Fringe Benefits – 16 August 2016


This month’s blog is from Rob’s long-time collaborator, friend, and partner-in-crime Paul Nolan.

For those actors who are embarking on their first Edinburgh Fringe experience, it can be exciting, fearful, rewarding, disappointing and in some cases overwhelming.

These are just a few of the emotions I know I experienced, when I had completed my first week in the Scottish capital in the August of 1984.  I remember it, oh too well. I was performing at The Walpole Hall, in Chester St, at 10am for the first week of the Fringe. Total paying audience members for the week, one. Net box office takings, £2.50  Many would have cried all the way back down the M6 to Coventry, fortunately, I stayed with the company that were promoting the venue and staging their own productions too, the company was Tic Toc.

Only two years later, at the age of twenty I found myself as one of their core actors, a director of the company, and helping with the promotion of three venues at the Fringe.

By the end of the first week of the 1986 Fringe we had bagged The Scotsman Fringe First Award [and] The Edinburgh Evening News-Critic’s Choice.

This band of brothers and sisters were passionate, enthusiastic, hardworking, and made our own rules, we weren’t conformists at all.  The artistic director had penned a new play, Hooligans earlier in the year and I was given the part of Gez, my other two comrades were Rob playing Baz, and Tom Magill who played Mick.  We premiered it at The Triangle Arts Centre in Birmingham, and it ran for three nights, the press reviews were good, and armed with a play billed as ‘Theatrical GBH’ we were set.  By the end of the first week of the 1986 Fringe we had bagged The Scotsman Fringe First Award, The Edinburgh Evening News-Critic’s Choice, secured a West End transfer to The Donmar Warehouse under the billing of Perrier Pick of the Fringe, and now there was talk of two television companies wanting the rights.

It was successful, critically, financially, and we continued to take it to Edinburgh year on year until 1990, as well as a five year national tour alongside other plays the company produced.

It was the best grounding, training and introduction to the industry I could possibly have wished for.

A few months ago, I met up with Rob and Tom and we chatted about our experiences, and where we are now and how our experiences back then have influenced what we do now.

The three of us are still involved in the industry, and when I look back on those days, I do so with great fondness, but more over I think of the friendships, the professional relations I’ve gained and love for what I do.

I couldn’t have done it though without hard work, determination and having my best pal with me every step of the way.  Thank you Robert Wilkinson

Paul Nolan

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