Tag Archives: Brighton Fringe

Brighton Fringe 2017 – as it happens

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/835ea5_bf07b1e4bf4a4c8296c576b948e6bc11~mv2_d_2700_1801_s_2.jpg/v1/fill/w_1160,h_774,al_c,q_90,usm_0.66_1.00_0.01/835ea5_bf07b1e4bf4a4c8296c576b948e6bc11~mv2_d_2700_1801_s_2.jpgMonday 22nd May: All right, I think we are close enough to the start date for me to now be able to legitimately bang on about my absolute favourite play starting on Saturday, I Am Beast. Sparkle and Dark has been one of their groups ever since The Clock Master in 2010. At the time, they were a puppetry-based group doing family plays, but as their name suggests, their fairy tales were rather dark. Since then, they’ve got darker, with the plays now aimed at adults with subject material moving from nuclear war to euthanasia and now, in this play, bereavement, depression and escapism. After a year’s break, they are back for a second tour.

If you haven’t seen Sparkle and Dark, they’re as good as they are through a superb collaboration of the three core members: Louisa Ashton who writes and performs, Lawrence Illsley who always comes up with perfect live music for the plays, and some excellent staging and choreography led by Shelley-Knowles Dixon. This is the story of Ellie, who escapes the world as Blaze, a superhero in Paradise City fighting the evil Doctor Oblivion, whilst searching for her missing partner Silver. Except that Silver is actually her mother, Doctor Oblivion gets more like the father she blames, and his new partner is also the wicked sexy Yolanda. Then the “Beast” arrives in her fantasies, and then fantasy and reality blur, until teeters scarily on the edge what destruction is imaginary or real.

Apologies for blog regulars who’ve seen me say this many times before. However, for blog regulars, along with anyone who saw this in 2015, I can advise you there are a few changes. The cast has grown from four to five, there is now a new character called Captain Lighting, and there’s a second mini-beast. I don’t know how this is going to affect the story, but it looks like there’s been more than a few tweaks since its last performance. And the play is now 20 minutes, so it looks like some new story in it. They are being tighted-lipped about this, so I look forward to seeing how this has changed.

It runs until Saturday to Monday at 4.00 p.m. in The Warren, and it’s in the Main House, so someone thinks this is going to sell very well, and quite rightly too. It’s a bit more than your average ticket price, but trust me, it is worth every penny.

There’s actually quite a lot of things coming up in the next few days, so I’ll probably continue with other recommendations tomorrow.

Sunday 21st May: So Richard III has done well. Two reviews in so far, a 4* from Fringeguru and an Oustanding from Fringereview. There may still be more reviews to come, but after all the good reputation going into the fringe, we can conclude beyond reasonable doubt this will be one of the winners of the fringe.

No news yet on ticket sales at the half-way point. Can’t remember when we heard the news this time last year, but if I hear nothing in a couple more days I’ll begin to wonder.

Whilst I wait for more news, I’ve done something completely different. For once I’ve written about something not theatre-related or even arts-related. Inspired by Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement, I have decided to write Chris’s Hierarchy of Appealing to Authority. This is my hope that in the run-up to the election, people might be encouraged to back up their outlandish claims with something a little more credible than the dreaded “Studies show …”

Yes, another slow news day. Never mind, tomorrow I think I can legitimately start banging on about my clear favourite of the fringe now that it’s coming up.

Saturday 20th May: Now for another break from Brighton coverage to take a look ahead to Buxton. As well as the arrival of the Rotunda, the other big change has been the relocation of Underground Venues to The Old Clubhouse over the road. As I wrote earlier this year, the big change was that the venue that accounts for the biggest share of the fringe programme had gained one space but lost two. And this raised the question of whether this would cause the fringe to shrink. This was certainly a scenario that had to be contemplated. Taking a rough estimate of the number of shows fit into one space and supposing these acts in the shortfall opted to abandon Buxton plans rather than find a last-minute alternative venue, one would expect a reduction in the overall number at the fringe, even with the Rotunda offsetting this.

And yet, against such expectations, it’s gone up, from a previous all-time high of 170 to a new record of 183. Is there a catch? Examining the listings, there seem to be a lot of plays on for two performances instead of three as was standard last year, presumably an effect of the UV squeeze. Perhaps it would be better to consider performances instead of registrations. But that’s gone up too. Has Buxton Fringe grown in spite of the venue shortage?

Well, not necessarily. The complicating factor this time round is the appearance of the Buxton Fringe Festival. The Old Clubhouse does actually have a second performance space in a room where a refrigerator used to be. It’s too small for full plays, so instead there are going to be small-scale things throughout the day. But each day counts as a performance in the fringe programme, which makes it difficult to do a like-for-like comparison between 2017 and 2016.

At some point, I intend to do some more detailed analysis to decide if the fringe has grown or shrunk, as well as calculate the new balance of power between the venues. Expect this all to be temporary though. The last I’ve heard is that Underground Venues hopes to be back to full strength for 2018, so it could be all change again.

No immediate prospect of toppling Brighton as the biggest fringe in England. They can sleep east there.

Friday 19th May: Holy shit, Wired Theatre are completely sold out, apart from one performance of the 4th June, and this is without the help of any reviews. Either the word-of-mouth publicity is doing the job for them, or their reputation is so good anything will sell out.

Well, when I say sold out, it’s the allocation to the Brighton Fringe box office that’s sold out. There are some tickets available on the door, according to their website. Damn, looks like I’ll be coming along and hoping for the best. Wired, if you’re reading this, can’t we persuade you to do some extra performances just like successful acts in Edinburgh do? Pleeeeease.

Changing the subject, the other thing to look out for this weekend is news on how ticket sales for the whole festival are doing. Don’t expect anything specific, but if it’s good news, they’ll say someone to that effect. If we hear nothing, the chances are the news is not so good. Watch this space. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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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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

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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


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Roundup: Brighton Fringe 2015

Oh Jesus, it’s July and I still haven’t done this Brighton roundup. All right, no more excuses, no more procrastinating, let’s get the shows I saw written up. Most of what you will see here is a restatement of my live coverage (or even an occasional copy-paste) – however, I will have a few new things to say too. As always, this is not an exhaustive list of everything on offer at Brighton – just a list of what I saw that was good.

Okay, enough time wasted. Let’s go.

Pick of the fringe:

The woman neatly arranges her teaSo, my first thing on the list is a bit unusual, in that I’m writing a fresh review. When I did my live coverage, I said very little about the play – only that you must see it – because anything would have been a spoiler. But now that Request Programme is finished, I can safely tell you how wonderful it was. In the unlikely event that you’re about to see another productions play somewhere else, stop reading now. Everyone else read on.

Request Programme is a quite disturbing play about suicide. Although writer Franz Xaver Kroetz wrote this decades ago, it could just as easily have been written yesterday. It was very heavily inspired by the reports of suicides, where the victim’s home and routine prior to the death seemed so normal. And here’s the thing that makes this play a gem: it’s silent from beginning to end. A young woman returns home to her flat – we presume from work. She watches some television. She does some washing. She prepares her tea. So, so normal. And yet … Continue reading

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