The Lowry at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017

Edinburgh Skyline

Daniel Jarvis – Marketing Manager

If you have never tried out the Edinburgh Festival then I honestly couldn’t recommend it more, but be prepared to wear yourself out: Go hard or go home! In equal parts exhausting and inspirational, this international pick’n’mix of performance is part marathon, part theatre Mardi Gras. My experience at Edinburgh Festival this year was a brief (just 48 hours!) but enriching one.

 It was great to see Manchester punching its weight at the festival. At Assembly Rooms I was able to catch Gypsy Queen by Mancunian writer Rob Ward, a fantastically well-performed two hander that confronts the tensions between fragile masculinities and sexuality within the realm of boxing. At Summerhall, irrepressible Manchester personality Kate O’Donnell bared her soul (and more!) in You’ve Changed. A candid exploration of how attitudes towards gender are still dragging their feet, it really felt like Kate was holding no punches in expressing her frustration. It will be a treat to give this show it’s Greater Manchester premiere in November.

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Much of my time in Edinburgh was spent at Summerhall. If you’re into the quirky, the challenging, the wacky or the genre-busting then this is the venue for you. A former veterinary school, the building’s Victorian architecture really adds to the feeling that this is a place where real experimentation happens. I saw over six pieces here, ranging from an articulate inarticulation of the experience of chronic pain (The Shape of Pain by China Plate Theatre) to being shut inside a shipping container for blind experience of an enacted Séance, however there are two highlights I must mention.

The Letter Room’s No Miracles Here shows the full potential of gig-theatre with a deeply resonant exploration of the fragility of male mental health set in an almost dystopic Northern Soul dance marathon, full of lost souls looking for some sort of….reason to keep going. Only an hour long I really felt like I went long into the night with these disparate characters, and came out blinking into the morning feeling fragile, yet uplifted. Finally Fell Swoop Theatre moved me to simultaneous tears and laughter with Palmyra. I could go on about how it was a deeply affecting illustration of the human condition and our will to manipulate and other those who don’t share our views… or that it’s heartbreakingly anchored within recent conflicts within Syria without being bogged down in… but at its core Palmyra mixes clowning and pathos to explore a beautiful yet self-destructive relationship between the two performers, Bert and Nasi.

My tip for Edinburgh Festival 2018? Spend more than 48 hours there!

Steve Cowton – Head of Theatre Operations

 I’ve been going to the Festival for over 20 years now and approach it like a military operation – working out a meticulous schedule to fit in as many shows as possible while allowing for at least fifteen minutes in between shows and accounting for the unique geography of the city (what may appear like a steady walk on a map can become an impossible dash up a steep hill in reality…).

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I was in Edinburgh for six days and managed to see 54 different productions in 12 different venues –  Theatre Programmers use the Edinburgh Festival as a glorified trade show – allowing us to see a lot of different shows over a very concentrated period of time. And I was lucky this year – most of the shows I saw were interesting a high proportion were genuinely excellent.

My particular interest is contemporary circus and I really enjoyed a Swedish show called Fauna – which won the Total Theatre Award for circus and can actually be seen at the Lowry in September. I also saw a brilliant all-woman Scottish show called – ironically – No Show which I’ll certainly be booking, and caught up with my favourite company – Australian maestros Circa and their fabulous new show Humans.

But in many ways – it’s the unexpected delights that really define the Festival: I saw an amazing version of Beckett’s Not I performed by a performer with Tourette’s syndrome, I was moved to tears by comedian Phill Jupitus performing a play in a language he couldn’t understand in Nassim, I was locked inside a pitch-black shipping container for a genuinely spooky Séance and I ended my Festival with an amazing Canadian play called Old Stock featuring Klezmer music performed by Ben Caplan. You never know what you might stumble across in Edinburgh – its only three or four years ago that I saw the first version of The Play That Goes Wrong as one of an audience of 150 – the show has since gone on to be one of the biggest selling hits in the West End and on Broadway.

I always return from Edinburgh with sore feet – and ready for a holiday – but with a renewed enthusiasm and passion for the power and beauty of live theatre. In these days of huge blockbuster extravaganzas it’s nice to be reminded of the simple power of good performers to amaze, move and entertain audiences.

I’m already planning my itinerary for next August.

Matthew Eames – Theatres Programmer and Producer

I always approach August with equal parts fear/loathing and intense excitement – it’s Edinburgh festival time! And while it’s obviously a brilliant thing and a real perk of what I do, starting to prepare my schedule drives me completely potty!

Edinburgh is a special city at any time of the year but during the fringe the buzz is just amazing and once I arrive at Waverley station, the buzz grips me and inspires me for a week of fevered theatre-watching. I normally take in around 8 shows a day from 10/11 in the morning to 11/12 at night. As a result I never eat enough and always fail to plan decent breaks. Part of the fun! Venues wise I, like many other producers and programmers, tend to tread a familiar track between Summerhall, Traverse, the Pleasance venues and the Assembly venues in the old town. Artists/companies/promoters beware – I, again like many industry folk, will rarely step foot in the new town (unless that is where we happen to lay our heads at the end of the day).

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This year I caught loads of good shows and many will find their way into the programme (I hope). Particular theatre highlights would be Education, Education, Education by Wardrobe Ensemble – a great piece of theatre that puts us in a school in 1997 the day after Labour get in; Lilith the Jungle Girl by the Australian company Sisters Grimm – a bizarre but brilliant satirical take on the wild jungle child myths; Police Cops in Space from The Pretend Men – hilarious follow up on the original pastiche and No Miracles Here – a musical story from The Letter Room set at a Northern Soul dance marathon. I also took in a host of dance, family and stand up shows  – Snigel & Friends, Children are Stinky and Mat Ewins would be my picks. All genres are represented in our programme so it is important to see it all.

There was just enough time for catching up with peers and old friends – talking shop or otherwise – usually in the courtyard at Summerhall. It’s an important part of Edinburgh and a good opportunity to press reset and remember that there is a larger industry out there (beyond Greater Manchester) and there are many many more people who are trying to fight the good fight and bring great performances to everyone in the UK (not just those who live in or around London).

Right. Enough. I should get on with booking in a few more shows. As I always say, it’s a terrible job.

To find out more about our upcoming shows, click here.