Category Archives: Roundups

Roundup: Vault Festival 2017

The main bar at the Vaults

REVIEWS: Skip to: Scenes from an Urban Gothic, This is not Culturally Significant, Circle Line, Claustrophilia, Mars Actually, Blood and Bone, Ventoux, Three unrelated short plays

So Vault 2017 is on. This time last year, doubts were being raised as to whether there would be a Vault 2017 at all owing to financial worries. I was always a little sceptical of this worry, because realistically this space can’t be used for anything else, but whatever the worries, this year, it’s as busy as ever, with no sign to a casual observer that there was ever any trouble. So I found the time to get myself down to London and dip my toe for four days.

To repeat the same thing I said last year (and will probably repeat every year), the Vault Festival should not, as some in the arts press suggest, be considered London’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe. The whole point of the Edinburgh Fringe is that anyone can take part. The Vault Festival, on the other hand, is a curated festival. I don’t like this blurring between the two kinds of festivals, because this encourages the practice of claiming your festival as a fringe then curating it (e.g. York, Ludlow), depriving entry-level performers of opportunities to get started that is so desperately lacking right now.

This is not in any way the fault of Vault – they never claimed to be a fringe themselves, it was other people who labelled them that way. It would help, however, if they were open about how they curate the festival so the difference is known and understood. I heard that a lot of acts this year was chosen based on a theme of “space”, but that could mean anything, and I always think it’s better to be open about this.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get on with covering the festival. Continue reading

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Halloween fringe roundup

Hooray! My review backlog which has been piling up ever since the Edinburgh Fringe is now down to single figures. Which means I can now catch up on three fringe plays I saw in late October and early November. Two of them were deliberately timed to coincide with Halloween because of Halloweenish moods or themes. That last one’s timing is more coincidental, but sod it, let’s put it in this article.

All in all, it was a pleasing set of three. Let’s get to it.

Wytch

One venue that’s lately been working to put itself on the cultural map in Newcastle Castle. (Yes, they are aware that they are naming a castle after a city that in turn is names after the Castle, which is a bit meta, but no-one’s come up with a better name yet.) They’ve been doing various weekends of fictional worlds, such as Tolkien and Narnia. Theatre has started appearing in these events. For instance, they put on a play at the Tolkien weekend which I didn’t see but apparently, it was some guy who took it to the Brighton Fringe – anyway, I heard it’s quite good. 🙂 But the main event is clearly Wytch, a play from Twenty Seven productions running for two weeks in Newcastle Castle’s Great Hall. Why there? Because that was the place that the witch trials on 1650 took place, one of the darkest times in Newcastle’s history. Continue reading

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Roundup: Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Image result for Edinburgh Festival Fringe

REVIEWS: Skip to: Bite-SizeWaves, Swansong, The Jungle BookLe BossuBoris: World King, BEASTSPolice CopsThe Unknown SoldierAdventures of a Redheaded Coffee Shop GirlNorthanger Abbey, Overshadowed, Stack, The Trunk, Made in Cumbria, The Dark Room, The Life and Crimes of Reverend Raccoon, E15, The Club, Boris and Sergey, Notflix, Cosmic Fear, Sacre Blue, Tis a Pity She’s a Whore, The Steampunk Tempest, Ruby and the Vinyl, Communicate, Unnatural Selection, Unveiled

Okay, here we go. Got a long article ahead of me to write, condensing all of the rambling thoughts in my live coverage into one coherent article. There’s 22,706 words of live coverage to summarise, so please bear with me, it will take some time. It will, as usual, come in dribs and drabs. Last time it took me months to complete the coverage – I hope to a be a bit more timely this year.

So, I had a very good Edinburgh Fringe this year, due in a large part to my ever-expanding list of shows from performers who I know and expect to be good. This, combined with the increasing number of review invitations I received, also meant I had a very busy fringe, with 35 shows seen in total, and 6-show days becoming a new norm. There were a few side-effects to this, the big one being that I’ve had to start saying no to the odd review invitation. I’m going to give my review policy a rethink for next year. In the meantime, however, this year I saw no absolute turkeys and so I’m able to review all the plays I saw. The only things I haven’t reviewed is the odd piece (mostly stand-up comedy and sketch comedy) that was too different from the theatre I’m used to reviewing for me to be able to make a qualified judgement.

Before I embark on what’s going to be a beast of a roundup, let’s start with this … Continue reading

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Roundup: Buxton Fringe 2016

Outside the Pavillion and Bandstand

REVIEWS: Skip to: Skin of the Teeth, Lest We Forget, Samantha Mann, Jane and Lizzy, Jacques Brel: A life in a thousand words, The Beautiful Game, Women Who Wank, Hitting the Wall

And that’s it. Buxton Fringe is over and I can lift my embargo and reveal which shows I saw at Buxton were my favourites.  The big news, of course, wasn’t so much the show but the oncoming demise of of flagship venue Underground Venues. Redeveloping the entire Crescent building in Buxton has been talked about for many years, but little actually happened. This time, they’ve finally got round to actually starting the work, so it looks highly likely they’ll get round to changing Pauper’s Pit and the Barrel Room into a hot tub or something. I will at a later point write my thoughts on what might emerge as a replacement venue – in the meantime, you can read this article from three years ago when they first said it was their final year.

For the plays themselves … not my best year, to be honest. The plays I caught from my recommended list delivered, but the best thing that happens on a fringe is when I see a play I know little about that turn out to be outstanding. For me, whilst there was merit in the new plays I saw, there wasn’t anything I saw that really jumped out at me. There again, this was an unusual year with many plays I saw from the theatre section only debatably counting as theatre – and, as such, it was difficult for me to review this as a theatre piece. Continue reading

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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

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Roundup: Vault Festival 2016

vaultfestival

The ongoing problem with my annual fringe fix is that after Edinburgh, there’s an eight-month wait before the next one at Brighton. So, partly in an attempt to curb my fringe withdrawal jitters, and partly because Virgin Trains East Coast sell stupidly cheap leisure tickets at this time of year, I thought I’d give the Vault Festival a try. This is an arts festival that takes place in the arches underneath Waterloo station, and in case you ever forget that, you’ll be reminded by the noise of a train passing over your head.

So with ten events attended in four days, that fix should keep me going until Brighton, where I’ll be jittery for completely different reasons. But how does it do as a festival. Here is my first ever round up of the Vault festival. I’ve already written about a Devoted and Disgruntled session that happened to be on whilst I was there, but for the plays themselves, read on … Continue reading

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Roundup: Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Yet again, I leave it embarrassingly late to do my Edinburgh Fringe roundup. My sort-of excuse is that I had a very busy June, July and August for unrelated reasons, so I’ve spent most of September hibernating. But no more excuses, I’d better get a move on. Once new feature I’m introducing this year is that I’ll be comparing my review to all the professional reviews, see how it compares, and give my comments on any interesting discrepancies. As a result of that, it’s going to be a long piece, so I’m going to do it in instalments. Come back here and you’ll see the article grow.

So, it’s been another good fringe at Edinburgh. This is probably due in large part to me getting to know better who the good acts are, but there was a decent number of gems from people I’d never heard of. As a result, I’m going to repeat what I did last year and have a very top category of “Outstanding Fringe performance” to separate the best of the best from the rest of the excellence.

And a new feature this year is that I will be looking at the reviews of other people. I try to avoid looking at other reviews before I write mine, because I want to avoid my verdict being prejudiced, but afterwards it’s interesting to see what other people think. Usually my verdict is in line with the other reviews, but there are few notable and interesting exceptions. I will talk about that as I come to them.

Anyone who can’t wait to know who’s going to be in my list can see it in my live coverage of Edinburgh, but for everyone else, it’s a drum roll. Who has scooped my highest honour? Continue reading

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