And here it comes. Festival fringe season is almost upon us. The Vault Festival is a decent stop-gap in February, but for me, nothing beats the thrill of a festival where anyone can take part and, in theory at least, anyone can be the highlight of the whole festival. As always, the more I know about these festivals, the longer the list gets, so expect this to come in stages.
Last year I started off in quite a bit of detail about how Brighton Fringe was changing. The arrival of Sweet Venues and an unprecedented 20% expansion in entries suddenly made this fringe a much bigger event. This year, there’s been more modest changes, and more of the same: a further 7% increase in registrations, and Sweet Venues stays broadly in the same venues, taking on a new one for the sole use of a stage version of Trainspotting. The only disappointing news as that Republic, a venue similar to Spiegeltent, is not coming back this year – it seems this city ain’t big enough for two Spiegeltents.
Anyway, let’s get on. Full rules of how I make recommendations here. Most important one to repeat yet again: I only know about a fraction of the stuff going on in Brighton. So treat this as a cross-section of the good stuff out there, not an exhaustive list.
Right, so what have I got for you? Continue reading
Two productions of classic plays caught my eye this month. One was a headline production at the Gala Theatre, continuing its transition back to a producing theatre. The other was a smaller-scale production down in Yorkshire. Both are excellent scripts where there is little the producing company can do other than be faithful to it, so let’s get straight on with how they did.
Starting at the Gala, this is their second in-house production since they restarted this last year with The Fighting Bradfords (or the third if you count their small-scale immersive piece No Turning Back). Last year it was new writing, this year it’s the revival of a classic. Not everyone who came to see last year’s friends will be interested in a revival; but there again, not everyone who watches a tried and tested play wants the lottery of a new work. As the only major theatre in Durham, I think it’s fair enough to have different plays appealing to different audiences. “Rita” (not really her name, but that becomes relevant later) signs on with the Open University wanting to learn more about literature. Shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. The barrier is partly snobbery – even supportive tutor Frank sometimes lets his casual prejudices slip in – and partly her own fear of this snobbery, but it’s mostly the inverse snobbery of friends, family, and husband who all expect her to stop learning and have a baby like everyone else. Continue reading
It’s been quite a busy March in terms of interesting developments, mostly as the build-up to the fringes continues. So here’s a catchup on things that grabbed my interest.
Stuff that happened in March
Before I go looking at the fringes, a quick bit of local news. Paddy Campbell, hot on the heels of his success with Leaving, has now got himself on this BBC New Talent Hotlist. Before you get too excited, it’s not clear exactly what this entails. He’s one of 200 people in various fields earmarked “as ones to watch.” This is the full press release if anyone can make any more sense of it, but it’s meant to be something good, anyway.
What it does suggest, however, is that out of all the new writers to appear on the scene in the last few years, Paddy Campbell is possibly pulling ahead of the others. With his first two plays getting extra runs to meet demand, and early signs that his third will be getting the same treatment, if the BBC are rating him as the top bet for a writer in the north-east, it looks to good bet to make. Continue reading