Eeek, the Buxton Fringe launch party has started and I still haven’t done my recommendations. I do have partial excuse for why I’ve been so busy, but I’d better get a move on. My list of surefire recommendations is a short one this year, because, unlike last year, I can see very few things by groups I recognise. But, as always, there will be some gems out there from people I’ve never heard of.
So my sole outright recommendation from the Theatre category this year is Butterfly Theatre with Dracula’s Women. Butterfly Theatre have been around for three years, and have previously done three Shakespeare plays that are highly fitting to a cavern setting. However, possibly for a change, and possibly because there’s only a finite number of plays of his that can be transplanted to caves, they’re now moving on to the equally fitting Bram Stoker. They’ve made themselves one of the headline acts of the Fringe – I’ve only seen one of them myself, but they certainly know what they’re doing, making good use of every nook and cranny, getting through at a cracking pace, and miraculously defying all of the things that Health and Safety says is going to happen if you perform in caves. If you like your Stoker and your site-specific pieces, you won’t be disappointed. It’s on between the 14th and 19th July and 5.30, 7 and 9.30 – this is the one play where I recommend booking in advance, because being a site-specific limited-capacity piece, the popular slots are liable to sell out.
My other safe bet is actually in the comedy section rather than theatre, but it’s really borderline between the two: Morgan and West: Parlour Tricks. I saw one of Morgan and West’s shows last year, and I’ve seen nothing like it. It’s a sort of magic show, but whilst most magicians surround their magic tricks with banter, entertainment and showmanship, Morgan and West appears as Victorian time-travelling magicians in a part-theatre part-comedy part-magic performance. They are also the only magicians I’ve seen who explain to the audience exactly how they do a magic trick, and still catch you out. This is on the 12th and 13th at 7.30 and 6 respectively at the Arts Centre.
Now, one notable absence from the theatre section this year is long-standing Buxton favourites Three’s Company, including their variants of Smooth-Faced Gentleman and (occasionally) George Telfer. However, presumably realising there’ll be riots in the Pavillion Gardens if they bring nothing at all, this year they are delving into the comedy section with Shakespearience / The Adventure Machine, billed as two family-friendly comedies. Three’s Company are a highly versatile group, but this looks like a return to the old favourite of tight zany comedy, and, hopefully, Three’s Company’s trademark compulsory audience participation (preferably from the mums and dad who thought that only the children take part in this). This shows at Pauper’s Pit on the 22nd-26th July at various slots of 3.45 and 7.45.
Although that concludes my list of recommendations, the one other thing I’d like to draw to your attention is the new venues. And the big newcomer this year is Sian Dudley with The Market Place, and brand new multi-space managed venue (for those of you who wonder what a “managed venue” means, it’s explained here) – and, interestingly, although it is a kind of competitor to Underground Venues, Underground Venues reportedly gave their full support. The number of companies using this venue is maybe a bit disappointing for a first year – this may be partly down to Pauper’s Pit not closing when everyone thought it would, and partly down to some mistakes in marketing the venue to performers (in my opinion – I will go into this another day) – but this is still one to watch. I don’t know whether any of the plays are any good, but if the venue does a good job this time round, it could potentially become a much busier place if and when Pauper’s Pit goes.
And the final thing that grabbed my curiosity is Scrivener’s Bookshop. This is a lovely little antiquarian bookshop that is very supportive of all fringe acts, but normally its own participation in the fringe is limited to a storytelling space upstairs. This year, however, there’s a piece called The Ghosthunter’s Club, promising creaky goings on over five floors of the bookshop. Whether the play’s good remains to be seen, but I can vouch for this bookshop being the perfect place for it.
Right, there you can. Oh God, do you have to remind me the Fringe has started? That means it’s six days to go for me. Aarrggh.