What’s worth watching: Buxton Fringe 2013

So, here comes another fringe, which would normally be just another fringe visit for me, but instead it’s a different one because, err, I’m in it. So instead of Buxton being my usual relaxed fringe, you will find me running around tearing my hair out like an over-stressed madman. I do not promote my own work in this blog, so if you want to see what I’m doing you can look here. If you want a list of recommendations that is independent of participants you can see one here. Apparently, I’m on it, which I am of course delighted with, but I must admit I haven’t a clue how that happened. I thought the guys at FringeReview had never even heard of me, let alone formed opinions on my work. But hey, I’m not going to argue.

Anyway, that’s enough self-promotion masquerading as comment about fringe theatre in general. Let’s get on with my picks. So, to repeat the rules yet again: these are recommendations largely based on what I happened to see at previous fringes. I might have seen this play before, I might have seen the same writer/actor/group do something similar, it might be based on good feedback from people whose opinions I trust. But what this does mean is that there are always some excellent plays that don’t make it on to my list because I don’t yet know anything about them. Or, to put it another way, this should be considered a cross-section of what’s out there, not an exhaustive list.

So, let’s start with the bad news. I was all set to recommend Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks, a play about the golden days when wrestling stopped involving wrestling and started involving middle-aged men pretending to fight each other. But then it got cancelled, due to, out of all things, injury. It would have made a good story if they’d managed to injure each other in a pretend fight, but apparently it’s got nothing to do with that. It’s still going ahead in Edinburgh, so you’ll either have to wait for the Edinburgh Fringe or watch their replacement show, Seven Studies in Salesmanship, that is stepping into the vacated slot (Old Clubhouse, 10-11 July, 8 p.m.).

However, there are a couple of other acts from the 2011 Buxton Fringe making a welcome return. George Telfer is coming to Buxton with two one-man shows, but the one that really grabs my interest is Not the Messiah, which is of course about Graham Chapman from Monty Python. Just in case anyone saw the excellent Do They Still Throw Spears At Each Other, that was George Telfer playing the Duke of Edinburgh. The script is written by Tom Crawshaw who has string Buxton Fringe hits behind him, and with good reason – I have seen several plays of his so far, and have yet to find a weak link. And on top of this, when a Three’s Company play returns to Buxton, that’s a sign it went down well the first time round. All the signs look promising. (Full disclosure: Tom Crawshaw runs Underground Venues where I’m performing so I need to keep on his good side here, but I was a fan of his work before I knew he was a venue manager.) This on various dates and times between the 11th and 21st July at Underground Venues.

SOOP, who did Scallwags at Buxton in 2011, are returning with a new show. It’s A Viking Tale – The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer, and if you haven’t already guessed, it’s a children’s show. I don’t always recommend a show just because I liked a group’s previous work, but I think this one will play to their strengths. One of the most notable aspects of Scallywags was the slick choreography and slapstick, and whilst I sometimes had doubts about over-use of slapstick, this is not a problem at all for plays aimed at young children. This is showing in the Arts Centre on the 15th July at 7.30 p.m. then 16th-18th July at 6 p.m.

Then there’s Butterfly Theatre, who, since 2011, have been doing Shakespeare in Poole’s Cavern. They’ve already done Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so now it’s time for Hamlet in Poole’s CavernI don’t normally include Shakespeare in my recommendations of things to see because I’m not a huge fan of Shakespearian dialogue, so I’m not really qualified to go telling people what is an isn’t good Shakespeare. However, I saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream last year, and I can confirm that setting the play in a cavern works extremely well (even though you take liberties over the play being set in a forest). On top of this, they are very innovative with their use of lighting and the way they utilise the landscape surrounding the path. This runs from the 8th to the 13th July, with two or three performances each day. As this is a site-specific piece, capacity will be limited, so I recommend either booking in advance or being flexible as to when you see it.

Finally, one complete newcomer to the Buxton Fringe is Clifford Barry with You All Know Me, I’m Jack Ruby! I saw this at Brighton, and whilst I do have a few reservations about some of the theatrical devices used in the play, it is still worth seeing if for Clifford Barry’s excellent performance as the killer of the killer of JFK. This is on various dates and times from the 9th to 19th July at Underground Venues.

And, annoyingly, I’m going to miss all of these, because I’m on well before any of this. Rats. Never mind, most of these are going to Edinburgh (except Hamlet on the flimy excuse they they don’t know how to transport a cavern). Hopefully I’ll instead be coming back with some good reports of plays I’ve never heard of before.

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