Roundup: Brighton Fringe 2017

People outside a cocktail bar: credit ReflectedSerendipity

REVIEWS: Skip to Gratiano, And Love Walked In, I Am Beast, Between You and Me, BADD, Scorched, The Ruby in the Smoke, Blink, Blooming, Shit-Faced Showtime, Decide-a-Quest, Catching the Ghost, Doktor James’s Academy of Evil

All right, I know I’m nearly two months behind on this. No need to get so smug about it. I’m learning the hard way how much paperwork piles up when you go for a two-week holiday in May, and I’m still clearing the backlog now. But I can’t delay this forever, so let’s get a move on.

New to this roundup is the Ike Awards. I will be writing about this properly when I have a bit more time; if you want to know why I created these awards and who this Ike is, you can find that in my live coverage of the fringe (along with my instant reviews of the plays). For now, the short version is that an Ike Award can be considered equivalent to a five-star rating. It’s a bit like the Brighton Fringe Argus Angels, except they’ve good as stopped reviewing the fringe this year. So, Ike has replaced the Argus Angels. So there.

Couple dancing at the bandstandThe one thing you won’t be seeing in this roundup is a list of stories about the fringe as a whole like last time. Last year was a very significant year for the Brighton Fringe, mostly down to the appearance of Sweet Venues, a second supervenue to complement The Warren, and also a huge rise in registrations, partly but not entirely driven by the appearance of this new venue. This year, however, it’s been much more of a “no change” festival. There was another rise in registrations: not a huge one, but enough to suggest last year’s surge isn’t going to recede. Sweet and Warren largely stayed as they are. The only notable difference was the absence of Republic, a large Spiegeltent-style venue on the beach, which I can only suppose couldn’t compete against Spiegeltent proper. The most interesting news that surfaced during the fringe was pop-up venue “Shiny Town” being cancelled after being refused planning permission – at first, it seemed odd that a venue would commit to being in the fringe before they had the go-ahead, but apparently this ran into all sorts of red tape and I’ve drawn a blank over who was at fault. Continue reading

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Brighton Fringe 2017 – as it happens

REVIEWS: Skip to Doktor James’s Akademy of Evil, Catching the Ghost, BADD, Blink, The Ruby in the Smoke, Decide-a-Quest, Shit-faced Showtime, Blooming, Between You and Me, I Am Beast, And Then Love Walked In, Gratiano

https://i1.wp.com/static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/the-end-or-is-it_3544.jpgWednesday 7th June: And that’s it from this year’s Brighton Fringe coverage. I had been holding out for news of the ticket sales, but it’s getting on a bit now. If I hear news in the next few days, I might post an update.

I can. however, leave you with news of the registration figures for Edinburgh. It’s up from 3,269 last year to 3398 this year. This is 3.9% growth, although part of this offsets the slight shrinkage last year. To look at it another way, if you measure fringe size by number of registrations, Brighton is up from 27.5% the size of Edinburgh last year to 28.5% this year. Brighton closes the gap a little further, but nothing as dramatic as last year.

So now it’s time to sign off. Roundup soon, I hope. Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through this and everyone who put on plays for me. Time to get ready for Buxton now. Then the big one. Cheerio.

Tuesday 6th June: We now have a list of winners of Brighton Fringe awards, whcih I can’t actually say that much about because all the awards went to plays I haven’t seen, so I can’t really comment. However, I do at least avoid seeing a play I hated on that list. There are some small mercies.

However, there is one award that’s notable specifically because I’ve never heard of it. Best venue went to Junkyard Dogs, a venue I’d never heard of, but nonetheless had a decent line-up this year, mostly comedians. Along with Lam Comedy getting best venue last year, it does suggest that, for comedy at least, the small venues are putting up decent competition against the big ones. This is a notable contrast to the Edinburgh fringe, where everybody who’s anybody in comedy goes to one of the big four supervenues.

The only other comment I have is that there is one award whose position in this cermony I’d say is questionable. The Brighton Argus has always awarded a Argus Archangel for their top show of the fringe (with the next tier of awards being the Argus Angels), which has been all well and good so far. This year, the winner was Urinetown – no complaints about who’s won, I’ve never seen this musical but I’ve only ever heard good things about it – but how many Brighton Fringe plays did the Argus review? Two. Okay, it’s possible they reviewed more fringe shows that only went in their print edition, in which case I’ll take that back, but online at least, their reviews are vastly dominated by the Festival. Sure, local papers are generally having a tough time at the moment and perhaps fringe reviews aren’t as economical as they used to be, but two? I do hope they can do more next year, but if not, I’d ask series questions about their place in the awards ceremony.

But you don’t want to know about those silly awards, do you? You want to know what’s going to be my pick of the fringe. Well, I have decided, but before I do this, this is been an unusual year because a lot of what I saw wasn’t really theatre. Some was factual, some was entertainment, so was fun, but I decided in the end that they were too different to meaningfully compare to more conventional plays. I will still write about these in the roundup, but in their own section. Those pieces are Blooming, Shit-Faced Showtime, Decide-a-Quest, Catching the Ghost and Docktor James’s Akademy of Evil.

(Also missing are two plays which were too abysmal to review. As always, bribes accepted.)

So here they are:

Pick of the Fringe

Gratiano
And Then Love Walked In
I Am Beast
Between You and Me
BADD

Honourable Mention:

The Ruby in the Smoke
Blink

A reminder that these entries are listed in chronological order, so don’t read anything into what’s top or bottom. So congratulations to all those on the list. Final verdicts will be coming in the roundup, whenever that may be. Hopefully not too long. Continue reading

What’s worth watching: Brighton Fringe 2017

Brighton Pier

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

Buxton to Brighton: what I’ve learned

So, it’s been six months since my Brighton Fringe escapades. This blog isn’t the place where I promote my own work – the short version is that I got my first four-star review but I had abysmal ticket sales. Still, it appears to have helped my efforts along back in the north-east, albeit in different ways to what I expected. If you really want to read all the cherry-picked ego-inflating quotes I’m using, you can read it here. But this post isn’t about promoting my work, it’s a list of lessons I’ve learned that might have other people.

As with my first two “What I’ve learned” posts, this isn’t a comprehensive list of tips for taking part in a fringe, but rather a list of things I found in in the process of taking a show to Brighton, having previously only had experience of Buxton. Some things scaled up as expected, some things worked out differently. For anyone else trying this, your unexpected experiences will probably be different. Without further ado, here we go. Continue reading

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

Brighton Fringe 2016 – as it happened

REVIEWS: Skip to: Something Rotten, The Sellotape Sisters, The Bookbinder, Gran Consiglio, 1972: The Future of Sex, Morgan and West, The Tale of Tommy O’Quire, Dancing in the Dark, Fool

This was my live coverage of my thoughts of plays at the Brighton Fringe, along with other interesting developments that broke during the festival. For the final list of reviews, sorted in working order, please read the Brighton Fringe roundup. To see the order in which it happened, read on … Continue reading

What’s worth watching: Brighton Fringe 2016

Fringe City

And we’re off again. Hope you all enjoyed your seven months of post-Edinburgh Fringe hibernation, but Brighton Fringe is creeping up on us again. So, as always, I have looked through the programme, and here are my picks of things that I can recommend to you.

As always, the important thing to be aware of is that this should be considered a cross-section of good things that are on offer, rather than an exhaustive list. These are all either plays I’ve seen before, or plays from artists I’ve seen before, or both. And what I’ve seen before – and who’s been able to get my attention – largely comes down to chance. In particular, there are a number of plays I’m confident will be good based on recommendations of other reviewers who I know and trust – but those plays will be recommended elsewhere. This is just for my personal recommendations.

One other point of note is a reminder that plays I am involved in are not eligible for recommendations. This is the first time this rules applies at the Brighton Fringe. Of course, I can get round this rule by shoehorning in references to the fact that I’m putting on my own play in Brighton. Bit like I’m doing now. Anyway, if you really want to read about that, you can do so here. Continue reading