Odds and sods: September 2018

Fringe season over, so it’s time to get back to this. But if you expecting another episode of fearless journalism and explosive revelations in north-east theatre (N.B. fearless journalism and explosive revelations may be more mundane and uncontentious than advertised), you’ll have to wait, because it’s been a slow news month for a change. However, there have been a few tidbits on the fringe circuit that are worth looking at.

Stuff that happened in September

Since we’re doing a heavily fringe-themed odds and sods, let’s run north to south, starting in Edinburgh.

Sweet Werks set to stay

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Dopw6lwXsAAoLTO.jpg:largeStarting in Brighton, we will shortly have Brighton Horrorfest underway, which is Sweet Brighton’s biggest event after the Brighton Fringe. I can’t make it to this because ten-hour round trips are bummers, but if you’re in easy reach of Brighton it’s worth checking this out because Horrorfest shows that succeed often go on to do well at the following Fringe. However, apart from that, one interesting development. Until now, this has been done at the Dukebox, at the time Sweet Venues’ only year-round venue. This year they’re at two venues: Sweet’s other year-round venue at the Wellie replaced Sweet Dukebox this year; but the other venue being used is Sweet Werks. Continue reading

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Odds and sods: June 2018

Later than usual (again). I’m quickly have a reminder that the month after a play finishes isn’t peace and quiet – it’s the month where I have to catch up on everything that I’ve had to postpone from the previous two months. But before we dive into the thick of Edinburgh Fringe, there’s a chance to catch up on things that have been happening between Edinburgh and Brighton.

Stuff that happened in June

The rise of Greater Manchester Fringe

The next major thing on my calendar is, of course, Buxton Fringe, the UK’s third biggest fringe after Edinburgh and Brighton. As long as this blog’s been going, these have always been considered the big three. Now, however, we may need to start thinking about a fourth. Greater Manchester Fringe barely existed when I started writing, but this year there are about 120 registrations. That’s not far behind Buxton, currently around 180.

Greater Manchester Fringe is supported by a recently-vibrant year-round fringe theatre scene, similar to the Vault festival being supported by the year-round fringe theatre scene in London. But there is an important difference: the Vault is a curated festival (and it would be impractical to be anything else), but the Greater Manchester Fringe is a proper fringe where anyone who wants to take part can. They make it clear that if you can’t get programmed into a listed fringe venue, you can find your own venue and register than way. And one small but important symbolic gesture is that they actively encourage people to see shows by groups you’ve never heard of in venues you’ve never been to. It could not be more different from the Great Yorkshire Fringe, where anyone who is not programmed into their official venues is given the cold shoulder. Continue reading

Odds and sods: March 2018

One thing I’ve made a conscious decision on this month to stop covering for the time being is the ongoing row of Times Square Panto. There is now little argument over who was in the right and who was in the wrong, and now it’s descending into legal wrangles over whether anyone should be held personally liable. I don’t kick artists when they’re down, and that includes speculating over legal liability. When this is all over, one way or the other, I may come back to this, but that’s all for now.

Without that, I expected this to be a short article, with not much of interest (apart from one thing I need to write a full article on), but when I checked back, more things got added to the list. So it’s an eventful month after all.

Stuff that happened in March:

All change at Durham

Starting on home turf this time, there are two big announcements from Durham venues. I have links with both these venues and frequently hear stuff in advance of official announcements, but before anyone tries reading between the lines here, I must make it clear that: 1) everything I’m telling you has already been stated on the record, and 2) at this moment, there is nothing I’ve heard off the record that I’m not telling you. Continue reading

Odds and sods: February 2018

In a rare twist of fate, I am getting my monthly roundup out on time. I did expect to be busy with lots of other things, but owing to the snow forcing the cancellation of pretty much everything, I have some free time for once. Let’s go:

Stuff that happened in February

The thing that caught my attention most in February was, of course, those silly people at Manchester Art Gallery who drew absurd parallels looking at a Victorian painting of nudey ladies and Harvey Weinstein going round raping everybody, took a painting down to Start A Debate™, and then ignored and dismissed the responses of the entire country (pretty much) telling them to fuck off (pretty much). I wrote at length about why you should worry about this, and a new tactic of censorship emerging in the arts, but I’m done with this for the time being. They are supposedly going to have A Series Of Debates™ this month – if, as I’ve expected all along, it’s a series of panels packed with yes men (and yes women), I’ll probably take the piss of of them further. In the incredibly unlikely event they they engage with criticism for a change, I will give them a chance. But I’m not holding my breath.

Apart from that, here were some other notable events for the month:

Latest from Brighton

With the close of Brighton Fringe registrations comes the annual ritual of seeing how many registrations there are. In recent years, the news of big increases has come with a big fanfare. However, this time, the publicity surrounding the launch kept quiet on this number, and – in line with the precedent of Edinburgh keeping quiet in years when the numbers flatline – it turned out there was a slight drop. It’s not clear what exactly what the numbers are this time, because the number of entries of the website seems to fluctuate, but the figure seems to be somewhere between 958 and 967, down slightly from last year’s peak of 970. Continue reading

Odds and sods: January 2018

Right, thanks a bunch Manchester Art Gallery for giving me extra work to do. That’s okay, I’ve been meaning to get off my chest this new kind of censorship that’s been creeping into the arts. However, it does mean that odds and sods is now ten days overdue. I’m holding you personally responsible.

I skip December for odds and sods, because usually not a lot happens apart from pantos, pantos and more pantos. This time, however, there was a bit of a scandal; for a region where the local media says everything is awesome, this raised quite a lot of eyebrows. That kept me distracted for a lot of the last two months. But apart from that, and those silly people over in Manchester, here’s the other things that have caught my eye.

Stuff that happened in December and January

Enter Joe Douglas

So the big news from the north-east is that Live Theatre has chosen a new Artistic Director, replacing Max Roberts who announced he was stepping down last year. That’s about all I can say it this point. Joe Douglas is currently a freelance director based mostly in Scotland, but it’s hard to tell what his background means for live, other than the obvious thing of producing more new writing. As we saw from Paul Robinson’s arrival at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, by the time the new artistic director commissions his own work, programmes it, directs it and performs it, it can take over 18 months before you get a good idea of what a new artistic director is going to bring. Continue reading

Odds and sods: November 2017

Oh boy, I’ve been spending most of November getting angry over things. One thing that particularly angered me was this business over a student rugby team putting on an event insensitive to locals. I’m not angry with them – their only crime was to do something stupid without thinking, something we were all guilty of at their age – but at the public shaming campaign that was organised in response to this. I won’t be responding to this here – it needs a full article to explain exactly why you should be worried about this kind of stunt. That will come later.

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Warning. Depressing subject material ahead. Here is a cute picture of a kitten.

I’ve also been getting getting increasingly angry with the fallout to the Weinstein saga. After the initial (quite justified) furore over Weinstein himself, the hypocrisy has been getting progressively worse. I’ve heard complaints that people are having careers destroyed over hearsay; I don’t know about that, after Kevin Spacey I lost track of who was being accused of what with what evidence. But what is alarming is that some people who are proven guilty of serious sex offences are getting off with a slap on the wrist, depending on where public outrage is being directed this week. If I ignore all the allegations unrelated to performing arts (and with it some shocking levels of victim-shaming going on across the political spectrum), the two most glaring cases are currently Poman Polanski and James Barbour. This article is a good summary of what kind of child-rape it’s apparently okay to commit if you star in Phantom of the Opera (Barbour has since said he’s leaving the run, but he’s moving on to other shows like nothing’s happened). I’ve already gone on enough about Polanski, so this poem from 2009 sums up the absence of morals quite eloquently. Continue reading

Odds and sods: October 2017

It’s that time of the month again. A roundup of things that happened last month that are worth a mention. A shorter list this time because fewer things than usual came up on my radar. If you’re looking for all things Harvey Weinstein, you can find my thoughts here, where I started off looking at this calmly but got angrier as more hypocrisy came to light. But apart from that, here’s what else has been going on.

Rotunda is returning to Buxton

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Buxton Fringe registrations aren’t opening for another month, but already we have news from the High Peak. Grist to the Mill Theatre have confirmed they will be returning to the fringe in 2018, and booking have opened already. This news isn’t a big surprise – the mood had always been that the Rotunda had done well enough to to  make Buxton a regular occurrence – but it’s been confirmed sooner than we expected. Continue reading