Like most of the UK, here at Spot On HQ, we are wondering where on earth did summer go? Every year August flashes past in a blur of parcels, brochures and website tweaks as we get ready for Autumn and in between all of this we manage to squeeze in a trip to the biggest Arts Festival in the world – Edinburgh Fringe.
Each year we head to the fringe to find the very best shows and artists to bring to Lancashire and a venue near you in the future. With over 3000 shows on offer, a trip as a programmer is like a military operation but it is nearly always worth it. In the past we’ve found some fantastic shows to bring you including: Back of the Bus, Rebecca Perry, Morgan and West, Puppet State, Barbershopera, Out of Chaos, Theatre Ad Infinitum, Elsa Jean McTaggart, Colour The Clouds, Oliver Meech, Dommy B, Travelling Light Theatre, Theatre Fideri Fidera, Pipeline Theatre, Half A String Theatre.
So with that in mind, we thought we’d share with you our favourite shows from this years festival – so you can get a taste of what we might be programming in future seasons. This year the whole team managed a trip, and we covered a total of X shows – so plenty for us to choose from!
Which was your most favourite show?
Stephie: I think my favourite show overall would be ‘The Archive of Educated Hearts’ Lionhouse Theatre. A thirty-minute story told in a shed. Part installation part theatre, and incredibly moving.
Lyndsey: Without a doubt, it has to be ‘Backup’ Chaliwaté Company and Focus Company. Another thirty-minute show but this one was in a black-box theatre space. It had circus skills, it had silent comedy and a lifesize polar bear! What more is there to say?!
Rob: Hard to choose, I’ll plump for Toast, a visual and olfactory treat from the Lowry based on the memoirs of Nigel Slater. (Had free lemon meringue pie too!)
Sue: For me, it was What Are Girls Made Of by Cora Bissett, produced by the Traverse. A wonderful, vivacious autobiographical story of her life in an indie band during the Britpop era.
Which show are you most excited about possibly bringing to Lancashire?
Stephie: Orpheus by The Flanagan Collective. A really beautiful retelling of the Greek myth – with some Bruce Springsteen thrown in for good measure!
Lyndsey: Ukulele Death Squad. Just a really fun and energetic show from five lively Australian musicians.
Rob: The Bench by Watch This Space Productions. Two actors and a park bench with a number of interesting twists along the way. Funny, surprising and perfectly suited to our Lancashire venues
Sue: Cora’s show would really appeal to the 30+ Blur, Radiohead generation and anyone who wished they had been in a band.
What was the most unusual show you saw?
Stephie: Probably Flight by Darkfield, which was a shipping container turned into the inside of an aeroplane. You were then plunged into pitch darkness and the show happened through a pair of headphones. The sound effects were incredible!
Lyndsey: Although it probably doesn’t sound it, Portraits In Motion by Volker Gerling was totally fascinating. It’s a lecture/exhibition about his work as a photographer. He creates flipbooks of people he meets whilst walking around Germany. The stories he told about the people he has met are really enchanting. It’s not quite a performance, it’s not really a lecture. It kind of sits in between genres.
Rob: What Little Girls are Made Of by the Traverse. Autobiographical storytelling with four actors. Who spent the whole show set up like a Britpop band on stage with mics and instruments. Great fun and very moving.
Sue: I agree with Stephie and Rob!
Which show would be the most challenging for rural touring?
Stephie: I wouldn’t say anything I saw was completely inappropriate for Rural Touring. I saw a lot of great comedy such as The Pretend Men and I think it would be really interesting to see how we could add comedy, which isn’t stand up, into our programming.
Lyndsey: I loved ‘Four Go Wild In Wellies’ by Indepen-dance 4, it’s a very short show and we need to work out ways in which we can lengthen the period in which audiences stay in the venue without adding to the cost of the show by paying for an additional workshop or talk. Current thoughts include ‘pimp your wellies’ craft sessions and other art cart activities that we’ll approach Big Imaginations with. We’ve already agreed to take the show, but it’s also going to need a wooden floor and enough space for four tents… we like a challenge!
Rob: Nothing is impossible but Flight might be tricky – a lot of installation for a limited audience
Sue: Off Kilter would be great but offers challenges. It’s a really engaging and accessible piece of dance but ran for only 40 minutes. We’d need to see if it would be longer for touring or could tour with a double bill. Worth seeing though!
Any other recommendations, tips or highlights?
Stephie: I really enjoyed the Pickerings Gin Distillery Tour at Summerhall. Definitely, one for gin lovers and they run tours all year round!
Lyndsey: Even though you think you’ve given yourself enough time between shows to eat, rest and travel to other venues, you absolutely haven’t… Try and schedule food time and travel time as separate things to avoid being caught out hungry and running to another show!
Rob: Panda and Sons Barber Shop on Queen Street – great cocktails
Sue: Usquebae whiskey bar and larder on Hope street. They do excellent Whiskey flights and it’s all good.