A weekend away is never unwelcome, and when I saw the opportunity to combine visiting one of my favourite seaside towns with lots of theatre I jumped at the chance. I am of course talking about the Brighton Fringe; a festival ‘officially’ set up in 2006, although it has been running alongside the Brighton Festival since its creation in the 1960s. The fringe is an open access festival so anyone can take part and this also applies to venues; artists are able to use anywhere they can find.
So with all this in mind I approached the fringe website with great excitement. For me, the festival promised adventure and unusual locations. The reality was a little disappointing. I had envisaged running from show to show a la Edinburgh but on viewing the listings I just couldn’t find enough that I wanted to see. There was a lot of site specific work, but the subject matter didn’t grab my attention. Another irritating factor was the temperamental website which wouldn’t accept my login, despite having it reissued five times. I know you shouldn’t really let a website put you off but at one point I thought “sod the tickets, I’ll just go to the pub”. However, I persevered and bought two sets of tickets, one for a show called Small Space and another called Bed and Breakfast.
So off to Small Space we went, a two-hander performed and written by husband and wife duo Dan Milne and Jane Nash. After failing to get the 7.15pm tickets that I had originally wanted we headed through Kemp Town for the 9.15pm showing. Our only instructions were to meet in the Gala Bingo car park. So having followed my GPS to a slightly dodgy looking part of town, we waited. Apart from the security guard and an old lady smoking we were the only ones there. Luckily we were soon joined by ten other confused looking people and our audience was assembled. So as the bingo ended (we were watching a show right there) we were led away to the secret location.
After a five minute walk we were taken into a very large and impressive house. I am a little obsessed with interior decorating and this was like a dream come true – I definitely made some notes on their kitchen unit choices. But forcing my mind back to the show, I considered the subject matter, which was intimacy. The location (someone’s kitchen) and the seating arrangement (squashed together on kitchen chairs) immediately enforced this for the audience. The fact that the two performers were in fact married made the show even more intimate. The piece itself was incredibly sleek and the couple’s relationship believable. It felt a bit like I was in a Woody Allen film (in a good way), as the characters kept addressing us directly with their actual feelings about their relationship. However it was just a tiny bit too long and my attention began to wander towards the end, and I have the feeling I will remember more about the location then the show.
The next afternoon we headed to Upstairs at Three and Ten for Bed and Breakfast, written and performed by Katharine Markwick. This was a completely different venue, no secret location just the upstairs space of a pub. I loved this show, it made me laugh throughout and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Markwick’s monologue about being an ageing B&B owner in a claustrophobic rural village completely held my attention and, for someone who has grown up in the countryside, there were some very recognisable characters. Others in the audience clearly felt the same and I left having enjoyed watching a simple, well-made piece of theatre without the need for elaborate sets or deeply complex symbolism.
So all in all I enjoyed my trip to the seaside and hopefully I will be there next year, with my own show, perhaps performing inside the Gala Bingo and, with a bit of luck, with a full house.