The Forest Fringe is a daring experiment into the possibility of performance – come festival. Established as a festival within the Edinburgh Festival, it offers a hub for some of the most sought after new performance work that is being developed by artists of the future. The festival has a twist in that it is completely free – a far cry from the money driven venues that inhabit the Edinburgh Fringe these days. You pay your venue, you redeem little ticket sales, and enjoy the festival for the experience. The Forest Fringe however is a platform for developing work – with costs thrown out the window, the concentration on the art and theatre itself becomes core. Creativity at its best.

The Forest Fringe is now on tour! Another remarkable achievement by it’s two co-directors Andy Field and Debbie Pearson, who have now created Forest Fringe Mircofestival – a smaller version taking residence in a number of cities before August in Edinburgh once more. The Microfestival gives the chance for a festival atmosphere to be replicated in various locations, bringing theatre to the people, and above all – a space for creativity and audiences to meet, play and experience.

The great thing about Forest Fringe is the sense of play that it brings out in people. There are unexpected events, performances happening in the most unlikely of places, and an atmosphere that brings out the inner child in you.

Naturally with any experiment there are a few teething issues – mostly in planning of shows, and signing up to the more intimate performances. Yet, it is not to be forgotten that with any festival you aren’t meant to see everything – you go on your own journey, and whilst mine may not have been initimate it was personal and creative to my own needs.

Here is my journey from the night and a few thoughts along the way:

Forest Fringe Travelling Sounds Library
The Travelling Sounds Library captures the audio aspect of a number of well known practitioners and theatre companies – they are stored onto MP3 Players, and placed within books complete with a brief description of each ‘track/show’ and a pair of headphones. A very simple idea, but actually rather exciting as I got to listen to some companies that I admire but have yet to experience. The factor that you are alone, sitting caught up in this audio based performance makes the whole experience even more treasured. I could have spent all evening getting lost in the captivating audio from Blast Theory and Duncan Speakman (although many more were available)

Bill  Aitchison
A durational solo performance piece, Bill Aitchison responded to various tape players given to audiences each with a distinct sound recorded on them. When the sound goes off, a certain task must be done – from setting a dinner table, walking slowly around the room or reciting from the dictionary to name but a few. I joined this performance at the beginning and then for the last 20 minutes and it proved to be captivating. The performance allows for a direct audience/performer relationship to be established, and becomes rather complicated when several sounds around the room happen at once, causing Aitchison to multi-task a series of contradicting actions. His performance was remarkably simple, yet addictive and I felt a strange attachment towards the end when only a few of us audience members stayed to watched the finale. A Simple, yet perfectly executed performance.

The Highlight is the Only Hope
A one on one experience with Mamoru Iriguchi, who is wearing a hard hat with a projector attached on top. A small amount of role play is involved, as you play the husband to him (or should I say her? Iriguchi sports devilish red high heels and a dress!) Our relationship isn’t quite as good as it should be, but the lights are out and we have to stay close to make our way around our house. The projector acts as a method for seeing what is in the house, and with small interactions of light switches and a lovely storyline we end up singing together about love and how there is hope for our relationship. Admittedly you might feel foolish at first, but the experience is charmingly created and is worth a laugh or two. A hug from xx at the end of the encounter seals the performance.

Brian Lobel
My encounter with Brian Lobel came through the giving of a minutes worth of my life to him in exchange of £1. I was taken into a room, given a single minute in which to record whatever I so wished – this was then put onto a DVD and sold to the highest buyer. Somewhere, someone in London (I imagine) has a DVD with a minutes worth of my life… a strange feeling – even to the point that a transaction had occurred through something purely being marketed as a minutes worth of nothing but me. A marvelous interaction, and as I was informed, at a very competitive rate of £60 a minute – what an investment!

The Forest Fringe is a brilliant experience for people wanting to experience performance and a venue in a different manner. There has to be a sense of openness to the work, and this echos in the audiences themselves. It is a playground to be explored, and I for one look forward to it’s return to London.

Looking back, I struggle to believe some of the mini experiences I had, some of which varied greatly from who I went with. This is what is brilliant about Forest Fringe – the ability to get lost in creativity and to find yourself on the other side. As I said earlier I didn’t get to experience everything, but I actually appreciate this. The BAC has once again shown that conventional theatre just sometimes isn’t as fun as getting locked in a room with a performer and expercieing a one-on-one performance.

Forest Fringe Microfestival is on tour in the next few months. To find out if it is going to a city near you, check out their website here. This Microfestival took place at the BAC, London. Details can be found here on the night.