Just before we go headlong into Edinburgh Fringe coverage, there’s just time for a quick roundup on things that happened in July. For some reason, July’s been a pretty quiet month so there’s not been a lot to report, but let’s do a catch-up.
Stuff that happened in July
No turning back at the Gala
Last month I reported on an arguably successful launch of scratch night Next Up … but they’re not stopping there. A very big push is going on right now the get the Gala back into being a producing theatre, like it was in the Stallworthy era.
So there are two productions coming up, both of which are related to the 100-year commemoration of The Battle of the Somme. Running right now is something called No Turning Back. I’m honestly not sure what this is, but the main auditorium has been reconstructed into the trenches for the summer. I’ll be seeing this tomorrow to give you my own verdict. Whatever the verdict, it is unprecedented for post-Stallworthy Gala to do anything on this scale.
Afterwards, in September, there is going to be a more conventional play called The Fighting Bradfords, which is again commissioned by Durham County Council. The big question is whether this is a one-off for the Somme Centenary or whether we are going see a return to numerous in-house productions. These two, I suspect, is their way of testing the water, but I’ve been hearing good things so far, so if they are indeed testing the water, it’s off to a good start.
A fresh start at ATG – or is it?
One thing that’s got quite a lot of attention in the theatre press is the change in management of the ATG theatre chain. For the north-east, this is relevant to the Sunderland Empire, but every region has an ATG theatre somewhere. Normally this sort of administrative news wouldn’t make me bat an eyelid, but on this occasion, the effects could be of interest, because it might lead to a culture change across the ATG empire. It was around two years that ATG was blasted for getting greedy, both with audiences and with performers. And, I have to say, I’m minded to agree. On the one occasion I went to the Sunderland Empire in recent years, it just felt like everything about it was geared to milking as much money out of you as possible. Newcastle Theatre Royal behaves far better.
So the optimist in me is hoping that a wholesale change in management will enable ATG to turn over a new leaf and lose its reputation of stinging customers with extortionate booking fees and performers with ridiculous charges for wi-fi. But then, I have no idea whether this rip-off culture was a factor in the management change. The new management could just as easily be indifferent to this. All I can do is hope for the best, and maybe I can go to the Sunderland Empire again without feeling like a cash cow. That would be nice.
A new project for Paddy Campbell
I’ve been meaning to use these articles to give early notice about projects that popular artists are getting up to next. However, I’ve not been able to do this much, because although people tell me what they’re up to, it’s often off the record and I can’t report it. (I respect embargoes.) However, as this is now on Curious Monkey’s website, I think I can now safely tell you that Paddy Campbell is writing a new play called Leaving, about children who have left the care system.
Paddy Campbell, of course, is best known for two very successful plays at Live Theatre, Wet House and Day of the Flymo, with both of those also based on his experiences in the care system. This is slightly different, because it’s going to be verbatim theatre of other people’s experiences, but Motherland and The 56 (coming soon to Newcastle) are prime examples of how good verbatim theatre can be if it’s got right.
If, however, you’re concerned that Campbell is staying in his comfort zone and only writing about social care – don’t worry. I think I can safely report that the other projects in the pipeline cover some quite different subjects. Watch this space.
The latest on Pauper’s Pit
Finally, a minor update on the future of Buxton Fringe’s key venue. As expected, the mood throughout Buxton is that 2016 really was the last year of Pauper’s Pit, after 17 years of a venue that was originally intended as a stop-gap space whilst the Opera House was being refurbished. Or at least it’s 95% certain.
But it looks like there will be some sort of successor to Underground Venues. I’m told they are making enquiries for replacement spaces. It seems to me that whilst it’s not certain who wants to remain involved, there’s enough people amongst the staff and volunteers of Underground Venues who want to continue somewhere.
At some point I will write up the possibilities for where a successor to Underground Venues might go. In the meantime, you can have a look at the original article I wrote in 2013. What I wrote back then still broadly applies, but there’s a few new possibilities that ought to be considered too. Next year will be an interesting one.
Stuff I wrote in July:
That’s the little things that happened. Here were the big things I wrote about:
- The Savage: Live plays to its strengths: My review of a very effective production of Live Theatre’s stage adaptation of a David Almond story.
- Murder most trivial: Not written something controversial for ages, so this was one challenging society’s double standard over trivialising rape versus trivialising murder.
- The National Joke: a stereotype too far: Saw this play on the way to Buxton, very high expectations after the last two Torben Betts plays, but this was slightly let down by an old mistake.
- Roundup: Buxton Fringe 2016: Reviews of nine productions I saw whilst at Buxton.
- Another open challenge for Live Theatre (and Northern Stage too): Another possibly controversial article inviting the regional subsidised theatres to wish well all north-east artists who take part in the Edinburgh Fringe, not just the ones working though them.
There won’t be an Odds and Sods in August because I’ve already started my Edinburgh Fringe coverage. Brace yourself, here comes the big one.