It’s a bloody tough job, running a fringe theatre. Margins are tight. Runs are short. And it’s a rare thing to see any support from the Arts Council.
Given the underlying economics, it’s hardly surprising that the relationship between fringe venues and theatre makers can end up being transactional and not much more. Whilst some pub theatres are just a space to rent, when there’s enough passion and talent behind them they can become so much more. The best ones, like Theatre503, the Finborough, Above the Stag & the King’s Head, are destinations in themselves, where audiences know they can keep coming back for quality, curated programming.
The team who have just taken over the Lion & Unicorn theatre in Kentish Town have experienced first hand how hard it can be to make work at some fringe theatres. At the re-launch this week, the new Artistic Director David Brady and Producer Lauren Gauge, spoke about their vision for supporting emerging artists. Their attitude is clear from the simple stuff. “We’re going to answer every email, return every phone call.”
Whether their inbox management is up to the challenge remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging to hear. On one level, it’s just about treating people with common decency. But this ‘my door’s always open/no dumb questions’ approach is also about building a community of artists around the building. If you’re a lone writer, they say, perhaps they can put you in touch with a director you could collaborate with. If you’re not sure whether your work is ready for a full performance, it might be right for an upcoming scratch night. If you want to get involved, but don’t know how, the worst thing you can do is not get in touch.
The support for theatre makers isn’t limited to advice either. Artists will be excited to hear that the new Lion & Unicorn will be offering theatre makers free rehearsal space and marketing/PR support. That alone can make a huge difference – and the Lion & Unicorn will be going even further by producing work with a select number of Associate Companies, the first of which are Proforca Theatre, Boxless Theatre and Fight or Flight Productions.
It’s an ambitious plan, and it remains to be seen if it’ll work out, but it’s an exciting statement of purpose by the new team at the helm of this charming pub theatre. We’ll be keeping an eye on them over the coming months – and if you’re an artist, check out their submissions page as they’re programming their Spring & Summer seasons now!
You get all the buzz, excitement
and great theatre of going to the Edinburgh Fringe, but you get to sleep in
your own bed, all your houseplants don’t die from neglect and, at the end of
the month, you’re not left with a lot of bank notes that no English shops will
The world of art has predicted, realised and moved through generations of dystopias, and we continue to create and dissect them now. We revel creatively in the pain and frustration, the chilling detail in our collective terror about the future. And why not…
I have a love-hate relationship with user reviews.
Like most people I will use Google to avoid disappointment when choosing a restaurant, Airbnb, hairdryer or hand drill BUT I do it reluctantly and would still rather a friend tell me what a great meal they had at this or that trendy new cafe.
Not many companies can boast of a residency at The Natural History Museum. But as of 2017 improvised comedy group Do Not Adjust Your Stage have been able to do exactly that. On top of this they can also boast (but they don’t!) of two other residencies running at The Free Association and The Nursery Theatre and all this only a few years after a group of students from Sheffield University decided to form a fledgling improv troupe. I got in contact with Helen O’Donnell, one of the current ensemble of eight, and asked what it is that draws the group to improvisation:
The festival, now in its second year, aims to present the works of bold and intrepid theatre companies whilst also providing a platform for local artists. At the helm is Anna Arthur, director of the festival with twenty five years’ worth of experience within the industry.
As we all well know, regardless of which sides of the many fences you may sit on, 2016 was a year of great social, political and cultural upheaval. As a result the world of theatre has been galvanised, producing a myriad of works to reflect and open the debate on issues such as gender equality, racial discrimination, political elitism and the current refugee crisis.
On their website, Old Sole Theatre Company refer to something they call the ‘theatrical spectrum’. This is something that most are aware of but still like to pretend does not exist; theatre’s overwhelming tendency to categorise and pigeonhole. This is a musical. This is a ‘straight’ play. This is mainstream. This is fringe. Looking to see a comedy? Will that be satirical, political, restoration, bedroom, surrealist, deadpan, farcical, physical or improvisational? There are frankly more genres in theatre than there are celebrity castings.