Fringe Focus: The joy of theatrical box-sets

Written for The Stage

Anyone who has lost a weekend watching an entire box set of Homeland, Breaking Bad or The West Wing knows the dangerously addictive quality the TV episodic structure can have. Radio also plays this game – who hasn’t been left clinging to a cliff hanger desperate for next week’s instalment of The Archers? But what about live art? Excitingly, it appears theatre companies are getting in on the act and serializing theatre. To read more go here.

Fringe Focus: As one stage door closes, another opens

Written for The Stage

Paul Rattray and Sam Hazeldine in Ditch at Old Vic Tunnels. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Paul Rattray and Sam Hazeldine in Ditch at Old Vic Tunnels. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Fans of cross-cultural venues were given a shock this month when the closures of Stoke Newington International Airport (STK) and the Old Vic Tunnels were announced within days of each other.

These two organisations have fed a demand for eclectic programming in unexpected locations and for those of us who like their culture adventurous and off the beaten track, the news seemed like a major blow. But is our bemoaning of the end simply indicative of a lack of confidence on our part about what may take their place in the future? To read more go here


Fringe Focus:

Written for The Stage

The Faction – Andrew Chevalier, Gary Crankson, Richard Delaney, Gareth Fordred, Alexander Guiney, Mark Leipacher, Lachlan McCall, Jonny McPherson, Derval Mellett, Daniel Millar, Jonathan Plummer, Tom Radford, Kate Sawyer, Isobel Smith, Rachel Valentine Smith.

The Faction

Within the fringe an exciting trend for repertory and ensemble work is appearing. Against tough economic odds, two companies are pioneering sustainable fringe models for genuine ensemble, while others are successfully bringing American ideas of repertory to fringe stages.

First up The Faction are coming to the end of their second repertory season at the New Diorama. An ensemble of 15 performers has presented three plays in rotation. Rehearsing during the day and performing at night it is a gruelling schedule – as you can see from their refreshingly honest blog. But the trust built up within this tight-knit group has enabled them to delve deeper into each piece resulting in an insightful and fresh season that has garnered much critical praise. To read more go here.

Fringe Focus: Offies on screen?

Written for The Stage

One of the biggest problems facing the fringe is reaching new audiences.

To raise the profile of some of London’s best kept secrets we needed to think outside the box and after taking part in this week’s The Stage poll – “Will you be watching/listening to the Olivier Awards this year?” – I think I’ve hit upon an idea – let’s live stream The Off West End Theatre Awards (or ‘Offies’ to their friends)

The media coverage of the Oliviers is the reason they are such a good thing for British theatre. By offering both the glitzily edited highlights and live radio coverage, an exclusive event is transformed into one millions can enjoy. And this isn’t hyperbole, in 2012 almost one million people watched them – a profile raising figure if ever there was one…to read more go here

Fringe Focus: Belly flops on the fringe

Written for The Stage

Last week, I witnessed a terrible piece of theatre that was truly painful to watch. Opaque, pretentious, poorly directed and shakily performed; it was interminable. But as I escaped I couldn’t help but feel that, even apart from the other captives in the audience, I had not been alone in my discomfort – perhaps those most suffering were the actors themselves.

Is a belly flop more painful for the swimmer or the viewer who sees it happen? For anyone who’s ever performed such a watery failure the answer is surely that the doer feels the discomfort most acutely. For all the viewer’s propensity to cover their eyes and emit sympathetic groans, enacting a disaster is more painful than watching one happen. Read more.

How to fundraise

Written for Ideastap

How to fundraise

Finding sources of income has never been more important – or daunting. Honour Bayes talks to top arts fundraisers to find out how best to ‘make the ask’…

“Turn critical needs into attractive propositions”

This advice – from Head of Development at Bristol Old Vic Alan Wright – is a good place to start when tackling fundraising: in order to get anywhere, you need to communicate clearly why any donation is an attractive option. Director of Corporate Affairs at the British Museum Sukie Hemming agrees: “What you’re asking someone to do, i.e. part with their money, is actually really irrational.” To encourage people to invest in you, she adds, “you need to ensure it is a sure and viable project” that warrants such investment. Read more

The Stage: Fringe Focus – Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

Fringe picks for 2013

Looking forward into 2013 I thought I would focus on some of the ‘fringier’ fringe venues I think deserve a New Year’s mention.

Where better to start than at The Union Theatrewhich won The Stage’s Fringe Theatre of the year Award. While well known for their superb musical record I hope 2013 will be the year when their line in disputed Shakespearean works – this year kicking off with Fair Em – gets as much notice as their vault-storming hits. To read more

ROLL UP! ROLL UP! To The Stage Off West End Column

Here are links to my two inaugral blogs for The Stage Off West End column.

The beating heart of British theatre.

What defines fringe theatre? It’s such a vast landscape the possibilities are endless. Location, radicalism, financial constraints, the imagination born from those financial constraints – each answer has passionate advocates who constantly use their opinions as barometers to announce either its death or rude healthread more.

Political theatre needs to hit the mark.

As the TUC action of last weekend proves, we are living in protest filled times. More voices than ever are rising up against perceived injustices both at home and abroad. Into this cacophony the theatre can be heard through brilliant endeavours like Theatre Uncut, plays such as The Riots from the ever political Tricycle Theatre and performance art collective #TORYCORE.  This is where the fringe and Off-West End artists come into their own… read more.

Final WOS Blogs

Verbatim rights & wrongs

Monkey Bars publicity image

This week I’m back at a subject that continues to niggle me – ideas of morality in verbatim theatre. When we use people’s voices onstage in edited pieces of drama, how fine is the line between representation and exploitation?…read more

Theatre buildings & communities

Bristol Old Vic

The oldest working theatre in the country, Bristol Old Vic, turned its lights back on last week after 18 months of refurbishment. This week warm reviews of its opening production, John O’Keeffe’s Wild Oats, show it is in as rude a health as it was when it housed rowdy 18th century audiences…read more

Lyric keeps it local

A scene from Morning at the Lyric Hammersmith

A blend of robust poetry and agile circus, I was recently wowed by Ockham’s Razor’s Not Until We Are Lost at Artsdepot. But it wasn’t only the stunning aerialism that captured me – just as impressive was the skill displayed by a choir of local singers who had been brought together for these performances…read more

Horror on stage? A chilling thought

Original poster for Let The Right One In

When I read that the National Theatre of Scotland was to do a staged version of Swedish horror film Let The Right One In I got chills down my spine for all the wrong reasons. Horror is notoriously difficult to do on stage and even with the formidable partnership of John Tiffany and Jack Thorne at the helm it seemed a doomed prospect – after all the NTS turned The Wicker Man into a musical earlier this year….read more

And in the end…

Poster image for A Life at The Finborough

So it’s pretty presumptuous to title my final blog with a Beatles lyric used to signify the end of their journey, but I’m going to do it anyway because endings are what form the basis of this blog…read more

WOS Edinburgh Inspired Blogs

All that glitters IS gold.

“Life is a cabaret, old chum” is perhaps one of the most iconic lyrics in film history but it’s not the one that most stays with me. Instead I’m drawn to this one describing poor old Elsie: “The day she died the neighbours came to snicker: ‘Well, that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor.’”….read more.

Edinburgh – season to season

In the post Olympic glow talk has arisen of continuing a biannual Cultural Olympiad (or should I say London 2012 Festival – is there a difference?). While LIFT (or indeed the Manchester or Edinburgh International Festivals) may have good reason to quibble that this is precisely what they do, and do very well, the idea of a curated festival on this scale every two years is tantalising…read more.

Acting with a capital A

This year I’m on the panel of The Stage Awards for Acting Excellence at the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s meant that I’ve been able to see some stunning shows that I would have missed otherwise – most notably Thread and Mess (which, if you get the chance I urge you to catch) more.

The politics of performance.

As politicians warm up their vocal cords ready for party conference season, voters are feeling not only powerless but voiceless. For a theatre world determined to respond to the needs of its audience therefore, now is not the time for traditional political language – now is the time to literally go left field…read more.