Report Back… Edinburgh Fringe

Daniel Pitt

I’ve been to the Fringe in many different roles over the last nine years. For the four years that I’ve been working at Cambridge Junction, these trips have always been tightly crammed operations to see as much as possible with my ‘professional hat’ on. There’s never enough time to see everything that might be of interest, so my personal schedule is put together combining a mixture of shows that are by companies I know, artists we’ve had at Cambridge Junction before, people who’ve been nagging me to see their work for ages but I haven’t found the time in another venue, recommendations from other colleagues, shows with good reviews, and shows with ideas just really excite me. Some of these might end up in the programme at Cambridge Junction a season or two later, sometimes a company’s next show might end up being programmed or supported by us, and some it’s just good to see what’s out there, what’s interesting, spot trends and catch up with colleagues and friends while there.

One of the trends that doesn’t seem to go away is ‘gig-theatre’. I would say it was beginning as a trend in 2012, and in Spring 2013 I put on a strand of programming of theatre in gig formats (always ahead of the game, me), and since then it seems to have only boomed more. There were lots of music based shows in Edinburgh – the ones I decided to see were all punk and political in some way: Counting Sheep by Lemon Bucket Orkestra – a Ukraine via Canadian show about Ukrainian revolution, FK Alexander’s (I Could Go On Singing) Over The Rainbow – an intimate, emotive noise experience, and Rachael Clerke and The Great White Males’ Cuncrete – a drag king show with a band of ‘white men’ about the building of brutalist, masculine architecture… of course.

‘Drag kings’ (women as men) are a new performance trend: as well as Cuncrete, JOAN by Milk Presents (which was in the Spring 2016 programme here) was a hit at the Fringe, and Zoe Coombes-Marr’s Trigger Warning on the experimental end of comedy was a tour de force of complexly structured, meta, feminist comedy performed (mostly) dragged up as male comedian Dave. That show is at Soho Theatre until 12th September if you fancy a night out in London. In Nic Green’s extraordinary Cock and Bull, three female performers dressed as male politicians weave a tight and distressing choreography of text and movement taken from election speeches and capitalist masculinity.

One of the standout highlights for me was RashDash’s Two Man Show - the same RashDash who were here with We Want you to Watch in Sept 2015 and made Snow White and Rose Red last Christmas with us. This show is a scathing, moving attack on the failures of masculinity (again, they’re women playing men) through text and physicality. It really spoke to me, and the rest of the audience too, and won a Fringe First award as well as a lot of great reviews. It’s at Cambridge Junction on October 4th and I really hope the biggest number of people possible can get to see it here. Tell your friends.

It’s always interesting to see what trends emerge, and it’s easier to do so at the Fringe because there are so many shows. It’s like taking a barometer of what people are thinking and feeling, are angry enough about to want to make something about. From what I saw, the liveness and engulfing community of music is still in (we all want to be rockstars, and there’s something more accessible about the format), the kind of hard-man masculinity that turns sick has been tipped over the edge (by female artists at least; next stop Westminster), on-stage dating is in (perhaps both because of C4’s First Dates and the liveness of it), narratives have moved from the personal to the post-structuralist again, and contemporary circus is really coming of age and taking on new forms. Or maybe that’s all just me - everyone’s Fringe experience will be different. Perhaps you’ll spot others. Not everything in this article will end up in Cambridge, and some which I haven’t mentioned will. You’ll just have to trust that I’m always looking out for new projects and unusual shows to bring to Cambridge.