Perhaps the most common question about the performance archive is ‘why is there a moratorium period’ (‘Why can’t people go see our show after the Fringe is over?’). An incredible array of shows are filmed at the Fringe, by novices, seasoned professionals, and everything in between. Many performances go on tour after the Fringe. Some are still in the process of evolving. Particularly in the case of genres where the material itself is viewed as ‘at risk’ of being used by others it would be unwise to make this available immediately. For this reason, the Performance Archive does not donate the material to the National Library of Scotland for a period of several years, and considers the wishes of the performers and copyright holders to be paramount. The 2012 National Library of Scotland Act then governs access to the show. Again, there is tiered-access, beginning with on-site viewing, expanding under conditions of signed agreements by educational and research institutions, then accessible to the general public after 20-25 years. In sum, the moratorium consists of a five year moratorium following the cataloging process:
Followed by five years of onsite access only
Followed by ten years of onsite and remote access for education only
Followed by onsite and web access as normal.
When the archive was new, there was to be a performance of Samuel Beckett’s classic, Waiting for Godot, in a venue somewhat distant from the center of Fringe activity. Given the known sensitivity of this particular playwright, the director decided to play it safe, and called the Beckett estate in France. He was readily granted permission. (They laughed, ‘of course, you needn’t have asked for such a purpose!’)
The day came for the filming and–perhaps because of the distance of the venue, or the extreme competition from other shows—the theatre remained empty. Camera and videographer occupied the only two seats in the large theatre. The director emerged two minutes after the show was scheduled to start: ‘I will need to ask the actors if they still want to perform—no tickets have been sold today’. As he disappeared, the videographer began to store the equipment.
Two minutes later the director returned:
‘We will be honoured to perform as best we can. After all, we are waiting for Godot’.