Don’t look now but May is almost here, and in Brighton that can mean only one thing. The Brighton Fringe returns again this year (5 May-4 June) for another jam-packed month of all things cultural. The Fringe is the largest arts festival in England, with 2017’s edition featuring 970 events spread across 155 venues! Theatre, comedy, cabaret, music, dance – the Brighton Fringe has it all. We’ve picked out a few events for you to circle in your programmes and book tickets in advance.
Theatre is always one of the highlights of the Brighton Fringe, and this year there will be 260 theatre shows from which to choose! The big productions out include the touring production of Trainspotting which drops down in the Sweet King Alfred’s for six days, 16-21 May. If you didn’t get enough of a dose from the recent T2, this is another chance to reacquaint yourself with Renton, Begbie and the rest. There’s also an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke. The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy returns to a Victorian world with this gothic thriller. The Escapade production at the Sweet St. Andrew’s will be the perfect treat for all the family.
There’s a particularly dark trend to theatre at this year’s Fringe, so if you are a fan of the horrifying and bleak you’ll have plenty to choose from. One of the hot tips for this year’s festival is Dangled, the adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s ‘Diary of a Madmen’, performed by multi-award winning actor Rob van Vuuren. The South African production has been receiving rave reviews and arrives at the Fringe through winning the highly competitive Pebble Trust International Bursary – definitely one to catch! Also on show is Hang, the dramatization of an apocalyptic future where a woman is sentenced to the death penalty. The play runs from the 22 to 28 May. Finally, an old favourite Brighton Killers returns to the Old Police Cells to bring the city’s well-known murderers back to life. This ghoulish and unconventional piece will certainly send a shiver down the spine.
Time to start laughing! With 320 comedy shows at the Fringe this year, there is no end of shows from which to choose. Scott Gibson is one of the biggest stand-up acts on the 2017 programme. The Glaswegian won best newcomer at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe and now returns with his new show Life After Death, an intrusive look at his discovery of a dormant brain tumour. A London favourite Colin Hoult also makes the trip down to the south coast with his alternate stage persona Anna Mann. Hoult’s shows are renowned for their smart and absurd humour: catch him at The Warren Theatre Box, 16-18 May. A third stand up to see is Sophie Willan. Culture Calling interviewed the rising star of British comedy in March. She’s showing at the Marlborough Theatre, 20-21 May, if you would like to see her live.
Slightly stranger comedic delights are provided by: The Jest, one of the country’s best live sketch show groups; Laid, a one-woman show about a woman obsessed by eggs, directed by cult comedy hit Doc Brown; and Nautilus, an award-winning mime act by Trygve Wakenshaw. See if you can squeeze them all in.
Get your family out of the house and down to the Fringe. Pirate-come-acrobat extraordinaire Arr We There Yet will provide a sensationally silly romp across the high-seas – perfect for any kid. There’s also the laughably ludicrous Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, a kind-hearted piece of children’s theatre aimed at three year olds and above. For slightly older kids, Gerry Cottle WOW! Circus is the ultimate big top act. Running in Preston Park, the celebration of all things circus will have glitz, glamor and plenty of daredevil stunts.
Other events to note down include the brief stop by the touring production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The puppet-based adaptation of the bedtime staple takes over The Warren between 12-14 May and will provide the perfect day out for the very youngest kids. Finally, the Fringe City Family Picnic will run twice this year. This annual favourite collects all the Fringe has to offer for kids into a pair of sunny afternoons. No charge, just turn up.
Fringe City 2016 (c) Xavier Clarke
Music & Dance
The Brighton Fringe always has a healthy side-helping of music and dance. For classical music fans, renowned pianist and conductor Joel Sachs has two concerts at this year’s festival – American Piano Music and the American Contemporary Ensemble. For more contemporary fare, Barb Jungr pays tribute to the now Nobel Prize winning singer-songwriter Bob Dylan with a selection of covers. Jungr has been described by Billy Bragg as “one of the best interpreters of Bob Dylan” and her spectacular voice brings a whole new angle to these well-known tunes.
Moving to dance and there is some interesting new work on show. Over from the Dutch Fringe is Macho Macho, an inspection of masculinity within a strange and comedic performance. If you prefer to be the one doing the dancing, keep an eye out for Northern Soul All-Afternooner at the Spiegeltent. Three hours of toe-tapping hits, you will be sweating after a day on the dancefloor with this event.
Off the Beaten Track
Nothing caught your fancy yet? Here are some stranger selections. The Brighton Fringe always has an interesting array of site-specific events, and one of this year’s most tantalizing is La Llorona, the Weeping Woman. A Mexican Ghost story set in the building and grounds of Preston Manor with interactive actors and set pieces, it’ll be a spooky night of fun. There are a whole host of Sing-A-Long film screening at the festival this year. Belt your lungs out to Mamma Mia, Frozen and (of course) The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Great for those both in love with, and horrified by, dating. Or why not gorge yourself at the Foodies Festival, 29-1 May? Michelin Star cooks and MasterChef winners – they’re all there offering up the best grub for you to try.