By Seana Maggs Cooke
Maison Foo’s expedition to the Fringe is over!
After a Month of performing at 4.20 every day in the Pleasance King Dome, Beth, Kate, Matt and Morgan have left Pendulums behind them... for the time being.
I joined in on The Foo Festivities at Edinburgh for the duration of their final week at the Fringe Festival and discovered just how much effort, and behind the scenes extra work was required to drive the show and entice audience members.
The apartment up 3 flights of stairs on Dundonald Street had been home to the resident Foos for 3 weeks prior to my arrival. Upon entering for my first evening I could sense the atmosphere was clearly already one of a close knit family unit; after an extremely warm hearted welcome and acquaintance to the literal ‘Maison Foo’ I soon discovered that the evening ritual for the group consisted of sharing and distributing the task of cutting out reviews and stapling them to pre-made Pendulums flyers whilst another Foo occupied themselves for 45 minutes waiting for the peculiar tank-like bath to fill up.
Maison Foo are up by 8am on Monday Morning- my first morning in Edinburgh, and I am taken on a swift tour of the city by Beth and Kate; from which I learn quickly that Edinburgh is A. The most beautiful city I’ve ever visited, but also B. Feels like it could potentially be the busiest place on the planet!
Either way, the hustle and bustle of the Fringe, entwined with the masses of ‘general public’ is of course the intrinsic ingredient for enticing audiences; or enticing audiences is exactly what my mission for the week required.
After a morning meeting I am told that the usual protocol is to split up and flyer for a few hours in different areas of the city; Beth and I retreat to ‘the half price hut’ where Pendulums, along with many other shows are selling a number of tickets for... Half price. After half an hour of analysing Beth’s ‘golden method’ (as I’ve named it) of approaching and pitching Pendulums Bargain Emporium to people waiting in half price queue I felt inspired to trial out this honest and genuine people focused approach on the public... I soon learn however that the key to flyering is patience- and patience was something I needed to get me through the week, and is, no doubt what Maison Foo needed to endure a month of persistent flyering at the Fringe!
The tag team flyering lasts until 3pm, when the Foo retire to the Green Room of the King Dome and await their call time for Pendulums. I join Beth Kate for a pre-show pick-me-up coffee and the excitement of the day comes from Kate picking up the days copy of ‘Three Weeks’- An Edinburgh paper renowned for giving credited reviews, and discovering that Pendulums Bargain Emporium has been given 5 stars! I find myself rejoicing out loud with Beth and Kate and immediately begin a quest to inform as many members of the public as I can find, equipped with flyers for extra promotion.
I sit in for the first show in the final week of the run and rediscover Pendulums all over again. It’s changed from the last time I saw it at DEparture Lounge Festival at Derby Theatre; it encapsulates me just as before but the performance feels even more stunning, and as the Promotional Flyers state, ‘a visual blend of puppetry, comedy and live music’ mixed with satire, brilliantly paced humour and an undertone of social injustice.
After rediscovering the Emporium I felt as thankful to the excellent reviews for Pendulums as Maison Foo. There is no possible way of summing up how brilliant a show Pendulums Emporium is to a passer-by or someone queuing for show tickets- the reviews for Pendulums massively speak for themselves! A Must see stamp from The Stage along with several 4 star ratings from The Scotsman and The British Theatre Guide, along with the new 5 star review from The Three Weeks equipped us all at Team Foo with the tools we needed to promote the show as much as possible and give it a massive send off.
From witnessing the Foo at work in Edinburgh, I have learnt that The Fringe Festival is by no means for the faint hearted: after all the effort and dedication gone into creating Pendulums as a show and from when I first joined The Foo in February, to finally having it polished and at The Fringe Festival- it isn’t a case of merely performing everyday and waiting for reviews to come out. Every single company at the Fringe work tirelessly to give their shows credit; and this was certainly the case for Maison Foo.
7.30am is a tedious time for anyone, but for the Foos it’s a standard time to be up and ready to take on Edinburgh once more. For the rest of the week I assign myself as stapler and chief cutter of reviews to prepare flyers for the day ahead; you become an almost automaton when you start this task, and before you know it hundreds of flyers have been stapled- it seems fairly efficient and almost therapeutic! Everyone in the Foo abode is eager and willing to share the work load, and the once drawn up rota has been disregarded for the last week of the festival and instead everyone seems more lenient about when and where the flyering takes place- but one thing never changes with M Foos routine, and that is the hours that go into flyering the public and promoting the show!
This is a basic summary of a day in the life of an average Foo at Edinburgh: Get up- 7.30-8am, cut out reviews and staple them to flyers (if not completed the night before.) Trek to the city centre and split up between 3 areas: The ‘half price hut’, the Dome and the pleasance courtyard and begin flyering for a few hours at a time... Grab lunch and continue flyering until 3pm and prepare for the show... perform and undergo a quick get out of all props and scenery whilst the next show prepares a get in at the same time...Manage to watch a show in the evening or go out for a cheeky meal (if fortunate or not too exhausted), retire to the apartment and prepare to begin the routine all over again... My week with The Foo really has been that spectacularly busy!
By Wednesday I feel more than adequate to be left to wonder Edinburgh on my own and flyer for the show. It’s an exciting achievement talking to people about a show you’re passionate about and having them reciprocate that passion by purchasing a ticket; every audience member is an achievement and is usually someone who has been persuaded through the art of Foo charm and casual conversation, I begin to understand why the hard work is necessary and how rewarding it feels to attain audience members. In a way, Maison Foo share every essence of their work with the public- even after shows they are approached and congratulated for their work, it’s a humbling sensation.
As the week draws to a close and the weekend approaches there is a triumphant feeling amidst the Foo! Beth and Kate have told me that this year has been in many ways harder than the last time Maison Foo conquered the Fringe with Memoirs of a Biscuit Tin. It’s been a tough run and one that has seen the team persevere and achieve excellent praise around the festival, and very deservedly so!
There is no time for a night of celebratory drinks when the last show is finished- instead it’s an organised but rushed get out and a trip to ‘Fat Pats’ for a slice of victory cake! I ask each of the Foos what it’s like to return to ‘normality’ and the answer is one that suggests there is no such thing as normality if you’re in ‘the arts’, which after my week in Edinburgh I can now understand.
Now Maison Foo has the acclaimed reviews they need to take Pendulums on tour, and they’ll embark on yet another journey with ‘The Retail store that offers more than you bargained for.’ During cake time the group reminisce on their time at Edinburgh and take turns to pick out their top ‘highs and lows’. It’s refreshing to know that even professionals have their ups and downs, and Maison Foo are always completely open when it comes to sharing theirs. Again, I feel privileged to be part of this Fringe-concluding discussion. The unanimous ‘ups’ of the Fringe experience were, as Matt said: ‘when the show finally clicked.’ This, to me proves how in sync the 4 artists are with each other un-phased by early mornings or oodles of stapling and crucial meetings- they conquered The Fringe as a admirable unit.
The last night sees us all tidying and cleaning the apartment, working again, and as always as a team; Pizza, Mojitos by Morgan, and cheesy tunes by Beth are our celebration, and it feels like a fitting last way to spend the last night of the fringe.
Sunday is followed by a rigorous get out of loading the entire set into the Derby Theatre van, with the help of JB: the Theatre technician and M-Foo chauffeur who dropped the group off over a month ago. We wave goodbye to Matt who is making his own way home and embark on our journey home which for Maison Foo feels melancholic, but greatly anticipated.
When I eventually return home to me ‘normality’ I can’t help but ponder over my time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I have in all senses been a member of the Foo family for a week and have been witness to all aspects of Fringe life as an honorary member of the theatre company! Being able to share my love of theatre and admiration of Maison Foo through marketing for them has been a remarkable and brilliant experience, and now I can only ponder as to what their next conquest and project will be- but until then I’m sure Pendulums Bargain Emporium will be making an anticipated and marvellous reappearance!