Odds and Sods: October 2022

Time for another odds and sods. One thing I have still not mentioned is the Chris Goode shitshow that blew up this month. Rest assured, I am well aware of this – I will be talking about this separately, because there’s a lot to cover there.

Stuff that happened in October

Having started off mentioning the really depressing news, I’ll carry on doing this in order. I’ll move on to the next least cheery development, and finish with some good news.

Edinburgh Film Festival under threat?

I’m starting with the most concerning news this time, so read on for the cheerier stuff. This has only really been on the Edinburgh cultural radar, but in the worst case scenario the rest of us will be noticing the fall-out very soon.

film_festival_logoSo, the news that has rocked Edinburgh is that the Centre for the Moving Image has gone into administration, with trading ceasing immediately and all staff being made redundant. Truth be told, I’d never heard of this organisation until I saw it was in this much trouble. It runs two arthouse cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, both with strong local followings. However, there is a more significant part to this that runs wider: they also operate the Edinburgh International Film Festival. That has been running as long as the Edinburgh Fringe, and is one of the festivals under the Edinburgh Festival banner. There is a long-running theory that the powers that be in Edinburgh would never allow one of its flagship festivals to disappear – but that it about to be put to the test. And if we’re wrong, which other festivals would they allow to go bust? The tattoo? The international festival? The Edinburgh Fringe itself?

 

A few days ago things were proceeding alarmingly quickly, with the building being put up for sale. That is never a good sign: if an arts organisation goes bust, a new organisation can move into the building and rebuild the community the old one built up – but if the building gets turned into another Wetherspoons, it’s really never coming back. However, in the last few days things have started looking a little better for the Film Festival – Creative Scotland looks set to take it over, albeit probably just buying the name and otherwise starting anew. There’s also hopes that the cinema itself may be rescued, although those plans seem vaguer. Anyway, it looks like the alarming scenario of a disappearing Edinburgh festival isn’t hitting us just yet – but it’s a wake-up call of just how fragile the situation still is. And maybe the Edinburgh Fringe’s cost-cutting decisions that got them so much stick seem more reasonable now.

The Warren gone for good?

Only a few weeks since we had a 2022 fringe on, but Brighton Fringe 2023 has opened its registrations already. And, as always, there was an event to mark the opening of registrations, where venues were welcome to make their pitch. One notable omission, however, was The Warren. Last time, the absence of The Warren came just as the complaints over pay started going public, and we know what happened next. (To be fair, not all venues turn up to the launch, as it’s a trek for some, but one would have thought the biggest venue would send someone.) There’s also no sign of The Warren in Eventotron, which they’ve used in previous years for applications to the venue.

It is my understanding that Brighton Fringe has not booted The Warren from taking part in 2023 as such – it’s just that Otherplace Productions has not yet indicated they wish to take part. Should they make an approach, Brighton Fringe would consider it. However, the expectations I’m picking up on the rumour-mill is that they won’t. And if they miss two years in a row, one must question if they’ll ever be back. So the spread out Brighton Fringe of 2022, from Junkyard Dogs in Hanover to Sweet Venues in Hove, looks set to extend into 2023, and possibly be here to stay.

However, one thing that is not gone is their permanent venue, Electric Arcade. I have to say, I’ve heard a lot of grumblings over this, because those who decried the practices in the pop-up Fringe venues tend to have an equally poor opinion on this year-round venture. It certainly didn’t soothe tensions that this year they ran a programme parallel to the Brighton Fringe called “The EA in May” – that came across as backpedalling on their earlier statement to not be part of Brighton Fringe. Might they pull the same stunt again next year? We may not have heard the last of this unfortunate saga just yet.

Brighton Fringe programme gone for good?

The other notable bit of news coming out of Brighton Fringe – and this is 100% confirmed – is that for the fourth year running, there will be no printed programme. Last year, there was a printed “daily diary” instead of a full brochure, with mixed success, but it looks like there won’t even be that next time. Instead, the money is going to website improvements. This puts Brighton in sharp contrast to Edinburgh, which so far has doggedly stuck to the traditional brochure as the most important part of the fringe.

I guess this puts a lot at stake on how good the website improvements are. For both Brighton and Edinburgh Fringes in 2021, finding your way round on website alone was an absolute nightmare. A task as simple as listing what was coming up today at what time required doing a search on the current day and checking each event individually – and the bigger the fringe is, the worse it’s going to get. In my opinion, the biggest mistake in 2021 was not testing the website with actual users searching for real event – what seems straightforward and intuitive to the devs in a controlled test environment all too often breaks down when scaled up to the real world, and real people use the site in ways the devs did not anticipate. Brighton Fringe has assured me they have thought of this and will be taking usability testing seriously. I hope they are right – we will need to wait for the listings to be released next year to see if this is so.

The one thing they might offer is a “print-your-own” programme. They have no intentions of carefully drafting and editing a programme like they used to with the paper brochures, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to write a programme that auto-generate something that looks similar. I hope they do – even if you don’t print it out, I’ve found it useful to scan through a PDF version of the programme on screen to see what’s on. Who knows, if that is popular, it could emerge as a cheap version of the paper programme, with maybe a token charge for anyone who prefers this to the website or app. The paper version might not quite be gone after all.

TV version of Mustard

And finally – I thought this was only go to be of use if you live in Ireland, but it looks like it’s available on this side of the Irish Sea too.

maxresdefaultI quite like Eva O’Connor’s writing, and I’ve followed most of her work since I randomly picked My name is Saoirse before she become a regular fixture at Summerhall. Her latest play, Mustard, was first performed in 2019, reviewed by me online in 2021, and I finally saw it in person this year. The most prominent this the play involved is Eva’s character smearing mustard on herself, but trust me, I’m making the play sound a lot stranger than it really is. The real focus of the play is her realisation that the man she loves more than anything else in the world is just using her.

However, unlike most of her plays, this was told as first-person storytelling, with the neglectful superstar boyfriend and everyone else only talked about. What if, I wondered, this had instead been done as a full dramatisation? Well, that has just been done, as a TV programme rather than a play, with Irish broadcaster RTE, under a series of theirs called Storyland. That’s all very well in Ireland though, but what about the rest of us? Can we see this where RTE isn’t based? It turns out – yes you can. It’s on RTE player and I’ve successfully accessed if from the UK.

Here is the link. Eva O’Conner is reprising the role she wrote for herself and Hidegard Ryan. Enjoy.

Things I wrote in October:

And finally, to complete my summary of all things October, here’s what I wrote:

September 2022 roundup: Sugar Baby and more: Three plays from the month before. I saw Shakers from the John Godber Company and Brassed off at the Gala, but my firm favourite is Sugar Baby produced by Alphabetti Theatre.

Odds and sods: September 2022: You know what these are by now.

Roundup: Brighton Fringe 2022: I start to put my reviews of Brighton in some sort of order. A very tough year to choose a pick of the fringe because the standard was exceptional, and two Ike Awards for 0.0031% and The Time Machine.

The Book of Mormon: out of the comfort zone: And finally, my thoughts on the smash hit musical. I’m a staunch supporter of what Trey Parker and Matt Stone do in South Park and Team America. Here, however, I’m not so sure.

And that’s all. See you one list time for November.

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