Posts Tagged ‘forest fringe’

Swamp Juice

Swamp Juice

What an unexpected delight. Scamp’s reputation precedes them, but my only experience of them was the beautifully crafted Private Peaceful (also at the Fringe this year – though I saw it in 2009) – I wasn’t expecting the puppet menagerie awaiting me.

Set in the eponymous swamp, Jeff Achtem fills the story with creatures in various forms, but the main story follows the journey of one little man’s determined pursuit of Birdie, his Roadrunner styled nemesis who is always one step ahead of him.

The apppeal of this show is its simplicity – it’s a very basic story performed incredibly well by a supremely talented actor. Achtem is superb – bumbling, shy and instantly endearing, he effortlessly brings his shadow puppets to life with breathtaking realism, despite being made from cardboard and bits of scrap. His adorable performance style means that, even in the shows darker moments, no child is frightened as Achtem draws them into his world as though a child himself. (“That took me a week!” he exclaims proudly, pointing to one of his puppet creations)

At various stages he involves the audience in creating his beautiful shadow world, inducing squeals of delight from adults and kids alike, and as we reach the end he adds another fantastic element as we all don those familiar red and blue glasses and the shadows become 3D! “Avatar, eat your heart out,” says Jeff – I have to agree!

This show is perfect fringe fodder, and deserves to be seen by a much wider audience. I doubt you will ever see shadow puppets so lifelike and full of character – and you’ll find yourself thinking “Here Birdie Birdie Birdie” long after you’ve left the theatre.

 
Translunar Paradise

I went to this show on the recommendation of my twitter feed and thank goodness I did. Theatre Ad Infinitum tell the story of a man who is lost following the death of his wife. Lonely and mourning, he copes by reliving treasured memories of his wife and their life together, from meeting and courtship, through to sadder memories of heartbreak and loss.

Told entirely without words, with only an accordion/singer for accompaniment, this show could very easily have slipped into schmaltz, but instead this show packs an emotional punch I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before in a theatre.
The masks used to portray the elderly couple force meaning into the simplest of gesture. A tapping finger, a glance to the left – all create a full and moving picture of a man bereft of his life partner. The lack of words was heartbreaking – there was no weeping or wailing, no beating of the chest – instead there was an unspoken sense of loss that needed no words.

The man and his wife’s older selves are played using handheld masks that are pulled away when they play the younger versions of themselves. The effect is extraordinarily poignant, their whole bodies becoming younger and more full of life. George Mann and Deborah Pugh delicately portray these scenes of the younger couple – the movements suggesting snapshots of utter happiness. Even an argument between the couple becomes just another expression of love.

Perhaps the moment that will remains with me longest is that of our elderly friend distracting himself from his loneliness by making a cup of tea – only to absent-mindedly pick up two cups from the cupboard. As I describe this I realise I am making it sound like a maudlin and depressing tale, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. For each moment of sadness there is another of joy as we celebrate their incredible life together.

I rarely give praise without fault, but I fell completely in love with this show. I, like most of the sell-out audience, wept unashamedly as Theatre Ad Infinitum taught us that death isn’t really the end, so long as we keep the memory of loved ones alive. See this show. Bring tissues and tell your friends, such a sublime and beautiful piece of theatre should be seen by as many people as possible. It’s astounding how much you can say without words, and this company says it perfectly. 

Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke

cditmoj image

            Forest Fringe is, in my opinion, the greatest venue the fringe has to offer. With free tickets and a bohemian style, the place seems to encapsulate exactly what the Fringe is all about. This fun little show is set in the middle of a comedians failing comedy set, and as if his day couldn’t get any worse, he’s going to be shot at the end of the set.

Written by Ross Sutherland Comedian Dies In The Middle Of Joke is an interactive play for small groups, where audience members take it in turns to play the various parts on offer. There’s the sycophantic agent, the party table, the insulted soldier and many more, and a fortunate few even get a chance to be the comedian. The reason everyone changes around so much is that our eponymous comedian is stuck in a 6 minute time loop – and no matter what happens, he’s going to die at the end of that 6 minutes.

            If nothing else, this show was really great fun. There was something really engaging about coming up with various lines and barbs depending on the character you were playing, and the ‘6 minute loop’ repetition was quite effective as we witnessed our comedian struggling to overcome the inevitable. It was also a very social event – I went in alone, but I emerged chatting animatedly about the show and agreeing to meet my fellow audience members for a drink.

            Saying that, this show isn’t going to change lives. It has a powerful ending, and the repetition is very effective, but when you boil this show down, it’s really just a very clever parlour game. However, this was a parlour game I was more than happy to play.

Crunch

 

Another Forest Fringe show (I told you I love that venue!), Crunch is pretty unique for fringe shows. Part lecture, part sales pitch, part motivational life coaching, Crunch examines the worlds over-reliance on money, and asks us to question this once in a while.

            In his sharp suit and slicked back hair style, Gary McNair presents his lecture on the money, explaining its history, and presenting it to us for what it really is, just a belief system like any other. He asks us to enter his five-step programme to rid ourselves of the tyranny of money and take back control. After all, he explains, we are the ones who really decide the value of that bit of paper with £10 printed on it.

McNair is honest and charming, and uses various techniques to show audiences the true value of money. There is an auction for a sealed envelope containing an unknown sum of money, and as he attempts to purchase a bag from an audience member he offers things that, perhaps, have more worth – building your flat pack furniture for example, or cooking you a meal.

However, what most people will be talking about when they leave is the moment when Mcnair, like a faith healer or preacher, invites people up onto the stage to be ‘cured’ of their obsession with money. He then unveils a shredder and asks for volunteers to take the money from their wallets and shred it. What is fascinating is the amount of people that queue up to do it. They laugh in delight as their money is shredded before their eyes and take away the tiny pieces as a souvenir. Some throw them in the air like confetti, some take them grinning back to their seats, but all look happy and satisfied with their decision to do it.

            Crunch, oddly, leaves you feeling quite good about yourself. McNair isn’t telling anyone to live without money, that would be impossible, but he is asking his audience to see it for what it is – unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It’s a refreshing message, and while I didn’t get up there to shred my hard-earned cash, I did leave with a much lighter view of my financial situation: after all, it’s only money.

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Yesterday I got my programme for Edinburgh Fringe.

Edinburgh is quite simply my favourite time in the entire theatrical calendar – a time when the little companies that normally work throughout the country, touring alone or fleetingly visiting cities, all converge within the space of one tiny street. The Royal Mile is a piece of theatre in itself, with companies vying for your attention by any means necessary – there is performance art, offers of free food, free drink, anything to get you to see their show. What is normally a little sub-culture, where everyone knows everyone, suddenly becomes a massive international event, and everyone wants to join our club!

My first trip to the Fringe was in 2008. During that time I worked at C Venues, working anything from 9 to 16 hour days for barely any pay. I worked night shifts, wired up emergency lighting for an entire 5 storey building despite having no experience whatsoever, I painted, mopped, chopped, sawed, stapled, gaffa’d, tied, swept and wept for 3 weeks, and that was before the fringe even began. But when the fringe begins it’s all worthwhile. It was the post-graduation impetus I needed to make sure I stayed in theatre. It’s the main reason I’m so passionate about innovative theatre, and it introduced me to some of the best companies working in theatre today.

 Receiving the Fringe programme is incredibly exciting; partly just to allow you to plan the visit you’ve been looking forward to all year, but also to give you an idea of where the industry is at this year. What companies have chosen to make the perilous journey up north? Because it certainly is perilous. It is considered a success at the fringe if you break even – and it’s a rare company indeed that goes up there making a huge profit, despite spending thousands on venue hire, living costs and accommodation.

There is an art to reading the Fringe Programme, and it’s very much a ‘How do you eat yours’ dilemma. Obviously, like any sane individual, I jump straight to the theatre section. I then pore over each page, reading the company names first to see if anyone exciting is up. Once the favourite companies have been noted, I’ll go through to find some hidden gems from lesser-known companies – it’s all about the blurb in this part. And then I’ll go through children’s/musical/comedy sections and do the same thing.

 So with that in mind, it’s time to celebrate the wonderful world of theatre, and highlight some of my Fringe Picks meticulously selected from my first few sweeps of the brochure.

 Clockheart Boy -Dumbshow Theatre

Saw this when it was up in 2008 and fell in love with it. Heartbreakingly beautiful – magical, joyous, everything you could want for a fringe piece. Miss it at your peril.

Little Matter – The River People

These are one of my favourite companies working today, and this looks to continue the success of ‘Lilly Through the Dark’ – keeping their home at Bedlam, The River People have their own wagon for this. that’s good enough for me!

 Audience – Ontroerend Goed

After the disturbing, beautiful and slightly baffling ‘Internal’, I’m interested in anything this company has to offer. From the sounds of it, this will, once again, put the audience at the heart of the show.

The Boy James – Belt Up Theatre

Darlings of the Fringe scene, Belt Up, appear to have listened to criticism and scaled down for this fringe. Taking only three actors with them, their season is a muted affair (for them, anyway!) with only three shows in C Soco. I haven’t seen The Boy James yet, so will be favouring that over their two new shows, Outland and Twenty to Nine, which I am certain will arrive in London at some point.

I, Malvolio – Tim Crouch

Having been introduced to Tim with his production of ‘My Arm’, I am continually fascinated by his process and writing choices. Going by past experience, this seems to be about as normal as he gets, so I’m intrigued to see what he does with the character of Malvolio.

What Remains – Grid Iron Theatre

You may have read earlier in this blog, that ‘Decky Does a Bronco’ was one of my highlights of 2010 – and it solely for this reason that I’m going to see ‘What Remains’. They’re a great company, and some of the nicest I’ve worked with when they toured to Oxford last year.

Oedipus – Stephen Berkoff

Something tells me this is going to be the hot ticket this year. You get where this is going, Oedipus seen through the ungouged eyes of Berkoff – what isn’t there to like?

The Wright Brothers – Oxford Playhouse

 Okay, I admit it; I’m a company girl. The people that pay me a lot of money every month are taking their show up this year. Having seen the preview of this already, I’m really interested in how it’s changed, and how a Fringe audience receives it. If the previews were anything to go by, I think this may be an unexpected hit

 Assorted Forest Fringe

At the time of writing, the Forest Fringe programme has not yet been released, but rest assured, I have blocked off many hours to fill with whatever they have to offer. Action Hero are a particular draw for me, but I trust the Forest to provide something interesting no matter what.

 

Notable Absences

Little Bulb Theatre- Though I have been assured by them that they will be appearing BAC Summer Hall at some point – so keep an eye on their schedule!

Dancing Brick – hot on the heels of Thomas Eccleshare’s recent award, it would have been lovely to see them at the Fringe again. One can only assume they’re continuing their international success elsewhere!

Pappys Fun Club – genuinely upset about their absence, and can only hope they’ll be back next year.

 

And that should do it for now. There are many many many more shows I’ll be seeing this year, but that’s just a little taster of what I’m certain will be a spectacular programme. Hope you will all be visiting the ‘Burgh this year – see you up there!