Sunday, 5 July 2015

Why the Fringe gets Buxton buzzing

Festivals have a habit of bringing people together. Just take a look at the following article about Sidmouth Folk Week.

Here in Buxton, though we are also proud of the economic benefits brought to the town by both the Fringe and the Festival, we are probably even more excited by the feeling of community and fun engendered by our event. "I love what happens to Buxton during the Fringe - I enjoy seeing the colourful thespians, artists and musicians in town and the energy shift is palpable. Buxton feels hip!" said Buxton Tennis Club’s Fiona Holland in a recent issue of Pure Buxton and we get plenty more comments like that from enthusiastic visitors to our Fringe Information Desk, which opens this Wednesday.

Our Community Links scheme also tries to make the buzz reach as far as possible. So we help performers contact care homes, schools and other organisations with a view to bringing them shows and workshops. And the Fringe itself sometimes gets involved with community projects. Last week I joined Haddon Hall Care Home residents in making a colourful wall display about the Fringe and look forward to bringing you some pictures of this when it is finished. This week I’ll be involved in a similar activity session at the Portland Care Home.

Every year we are delighted afresh with the support we get in the town – we know plenty of places such as Buxton Community School mount their own Fringe displays and shops are enthusiastically displaying performers’ posters. Thank you shops, thank you venues, thank you volunteers and thanks to all who help turn Buxton orange during the Fringe every July.

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Two Concerts by Partita

We think that this year is the 21st consecutive Buxton Fringe for the early music ensemble Partita. This is what they have told us about the two concerts they bring for 2015. 

"The music of the medieval, renaissance and baroque periods ranges from 
extremely simple expressions of reflective beauty and calm or lively charm to 
astonishingly complex blends of musical inventiveness and affecting emotional power.  

"Partita invites you to join us in experiencing the delights this music 
has to offer in two different concerts this year – featuring singers Sasha 
Johnson Manning and Holly Marland, whose voices have been described as 
“remarkable voices with clear tone, no vibrato, precise diction, beautiful line, 
and an air of total engagement with the music and the audience” and 
instrumentalists who play a fascinating range of faithful historic copy 
instruments including lutes, viols, harps, harpsichord, renaissance and 
baroque guitars, vihuela, theorbo, gemshorn, and recorders.

"For our Buxton Festival Fringe evening concert in St John’s Church (17 July
7-30pm) Partita presents, for the first time, a collaborative programme:   

‘MUSICA ANTIGUA E MODERNO’  -  the ‘antique’ sounds of Partita’s 
renaissance and baroque music interposed with the more modern 
contributions of exciting newly formed duo Stringboxes (Partita’s Holly 
Marland singing and playing the kora [African harp] with Romanian virtuoso 
double bass player Michael Cretu in a mixture of African, Romanian gypsy 
music, and new compositions by both Holly and Michael). 

"Partita’s second Fringe concert  -  a lunchtime concert in Buxton Methodist 
Church (23 July 1pm)  will be a sequence of our traditional renaissance/ 
baroque mixture of voices and instruments and will include music from the 
Elizabethan theatre, a favourite song of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a 
song set to words by Francois I of France, a baroque partita for two bass viols, and songs and arias by Purcell, Handel, and Bach.

For a preview of the sounds of Partita and Stringboxes visit: 


Buxton Fringe

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

A Nasty Little Play - a dark comedy for the Fringe

Chris Neville Smith is pleased to be returning to the Buxton Fringe for the third year running, with a new play written and directed by Alan Godfrey.
A Nasty Little Play is a dark comedy set in a seedy 1950s Soho 'Books & Mags' shop, where three punters and two dancers from the theatre next door are stuck together during a police raid. But in spite of the title, and in spite of the setting, the play is a comedy, set in a world of outwardly moral decency, Watch Committees, and the then ruling that nudes were only permitted on stage if they were not moving.

Author Alan Godfrey was in Chris Neville-Smith's first play at Buxton, two years ago, and had long ago suggested that Pauper's Pit would be the ideal venue for this little comedy. Professionally he is best known as a map publisher, but in the 1970s he wrote several plays for children, for touring nationally to schools. A Nasty Little Play is one of three dark comedies he has written recently, in a revived interest in the theatre, the first of which, Plan C, was performed as part of a 'New Writing Festival' at Durham's City Theatre in 2011, and in which Chris Neville-Smith played a leading role.

All three plays take laughter into otherwise dark or ambiguous settings in the belief that all of us have the capacity to be sad, funny and even ridiculous, often at the same time. Chris Neville-Smith's previous appearances at Buxton included The First Sign of Madness, as a writer/directory in 2013, and Waiting for Gandalf, written by Adrian Marks, in 2014, which was nominated for Best New Writing. This time he takes the - relatively - easy role of actor and producer. The cast of six are all members of Durham Dramatic Society.
A Nasty Little Play is showing at Underground Venues at 10.15 p.m. on the 19th July, 8.30 p.m. on the 20th July, and 5.45 p.m. on the 21st-22nd July.
Further details, including cast information, can be found on Chris Neville-Smith's website. 
(Telephone 07929 988425, e-mail:

Buxton Fringe

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Monday, 29 June 2015

7 Reasons to try New Writing at Buxton Fringe

Buxton Fringe has always been proud of its reputation for encouraging artists to take risks and this year’s bumper Theatre section is particularly rich in new writing. Here are 7 reasons why you should make sure you try something new at this year's Fringe:

1.      You are a thrill-seeker: Safe Mode from Theatre by Numbers offers an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi ‘fairytale’ in which refugee Mia runs to a deserted city after watching her home burn down. A chance encounter in the park changes her life forever in this multi-media play. Orange and Pip’s Ugly by Lilly Posnett, twice nominated for a Fringe New Writing award, also offers a fairytale with a twist as we hear the Ugly Sisters’ side of the story in a thought-provoking piece of physical theatre taking off where Cinderella left off.

2.      You like your stories told in new ways: Lightspeed from Organised Chaos Productions actually unfolds backwards as it depicts a fateful romance between Charlie and the game-playing Emma. Last year’s theatre production Fringe Award winner, Arletty Theatre, is back with an all-singing, all dancing musical, The Unfurling of Indigo Higgins focusing on a demanding fashionista. Live music and life-sized puppetry help Sparkle and Dark convey bewitching comic book fantasies in I am Beast and live music of a different kind is integral to Re-Sound’s After Party, recreating one amazing evening in 1820 when Franz Schubert and his friends gathered in a Viennese pub under the noses of the secret police.

3.      You like to think big: No subject is too big for intrepid Fringe writers so in Tattyband’s G&D, the earth is bleeding into the sea, Satan is looking for trouble and God Himself is about to get a wake-up call. Religion and faith are discussed in Two Yolks Theatre’s The Small Things in which two brothers who die together have contrasting experiences at the Pearly Gates. Sheepish Productions offers a black comedy with faith at its core: The Life and Crimes of Reverend Raccoon, profiling a US Army reservist, preacher and healer.

4.      You like intrigue: The secrets and lies of mere mortals are the focus of several new plays. Award-winning young theatre company Shadow Syndicate presents Redaction, a drama conceived in the wake of Wikileaks about the pervasive culture of deception. A husband and wife battle over the authorship of a controversial book that may or may not be about their marriage in Write Yourself Free: Female Facts or Male Fiction? This new work from Dolls House is produced in parallel with a published book of the same title. Popular Fringe regular Chris Neville-Smith meanwhile presents Alan Godfrey’s A Nasty Little Play, a dark comedy set in the back room of a seedy Soho ‘book’ shop in the 1950s as a police raid takes place next door.

5.      You want a taste of fame: Secrets can be especially explosive for the famous. In From the Mill’s Life’s Witness, a famous author finds himself on live television battling with memories that refuse to stay private, while Follow/UnFollow from ShinyNewTheatre/LanternTheatre takes us into the world of the good-looking but vapid male video blogger questioning whether social media is ready for a different kind of v-logger who may actually have something to say.

6.      You’re a history fan: Aulos Productions takes us back to Ancient Rome to consider the Women of the Mourning Fields – Agrippina, Octavia and Poppaea, slandered in their time and subsequently forgotten. Dreamshed Theatre is working hard to make sure we do not forget the legacy of the pre-First World War Dymock Poets in Voices from the Forest. The Second World War provides a poisonous backdrop for the brave characters on the Home Front depicted in Ashrow Theatre’s Troublesome People. Sometimes what we think we know from the past turns out not to be the case. Lucky Dog theatre Productions goes beyond fiction to deliver the truth about Mr Merrick, The Elephant Man.

7.      You like a laugh: Make a date with Lucky Dog Theatre Productions and their show Hats Off to Laurel and Hardy, or check out an excruciating meeting between Sir Clive Sinclair and Sir Alan Sugar recreated in Scytheplays Ltd’s Together in Electric Dreams.

There is always something new in the Fringe and we never forget the contribution of the writers behind our fantastic shows. Look out for the words "New Writing" at the bottom of listings in all categories of our programme and if you see something brilliant be sure to leave a comment about the writing at our Fringe Information Desk or on our website's Enhanced Diary pages. Happy Fringeing!

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Going Underground for a laugh

credit: Ian J Parkes

With the Fringe's notorious cartoon sheep still to be found somewhere on our website (answers on a post card please) let it not be said that we at Buxton Fringe don't know how to have fun!

So with the sun shining, here's our look-ahead to a host of fantastic Fringe shows that we think will have you laughing this July.
 Underground Venues offers a packed programme with TV and radio stars including Max & Ivan from BBC1’s W1A with The End; ex-policeman and Radio 4 comic Alfie Moore with A Fair Cop Stands Up; and Juliet Meyers, BBC comedy writer for Sarah Millican, with her show None of the Above.

Buxton also boasts the best in sketch comedy this summer: Fringe Comedy Award winners The Dead Secrets offer a whirlwind odyssey through the wondrous exhibits of the Curiositorium; Beasts, familiar from Radio 4’s Sketchorama, make their Fringe debut and LetLuce presents Let Progress Luce, enticingly described as a “weird but relaxing show set at sea”.

Fans of improv comedy will not want to miss the Edinburgh sell-out, Absolute Improv, bringing its quick wit and audience participation to the Fringe again. There is also Rhinoceros, an interactive, virtual board game by Harry Carr, and for one night only, Right Here Right Now Impro, accompanied by Fringe favourite Sam Dunkley on piano. For improv with a difference, Oliver Meech’s magic show is created at the drop of a (top) hat from audiences’ suggestions, and Ben Van der Velde promises to “empty his brain out onto the stage” in his madcap show, Strudelhead.

The Fringe is proud to have thought-provoking shows covering every topic from weddings - with Caimh McDonnell’s Bride and Prejudice and Tilly Mint Theatre’s The Best Man? - to children, with Andrew Watts’, How to Build a Chap, exploring fatherhood. Mortality also gets a look in with Older than the Oldest Dog that Ever Lived from comedian Peter Brush and Stories About Love, Death and a Rabbit from Ms Samantha Mann (aka Charles Adrian Gillott). Phil Buckley’s Big Idea finds the comedian in reflective mood as a chance encounter makes him decide to turn his life around, while comic and poet Rob Gee presents a guide to losing the plot in his show Fruitcake: Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward.

Two shows even offer to solve audiences’ problems with Danny Pensive: Life Coach, by John Cooper, promising to leave us believing we can achieve anything, and Tina Bradshaw bringing her unique brand of warm-hearted life-coaching to Tina’s Proverbials.

The contemporary world proves a huge inspiration with Sajeela Kershi exploring society’s mixed-up views about Muslims in her show Shallow Halal; Three’s Company & KPS Productions tackling the life of Britain’s favourite comedy politician in Boris: World King; and Abi Roberts (now only performing on July 21 because of TV commitments) referencing ITV’s favourite stately home in her show Downtown Abi featuring Labrador, Al Qaeda.

Also offering a great sense of place is award-winning Amadeus Martin in God Created Brixton and local Derby boy Chris Fitchew with his show Oops!, recounting his hilarious journey from Derby to London and back again. Comedian Maxine Jones has been there, done that but is about to come Full Circle as she plans to move back to the UK after 25 years away.

Tackling matters futuristic, 2014 Fringe Comedy Individual Award winner Nathan Cassidy brings two shows, Back to the Future I and II, reflecting on the one thing that really has changed over the last 30 years, whilst Paul Kerensa in his show, Back to the Futon Pt2, expresses his regret that there are still no hover boards in 2015. Time travel is also a theme in MJ Hibbett (and Steve)’s two-man comedy rock opera, Hey Hey 16K.

In a Comedy section boasting all types of entertainment, there is also a musical parody of the funniest disaster in cinematic history in The Room: The Musical and razor-sharp comedy songs from James Sherwood in Sherwood Jam.

Spoilt for choice? Underground Venues’ Barrel of Laughs offers a great selection of sketch and character comedy talent, alongside fantastic stand up all in one show. The three performances sell out every year so early booking is advised.

Buxton Fringe

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Monday, 22 June 2015

Why One is Wonderful

Not long to go before this year's Fringe is underway and groups are busy rehearsing to make sure they put on their best show ever. For solo performers there is even more pressure to get it right. It is no surprise to see that theatre is once again the biggest category at this year’s Buxton Festival Fringe (July 8-26) with many performers daring to tread the boards alone in some exciting solo shows. Here's our round-up of some of them.

Never afraid of a challenge, Uproot Theatre Company, whose acclaimed past Fringe shows include Around the World in 80 Days, brings a brand new, one-man War of the Worlds. Equally adventurous is Joue Le Genre’s Emma Bentley who uses comedy, clowning and storytelling to describe the perils of playing Shakespeare’s men without a codpiece in To She or Not to She. Marrying Mr Darcy once seemed an impossibility for Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice. In Little Red Hen Theatre’s Lizzy Bennet Remembers, Prudence Edwards looks back on the incredible drama that led to their union.

The intimacy of a one-person show tends to suit reflective pieces. Nominated for an Actor Award at the Fringe last year, John Martin Stevens of Dreamshed Theatre returns with His Letters, in which long-lost love letters chart a touching wartime romance. In Skimming the Stones from Tilly Mint Theatre, the past exerts a particular pull on Alison, a woman surveying the house where she grew up and wondering if she can ever escape her memories. Meanwhile library theatre touring company offer a classic from Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads series, A Cream Cracker Under the Settee, with widow Doris, alone in her house, reminiscing about her life and confronting her own vulnerability.

Intimacy becomes a theme in itself in a number of taboo-breaking shows. Cameryn Moore returns with Phone Whore (A One-Act Play with Frequent Interruptions) about a telephone sex operator, as well as exploring relationships in a new show merging memoir and manifesto, Slut R(evolution): No One Gets There Overnight. M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A from Sturgeon’s Law is a one-woman show combining both insights into Greece with musings on sex, death and the human condition. Feminine sexual power is also explored in FoolSize Theatre’s bold, tragic-comic show, Women Who Wank.

For Ava Hunt, Acting Alone has become the title of her show with her comical journey as a TV actor and her contrasting experiences of working in refugee camps in Palestine leading her to question whether any one person can make a difference. With last year’s Fringe Actor awards both going to solo artists, it is clear that in theatrical terms at least, one person certainly can. For further details on a wealth of Fringe theatre see

Interest is certainly building with enquries this morning from a group travel organisation and Buxton Tourist Info - wanting more programmes!

Buxton Fringe

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Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Local and Vocal at Buxton Fringe

Buxton Festival may have its own prestigious Literary Series but Buxton Fringe should not be overlooked, boasting a thriving Spoken Word section featuring the Derbyshire Poet Laureate as well as many talented local writers.

Taking advantage of its position on the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire, the Packhorse Inn at Crowdecote features Poets Laureate from both counties – Helen Mort from Derbyshire and Gary Longden from Staffordshire – both appearing as part of its Packhorse Poets evening. Meanwhile a new generation of young war poets can be heard at St John’s Church in New Thoughts – Old War. TheFED, performing at Buxton Tap House, also celebrates new writing offering five-minute performance slots. And poems go for a wander thanks to Stone and Water’s exciting Grinlow Poetry Trail, taking place in Grinlow Woods in conjunction with the Grinlow Art Trail which features enticing storytellers of its own.

True stories are often the most arresting so Vera Mellor’s A Cuppa, A Natter & Hidden Gems based on her published life story should be intriguing (thanks for coming to the Fringe programme launch, Vera!) as will Rob Coleman’s Ocean Going Idiot in which he describes his attempt to cross the Atlantic in a rowing boat. As he says himself: “Why?”

Frank, autobiographical stories and poetry combine in Melody at Buxton Methodist Church from performance poet Jemima Foxtrot, whose show also features soul and folk music.

And the Fringe itself offers a longstanding tradition, Fringe Readings – a glorious lucky-dip of free readings in the cosy environment of the Old Hall Hotel. The late great Peter Low, former Fringe chair, will be sorely missed as a reader but he would be happy to see it continue - as he would that other great tradition, Fringe Beer, which he organised for us every year. Why not raise a pint in his memory at The Old Clubhouse and the Tap House thanks to Mobberley Fine Ales and Buxton Brewery respectively?

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting further categories from our bulging Fringe programme - enjoy!

Buxton Fringe

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