From small beginnings, Brighton Fringe has grown over the past five years and now features nearly 1,000 events from comedy, cabaret and music to theatre, dance and visual arts. With a programme running from May 5 to June 4, we pick out some of the theatre highlights. For more, look out for the 160-page free A4 brochure or visit www.brightonfringe.org.
The world premiere of Blooming, Patrick Sandford’s take on experiences of happiness, follows his hit show Groomed, which won three Brighton Fringe theatre awards in 2016. Patrick asked 100 people, “How do you know when you are happy?”. The answers – provocative, kaleidoscopic, astonishing – were the starting point for this optimistic-in-spite-of-everything show.
Sweet Dukebox, May 19-21, 25-27
Shell Shock tells one soldier’s story of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, adapted from the novel, Shell Shock: The Diary of Tommy Atkins, by Iraq veteran Neil Watkin. It stars Tom Page and is supported by the Sussex Armed Forces Network and Help For Heroes.
Sweet St Andrew’s, May 5-7
Wet Bread promises to be a funny, fast-packed show about leftie Adele who has dedicated her life to putting things right (not Right) but finds the moral high ground can be lonely with just your outrage for company. Having its premiere, the satire is written by BBC Trans Comedy Award winner Tom Glover.
Sweet Waterfront 1, May 9-14
Another UK premiers is Rob van Vuuren’s horror-comedy Dangled, a chilling adaptation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman which won the Cape Town Fringe Festival’s Audience Choice Award. Rob is a household name in South Africa where he won Strictly Come Dancing and hosts South Africa’s Got Talent).
The Warren: Studio 2, May 22-23, 29-30
The world premiere of The Forecast by Limbik Productions sees a clutch of women from across the globe, in the not-too distant future, float in mid-air as human garden ornaments. Inspired by George Saunders’ short story The Semplica Girl Diaries and developed in collaboration with Olivier Award-winning writer Bola Agbaje, it is part of the Brighton Fringe Window programme for exceptional new work.
Sweet St Andrew’s, May 8-14
Also part of Window is Focus Group, described as an absurd comedy with a dark heart. Inspired by short story Mister Squishy by cult US writer David Foster Wallace, it is presented for one night only by Toot and Ovalhouse, subtitled “How to stare down and transfigure loneliness”. Join an “off-kilter” focus group, taste brightly coloured cakes and witness a desperate search for a real connection.
The Old Market, May 7
The tragic story of World War Two hero Alan Turing, who broke the Enigma codes at Bletchley Park but died after being prosecuted for homosexuality, is told in new musical Guilty of Love – Alan Turing Passion. A world premiere, this semi-staged professional show has the form of Christ's Passion, with music and lyrics by Jane Bramwell and Michael Brand. It features choir Resound Male Voices.
St Mary’s Church, June 1-2
Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons imagines a world with a limited word count where we are forced to say less. Performed by John Mark Slade and Alice Ivor, Sam Steiner’s play questions relationships, silence and the fragility of language. It is the latest show from Fight or Flight Productions, led by director Jess Barton and producer Ross Kernahan.
Marlborough Theatre, May 20-21
Alternative comedian and stripper Nicole Henriksen makes her theatre debut in a show offering a frank look behind the scenes of life as a “high-class tease”. The show, called Nicole Henriksen is Makin’ It Rain, is an examination of society's relationship with sexuality, gender and image.
Marlborough Theatre, May 7, 13
A selection of award-winning shows from the Netherlands are coming to Brighton Fringe this year including 14 UK premieres, in association with the Dutch Embassy. There will be five shows from experimental performance group 7090 such as Jellyfish Trap: Satie in 3D, a cavalcade of characters and explosions in an absurd 3D ceremony. Macho Macho, winner of the Dioraphte Best of Amsterdam Fringe Award 2016, by Bosnian-Dutch artist Igor Vrebac draws inspiration from Instagram-workout-selfies, Turkish wrestling and bromances to examine male objectification.
Brighton Fringe has also become an increasingly popular stop-off for UK tours and other hit fringe shows. Highlights this year include the immersive, in-your-face stage version of Trainspotting with a talented young cast telling the story with energy and wit, and Ushers: The Front of House Musical, an Edinburgh Fringe hit that transferred to London’s Arts Theatre, celebrating the stagiest people in the theatre: the front-of-house staff.
Check back on BritishTheatre.com for reviews once Brighton Fringe has begun.