Sunday, 15 November 2009
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Who knows how this decade will come to be written about in the years ahead? It may well be viewed as a wretched one but perhaps it might be seen as positively halcyon compared to what will follow. One thing's for sure - it started with anxiety about a tech-driven financial bust that proved unfounded and ended with the real deal, the kind of recession that carves itself into people's lives for a long time. In the end, the big theme wasn't war or the clash of civilisations but the one that's never really been out of currency - money.Money was the making of theatre this decade - there was a lot more of it to prop up the subsidised sector, and even if you couldn't exactly point to a golden time in the West End in terms of art, it was certainly a gilded one. Yet now that the whole house of cards has fallen down, it's probably time for theatre-makers further down the chain, who are most exposed to the vagaries of the economic climate, to say that if they're being forced to beg, borrow or even steal to survive, then 'twas ever thus - because so-called boom years had their downside, too, in keeping costs high, and curtailing unprofitable experimentation.Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Edinburgh Fringe where spiralling rental charges have conspired to restrict the affordability of a festival that is supposed to be the greatest artistic free-for-all on earth. I've seen at first hand how deranged the economics of bringing up just a relatively straightforward monologue are, even during a downturn; the risks of working on a more ambitious scale seem to grow by the year.Which is where one has to salute with all the force of a Tattoo gun at midnight the efforts of the team behind Forest Fringe, which has in the space of a few years become an essential fixture at Edinburgh without actually joining itself to the Fringe as such. In its adopted church hall venue at Bristo Place, it operates not merely, prosaically, as a festival within a festival - but as a sort of other world, a boundary-pushing playground where, thanks to multiple volunteer efforts it's not the money that counts at all, but the stuff that happens between performers and their makeshift surroundings and between performers and curious visitors. If I could have wished away the hundreds of other chores that descend on a journalist while covering the festival, I'd have happily hung out at Forest Fringe for the entirety of its duration.It seems to me that in its back-to-basics approach, it is totally forward-thinking - and potentially revolutionary in scope. Whatever the next decade holds, the seeds of the next wave of theatre - and probably even of our recover itself, lie in the expansive, inexpensive miracle that is Forest Fringe.
Thursday, 11 June 2009
A copy of Raw Notes by Claes Oldenburg
A letter from O2
An empty bottle of red wine on its side
A digital alarm clock
My driving license
An empty can of coke
A handwritten to-do list for this week, 80% crossed out
A small blue pen of the kind I imagine they use in betting shops
An empty packet of wriggley's chewin gum
A CD of show that I have half-watched
A plate containing the crumbs of a peanut butter and banana sandwich
A copy of Arkive City, open at an article by Paul Clarke
An unopen copy of In Comes I by Mike Pearson
An old, yellowing copy of From Russia With Love, face down and splayed open at the page I last read
A padded envelope
A copy of Alex Kelly and Annie Lloyd's The Dust Archive
A programme from a show at BAC
An A4 notepad with nothing written on it
My laptop case
If you took the laptop out of the room these items would form a perfect splatter around it, marking where it once sat - like the silhouette formed in ice cream when someone is shot in the film Bugsy Malone.
I just got an email from a friend of mine that simply said, in electric pink font:
So when are you going to stop fucking around and revolutionise the fringe then?
Sunday, 7 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Sunday, 24 May 2009
If you're around in London on Tuesday I'd recommend you get down to BAC to see Nic Green's complete Trilogy. She performed some sections of it at Forest Fringe last summer and it was one of the most delightful moments of the festival.
Recently Tim Etchell's rightly said on his blog that politics 'shouldn't be left to the realists'. And Nic Green's epic, three part show - historical re-enactment, direct address, singing, dancing, euphoric collective action - is an incredibly inspiring demonstration of what political performance work could and should be. Honest, engaged, funny, inspiring, heartfelt and beautifully realised.
Nic's taking over BAC's enormous Grand Hall for one night and I think it's going to be quite a special moment. I recommend you drop pretty much anything and get a ticket.
If you're not based out of South of England though there's going to be ample opportunity to see (and maybe even be involved) in the show in Edinburgh this summer as brilliantly, the Arches (normally to be found in Glasgow) are going to be presenting it all month out of St Stephen's church as part of their new festival programme. Forest Fringe has all kinds of love for the Arches and we're really excited to have them across town from us.
Oh, and apparently it's going to be a long hot summer. Everything's coming up roses.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Volunteer at Forest Fringe – Reduced prices! Secret shows! The Fame! The Glamour! The improved sense of self worth!
Forest Fringe is an award-winning new venue providing a home for experimentation and play in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival Season. Now in our third year, we’ve supported works-in-progress, one-on-one encounters, beguiling puppet shows, interactive adventures, installations and live art from our beautiful old church hall in the centre of Edinburgh.
This year the work at Forest Fringe includes internationally renowned companies such as Curious, Third Angel, Rotozaza and Action Hero. We also have a number of other projects lined up, including epic journeys across the country, secret experiences in caves and on the streets of Edinburgh and a series of late night events like nothing else in the city. All still for free or pay what you can.
We want you involved.
- A special ticket discount on the Arches programme at St Stephen’s church
- A heads-up on all Forest Fringe’s secret events during the festival
- An invite to our free volunteer’s dinner for all those (including the artists) who have worked at the venue
- The love, admiration and respect of your peers.
- The chance to discuss theatre with an artist whose work you admire while you help each other do something unglamorous, like recycling.
If you’re interested in potentially being a volunteer with us at the Forest Fringe this year, please email ellie[at]forestfringe.co.uk* with your name and contact details. Emailing at this stage does not mean you have to volunteer, just an expression of interest. You can decide you are too busy at any point. We look forward to hearing from you!
A lot of stuff arrives in Edinburgh in August. A lot.
Thousands of performers, a rainforest of flyers, all the bad weather that Scotland has been holding back in reserve especially for this occasion.
Mainly though it’s just vanload after vanload of kit. Enough garishly painted wood and plastic to make you weep. Poorly-built low budget sets, workmanlike soon-to-be-going-on-tour sets, breathtakingly complex European theatre sets, tables and chairs (like they don’t have tables and chairs in Edinburgh…), doors, microwaves, bookshelves, books, toy guns, fake guns, real guns, small glow in the dark statues of the virgin Mary – EVERYTHING has made the journey to Edinburgh.
Now generally there are about 3 options for this awkward voyage:
1) Try and fit everything in your car. Last year at Forest we had one company turn up with a metre square piece of turf wedged in the back of their tiny hatchback, along with four performers, as many umbrellas, a projector, a watering can, a colander and a Cyndi Lauper CD.
2) Rent a van. OH GOD WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BUDGET… DO YOU THINK WE CAN ALL SLEEP IN THIS VAN.
3) Find someone else who has a van.
Unsurprisingly option 3 generally tends to be a favourite, but that really requires that you know enough people with the resources to have a van that you can be squeezed into.
So we were thinking. Surely there has to be another way?
All those disparate groups desperately trying haul as much as possible into the back of their dirty grey Vauxhall corsas. All those folk optimistically posting on gumtree and facebook for fellow travelers. Maybe we can help.
As part of Forest Fringe this year we’re planning on programming an entire weekend of Bristol based work. Part of the joy behind such a thing would be that hopefully all the companies coming up together for that weekend could figure out a way to share the load and hopefully save themselves some money.
So why not try and do that on some larger scale?
Here is our plan. If we can get as many people as possible to say where they are from, what they need to get to Edinburgh and when they need it there for – maybe we can all start to organise ourselves into car and van shares. Maybe we’ll even find some brilliantly benevolent people who have vans or trucks or ferries they don’t need for the summer. WE CAN BUT DREAM. And of course if there are considerably less half laden vans winding their way up the A1 towards Edinburgh then everyone benefits, really.
Forest Fringe will certainly be looking for some friends to share a van up to Edinburgh with and I’m sure many of our companies will be too. So don’t be shy – let us know.
This is just a beginning. If you think this sounds like a good idea we'll definitely find a better way of organising it.
Exciting news fringe fans. Forest Fringe is massively proud to announce that our resident company for this year’s festival will be the delightful Little Bulb Theatre.
Based out of Canterbury, Little Bulb are a new company already doing some brilliant things. Their show Crocosmia was undoubtedly one of our highlights of the fringe last year (and one of it’s songs features in the Experimental Theatre Mixtape which by now of course you’ve all seen/admired/downloaded/playedtoyourfriendsandlovedones).
Although hidden somewhere in the soul-destroying greyness of an impressively bleak Radisson Hotel just off the Royal Mile, Crocosmia was able to generate more warmth and atmosphere than pretty much anything else I saw at the festival. And beneath it’s beautifully crafted aesthetic – all fragility and vinyl records and Battenberg cake – lay an unsettlingly dark exploration of storytelling; a world of uncertain fantasies that left you reeling. Basically we loved it and so we got them to come down and do some songs at our final goodbye party last year, which they did and were, once again, delightful.
Since then they have performed Crocosmia at the Arches in Glasgow, BAC in London. They’ve also created a new show, H.E.L.P/H.O.P.E which was at Mayfest in Bristol and can soon be seen scratching at BAC’s staggering BURST festival.
And if that wasn’t enough they have also been at various places with An Evening of Edible Mistakes, which in it’s weird way perfectly sums them up in its indescribability. It’s almost a cabaret. Or a music set. It’s funny. It’s surreal. It has good songs. Some might be made up on the spot. Some obviously aren’t. They are all brilliant musicians who work incredibly well together. Yet they have miniature fights, disagreements, they make mistakes. But the show is about mistakes, almost a celebration of them. How much of anything is to actually be believed. Layers of fiction are constantly rearranged like the pieces of a Lego set whilst the music and the jokes and the audience interaction wash through you with an almost overwhelming amount of charm.
At Forest Fringe this year they will be our resident company – taking the evening slot for the whole two weeks that the Paper Cinema were in last year. For it they will be creating a brand new show, Sporadical. The plan is that this show will collapse even further into each other the strange fictions of Crocosmia and the bizarre musical cabaret of Edible Mistakes. That’s pretty much all we can tell you at this stage. But we’re stupidly excited. As should you be.
Not only this but as Forest Fringe’s resident company Little Bulb will also be hosting a night of live music and other delights, performing some secret gigs in unusual spaces and potentially even doing a couple of very special performances of the award-winning Crocosmia over the month.
A lot to look forward to basically. So welcome to you Little Bulbers to Forest Fringe – we hope you enjoy yourselves.
Very soon we’ll be announcing more of the line-up for this year as it begins to fall into place terrifyingly quickly. Keep your eyes peeled here for more updates as they come or join our facebook group (no seriously please do, we’ve been stuck on very nearly 700 members for an achingly long time and it’s killing me.) or join our mailing list by emailing andy [at] forestfringe.co.uk (and replacing the [at] with @).
Sunday, 19 April 2009
This was more than just a nod of familiarity. This was pop music equivalent of a tea-stained madeleine. This was transporting, like those songs that make you 14 or in love again. Because this song wasn't an accompaniment to a show, an accessory, a well-chosen aural flourish. This song was a vital part of the whole experience of being there; the power of its whirring, accelerating beats and its distorted vocals a necessary element of the show's unsettling, euphoria-baiting climax.
A song in a show is always an alien body. It is another work of art smuggled in. The power of a good show is in acknowledging that. In admitting that any work of art is a collage of borrowed thoughts and ideas, half-remembered quotations, conscious and unconscious allusions and echoes and pastiches and the memory of everything that might have happened in that space before you. The most thrilling, exciting, beautiful shows revel in that, in being a startling combination of the strange and the familiar, the borrowed and the new.
These shows understand what good pop music can do when it's given a proper part to play. When it is knitted into the fabric of the show, when the two are inseperable so that you hear that same song in a living room six months later and you the whole show is suddenly there in your head.
The more we thought about it, the more we realised that a lot of our favourite shows, those truly sublime experiences that live you fizzing with excitement, used music in this way. We found that many of our best show memories were formed when a brilliant song merged into, was an essential part of, an incredible theatrical moment. We started to tally them up in our heads and then as the list grew and grew we did what felt like the only appropriate thing - we decided to make them into a mix tape.
Which is exactly what we have done. Below are the results, by 'song (musical artists), theatre artist, show'. These were our rules (because a mixtape is NOTHING without rules).
1) How Fucking Romantic (The Magnetic Fields) - Rosie Dennis, Love Song Dedication2) Billy 1 (Bob Dylan) - Little Bulb Theatre, Crocosmia3) The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is out to get us (Sufjan Stevens) - The TEAM, Particularly in the Heartland4) Gulag Orkestra (Beirut) - Gob Squad, Saving the World5) Set Yourself on Fire (Stars) - Nic Green and BAC's Young People's Theatre, The Fire in the Woods6) Sing, Sing, Sing (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra) - Punchdrunk, The Masque of the Red Death7) Don't be Light (Air) - Action Hero, Watch Me Fall8) Let's Dance (David Bowie) - Jerome Bel, The Show Must Go On9) First Breath After Coma (Explosions in the Sky) - Ontroerend Goed, Once and For All We're Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen10) You Are My Sister (Anthony and the Johnsons) - Chris Goode, Sisters11) The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) - Uninvited Guests, Love Letters Straight to your Heart
Monday, 30 March 2009
The road to Edinburgh is long and winding, an almost unending series of stomach-churning ups and downs.
This is quite literally true, if you’ve ever had the joy of travelling through the minefield of speed cameras, hillocks and sheep that make up the Scottish lowlands. If you can make it through on time, without three points on your licence or a woolly trophy skewered on the front of your car, you’re already three quarters of the way to success.
That road is also, rather less interestingly, long and winding and very uppy downy in the metaphorical sense.
Take for example this last week.
At BAC we skidded to an incredible high with our Forest Fringe weekend. Thanks to the support of Harun Morrison and the team at BAC we were able to put on two incredible nights that genuinely felt as if a small lump of the festival had worked its way loose and landed in South London. A thrilling number of people flitted round the building to see various exciting pieces, old and new. Both nights the generosity and enthusiasm of the audiences in the face of a bombardment of strange encounters and unfamiliar experiences was a joy to behold. I was genuinely warmed.
And yet at the same time as I was practically doing cartwheels across the red tiled roof of BAC, I was also discovering a fresh attack on our already fragile budget.
You see, the hall above the Forest Café (Forest Fringe’s home in Edinburgh) is a beautiful building. A high-ceilinged church hall full of aging wood and ramshackle charm. Nestled somewhere between grand and comfortable, it is just perfect. It is a space that has its own personality, inviting shows to spend time with it, rather than just in it. And that, for me, is wonderful – that brings a sense of presence and event and belonging to the shows at Forest Fringe which I love.
And yet with the old and the fragile there are always costs. Recently Forest discovered quite a monumental one, when it was deemed that the entire building had to be rewired, theatre lights and all. It turns out this costs a lot of money. A LOT.
We weren’t quite expecting that.
Now we’re a hardy operation. The very fact I’m typing this to you demonstrates that we haven’t collapsed in paralysing fear of our imminent demise. I’m saving my all my hyperventilating panic for the news that Batman isn’t real. Forest Fringe is still dead on course to hit Edinburgh in with all its might on the 17th August. So don’t go spreading any rumours.
However, we are going to have to raise a bit more money than we anticipated. Which is where you (hopefully) come in.
Forest Fringe has always relied on the generosity of its friends. We exist in order to demonstrate that incredible, exciting, slightly magical things can still happen in Edinburgh without the crushing financial burden that the festival normally brings with it. We survive because artists volunteer their time to help organise and run the venue, and because audiences give generously even when they don’t have to. We believe that by sharing out the costs of Edinburgh everyone can benefit.
So for that reason we’re appealing to you to help us raise enough money to rewire our theatre lights and ensure that Forest Fringe this summer is every bit as exciting as it should be with the incredible line-up of artists we already have confirmed.
All you need to do to donate is go to our website and click on the paypal link on the front page. Anything you can afford to give is massively, massively appreciated.
What with the world apparently going to hell in a very big handcart, there have definitely been better times to be asking people for a little bit of their hard earned change, and undoubtedly there are worthier causes than us. But if you can afford to spare even a few pennies, you’ll be helping send a little beam of safely-wired light through Forest Fringe and hopefully out into the festival beyond it.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Two and half is a good age. You´re growing hair and can fit into good baby clothes. Your gurgles have more clarity. You´re truly realising how brilliant nappies are.
Most importantly though, you´re learning how to walk. Giddy with excitement at this newfound mobility you´re disappearing off all over the place, turning up in unexpected corners of the house, massively pleased with yourself.
And so it is that on 27th & 28th March Forest Fringe will find itself at BAC. Totally wrong season. Totally wrong city. But still, there we are. All of a sudden we have legs and BY GOD we want to use them.
We want to give some of the artists who were around last summer a chance to try out their ideas again. To remake and improve them. We also want to give some of those people who´ll be coming up to Edinburgh this year with us a first opportunity to have a think about what they´ll be doing there. And, maybe most importantly of all, we want people who didn´t get a chance to come up to the festival last year to find out about what it is we do.
SO with the spectacular support of BAC, we´re going to filling the building with shows, miniature encounters, installations and live music. A fiver gets you in and then you can see as much or as little as you like. We´ll also have more information about what we´ll be doing up in Edinburgh this year.
There´s more information on BAC´s website or on our preposterously well-friended Facebook group (get involved - ALL the kids are with us. All of them). Hopefully I´ll see you there!
Friday, 27 February 2009
So, it's been a little while.
What's happened in our absence?
Bits and pieces, you know, like, THE WHOLE WORLD COLLAPSING INTO UTTER FINANCIAL DESPAIR. Probably whilst I'm writing it there's already bankers in the last tattered fragments of unwashed Armani suits forming ad-hoc gangs to scrap for tinned food on the streets of the City of London. Whole offices abandoned lying abandoned, strip lighting flickering on and off as the bulbs slowly die while a half-made pot of coffee congeals in an unwashed kitchenette. High streets of nothing but row upon row of the same closed shops, with the last Starbucks employees forming a sandbagged lookout to guard the remaining three paninis against marauding banker gangs, giddy on hunger and old tubes of Staples super glue.
It's a Brave New World, non?
I feel like I'm caught in that moment in a cartoon when Wylie E. Coyote has run straight of the edge of a cliff, his legs still cartwheeling suspended in midair, unaware still that any second now he's about to drop. People around me constantly reassure themselves that their general state of theatre-enforced pseudo-poverty mean things can't actually get that worse, I mean, surely everyone else will just come down to our level? Ha. I've read about Wiemar Germany - we'll see if things can get any worse or not.
And what of Theatre? Suddenly all that bickering over a more than generous pot of Arts Council money feels faintly flippant as I sit in a pub and watch the ebbing and flowing of amusement, camaraderie, shock and despair of a group of people who's turned up for work only to find the gates locked, with no time even to collect any important files left sitting on their computer desktops.
Of course we can tell people (rightly so) that theatre and the arts generate more money than they take in government funding, and that entertainment and enlightenment are never needed more than during the personal and social soul-searching of a recession. But that's not going to convince people who wander by a dust-collecting multi-million pound white elephant of a regional theatre on their way to try and find where the nearest Lidl is.
If anything this crisis has made me crushingly aware of how much our society is based on theatre. On a kind of glorious Munchausean dream that the performance of prosperity is enough to sustain it indefinitely. And so we instigate regeneration by building designer shops and expensive public monuments and cultural centres in old warehouses, and bankers take on ever larger loans and on top of it all Gordon Brown (as Chancellor, reaping what he would later sow without the charm of his grinning Cheshire Cat of a partner) assures us that the days of boom and bust are gone.
Whether this demonstrates that we can, like Claes Oldenburg, transform a landscape and a country with ideas alone, or whether this demonstrates that that is always doomed to failure, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe both.
Either way, it's a different Edinburgh that the festivals will land on this year and it will be interesting to see how we respond to that. Especially considering the official festival's major headline sponsor is currently setting records for the biggest ever corporate loss in UK financial history, with its former chief executive attempting to seemingly attempting to remodel himself in retirement as Scrooge McDuck, diving gleefully into a swimming pool full of gold.
The Fringe, like so much, has been carried in its ever more grotesque expansion on the shoulders of the banks that over-inflated our economy until their lungs collapsed. Like Formula 1 teams and High Street shops and Iceland, they too will suffer. It will be no surprise then if theatre turns round like a scorned lover and looks to slap these uber-banks, all the harder for trying to conceal their complicity in the excesses of the boom years.
Nothing represented the logic of the city like the Edinburgh Festival. Bigger is always better. More can always be sustained. All the while crowing about democracy for all (who can afford it).
Perhaps now that the root of that logic has imploded, sending jobs and savings splattering down glass walled offices from London's Docklands to Lothian Road, the Festival and it's new director will have to do a bit of soul searching.
As for us, well, everything's early days at the moment. But the most important thing is we're trying to figure out how to do things better, without the now potentially redundant assumption that that necessarily also means bigger. So any thoughts, ideas, glorious daydreams you have do please post them in the comments or email them to us via our website.
Potentially there's no better time to demonstrate how much meaning and importance can be found in small things and cheap things.