How to make the most of the Buxton Fringe

Picturesque viaduct south of Buxton (credit: Graham Hogg)
Now, you don’t see this in Edinburgh or Brighton, do you?

So, continuing my updating of last year’s “X Fringe survival guide”, here’s my update for Buxton. As with How to make the most of the Brighton Fringe, this is not a list of plays I recommend you see – that will come shortly – but instead a list of tips about the festival in general, and how you can make the most of it as a plain old punter. I was expecting to do a massive overhaul of my tips from last year’s guide, because this time last year it was thought that the two most heavily-used spaces, Pauper’s Pit and the Barrel Room, would be closing. That hasn’t happened yet, so the overhaul will be postponed. So, with only minor alterations, here’s how to make the most of Buxton Fringe.

About this guide

Those of you who have seen both the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes will know that Brighton is very small compared to Edinburgh. Buxton is even smaller – but there is still quite a lot going on keep you busy. Other than that, the format is arguably similar to Brighton – much of the audience are local and the visitors to Buxton are heavily weighted to the local area. Much of what I said in my Brighton guide applies to Buxton, except that, for one reason and another, it’s not quite so weekend-centric as Brighton is.

As with Brighton, this guide assumes you are already familiar with the Edinburgh Fringe. If you haven’t been to Edinburgh Fringe, you may also want to read The Edinburgh Fringe survival guide – not all of this applies to the smaller fringes, but a lot of it does, especially the bit about open access. Remember: in a fringe, anyone can take part – if you want a vetting committee protecting you from substandard plays, find yourself another festival. But enough of the, let’s get on to the tips. Continue reading

Last train to Scarborough: steam engine noir

Although obviously aimed at Scarborough locals, Last Train to Scarborough is still an enjoyable light-hearted take on film noir.

Put steam trains into any story and you’ll instantly conjure up images of romance and mystery. Everyone has their own story, from the driver to the passengers. But one career you’d not expect to get much of a look in is the railway investigator. Being a kind of predecessor to the British Transport Police, you’d think they’d be primarily concerned with boring things such as nabbing fare-dodgers and dealing with drunken football hooligans – but you’d be wrong! Apparently, railways inspectors are just the the private detectives in film noir, embroiled in all the mystery and intrigue you can imagine. This, at least, is the premise behind Last Train to Scarborough, the first in a series of books by Andrew Martin set on the York-Scarborough line, and now Chris Monks has adapted this first one into a stage version.

So, in this story, we have ex-fireman Jim Stringer who so obviously wants to be a train driver, but his ambitious wife has grander plans for him. He is on the case of Ray Blackburn, a fireman who disappeared after working – yes, you’ve guessed it – the last train to Scarborough and staying at the somewhat bizarre Paradise guest house with its alcoholic femme fatale proprietress Amanda Rickerby. (Thinks: all of the B&Bs I’ve been to in Scarborough were quite boring by comparison – where can I find one like that?).  Also present were her damaged brother Adam with a strange obsession with fatal train accidents, and two long-term residents who were former associates in a railways postcard business: cultured Howard Fielding who covers the fact he went to prison for bankruptcy, whilst sleazy Theo Vaughan moved into a different postcard business of exotic French pictures if you know what I mean. For a while I thought Theo killed Jim as a threat to his business, after Jim had explained this great invention he’d got called “the internet” – but I was on the wrong track. Continue reading

What’s worth watching: spring/summer 2014

So, all this talk of Brighton Fringe is all well and good for those of you who went down to the south coast, but what about the rest of you up here in the north east. It’s back to my coverage of north-east theatre, and as usual I’ve been scouring the programmes to find things to draw to your attention. To say so again, this is meant as a list of the best theatre in the north east: the vast majority of the stuff on offer is from people I’ve never heard of with plays I’ve never heard of, some of which will be great (and some of which will be atrocious).

One important reminder is that I give particular attention to plays that might otherwise not get noticed. I only occasionally highlight the big productions that tour from the West End because they get enough attention as it is. Blood Brothers, for example, has never made it to my list in spite of bring absolutely fantastic musical, because it’s always touring the north-east. (But since I mentioned it: 30th Sep – 5th Oct.) In fact, this time, for a change, I’m going to do the opposite. I’m going to highlight a couple of things where I’ve no idea whether or not they’re any good – but it’s highly significant where they’re being performed and why.

Continue reading