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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Festival fever

This month we turn our attention to one of Britain’s greatest artistic and cultural events – the Edinburgh Fringe festival. To fully explain the Fringe we turn to an actuary’s favourite tool — statistics. The 2008 festival featured 31 120 performers, across 2088 shows in 247 venues, covering comedy, theatre, music, opera, dance, and more. The Fringe experience is finding yourself surrounded by a 5000-strong crowd watching a famous comedian one moment, then in a small pub watching a bunch of students perform for an audience of three the next. It’s the sheer variety that we love.

So if you find nothing at the Fringe to entertain you, you should probably go back to memorising mortality tables. Of the 31 120 performers in Edinburgh over August, we know of at least one who holds down a day job as an actuary. George Lewkowicz, an actuarial assistant at Travelers Insurance, journeyed to the Fringe to perform in his sketch show An Evening Without Dignity. Here he tells all.
Matt and Finn

The George Lewkowicz experience…
Over a year ago a group of us from Warwick University decided we were funny enough to write a sketch show for the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Why? I have no idea. A year later, as I walked down the Royal Mile with an ice-cream in one hand, pink umbrella in the other, I thought how aptly this reflected my time in Edinburgh, a city where you never know if the sun will shine or you’ll be trapped by floods.

The first performance of our show An Evening Without Dignity was a disaster — wrong lines, disappearing props, and people appearing on stage instead of remaining firmly in the wings. Yet it was this performance that won us our best review — a happy four stars out of five from a lovely, but slightly deluded, man from The List.

We eventually settled on a comedy style that involved cling-film men, terrorism, and a man with a colander on his head. It was intelligent sophisticated humour that we — if perhaps no-one else — were proud of. We liked to think we were the Marmite of sketch comedy.

Although I looked, I didn’t find any other actuaries. Instead I was surrounded by hoards of arts students, except for Jack Heal, the other mathematician in our show, who won the Chortle Student Comedy Award. So if anyone reading this is looking for a funny grad…

Performing for the whole month was an exhausting and exhilarating experience. We had to fight to pull in our audience each day. When they left still laughing, we knew we had done our job. The festival was amazing. It felt as though anything and everything could happen. Would I do it all again? Well certainly not for the full three weeks, but the festival had such a buzz that I can’t wait to go back.

The fund-raising has started — our production company Tea Fuelled Art will be holding an Arts Party that will feature the best of the Fringe on the 21 October in the Candid Arts Centre in Islington, and you’re all invited.
For more information, visit www.teafuelledart.co.uk

Recommended galleries
The Tate and Tate Modern
Starting late September the Tate brings to London two exciting exhibitions. Tate Britain is showcasing Francis Bacon’s work, and includes one of my favourite Bacon pictures, the portrait of Pope Innocent X — which I find terrifying. After freaking out with Francis, get on the Tate taxi-boat and relax with Rothko. Tate Modern is putting on the first major exhibition of Rothko’s work for more than 20 years. The Rothko Room is a cerebral experience. Seeing this collection of work reunited with his earlier work will be sublime.

Client entertaining
Anthony’s Restaurant, Leeds
The KLF once sang ‘It’s grim up north’ but a trip to Anthony’s would perhaps alter their expectations. Situated in the centre of Leeds, this family-run restaurant has a reputation for creative and innovative food. Any restaurant where the head chef has spent the last two years refining his skills in a three-Michelin-star restaurant is likely to be a culinary experience and Anthony’s is just that. The KLF also famously burned a million pounds — dining in Anthony’s isn’t cheap but won’t cost you quite that much....

Art by an actuary
Matthew Fewster
This month’s art by an actuary is a photograph by the arts page co-editor Matt. The picture of Norman Foster’s ‘Gherkin’, framed by the Lloyd’s building, is an example of two of London’s most famous and architecturally intriguing constructions, housing actuaries in their working day. If you have any examples of offices you work in that are of architectural interest then let us know.