Roundup: Buxton Fringe 2015

So, in the short gap I have between Buxton and Edinburgh, let’s get the Buxton Fringe rounded up. This has been my longest stint at Buxton, where I’ve seen plays over a total of seven days. So this is going to be a long roundup.

This time round, I’ve not really had any surprises. There were three acts I’d seen before who I have great expectations for, and they all delivered, but what was missing this time was the usual pleasure of seeing a group I’d never heard of before come out of nowhere and produce something excellent. Nor did I see anything that turned out to be awful. (I’ve heard stories of shows other people saw that were apparently outstanding or abysmal, but nothing I saw myself.)

Nevertheless, with a long stay in Buxton, I’ve got a lot to write about. Where I have not written about things I’ve seen this time, it’s not because I didn’t like it, but because what I saw wasn’t really theatre. Some of it was better thought of as music, spoken word, or entertainment, but this is a theatre blog and that’s what I want to concentrate on. But there’s still a lot of things to go through, so let’s get cracking. Continue reading

Inigo: It’s about Jesuism. And it’s not boring.

Publicity image of Ingo

Jonathan Moore has created a fascinating play on the last subject you’d think would be interesting.

The very last thing to clear in my post-Brighton backlog is Inigo, one of the plays I saw in London on my way home to Durham. I could easily have ended up giving this one a miss, and I probably would have done if someone had told me it was all about Ignatius of Loyola, a religious figure famed for being a Jesuit. It probably doesn’t help that I’m one of these people who thinks the story that starts with a virgin giving birth to a magic baby is mostly bollocks, but I’ve seen plenty of plays where I’ve been bored to tears watching profound discussions of the finer points of religious philosophies.

And yet, writer/director Jonathan Moore has created a fascinating play about a fascinating power-struggle that once took place over Europe. A portrayal of a dangerous world where crossing the powers that be had deadly consequences. The same powerful few who use religion as a pretext for lives of luxury and importance. And here’s the unexpected bonus: even though the play sympathetically follows a devout follower of his religious convictions (later made a saint), this play is just an enthralling if you’re a complete atheist. Continue reading

What’s worth watching: Buxton Fringe 2015

And now, continuing my somewhat rushed Buxton coverage, my list of what I actually recommend seeing. This year, it’s going to be my longest Buxton list to date, because I’m getting to know Buxton better and recognise the regulars more frequently. Even so, there will still be plenty of acts coming to Buxton that will be great which I don’t know about. So, as always, remember that this is only a cross-section and not an exhaustive list.

(And you won’t find my play in this list because that’s against the rules of this blog. I will have to restrict myself to contrived plugs masquerading as statements saying that I’m not allowed to promote my own shows in my theatre blog.)

What’s missing:

But before I move on to recommendations, there is one thing that’s not here this year that will be sadly missed. Last year, there was the inaugural programme of The Market Place, a second managed venue to complement Underground Venues. It had four shows last year (in part, I feel, due to some misjudged marketing aimed at prospective performers), so that wasn’t exactly a flying start – but at least it was a start, and something to build on for future years.

Sadly, we will never know how a second year could have build on the first because, for one reason or another, it’s gone. And I will miss that. It would have been good to know that there would be at least one managed venue in Buxton if and when the bulldozers ever move into Pauper’s Pit, and it would also have been good to bring some balance to Underground Venues’ dominance.

More importantly, however, I think we’ve reached the point where we need a second managed venue to maximise participation. Applications to Underground Venues have gone up a lot this year, but they can’t accommodate any more shows. And for one reason or another, the performers who don’t get a place don’t seem to be going to the other unmanaged venues instead. I fear that, sooner or later, Buxton Fringe is going to miss out on decent acts because they could get a suitable place to perform.

Anyway, what this means for now is that my recommendations for another year are going to be dominated by Underground Venues shows. Without further ado, here we go: Continue reading

How to make the most of the Buxton Fringe (fringe newbie edition)

Picture of Buxton Pavillion Gardens

Continuing my series of fringe guides, I’m going to do the same for Buxton as I did for Brighton and do a guide for the Buxton Fringe for fringe newbies. This will differ from last year’s guide that was aimed it Edinburgh Fringe veterans who want to know how Buxton differs from the big on. If you are such a Edfringe veteran and the phrase “Unboring” drives you round the bend, stop reading this and start reading the other guide. If, however, you’re new to this festival fringe thing, this is just the place for you.

This is not about which shows are the best ones to see (that will come in my next blog post), but rather what to expect of the festival fringe as a whole. Some of this will be a copy-paste from other articles. I’m in a hurry so that’s what you’re getting. Without further ado, let’s go: Continue reading

Roundup: Brighton Fringe 2015

Oh Jesus, it’s July and I still haven’t done this Brighton roundup. All right, no more excuses, no more procrastinating, let’s get the shows I saw written up. Most of what you will see here is a restatement of my live coverage (or even an occasional copy-paste) – however, I will have a few new things to say too. As always, this is not an exhaustive list of everything on offer at Brighton – just a list of what I saw that was good.

Okay, enough time wasted. Let’s go.

Pick of the fringe:

The woman neatly arranges her teaSo, my first thing on the list is a bit unusual, in that I’m writing a fresh review. When I did my live coverage, I said very little about the play – only that you must see it – because anything would have been a spoiler. But now that Request Programme is finished, I can safely tell you how wonderful it was. In the unlikely event that you’re about to see another productions play somewhere else, stop reading now. Everyone else read on.

Request Programme is a quite disturbing play about suicide. Although writer Franz Xaver Kroetz wrote this decades ago, it could just as easily have been written yesterday. It was very heavily inspired by the reports of suicides, where the victim’s home and routine prior to the death seemed so normal. And here’s the thing that makes this play a gem: it’s silent from beginning to end. A young woman returns home to her flat – we presume from work. She watches some television. She does some washing. She prepares her tea. So, so normal. And yet … Continue reading