Fringe benefit

With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe becoming an exercise in artistic conservatism, branding and over- pricing, ANDY ARNOLD reckons the solution lies in starting fringe festivals of our own.

Words: Steve Cramer

ow. you might not all go back as far as my first Fringe in 1985. If you don’t. bear with me fora moment of prehistorical nostalgia. In those days. the Fringe was about taking a low cost punt on a show. and if it didn't turn out to be a world changer. what the hell. it‘d only cost you a quid or two.

I remember quite clearly complaining bitterly about the cost of the most expensive show I saw (Fry and Laurie at the Assembly Rooms) at £4. and worrying that I‘d spent £11 seeing five shows in a single. long. day. These days. only us critics who get in free. could see so much without remortgaging the house first.

As costs have escalated. the free and easy spirit that had previously existed among audiences has declined. These days. if you‘re going to fork out a fortune to get in. a known name is what you look for. so smaller companies. who might be doing inventive work don’t get a look in.

With The Arches Festival Of New Scottish Theatre. artistic director Andy Arnold feels he‘s found a remedy. ()ver six weeks. eighteen productions will be presented throughout the many spaces at the Arches with a combination of new works. revived works in progress and readings from small to medium scale companies lilling most of the bill.

"The main bonus is the cost.‘ he says. ‘We've got a ticket deal where you can buy three tickets and the third and cheapest is free. Since even the most

‘We’re hoping to attract young audiences, and people who don’t want to pay for high priced theatre tickets’

Through a glass lightly

expensive productions are still relatively cheap. we're hoping to attract young audiences. and people who don’t want to pay for high priced theatre tickets. With as many as five shows going on at the same time on some days. were hoping to create a real buzz around the place..

There are too many shows to discuss here. but there are a few highlights worth a mention. The Arches company itself will be involved with .S'n'imming. the theatre debut of writer and director Frank [)easy. His work for television has included Looking Alter Jr) .10. which saw Robert Carlyle star as a well-connected drug dealer on the mean streets of an lidinburgh estate. This piece. which Arnold describes as ‘a taut psychological thriller‘ sees a violent relationship develop between a psychotherapist. one of his patients. and his daughter.

Pauline Goldsmith's Brig/II Colours ()n/y wowed audiences at Tramway last year. and its return is most welcome. Belfast actress Goldsmith recreates an Irish wake for us in this piece. and were treated to many a poignant and funny reflection on the modern style of dying. This one deserves to be a hot ticket.

So. too. the return of Dzva's Three ll’bmen. an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s poem exploring pregnancy. motherhood and gender. David Leddy‘s ()n The Edge. a clever parody of the semiotics of the British detective story. should also be a treat. Most of the festival places emphasis on contemporary visual and physical theatre. giving the whole shebang an innovative feel.

With New Territories still ongoing. and a mini- festival of contemporary theatre in lidinburgh from the Gilded Balloon linsemble (its three productions are reviewed on the following pages) there's no shortage of the kind of theatre to keep the old spirit of the fringe alive through dark winter nights. linioy.

The Arches Festival Of New Scottish Theatre runs from Wed 6 Mar until Sat 13 Apr. Check listings for details.


Stage Whispers

The talk of the green room

RECENT NEWS THAT KENNY Ireland will not be renewing his tenure as artistic director of the Royal Lyceum theatre has brought about a welter of speculation in the theatre world. Who will replace Ireland after his nine-year tenure at the Lyceum ends in 2003? If the board chooses to go outside Scotland for the appointment, so be it, but it seems to Whispers that any number of local candidates might do well in the post.

Tony Cownie has worked on a number of projects at the Lyceum in recent years, and judged in terms of the standard of his directing at the Lyceum, is hard to fault. Muriel Romanes also has a long association with the company as, like Cownie, both actor and director. A name less often associated with the Lyceum, David Mark Thomson might also be available for the post if the appallingly misguided decision of the SAC and East Lothian Council not to fund the Brunton company is upheld. All three look strong candidates and there appears little to choose between them. Whispers will keep you informed of developments.

TAG’s Making Changes

THE COMMENDABLE commitment of TAG to develOping yOng people's awareness of both politics and theatre ntight well pay off this month. Making Changes. the latest phase in

TAG “s fOur-year Makl 7g The Nation protect culminate in a three-day c0ngress in Edrnburgh from 13 to 15 March. This will allow students from 28 secondan, SChOOIs around Scotland to participate in drama-cased activities and to bring debate ab0ut Our culture's youth to a number of MSPs. It is to be hoped that the interests of both y'Otirig Deop’e and the II". atre ‘.‘.’lll be advanced by the event.

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