Dave Morgan (drums), it is a lot of work for them, but they do an absolutely cracking job and are a pleasure to have on board.
You’ve been producing and performing your own pantomime the last 2 years, working with Tom Attenborough. What’s that like and how different is this to preparing and performing at Edinburgh?
It’s brilliant! Very different as it’s a family show and runs for seven weeks over Christmas but it’s a lot of fun and working with Tom is great, it certainly gets us into the festive spirit each year! The devising process takes about the same length of time as the Edinburgh show but our marketing strategy has to change slightly to be angled more towards a younger audience, this year’s show is titled Scrooge & the Seven Dwarves.
What’s been the most difficult thing about running your own theatre company to date?
Just staying organised really! Knowing what projects are coming up and making sure that enough money is coming in at right times in order to pay for all of our different annual costs. It’s all very well having an idea for a show but if you are unable to generate enough money to fund the making of that show and put that show on then it is sometimes difficult to make that idea a reality.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting their own theatre group, or thinking about performing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
First and foremost to anyone thinking about starting their own theatre or comedy group, we would say do it! We started the Sleeping Trees back in 2009 for a bit of fun and haven’t really looked back since! It is great fun and when you are bowing to a huge audience up at the Edinburgh Fringe, for us, it’s the greatest job in the world. In terms of performing there for the first time, we would say start out at one of the free venues, it keeps your costs right down, it's free for audience members to come and see you which is great if you’re relatively unknown, and they have some brilliant programmes full of exciting new and older acts.
Now this is Money Means after all, so tell us about the importance of financial planning for your company. Is it expensive running the business?
It is hugely important! Without financial planning we could not survive, we wouldn’t be able to pay ourselves, the musicians, our directors, our producer, our designers, run our website, there is a lot to think about! It can be expensive at times but that is why organisation and forward planning are vital to our success. Good question!
Who’s the best saver?
Maybe John? He is the best at remembering what bills we have to pay and when to pay them, although his saving skills are probably matched by his spending skills!
What next for Sleeping Trees, your own TV show?
Hopefully! We‘ve currently got a lot of interest and meetings with producers about a project for radio this Autumn, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for that! The plan is to go on to TV and film production eventually but for now the Fringe and radio are our main focus.
Thank you Sleeping Trees and good luck with SCI-FI?...
For more information about Sleeping Trees visit http://thesleepingtrees.co.uk/
For more information about Edinburgh Festival Fringe visit https://www.edfringe.com/
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Money Means is a news and information series written by independent financial and consumer journalists and experts. FSCS launched Money Means in 2016 to help give people clear and useful information about personal finance, to increase their understanding and confidence when dealing with money. .