In 2020, for the first time in 70 years, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was cancelled. This was a huge blow not just for the local economy, which relies on the yearly influx of tourism, but also for the global performing arts community.
The Fringe is hoping to return in 2021 but in what capacity nobody quite knows. The fate of live performances hangs in the balance of the pandemic and the restrictions in place to control it.
One of the shows that could be making its debut live at the festival is ’We came to dance’, an interactive musical set on an alien planet with an important underlying message. With songs written by a Grammy nominee, choreography by Tony Award winners and a new language created by the man who brought Valyrian and Dothraki to Game of Thrones, the show is set to be otherworldly.
The production was put together by Foodtank, a nonprofit research and advocacy organisation focusing on creating a more sustainable food system.
Foodtank’s co-founder and chairman, Bernard Pollack, spoke to Keep Edinburgh Thriving about the show and his hopes to debut at the festival.
“The show first and foremost is about joy. The audience is dancing and singing alongside the cast in the story. It's really fun, it's for all ages and family-friendly but underneath it is a show about sustainability and climate change, but told through the lens of another planet”
The show takes the participants to a new planet called Trappist-1D, a real planet discovered by NASA in 2016.
“It is a re-enactment of our journey there, and learning what happened to them both as a warning about what not to do here, but also as an inspiring tale of how we can live differently here.”
The show was originally supposed to debut off-Broadway in June 2020 but was cancelled due to the pandemic. Like the rest of the world, Foodtank needed to find a way to adapt their art to fit the new circumstances we currently have to live with.
“It's a forced adaptation, but the benefit of that is trying to make art in a way that truly becomes accessible in a wide variety of ways you never expected. We had always imagined the show indoors and in a theatrical space. And now, we don't have the luxury to do that.”
They decided to develop the show to work outdoors, at a reduced capacity and running time. However, Pollack believes the changes they were forced to make could have a positive impact.
“We've reinvented the show to work anywhere and I think the long-term benefits of that are huge. Now, it can forever live anywhere, it can live in a parking lot, in a tent, it can take over a soccer field, it could be inside the theatre, right? Having the portability of that allows a show like this to exist under any kind of circumstances and any constraints. I think an experience like that in a time like this is probably something we all need.”
Pollack wants the Edinburgh Fringe festival to be the show's official world debut should live performances go ahead.
“The festival is so important because you are bringing people in from all over the world to both learn together and collaborate. I've been to the festival before in Edinburgh, and it's such a magical environment not just because people come from all over the world, but because the whole city comes alive”
The show already has the foundations in place but to bring it to life Pollack wants to bring in local help.
“We've decided to hire all Scottish creatives, the performers, the local artistic team. We're going to be hiring locally because the industry has suffered so much.
“I think that could be a model for the show for ever. Rather than trying to move people to wherever we are, we can work with local creatives and local performers. I think that is a big mental shift that we took because there's so much talent in Scotland. This has become an opportunity to not just involve the city to attend a show or participate, but also to work with local artists and creatives, which I'm so excited about.”
However, the show will only go ahead if live performances are given the green light as Pollack believes the show would not suit being online in its infancy.
“The reason is that the show's designed for us to be participants, not passive viewers. The magic of this experience would be hard to read online where we're singing and dancing, and acting and making music together.”
It is still unclear what a Fringe Festival in 2021 will look like but if live performances are allowed no matter the venue ‘We came to dance’ will be coming to Edinburgh and providing a platform for Scottish talent.
“I think that Edinburgh, hopefully, is going to get a big treat with this and kind of be blown away. I think part of the foundation of that will be Scottish performance and artistry.”
Do you want to be involved in the show? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org