Well, it’s been seven months since the Edinburgh Fringe has come and gone, and for some of us that’s just too long to wait. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait much longer, because Brighton Fringe is coming. It’s like the Edinburgh Fringe, but in May. And not in Edinburgh. If you’ve not been to the Brighton Fringe before, I’m hoping to write a guide at some point about what to expect. If you have been before, the change this year is that the fringe now runs for four weeks, with the final week, it appears, taking advantage of half term with a heavily family-oriented programme.
In case you don’t know the rules, these recommendations are acts that I’ve seen before and can recommend. It is by no means an exhaustive list of the best of the Fringe. The majority of theatre listings are plays I’ve never heard of by writers I’ve never heard of performed by groups I’ve never heard of. At least some of those plays will be outstanding – after all, everything I’m recommending was unknown to me once. (And some of the plays I’ve never heard of will be bloody awful, but that’s part of the fun.) But as a cross-section of things to see, here we go.
The New Vic have a good record of their revivals of classic plays – but their new play, The Thrill of Love is even better.
There’s a lot of kudos for being the first something. If you’re a woman, you can be the first woman in space or the first female Prime Minister. If you can’t achieve either of those, you can also be famous for being the last something. And that’s what Ruth Ellis achieved, the only snag being the record she bagged. Being the last woman to be hanged carries the annoying side-effect of death. On the plus side, her story was so fascinating she was immortalised in history. Peter Anthony Allen, the last man to be hanged, must be feeling very short changed. Anyway, since her death there have been many depictions of her life on stage and screen, and the latest contribution comes from Amanda Whittington (best known for Be My Baby), with a play called The Thrill of Love.
This has been premièred by the New Vic Theatre, first at their own theatre in Stoke-on-Trent and now touring to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, as they often do. If you’re wondering why these two theatres tour their productions to each other so much, it’s down to their shared history. In the early days, before Scarborough’s famous producing theatre was named after its founder, Stephen Joseph went to Stoke to set up a second theatre in the round, taking with him a little-known playwright called Alan Ayckbourn. Eventually both men returned to Scarborough, but the two theatres have generally maintained good relations. But whilst the Stephen Joseph Theatre is best know for the works of the not-so-little-known-any-more playwright, the New Vic has gone its own way, mostly showing classic plays such as Cider with Rosie, Laurel and Hardy, And A Nightingale Sang and Bus Stop in a style that is unmistakably theirs. I hadn’t realised that, for once, they were touring with a completely new play.
Small break from the theatre news and review to share this link to the Guardian’s obituary of John Beecher. This will probably only be familiar to the few readers of this blog who’ve been to the Buxton Fringe, but John Beecher was a highly-thought of volunteer at Pauper’s Pit. He died of cancer aged only 25, and has now been remembered in an obituary in The Guardian in a series known as “Other Lives”, commemorating ordinary people instead of the usual well-known public figures.
John Beecher obituary – Guardian