Nothing for free

Producing a piece of fringe theatre is always tricky when you’re working to very constricted budgets. It is important to try to scrimp and save wherever you can, and often there will be instances where you’re asking for things for free. This is fine – there’s no harm in asking and sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised. I have had this pleasant surprise happen several times, which is nice, only to be knocked back later on when I realise when things are free you generally can’t rely on them…

Rehearsal space is one of the major things I have to try to source for free – it’s expensive down here in Brighton and when you want to make a great piece of theatre you want to be able to rehearse as much as you need to. I was lucky in getting a response from those at the Caroline of Brunswick pub in my Brighton Fringe rehearsal space search saying we could use their upstairs space for free. This in return for us promoting their fringe venue and them reserving the right to cancel at short notice if getting someone wanting to pay for use of the space. Absolutely fine provided we get enough notice was the agreement.

Sadly, this agreement worked once with us getting in to use the space absolutely fine before it all went tits up. First we turned up for a booked in rehearsal to find there was  gig in the space and we’d been double booked with no prior warning, ending in a misty rehearsal outside featuring a cameo appearance from a bird determined to defile our script. After this occurrence we double and even triple checked our booking for today’s 12- 5 rehearsal – all fine we were told. Today we turned up to be told the space was free but not ready to use being in a state from a party that had been in it the previous night. Our “when will it be ready?” query was met with an “I don’t know” and an admission that the person who would know (the manager) was in bed. Right, okay.

As all fringe theatre makers must do we thought on our feet, responded to the problem and had a productive rehearsal in spite of this. I do, however, feel less inclined to trust anything being given for free which is not a great position to be in in this industry. Apparently if you aren’t paying anything you aren’t worth anything – a terrible way of thinking that I even found myself guilty of when feeling I didn’t have much right to complain about this venue’s unprofessional behaviour.

Can you only get professionalism and common courtesy by paying for it?

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