Monday 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