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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Weary veterans wind up Fringe
By Charles Pamment
BBC News Online in Edinburgh

As a month on the Edinburgh Fringe comes to an end, weary performers, staff and audiences contemplate packing their bags for the journey home.

BBC News Online goes behind the scenes with the theatre manager at make-shift church hall-cum-theatre Venue 45 to see how this year's festival has been received.

Awards, cancellations, food poisoning and staff tantrums are just a few of this week's highlights.

Ofsted the Musical
Ofsted the Musical - well liked by the critics

Having finished their run, Ofsted the Musical! epitomised an Edinburgh success, selling out from the first show to the last and receiving critical acclaim.

This week, 20-year-old writer David Byrne was awarded the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for the best new writing on the Fringe.

With an offer of a national tour also on the table, the hopes and dreams of just a few weeks ago may well be realised.

In contrast, others have witnessed average performances, poor reviews and tiny audiences: they go home with the lingering Fringe hangover of exhaustion and mounting debt.

Hamlet saga

New companies have arrived for a short one-week, or six-show, run.

One company from Birmingham (3 Bugs Theatre) barely made it, having to hitchhike the 300-odd miles to Edinburgh.

It took them 16 hours. They arrived just in time - only to have to cancel their show as the lead actress had food poisoning.

Ofsted writer David Byrne
Ofsted writer David Byrne has a chance to see his dreams fulfilled

The Hamlet saga continues but with renewed vigour. After internal arguments the show became a one-man affair.

But it seems our solo performer is likely to have the last laugh - offers from America and Italy to tour the show have been made and the run has had a constant flow of plaudits.

With a fair amount of relief the staff at Venue 45 are looking forward to the closing party on Saturday night.

The endless parade of performers and audiences traipsing through the venue over the last three weeks for 15 hours a day has taken its toll.

Cabin fever has reached a crescendo; we are all shattered, making tempers short and conflicts common.

Hustle and bustle

Time is a huge issue here. As one day merges into the routine of the next, it's difficult to determine if these last few weeks have gone by quickly or not.

There is no night or day inside the hall. The windows are blacked out and 4pm can quite easily feel like 10pm. Our time keeping is usually determined by which show is on.

It's an odd zone to be in - I have witnessed several people greeting each other this week with "morning" only to realise that it's long since been the afternoon.

And events of just a few days ago already seem to be shadows of a distant past.

But when the curtain falls for the last time on Saturday evening we will strike the theatre overnight. By Sunday evening the hustle and bustle of the carnival of theatre of the past month will become echoes of the past.

The theatre will again become a dusty church hall hosting the odd coffee morning and a Christmas lunch.

At least until just after 7am on a Sunday morning in late July 2005.

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