One of the essentials of taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival is not only performing it but drumming up audiences by going out during the day and handing out fliers or putting on eye-catching promotional stunts.
The team behind a play called Life Sentence have been parading a coffin up and down the Royal Mile and it seems to have paid off with full houses at their opening performances.
The play is being staged by Beyond the Bridge Productions which was set up by producer Hannah Groombridge while at Oxford University but is now based in Sheffield after she returned home.
A piece of new writing by Jamie Carragher (an Oxford graduate and stand-up comic rather than the footballer), the play is about a hypochondriac who is diagnosed with immortality and features the coffin which was provided by Sheffield funeral directors John Heath & Sons.
“We’ve taken it out and it’s created a lot of attention with people climbing in and lying down in it. It’s strange how much people love coffins and funerals,” says Hannah who explains how they got hold of the essential prop.
“It’s a bit morbid but my great aunt died at Christmas and when we were talking to the funeral director my father, who doesn’t miss a chance, asked if they had such a thing as a theatrical coffin. And it turned out they did and they have let us borrow this one for free.”
Life Sentence is a comedy about Theo, a young man who is diagnosed with immortality and immediately goes into mourning at the thought of the delights now denied to him, such as the glory of a young death, final words and his very own funeral. Only Theo’s friends, Stan and Michelle, can turn this tragedy into a comedy.
A student in History and Politics, Groombridge set up Beyond the Bridge Productions – so called because “I went to St Hilda’s which is the only college on the other side of Magdalene Bridge” – to stage Life Sentence which was first performed at the Burton Taylor Studio at the Oxford Playhouse.
Groombridge, from Nether Edge, became involved in theatre while at Sheffield High School and has also worked backstage on shows at the Merlin and Montgomery Theatres. She has always been interested in the technical side rather than performing.
“I am very much a backstage theatre-maker and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to perform before an audience but I’m very glad that they do,” she says.
Last year she worked at the festival as a technician at the Underbelly and says the experience has proved valuable in bringing her own production this time.
In addition to producing she is also production manager which has involved building the sets and organising the technical side.
After Edinburgh, Groombridge is hoping to find a job in theatre production.
Life Sentence is at theSpace on the Mile until August 17.