This year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, or “the Fringe,” starts next Friday, and with it comes the opportunity for performers to participate in what it calls “the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet,” a claim backed by some impressive stats. The festival boasts a number of famous former participants, such as Rachel Weisz and Emma Thompson, who performed at the Fringe before the rest of the world knew their names. Actor and comedian Eddie Izzard was able to grow as a performer by participating in 12 festivals over the span of 13 years during his early career. And this year he’s coming back as a name actor with a new show. Another returning thespian will be Gary Buckley, an Irish actor known for “Vikings” and “South.” Buckley’s run at this year’s Fringe will be his second time at the festival, and he spoke with Casting Networks about his experience of how it trains actors.
How would you summarize the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Coming from an actor’s perspective, it is just an amazing experience to be surrounded by such amazing artists from everything from theater to song to dance to comedy. Of course, it’s a huge comedy festival, and it’s known for that also around the world. But it’s also the breeding ground for theater of every single aspect. From drama to comedy to dance to movement, it’s got everything there. And it actually is a wake-up call to any actor in the business of how it is a business, as well as an artistic journey for the actor … It’s also a training ground, of course, to practice your art form in front of an audience every night.
You step into a world where everyone is doing the same thing. Famous actors and famous comedians are there. Drama schools are there; every Tom, Dick and Harry, from the beginning amateur companies to the very established companies. You’re all there together doing the exact same thing: selling a show. So it’s a beautiful ride. And of course, there is a wake-up call that this is the work it takes. But at the same time, it’s a wake-up call that this is how beautiful it is. It is an extremely beautiful wake-up call. It’s an extremely positive experience to see that that’s what it’s all about: this community of people who are all able to do this, just create this work out of nothing.
Have you used any of the skills learned from performing at the Fringe on set?
So basically, the experiences I’ve been through at Edinburgh at a younger age gave me the knowledge I have now about managing energy levels and focus in an extremely busy environment, just like on a film set. Or like on “Vikings,” which is a huge TV production. It’s an extremely busy set … And you see people who are there as series regulars, and they’re just relaxed into it. But you know it’s different when you’re there for a few days filming, just like you’re there in Edinburgh for a couple of weeks performing. You know you got to be on the money every night, and you got to be on the money every shot in “Vikings.” You know, I’m coming up, so I want to make a good impression. I want to be professional. And that’s what it [the Edinburgh Festival Fringe] makes you. It makes you professional.
Buckley will be performing in “A Fear and Loathing Actor in Dublin,” directed by Lee Wilson, in this year’s Fringe. The actor has racked up some impressive theater credits since his last time at the festival 10 years ago. But Buckley noted in his interview that even though he’s coming back a more mature, professional actor, “the passion is still the same.” Buckley states, “It’s still the exact same burning desire to tell stories and to the best of my ability to explore characters.” Considering his passion for the craft and the perseverance he’s displayed, perhaps one day the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will be adding Buckley’s name to its list of famous former performers.