Roundup: Brighton Fringe 2016

REVIEWS: Skip to: Something Rotten, Confessions of a Redheaded Coffee Shop Girl, The Bookbinder, 1972: The Future of Sex, The Tale of Tommy O’Quire, Dancing in the DarkThe Sellotape Sisters, Gran Consiglio, Hercules, Morgan and West, Fool, Gods are Fallen and All Safety Gone

The Warren at night

All right, no more procrastinating, let’s get all these reviews of Brighton Fringe plays written up properly. Don’t want to repeat last year’s embarrassment of leaving it until July. This is where I’ll be summing up all my observations from my ten-day visit. The one thing you will not be hearing about here is my own show – I will be writing a new “what I’ve learned” article at a quieter moment when I’ve had a chance to reflect on things further; in the meantime, you can come over to my other website for how it went.

But that’s enough of that. I can’t carry on shamelessly drawing attention to my own show under a flimsy pretence of stressing how important it is to separate my reviews from my own projects. I must get on with writing about the rest of the Fringe. So, I found time to see 15 plays/events whilst in Brighton (17 if you count the late-night entertainment, but I don’t review those), and as always, what I saw largely came down to chance. In addition, I saw one two other plays in the north-east on tours that included the Brighton Fringe either immediately before or immediately after, and these are going in the roundup too. A few plays were on my must-see list where I pulled all the stops to see it, but mostly it was down to whatever happened to be available at the time I had a spare moment. In particular, anything from 8 p.m. onwards was out because of my own commitments. So, as always, please consider this list a cross-section of the worthwhile plays out there rather than an exhaustive list.

These reviews will mostly be restatements of the instant reviews I gave in my live coverage, but there will be a few new thoughts in them now that I’ve had time to think them over. However, it’s going to take time to write up everything, so if you’re waiting for a proper review, you may have to wait a little longer. Sorry.

Okay, here we go … Continue reading

What does Paul Robinson mean for the Stephen Joseph Theatre?

Paul Robinson

Last year, my most read news story was the shock revelation that Chris Monks, the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s artistic director, was quitting his post after only six years. This came as a bit of a surprise, as he seemed to be doing rather well. I’ve not picked up any further clues as to why he left, so I’m standing by my previous guess that he didn’t have enough time to be creative, but if that is the case, he’s not the only person with this gripe.

But that’s in the past now. We now need to look at what this means for the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the future. I reported earlier this year how they’d started recruitment for a new artistic director and settled on Paul Robinson, and as he was then director of highly-regarded new writing Theatre 503, it was a fair bet that the SJT would be going in a new writing direction. But it’s only been this month that we’ve finally heard from Paul Robinson himself through an interview to The Yorkshire Post and an extended version in The Scarborough News (latter article is a screengrab on Twitter – good eyesight required to read it I’m afraid). There was also a presentation on these plans this week at an event I was invited to, but sadly I couldn’t make it. But from the interview we can get a good idea of the direction things are going in.

But rather than re-iterate what’s in the interview, let’s look at this by revisiting the three questions I asked when Chris Monks departed, and see what the answers are emerging. Continue reading

Live Gardens and Mobile

PIcture of Live Gardens

Skip to review of Mobile

Whilst I recover from Brighton, I can turn attention to the big theatre news up here in the north east, which is the opening of LiveWorks, Live Theatre’s latest development. Ever since the cuts started in 2010, Live has been busy expanding its estate, presumably motivated by getting itself a reliable income stream from real estate. With a mixture of artistic and commercial functions, we first had the Broad Chare Pub, then we had the addition of the Old Schoolhouse, and now we’ve got this addition on formerly derelict land running all the way to the water front.

As I’ve been writing about before, one question that can reasonably be asked is: should Live be getting involved in this? Some parts of the new building will be used for the arts – youth theatre is the big one this time round – but other parts are simply being rented out to any business who bids for the office space. Is it appropriate for an arts organisation to play such a strong role as a commercial landlord? It’s a valid question, but I’m okay with this. A business (especially a creative one) prepared to pay for office space on the quayside is quite likely to be prepared to pay a premium for the prestige of being part of such a prestigious theatre. Provided Live don’t lose sight of what they are there for, I look on this as a smart use of assets and a smart way of getting money. Continue reading

What’s worth watching: spring/summer 2016

Eeek. It’s June and I still haven’t done my list of upcoming recommendations. I do have the excuse that Brighton Fringe has kept me busier than usual, but all the seem, eeeeek! Luckily, if you’re using the astronomical definition of spring, that doesn’t begin until the soltice later this month. However, my intended recommendations are starting pretty soon, so I’d better get a move on.

So here’s a list of things that have grabbed my interest in the north-east, up to the end of Septemberish. As always, this is a reminder of stuff that I know about personally. Where arts publications are raving about a play, I generally won’t write about it unless I’ve seen it myself. Therefore, this is best looked on as a cross-section of stuff out there rather than a comprehensive list – there are always things I see later that I would have added to the list if I’d known about it at the time.

All right, enough waffling. I really need to get a move on now. Let’s see what I’ve got for you. Continue reading