A Life Beyond The Fringe
As one of the earliest Festivals in the calendar, Brighton Fringe is a great place to spot acts worth catching throughout the rest of the year.
Here are some of the inspiring, spectacular and sometimes ridiculous shows we discovered, coming soon to a venue near you.
Head First Acrobats: Elixir
Reviewed: 14th May 2017 | Venue: Spiegeltent Bosco
The circus style Bosco tent is the perfect backdrop for Elixir, a show with a winning combination of slapstick comedy and acrobatic daring-do. Head First Acrobats, graduates from Australian circus school NICA, demonstrate some serious skill and winning wit during this thrilling performance. Three scientists test various elixirs to document the effects on the human body, varying from balancing upside down on each other’s heads to performing backflips on a teeterboard. One of the performers takes on an incompetent fall guy role quite convincingly, which adds a sense of danger to his stunts, especially as we’re so close to the action in this intimate venue. Sitting to one side, we could observe the audience quite clearly. All adults, their faces expressed the kind of sheer enjoyment more associated with child spectators.
You can catch Head First Acrobats (not literally, leave that to the professionals) in two shows at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Elixir runs together with Arr We There Yet, a pirate-based adventure, from 5th-26th August at Underbelly Circus Hub.
Yuriko Kotani: Work in Progress
Reviewed: 14th May 2017 | Venue: The Warren Studio 3
Japanese comedian Yuriko only began performing stand up in 2014, and already has several accolades to her name, including a BBC Radio New Comedy Award. This show is billed as a work in progress, so we assume she’s trying out new material and testing possible directions, lending a certain experimental nature to the show. Based in the UK, she plays on those subtle cultural differences we all discover when immersed in another country. There’s also a personal element where she relates the origin of her stand up career. Where Yuriko is strongest is relating the rage beneath a polite nature: saying “I forgive you” to an infuriating train station poster, for example. She gives a voice to a certain type of understated rage, but also unstoppable determination. There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of this deceptively quiet performer.
Catch Yuriko on 27th June at The Grove, London, and at the Edinburgh Fringe from 3rd-13 and 15th-27thAugust at Heroes@Dragonfly.
Katsura Sunshine: Rakugo
Reviewed: 18th May 2017 | Venue: Sweet Waterfront 2
Continuing the Japanese theme, Katsuro Sunshine is a Canadian dividing his time between Tokyo and London performing in the traditional comedic form Rakugo. This 400 year old storytelling art is passed down from master to apprentice, and Sunshine is only its second Western practitioner. It’s amusing to think of this approach catching on here, with the likes of Jo Brand and Johnny Vegas taking on an unpaid apprentice for three years. Of course, the jokes are ancient, but the style of delivery draws you right into the story, with multiple characters played by one performer – it’s the way you tell ‘em. Katsura also mixes in anecdotes about his life as an apprentice, which in themselves deftly offer cues to catch the more culturally-specific humour in the more traditional tales. This is a must-see show for anyone with any interest in storytelling techniques, Japanese culture, or having a laugh.
Sunshine has a busy calendar this year, with performances from 4th-27th August at Sweet Venues, Edinburgh, from 30th September to 15th October at Leicester Square Theatre, London and a November stint at SoHo Playhouse in New York.
Theatre of a Thousand Names: Decide-a-Quest
Reviewed: 22nd May 2017 | Venue: Sweet Dukebox
This highly innovative show is a delight for the audience but must be something of a logistical nightmare for the actors. In a concept based on the choose-your-own-adventure books, the performers ask the audience to determine the actions of the main character, called ‘You’. The resulting story has the potential to branch in many possible directions, including, on our night, an amusingly random decision not to send the hero on the quest at all. Performers Tim Dawkins and Edwin Wright keep up a buoyant energy and humour that sweep the audience along through various twists and turns. What might become episodic in nature forms a surprisingly coherent meditation on destiny and choices, while also extracting maximum humour from the quest book genre. They’ve hit on a winner here in terms of encouraging second viewings, as we were intrigued to come back and witness other possible variations. Just how were they planning to use the Theresa May prop?
Decide-A-Quest are currently working on a horror version, keep an eye out for news here: http://theatreofathousandnames.co.uk/
Rob Deb: A Marvel Comic
Reviewed: 31st May 2017 | Venue: Laughing Horse@The Quadrant
Rob Deb was a highlight of the Superhero debate, a Fringe Festival stalwart in which comedians choose a character and make the case to be voted the best in an audience vote. Rob stood in as temporary compere, and we were impressed by both his command of the crowd and esoteric nerd knowledge, so we checked out his solo show. In a chat afterwards, Rob explained the difficulties of gauging suitable material for an audience that might include hardcore fans capable of understanding obscure references to the differences between Marvel Universe 616 and 1610, mixed in with those who like watching Thor with his top off. This has left Rob an ability to switch subjects according to reaction, and he also includes jokes about his own experiences in various jobs, and an amusing routine about the survival skills once necessary in day-to-day life pre-mobile phone.
Keep an eye out for Rob as he’s currently planning gigs in London and Croydon. He also appears at various comic conventions.
Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus: The Superhero Show
Reviewed: 6th May 2017 | Venue: St George’s Church
And now for a completely different take on the Superhero genre. Performing several times a year in Brighton, as well as touring to various choral festivals throughout the world, the Gay Men’s Chorus chose the theme of Caped Crusaders for their May show. In this full-length concert with interval, the first half showcases songs ranging from Maria Carey’s Hero to Pulp’s Common People. Then, when everyone is nicely warmed up, the second half sees the showbiz element ramped up, with the whole choir donning Superhero costumes. It’s a touch surreal to watch the likes of Deadpool and Scooby Doo belting out Go West. In a performance both moving and ridiculous, Wonderwoman sings a heartfelt version of Holding Out for a Hero. The last song, where the main choir splits into two and performs from both the balcony and on stage, is truly spectacular.
The Chorus turn a concert into a joyous occasion and it’s worth a trip to Brighton to see them. Their next show is on the 28th and 29th July at St George’s Church in Kemptown, in a pre-Brighton Pride Showtunes special.
John Callaghan’s Cabaret Electro
Reviewed: 30th May 2017 | Venue: Spiegeltent Bosco
We end where we start, at the Bosco Theatre. We picked this show on the basis of a brochure entry featuring a calm photo of John surrounded by twinkling lights, promising a restful evening of electronic music and special effects. Perhaps a bit like Kraftwerk with a few more props, we thought. We were wrong. On entering the venue, we were confronted by a genial man dressed in a costume of a tiger on the shoulders of a chef, promising that he was starting with his most accessible number. First impressions didn’t disappoint, as we were taken on a trip that delivered all you could desire from a gig: frenetic energy, a sense of the theatre, a never-ending parade of inventive home-made costumes, and Brian Eno quotes. Most importantly, John’s songs exhibit a lively intelligence when you look beyond the showmanship, as the lyrics and their presentation combine to create a performance at once spectacular and profound. Quite simply, one of the most inspirational music acts we have ever experienced.
Keep tabs on John’s current music videos and upcoming gigs here: http://johncallaghan.co.uk/