Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Getting away from the telly

Super Hamlet 64

With the Fringe still in full swing, it is strange the thoughts that come to you. “This is just like Lost”, I mused while enjoying the REC Youth Theatre’s Lord of the Flies. Clearly the hit TV series was influenced by William Golding’s novel rather than the other way round but it was only when watching a modern stage adaptation that I made the connection.


Then later in the day, Edward Day’s zany videogame/Shakespeare mash up Super Hamlet 64: Parody DLC made me wonder whether the American TV thriller Mr. Robot, about a computer hacker haunted by the ghost of his father, was in fact a warped version of Hamlet - something that had never occurred to me before.


I reckon all sorts of strange synapses are firing in my brain right now thanks to the Fringe - I still haven’t got over sitting in the Rotunda at The Unknown Soldier and thinking: “This is like that Siegfried Sassoon poem”, five seconds before that very poem was recited on stage.


All these connections between different artistic mediums - plays, poetry, films, computer games, telly - make for a richer experience of each in my view.

What’s been going through your mind during the Fringe and which shows have really stimulated you? You can communicate with us via social media or by making comments on individual shows on http://buxtonfringe.org.uk/descriptions2017.html.

We’d also love it if you could find time to fill in our short audience survey form https://goo.gl/forms/lMP8iZgCF8w2WrvM2

Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


On Behalf of the People - 19th July

We had some late entries for Buxton Festival Fringe 2017 - and they are not in  the printed programme. Tomorrow night (Wednesday) at the United Reformed Church you can see a touring production that has been impressing plenty of people already. On Behalf of the People starts at 7.30pm and tickets are just £8, available from the Opera House. Here is a review:

On Behalf of the People was commissioned from The Melting Shop by the National Coal Mining Museum as part of its commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the nationalisation of the mining industry. Ray Castleton claims that it’s about the people, not the politics, but in fact, it’s about the politics as well, though the agit-prop element is tempered by measuring every political development against its human effect.
The play covers the years 1945 to 1953, but most intensely the first two of these years. Castleton has deliberately gone for recognisable types that have a strong emotional resonance with many of the older audience members.
George Mason is a miner who survived the First World War to find the land fit for heroes was a deception. A dedicated union man, he is also committed to campaigning for the Labour Party in the 1945 election, despite the onset of emphysema which two years later will take him from his job at the coal face. Connie, his wife, is inclined to accept things as “just George’s way”, but has the strength of character to bring him into line when his single-minded obstinacy gets too much. Tom, their son, returning from the Second World War, and his girlfriend, Liz, are less set in the old ways, ready to consider alternative careers, modestly aspirational. 
So far, so predictable, but Castleton finds subtle variants without losing the sense of dropping in on a mining Everyman circa 1947. The relationship between father and son, almost destroyed by George blaming Tom for the elder, much-favoured son joining up and being killed, is convincingly handled. So is the role of women. Liz has to remind Tom, thinking of signing on as a regular, that the world has changed: she is a bread-winner. The play is not a simple paean to union power: Connie is shocked that George sees the loss of Jud even more as the loss of a good union man than as the loss of a much-loved son and an argument between George and Liz about the treatment of strike-breakers is remarkably even-handed.
For all that Castleton and Melting Shop’s political stance is clear enough and the audience at the Mining Museum empathised with it whole-heartedly. Charlie Kenber’s unobtrusively shrewd direction capitalises on this. The distinction between cast and audience is blurred, not by audience participation, but much more naturally. The acting area is a simple square, before the start the actors set out furniture and props, adjust the lights and chat a bit, items of clothing or props are left under audience seats for the cast to collect later.
Ray Ashcroft is outstanding as George, the authentic voice of four generations of miners, stubbornly uncompromising in good cause or bad, totally convincing in all he does, even to the manipulation of his spectacles. Kate Wood (Connie) bustles around like a less eccentric Hilda Ogden, Adam Horvath (Tom) and Lizzie Frain (Liz) both let us see their characters develop through the play. All four form a powerful ensemble, not least in the “This is my town” recital, an echo of the opening, that provides a moving finale.

Hear what other audiences said here

Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe



Thursday, 13 July 2017

Youth Company Opera to premiere in Buxton on Sunday


There’s a chance for all the family to experience the thrill of the opera at this year’s Buxton Fringe as Opera North Youth Company head to Derbyshire to perform Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow, a musical version of Hilaire Belloc’s classic Cautionary Tales.  

The Opera North Youth Company comprises young singers and aspiring orchestral players from in and around Leeds. It grew out of the Opera North Youth Chorus, a group of 14 to 19-year-olds who meet weekly at Opera North, one of Europe’s leading arts organisations, to explore their creativity and gain practical experience in music, singing, drama, composition and direction under the guidance of professional artists. For this occasion, they have been joined by a more recently formed ensemble of young musicians who have been honing their skills on their chosen instruments under the guidance of highly experienced tutors and members of the Orchestra of Opera North.

The Youth Company will perform Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow at 5pm in The Pavilion Theatre on Sunday 16 July. Written by composer Stephen Deazley, the one act opera follows Dr Ferret and his Sweetheart as they set out to discover just how mischievous today’s children really are. As the couple’s adventure unfolds, the doctor tells the curious story of Matilda whose compulsive lies led to a terrible fire, Henry King who ate too much string, Jim who had a rather unfortunate encounter with a lion, and George, a small boy who manages to create a large amount of trouble.

Jacqui Cameron, Opera North Education Director, said:

“We’re delighted to be performing at such a highly-regarded festival as the Buxton Fringe. At Opera North, we aim to give young people as many opportunities as possible to become involved with music whether they prefer singing or playing an instrument - and to broaden their musical horizons by arranging performances not only in their home city but throughout the UK and overseas.

“By doing so, we hope to create lifelong memories and to inspire a lasting love of music among all the young people who take part.”

Tickets for the Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow performance in the Pavilion Theatre are available for £8 per person at buxtonoperahouse.org.uk/event/dr-ferrets-bad-medicine-roadshow. The performance is suitable for ages 8+ and lasts around an hour.

After its premiere at Buxton Fringe, Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Roadshow will tour to Middleton Hall as part of Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, and to the Tête à Tête Festival at The Place in London. Later in the year, the young people are travelling to Denmark to join Den Jyske Opera Education for three performances in Aarhus, 2017 European Capital of Culture, as part of the 2017 GrowOp! Festival.

Opera North’s education programme is generously funded by Opera North Future Fund and The Whitaker Charitable Trust. Opera North Youth Chorus is supported by The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation and the Backstage Trust.
Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

If you go down to the park...

Pride picnic cake from Little Chekky Cakes

Stone and Water’s Gordon MacLellan recently spoke to The Buxton Advertiser about the group’s Fringe events including a Pride picnic and a children’s workshop. This is the full transcript of the interview, which was edited down for the paper's Festival and Fringe supplement. 

What is your role in Stone and Water and can you tell me more about what it does and the philosophy behind it? 

Stone and Water sets out to find ways of “celebrating the people, landscape and creativity of the Peaks”. Over the last 12 years we’ve led all sorts of projects from exploring the ancient worlds that gave us the Peak District limestone to having a whole series of picnics revolving around helping people get to know our local wild flowers, trees and insects. I am one of the founder-members of the group and do most of the fund-raising and project management


2. Tell me more about Tiny! and the thinking behind that. What's in store for families at the Fringe this year with Beasts, Birds and Butterflies? 

We’ve been doing “Tiny!” days as Stone and Water events for 6 or 7 years now. The idea behind it is that you make nothing larger than your hand and every year we have a different theme. There was a Tiny! Lantern Parade, Tiny! Pirates, Tiny! Dragons, Tiny! Princesses, dragons and monsters, more Tiny! Pirates. These sessions are free and open to anyone who wants to drop-by and join in. We set up on the grass near the children’s playground and usually are visited by 70 or 80 people during a day, mostly families. This year we’ll be making lots of little animals as finger puppets. We’re sort of planning garden wildlife: bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, mice and so on but we’ll help people in whatever direction they want to go so I am rather expecting there will be some Tiny! lions, wolves and dolphins, too!

3. Tell me more about the Pride Picnic and what people should expect? Can anyone come regardless of gender/sexual orientation? 

The Pride Picnic is part of our “celebrating people and creativity” theme. We would like to offer a picnic blanket where people can be themselves and where the diversity and richness of our High Peak people can be celebrated. The core of volunteers involved are of various genders and orientations and we’ll offer some queer poetry during the picnic and maybe some “instant slap” dramatic makeup. We are hoping for rainbow cakes as well and possibly rainbow sandwiches. The heart of this is a safe but public place and we will welcome anyone who comes with a warm heart and a cheerful smile, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation - and who leaves sexism, hetero-sexism, racism and other unpleasantnesses behind!

4. Do you see it as a political gesture or just a bit of fun or both? 

The Pride Picnic is a bit of fun but it is also a political statement that says “we are all part of the people of the Peaks” and this is a small gesture on our part towards recognising some of that diversity and the creative richness it brings to the Peak.

5. Do you think these are good times for LGBT+ community or the opposite? 

Speaking personally (not as a S&W rep), I feel that in some ways these are good times for LGBT+ people: we are more public and more recognised and accepted than (perhaps) ever before. But almost because of that apparent acceptance, the wider public are less aware of the prejudice that LGBT+ people still experience. People are still thrown out of their homes, or “queer-bashed”, or heckled and harassed in the street.

6. Could you give me a potted biography of yourself - how did you become a storyteller and is that how you would define yourself? How long have you lived in Buxton and where are you from originally? 

I’ve been working as a full-time self-employed artist and storyteller since 1995. As “Creeping Toad” (my freelance identity), most of my work revolves around environmental themes and my work finds ways of celebrating the relationships between people, places and wildlife. I trained as a zoologist and a teacher and worked in environmental and formal (secondary) education for about 8 years before going freelance. I grew up in Cumbernauld, one of the Scottish new towns just outside Glasgow. Before arriving in Buxton, I also lived in Durham, Manchester and spent my first 3 years of teaching in Malawi in Africa. I’ve lived in Buxton for 16 years now and love this meeting place of a town: a crossroads where the wildness of the hills and dales intersects with the easy access to Manchester and a wider urban world.

7. What are you up to right now?  

Just now? I am up in the north of Scotland on a Creeping Toad projects: I have 4 weeks of storytelling in schools around the Highland Region and then a week on Orkney. Stone and Water is just a small part of my work and our projects are focussed on the Peaks.

8. How long have you been performing at the Fringe and what does the Fringe mean to you? 

I have been doing various things in the Fringe for maybe 14 years. There are the Tiny! sessions, and there have been storytelling for High Peak Community Arts and on the Grinlow Art and Storytelling Trail. I also coordinated the Grinlow Poetry Trail a couple of years ago. I like the Fringe: I like the sense of creativity that fills the town and the audiences that will come and cheerfully watch, join in or simply laugh. Events like the Trails have been great opportunities for local artists to collaborate, making new connections and friendships beyond the moment of our event.

9. How did you get to be called Toad?

I have been a Toad person since I could walk. Toads are my totem animals. The patient watchful consideration of a toad is a great skill to cultivate. And I just like them and have been called Toad for years. When i first set up my self-employed business 30 years ago “toad” had to be in the title and “Creeping Toad” just seemed to work. Now, I am even a Trustee for the delightful charity Froglife who are dedicated to the conservation of British reptiles and amphibians and research into their lives and education about how wonderful they are! At home, my house tends to become a refuge for exotic amphibians with nowhere else to go: fire-bellied toads, dwarf African frogs and axolotls at the moment!






Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Heard the one about the carrot, the soldier and the zombie?

The Carrot Nappers add fun on the carnival float

At the end of a perfect Carnival day, it feels as if the Lord of Misrule took a particular interest in the Fringe float - why else would we be visited by a giant carrot, a First World War soldier and a zombie? 

Maybe it was the sunshine, but this was probably the best performer involvement we have ever had so thank you Carrot Nappers, Luna C (producer of soldiers, monks and kings), Zombie Teacher and zombie child. We were also delighted to welcome improv comedian Mike Raffone from Brain Rinse, who nearly passed out with unexpected Buxton sunstroke, Shakespeare's Jukebox and the dapper Close Enough crowd, who wowed the float with their melodious barbershop singing. 

The fact that we were also joined by some lovely French lads in dresses is by the by. Suffice to say that it all added to the magic of an occasion that saw crowds of onlookers lining the streets, spontaneous African dancing (by the French boys), and orange Fringe balloons just about everywhere.

Without our trusty truck, none of this would be possible so thank you Lomas and a big thanks too to all our volunteers who donned orange T-shirts or fancy dress and blew up endless balloons,climbed up ladders, took photos and put up with me barking orders at them.

After a restorative glass of wine I was out again enjoying Whispering Woods' storytelling and acrobatics in the golden light of Grinlow Woods on a summer evening. What a fabulous day. Why not join in the fun and let us know what you've been seeing and doing at Buxton's biggest ever Fringe? We'd also love to see your pictures!



Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

New Orleans Blues & Boogie at the Hydro


One of the joys of Festivals like the Fringe is that so many venues in the town join in the fun. Among this year's treats is the return of New Orleans piano virtuoso Dale Storr - who is paying at the excellent Hydro Restaurant on Saturday 8th July from 8pm.

Dale has many friends in Buxton already, and makes more with every visit. Later this year he is playing at the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival which writes this about Dale:

"Dale Storr's musical journey has taken him from his rural Lincolnshire upbringing to his own musical mecca, New Orleans. Dale's early musical interests were inspired by his parents' record collection of early rock'n'roll and country music. His interest grew deeper when he began playing the piano at the age of six, cocking an ear to the piano-based music of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. The slip-note piano of stylist Floyd Cramer was also another influence that had entered Dale's musical sub-consciousness. As a young boy, his emerging talent led to him winning numerous school and county music competitions as a solo instrumentalist. He also started performing live in local venues at the age of ten, playing organ.

Dale's ambition has always been to play the music of New Orleans, which can be anything from a classically influenced minuet, a latin rhumba, a back o' town junker blues to a frenzied boogie woogie. As seen with every Dale Storr performance, he's certainly fulfilling that ambition.'

He has continuously toured the UK as far and wide as Penzance to the Shetland Islands, whilst also taking in much of mainland Europe winning over a legion of fans overwhelmed by his mastery of New Orleans Piano. He has reached the finals of the British Blues Awards seven years in succession and also won the 2015 best musical performance award at the Buxton Fringe Festival."

“A Tour-de-force of Rockin' New Orleans Piano” - Blues Matters Magazine
“Dale is the best New Orleans player I've ever heard” - Richard Hawley
 “I've seen Dr.John's shadow” David Barard (bass player for Dr.John)


Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe


Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Rotunda: the Buxton Fringe's newest venue


Ross Ericson in "The Unknown Soldier"


Ross Ericson, co-founder of theatre company Grist to the Mill, is the man behind Buxton’s newest managed venue, a 120-seat pop-up studio theatre housed in a geodesic dome. [A question for Ross when you see him: "What distinguishes a geodesic dome from a spiegeltent?]. Here is the full transcript of his recent interview with The Buxton Advertiser. The Rotunda - should be in place by tea-time on Monday, July 3rd. Do come and have a look and take some pics/


Please could you tell me something about your own background?

Very much like JD Salinger I'm not keen on the David Copperfield kind of thing, but let’s just say I have been a soldier, a theme park designer and even a teacher – but mostly an actor.  I started acting in my mid twenties, gave it a go for a while but then found more lucrative ways of spending my time.  Then, 8 years ago, I went back to it and haven't looked back – second time lucky as they say.  Now I am busier than ever and have had two plays published by Bloomsbury and a third on the way.

What is the motivation behind the Rotunda and why did you choose to launch it in Buxton?

We are losing many small and medium sized venues across the UK and due to the current economic squeeze those that survive are being used more and more for youth theatre or community outreach programmes – these projects receive more solid Arts Council support.  This means it can be incredibly difficult for touring companies like ourselves to find performance space or sensible dates. With the Rotunda we can now turn up with our own theatre and set up in the car park if needs be. We aren't competing with these venues but working with them, augmenting their space with a temporary studio theatre. We see this as a way of breathing new life into British touring theatre.

We wanted to bring our current productions – The Unknown Soldier, Gratiano and The Empress and Me – to the Buxton Fringe and as The Rotunda was going to be built by then we thought why not bring it with us and launch it there, and when we found we could pitch up in the Pavilion Gardens it was a no brainer. And to be frank we couldn't have picked a finer Fringe to launch at; everybody has been so helpful and it really feels as if the whole town is pulling together.

What are its special features as a venue?

Its flexibility as a space is its major selling point.  We will be using a straightforward, end on configuration for Buxton, but the seating can be set up in the round, or in traverse or any way you want – and quite quickly.  It also has a very flexible stage that can be expanded up to 40sqm if required.  There aren't many studio spaces that can boast that sort of space.

Your own theatre company has had a lot of success - could you tell me something about the reaction that The Unknown Soldier has had, both critically and with the public?

It has been quite overwhelming.  We knew that The Unknown Soldier was a good piece but we didn't expect it to take off as it did.  It took a while for people to realise it was not just another WW1 play, that it looked at that terrible conflict from a new viewpoint, but now that they have we are regularly selling out venues countrywide.  We even sold out at Edinburgh Fringe last year, which was incredible.

Could you offer a bit of a summary of some of the highlights of your programme in Buxton and what excites you about it?

I love our programme.  I think it is an exciting and eclectic mix of some really great productions. Besides our own shows there is the fantastic I Found My Horn, Jonathan Guy-Lewis' one man tour-de-force which is simply brilliant, and then we have the Wonderful Alison Skilbeck in Mrs Roosevelt Flies To London – she was on before us at the Assembly in Edinburgh and sold out too.  Tayo Aluko was also with us in Edinburgh and we are so pleased we've managed to persuade him to bring his shows Call Mr. Robeson and Just an Ordinary Lawyer to Buxton – he really is a seriously talented bloke.  The show I am really looking forward to seeing for the first time is James Hurn's one man Hancocks Half Hour. And for Pinter buffs we have Harry Burton introducing his Film Working With Pinter, and giving us some personal insights into his time working with the great man.

Do you have a vision for the kind of things you would like the Rotunda to put on and are you planning to return next year?

Yes, we are already planning next year.  We want to become a permanent fixture at Buxton and next year we will be bringing Red Dragonfly's new touring production of Monkey, based on the Chinese classic A Journey to The West.  

What do you think is the role of a managed venue and what can you offer performers that they wouldn't get if they just hired a church hall somewhere for example.

We are there to support our acts not just to rent space to them.  As a company we have been there, seen it, done it and got the T Shirt – there is nothing we haven't experienced – and we know a supportive venue is a successful venue, and as you know success breeds success. We will support our companies with marketing and production and do our utmost to make sure all their hard work pays off and they reach the audience they deserve.

Do you see yourselves as being in competition with Underground Venues?

Absolutely not.  I know some consider there to be a finite audience, but if that is the case then the Fringe is doomed to failure.  What we hope to do by throwing our hat into the ring is to help expand that audience, create a greater awareness of the Fringe and what it has to offer. All venues at any Festival are symbiotic and we expect to benefit the festival as much as benefiting from it. The more the merrier as they say.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Just that we are extremely excited to be launching The Rotunda at the Buxton Fringe and are looking forward to being part of, what we expect soon will be, England's biggest Fringe Festival.
Please note the Rotunda programme has been amended since the brochure was published. For the latest news please see the updated diary.




Buxton Fringe

Website: www.buxtonfringe.org.uk
Facebook: buxtonfringe
Twitter: @buxtonfringe