Roundup: Edinburgh Fringe 2013

So, another year, another fringe season, and another split visit for me at Edinburgh. If this year’s Buxton Fringe was a first for me as a fringe I was taking part in, this fringe was the first one in ages where I’m not stressing over an imminent play that I’m in charge of. But never mind that, what about the fringe itself?

Well, my first observation is – having the chance to make a like-for-like comparison of the first weekend this year and last year – the 2013 fringe looks a lot busier than 2012. And sure enough, the official figures say ticket sales are indeed up to record levels. Which is bit odd in one respect, because the debate over the cost over putting on a show keeps rumbling on, but that’s a debate for another day. There’s also been a few interesting developments in some of the outlying venues, which I will come on to later.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was that I actually got invited to some plays as a reviewer. I’ll have a think about how to handle this in future years, but for the time being, I’m treating these shows the same as the ones where I was just a regular paying audience member. On the whole, I was quite pleased with the shows where I already had high expectations, but I was a little disappointed in my search for a gem I’d never heard of. But you win some and lose some, and here’s what I picked out: Continue reading

New writing returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre

Picture of Stephen Joseph Theatre

For anyone who is waiting for my Edinburgh Fringe roundup, please bear with me. I’m having a manic week at work and I don’t yet have the energy to write up what’s going to be a monster of an article. Hopefully this weekend.

But before then, a bit of news back in the north-east. The Stephen Joseph Theatre recently appointed a new associate director, Henry Bell. Normally, this sort of appointment is extremely boring and this doesn’t seem to have made it into the news anywhere. But it’s actually a very significant development, because part of his remit is new writing. Which means that after a long period on hold, script submissions are now open again. It’s using a submission window system, and the first window is open now and closes on September 30th. Sadly no sign they’ll break the habit throughout most of theatreland and bother saying why scripts are being rejected, but you can’t have everything. (I will be coming back to this another day.)

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What now for Buxton and Underground Venues?

Now that’s my involvement in the Edinburgh Fringe is on pause, let’s return to Buxton. As most Buxton Fringe punters will know by now, this is the last year that the space under the Old Hall Hotel, aka Underground Venues, aka Pauper’s Pit and the Barrel Room, will be used for Buxton Fringe. At least, that’s the official line. It might not be that simple, but I’ll come on to this in a moment. This is by no means the end of Buxton Fringe – plans are already underway for the 2014 Fringe – but it will need to go ahead without its key venue. So the question is, what will replace Underground Venues?

Before, we go into speculation, I’ll begin with what we know. Tom Crawshaw and Yaz Al-Shaater were interviewed by the Derbyshire Times about this. At present, no decision has been made, only a hint that there are “possibilities already” made to performers after the fringe finished. But they made a good point: perhaps it is the performers and audience members who make up Underground Venues rather than Tom and Yaz. So maybe, instead of speculating which venue Tom and Yaz move to, maybe we should look at where the performers move to. There is little I can do at the moment but speculate. But, what the hell, let’s speculate away.

One final thing: sometimes I find out things in advance and keep it to myself until a public announcement is made. Let me assure you that on this matter, this is nothing I know that I’m not telling you. So, without further ado, here are some possibilities on where the would-be Underground Venues acts might end up next year. Continue reading

Roundup: Edinburgh Fringe 2013 (Interim Report)

This article has now been superseded by the final roundup, which included everything I’ve said below and more. I’ve kept the text below as a record of my thoughts at the time, as well as an archive on the comments.

Okay, here I am. Like last year, I’m splitting my Edinburgh Fringe stint into two visits again, partly because of work commitments, and partly I discovered I quite enjoyed doing a split visit. So this interim list will start growing this weekend, and there will be some more in two weeks’ time.

Anyway, my first discovery is From Where I’m Standing from Delerium Theatre. This is an ambitious piece that strings together a story over four decades, from the schooldays of a cynical teenager on the eve of Tony Blair’s election, to his alleged involvement in a bombing in 2013, to a fight over a social media-obsessed world in the future. Spanning on play over that length of time is difficult; the writing had a good attempt at handling this, but there were some things that could have been done better.

However, the really impressive bit of this play the staging. The one thing that has changed in theatre faster than anything else is the use of technology. Digital sound and projections are relatively recent additions to theatre, but we’ve had years to observe what works and what doesn’t on stage. But the newcomer is tablets (what non-techies call the iPad on the incorrect belief that only Apple makes tablets). There is very little opportunity to learn from other people’s mistakes here, but Delerium theatre worked this into the show flawless, along with sound, projections, and a very creative and versatile set. This is worth a visit simply to see what you can do in a Fringe space if you try.

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If playing rugby isn’t masochistic enough …

Muddy Cows is the latest of John Godber’s sports plays. It’s well-written and well-directed, but its mainly for the sports play niche.

The team in the dressing room from hell

I was almost tempted to dismiss this play out of hand. What a far-fetched idea! Seven people actually choose to play rugby? I personally cannot think of anything I’d less rather do ever since this was inflicted on me in PE, but to some people this sport is their passion. But, evidently, getting flattened on a muddy field each week isn’t enough punishment for some. If you’re a true masochist, you captain the team, and add all the stress of running the team. That is the life of Maggie Deakin (Liz Carling), captain of the women’s second fifteen at the local Rugby Union club.

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