From Margate to the Edinburgh Festival

Clod EnsembleThe Edinburgh Festival is noisy, chaotic and colourful and has been since the end of the Second World War. But then, it’s not one festival; it’s over 40 separate festivals, happening at roughly the same time. Collectively they have a massive impact on the local visitor economy. Last year, the Edinburgh Fringe alone ran for 25 days and featured over 3100 shows from 51 countries in nearly 300 venues. On top of that nearly 1000 groups contributed to the street festival. The combined festivals generate over £260 million pounds for the Scottish economy and support nearly 10,000 jobs.

Importantly, the Edinburgh Festival gives people a chance to move from the familiar to new and uncharted territory. To step from shows, performers and companies they know to new experiences. 64% of visitors agreed that the Festivals had made them more likely to take greater risks in things they went to in the future, and 53% were more likely to attend other events because of the festival. Fortunately, audiences in East Kent don’t need the long train journey north to find shows with the quality, diversity and intensity of the Edinburgh Festival.

You could find Les Enfants Terribles, Peaceful Lion, New Old Friends, Kill The Beast, Tall Stories, Gavin Robertson, Sell a Door Theatre, Tara Arts, Worboys Productions, Clod Ensemble, Scamp Theatre, Show and Tell Company, Chameleon Dance Theatre, Nicholas Collett Productions, Theatre of Widdershins and Daniel Bye at the Edinburgh Festival. Or you could see them all at the Theatre Royal.

The building at the edge of Margate town centre might be seen as rather more historic than cutting edge, but in fact the programming (by Pam Hardiman) has made the second oldest theatre in the country a neat counterweight to Turner Contemporary on the seafront. While Turner Contemporary brings edgy artists like Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller and Grayson Perry to a new brutalist building, the Theatre Royal fills a historic space that’s all red velvet and crinkly plasterwork with those artists’ equivalents in theatre.

Some Edinburgh highlights

Shit Girlfriend

7-23 August, Fingers Piano Bar

Think dating a musician is all glamour? Think again – gloom-pop solo artist She Makes War takes you through 10 reasons it’s a terrible idea. ‘It’s like someone playing with their phone in bed and ignoring you but, like, all the time.’ Sharing tales of real life on the road and ill-fated attempts at finding love along the way, plus explaining why music is the best boyfriend ever, this show is an enchanting blend of humorous spoken word and atmospheric melancholy music performance, via discussions on the workings of the creative brain, and internet versus IRL relationships.

The Red Chair

24-30 August, 10am The Demonstration Room, Summerhall,

A delicious feast for the imagination that tells the fabulous tale of a man who eats himself into his chair, The Red Chair lies somewhere between a Grimms’ Tale, an absurdist ghost story and a parent’s guide on how not to bring up children. As seen in a Theatre Royal presentation at Turner Contemporary. Written and performed by Sarah Cameron. A Clod Ensemble show (who also brought the Red Ladies to Margate), produced in association with Fuel

Going Viral

Through August; venue tbc

A new virus is sweeping the globe. A plague of weeping. You work in online marketing. This wasn’t what you bargained for. And why do you seem to be immune? By the writer and performer who brought Story Hunt to Margate.

Portrait

5-29 August (not 17, 24) 1:20pm Pleasance Dome, 10 Dome

A frank and funny look at the trials and tribulations of modern existence seen through the eyes of a young black woman. Candid and satirical, this playfully complelling one-woman show uses music, poetry and dance to ask the critical question: just how does a girl make it these days? An exciting debut solo show from rising talent Racheal Ofori. Directed for Edinburgh by Kate Hewitt.

I Am Not Myself These Days

5-30 August (not 17, 24) 4.15pm Pleasance Courtyard, Beneath

A surprising tale of love and loss, set amidst the excesses of 1990s New York, adapted from Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s bestselling autobiography. By turns brutal, funny and heartfelt this one man show evokes a time when Josh found himself working as a drag queen, battling alcoholism, and desperately trying to make a relationship work with Jack, a high-class crack addicted rent boy.Written and performed by Tom Stuart and directed by Nick Bagnall.

The Red Chair

Great theatre gets inside you, and leaves its shadows across the world when you look at it afterwards.

David Glass Ensemble’s production of Gormenghast, which I probably saw more than 20 years ago, had that effect. The world looked different afterwards. Darker, more shadowed, layered. It still does. Theatre De Complicite did the same to me. So did the work of Bruce Gilchrist.

When I watched the preview of Clod Ensemble’s new show The Red Chair, I had a similar feeling. Like David Glass Ensemble and Complicite, the show conjures a dark, twisted world and tells a long tale on stage.

But while David Glass and Complicite rely on a whole company, The Red Chair creates that intensity with just one actor on stage.

Sarah Cameron wrote The Red Chair and performs it. It’s two hours long. It’s an intense, physical experience, for her and for the audience – there’s no interval, no respite. Cameron makes a decaying household from words and once she’s created that place she tells the story of a man who eats and eats until he becomes swallowed by the chair he was sitting in, and the story of his wife who feeds him, and the story of their forgotten child. She drags you through a Grim(ms) Fairytale, full of lush lyrical language and tumbling poetry.

The world she creates looks, I think, a little like this:

Follow Dan Thompson’s board Red Chair on Pinterest.

The set doesn’t: it’s just Cameron, a chalk circle to contain the things she conjures, and a wooden chair. There’s a shot of whisky and some chocolate for the audience. They only reinforce the sense that this is some dark mass, some strange ritual.

The Red Chair is coming to Margate. Go, and I promise you won’t ever forget it.

 

 

 

#mymargate

In the in 18 months since moving to Margate, I’ve been to more theatre than in the 15 years before that, when I was living in Worthing. I’ve been spoiled – drowning in a sea of good shows, great performances, interesting interventions across the town. I’ve seen Steven Berkoff, an army of mysterious Red Ladies spreading across the town, a crazed sequel to The Tempest, shows about explorers alone in a hut somewhere and the workers in the huts at Bletchley Park. I’ve experienced 366 Days of Kindness which had a bit of me in it, watched The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Reduced), spent an evening with John Cooper Clarke, and seen the rebirth of repertory in Paines Plough’s Roundabout. One good thing after another, more than I can see (I kick myself for the things that I’ve missed). The programming by the Theatre Royal has been to theatre what Turner Contemporary’s shows have been to the visual arts.

So now, in a small way, I’m returning to theatre, which is where my career in the arts started. I’m helping to bring new people to see a series of shows, as part of Fuel’s  New Theatre In Your Neighbourhood project, funded by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

The next show as part of that programme is Feral In Margate.

Feral combines puppetry, film, digital technology and live sound to create and destroy a world in front
 of its audience’s eyes. Joe looks back at the town of his childhood. Bright, vibrant and idyllic the world resembles a haven of comfort. But as the walls are peeled back, the story of a community’s fall unfolds around him.

Feral seamlessly blends film and live performance. Puppeteers manipulate and bring to life a tiny world, while simultaneously creating a live animation, as they follow its every breath via a digital camera.

The show is being remade for Margate, and to build on that, we’re asking people to film their favourite Margate place, and upload it with the #mymargate hashtag. Nothing fancy: I shot my contribution on my phone, in less than three minutes. All entrants’ films will be screened before the Feral in Margateperformance on Friday 13th March and the winner will receive a bespoke puppet from the show, a piece of the set and a £50 John Lewis Voucher