Friday 28 June 2013

Read All About It!

New publications to hit the Buxton streets this week - all include details on the Fringe and the Buxton Festival:
1] Pure Buxton - a full-colour, free publication with news and stories on life in the town. The back cover looks Fringey and orange - but it's not our ad! Includes an interview with Buxton legend - musician and solicitor Michael Williams, MBE.
2] This week's issue of the town newspaper the Buxton Advertiser - has a 16-page Festival and Fringe supplement, much of which was written by Stephanie Billen who was taking time off from her day job, chairing the Festival Fringe!
3] artsbeat is a newish magazine - "The Independent voice for the arts in Derbyshire and the Peak District". I picked-up my free copy in the Old Hall Hotel. artsbeat is 64 pages packed with information.

Summer is icumen in

I've checked the BBC weather forecast and it's looking dry and warm for the start of the Buxton Festival Fringe next week!

The Fringe kicks-off in earnest on Wednesday but on Monday morning we'll be getting the Information Desk and the noticeboard in Spring Gardens set-up. On Tuesday night - July 2nd - please join us if you can at Underground Venues in the cellars of the Old Hall Hotel for the party to launch Fringe 2013. Starting at 8pm and going through to midnight you can see and hear a whole host of Fringe performers doing bits and pieces from their respective shows. If we're lucky the new Fringe beer will be ready to help us all celebrate!

Fringe Sunday - July 7th - runs from 2.00-4.30pm and is based around the Bandstand in the Pavilion Gardens. We have a programme for the show now and our good friends the Belly Dance Flames have kindly posted it on their website for us. The forecast is for 27 degrees on Fringe Sunday - let's have no complaints about it being too hot!

Yesterday saw the launch of an exciting new initiative for Buxton - the Buxton Spa Prize is a competition for artists to paint scenes of the town en plein air. Now my French is about as good as my brushstrokes so I'll need you to do some research on this one. All I do know is that there is a first prize of £5,000 and that the competition takes place next Spring. Artists can find out more by going to the website.

Finally, for now, the Buxton Festival begins on Friday July 5th with a French double-bill. Saint-Saens' La Princesse Jaune will be followed by Gounod's La Colombe. The word is that the set design by Lez Brotherston is stunning. Some tickets are still available and if you are lucky enough to be under 30 you can get one for just £5. You'll be doubly blessed! 

Friday 14 June 2013

Pump It Up (with apologies to E Costello)

Just a brief update on music from the Pump House Roof! During the course of the Fringe there will 9 music performances from the Roof of the Pump House. I think the plan is to take a rug, sit on the Slopes, lay back and enjoy it. Alternatively you can get up and dance.
Anyway this is the programme:
Saturday 6th - 2.00pm - The Arkham Karvers
Sunday 7th - 1.00pm - Rebecca de Winter
Friday 12th - 1.00pm - Lesson Six
Sunday 14th - 1.00pm - Part Baked
Tuesday 16th - 1.00pm - Africa Entsha
Wednesday 17th - 3.00pm - Nine Feet North
Thursday 18th - 1.00pm - Africa Entsha
Saturday 20th - 1.00pm - Jungle Fiction
Sunday 21st - 1.00pm - Burbage Brass Band

The gigs are free. Now I don't know much about some of these outfits - so if you can tell us more please add comments, links etc.

Thursday 13 June 2013

Countdown - 20, 19...

More or less 20 days to go for the start of Buxton Fringe 2013 - are we ready? Let's check off a list:
1] Programme Launch Event - that happened on June 7th. Nice relaxed and friendly event at The Green Man Gallery. Wine from Portland Wine. So - TICK!
2] Fringe Launch Party Preview - Underground Venues at the Old Hall Hotel on Tuesday July 2nd at 8pm. FREE PARTY (well you'll have to buy drink - but free entertainment). So - another TICK!
3] Fringe Sunday - July 7th 2.00-4.30pm. Our own party and picnic in the Pavilion Gardens. Acts booked, Fringe banner and ladders ready, balloon modelling organised, Connect 4 and big dominos sorted. So - TICK!
4] Buxton Town Carnival - Saturday July 13th, starting at 2pm. The Fringe Committee has a truck for the day, hay bales, loads of orange stuff to decorate with and a fierecely competitive team aiming to win another prize. Yet another TICK!
5] Fringe 2013 Awards Event - Sunday July 21st at the University of Derby, Buxton Dome. The wine is ready (Portland Wine again). But the winners have yet to be decided. But we're ready to see and hear and argue and agree. TICK!
6] New t-shirts and yards and yards of new Fringe bunting have been ordered. TICK!
7] A lovely team of people have been recruited to staff the Fringe Information Desk from 3rd July. TICK!
So what is there left to do? Well, I've yet to track down a bottle of the new Fringe Ale - so help might be needed there. Apart from that we're ready. Are you?

Wednesday 12 June 2013

The magic of the screen...

Indulge me if you will and I promise just one blog on this subject - but I can now tell you what is being screened on July 6th at the Arts Centre Studio by Buxton Film. Buxton Film runs an annual short film competition - saucily called 'Open Shorts' - and a selection of the entries is shown as part of the Fringe. Judging had to be brutal this year to fit in with the 90 minute showtime and in the end just 7 films were selected.

The unanimous choice as winning entry is a film called Driftwood. This is what the reviewer wrote:
This a moving and powerful short film perfectly balancing the elements of a poor, violent and non-communicative background with the wonderful power of sport in helping overcome obstacles and break through restrictions in an environment where there appears to be little opportunity or inspiration. It starts by showing us a young man against the high-rise block of flats where he lives with his father – his face is unmoving, his eyes revealing nothing of what he feels inside, a barrier against emotion and the outside world. He could be just any other thuggish youth. This changes when we see him swimming at the pool – training for a competition. There are some beautifully shot scenes in the water and underwater showing the sheer physical power of movement through water. Unable to find expression in words or communicate in any meaningful way with the prevalent gang culture or his father, this is where he finds release and a goal. Alternating between scenes of potential violence and swimming, it is a gripping and memorable short film.

There was also recognition from the judges for a film made by young people. Bad Element is something of a Harry Potter spoof - with pretty horrifying special effects it has to be said. Made with wit and imagination Bad Element will be screened first at the awards event.

The other five films to be screened are:
The View From The Window is the work of a new, young filmmaking company and tells the story of a patient admitted to hospital with serious injuries who comes to rely on the voice of another patient to reveal the view...
From Little Acorns is a moving story from a Liverpool-based team. Apparently the whole project cost just £300 - not that you'd know it. It tells of the relationship between a young boy and an older man - and the positive lessons the boy learns. Young Louis Macdonald is a wonderfully natural presence on-screen.
Tigerish Waters is the work of Manchester graduate filmmakers using a story by an Irish writer. Filmed on the beaches of Donegal there is a mystical element to this story which has a series of strong visual images.
Keith Large has brought films to Buxton before. Keith draws on narrative, post-war British comedy traditions. His 5 minute The Crisp Strike is an engaging mix of ideas that begins with an industrial dispute on a building site.
Our final film is Shoe On The Other Foot - written and made by Prince Odunze. This is an intense narrative about a couple who struggle to cope when their roles are reversed.

Screening starts at 8pm on July 6th - and at £2 a ticket that has to be a fair deal, doesn't it?

Monday 10 June 2013

Gaining some - and losing some: Seven Studies In Salesmanship

In a Festival as big as the Buxton Fringe there will always be some programme changes. Sadly it means we lose shows we really didn't want to - and a list of any cancellations or other changes are posted on the Programme pages of the website. One loss we were sorry to hear about was the cancellation - after injury - of Big Daddy vs Giant Haystacks. The very good news, however, is that the Foundry Group is bringing a different show to Buxton instead. Seven Studies In Salesmanship ran at Brighton Fringe - to ecstatic reviews. Here's what Fringe Guru said. [You can see Seven Studies at The Railway on July 10th and 11th - just two opportunities for what will be one of the most talked-about shows this Fringe. Tickets can be bought at the Opera House box office].

There’s not much left at the Fringe which can draw a gasp of shock from this jaded, world-weary reviewer. But in Joseph Nixon and Brian Mitchell’s hilariously intelligent Seven Studies In Salesmanship, one precious moment triggered not just a gasp – but a full-on, mouth-wide-open, did-that-really-just-happen choke. Even more remarkably, it’s a PowerPoint slide which stopped my laughter in mid-flow. So go to this show (you really must go to this show)… and see if you can guess which one.
Seven Studies is essentially a sketch show: a series of vignettes linked, occasionally tenuously, by the salesman’s theme.  So there’s the “hard sell”, which contained that pole-axing PowerPoint, and the “celebrity endorsement”, which married finely-crafted throwaway barbs with a genuine critique of our vacuous media.  The “relationship close” takes a much-discussed real-world issue to a rib-tickling extreme, while “damage limitation” dials down the gag count, yielding a funny but touching two-hander that’s so very at home in Brighton.
Don’t expect laugh-a-minute stuff, though; this is rather better than that.  Each of the sketches is constructed as a proper piece of bonsai theatre, starting intriguingly, building slowly, and closing with an often-outrageous revelation.  There are some serious themes too, and for much of the two hours, I was praying for just one of the stories to end on something meatier than a punchline.  I’m pleased to say that Mitchell and Nixon granted my wish… though my goodness, they made me wait for it.
With all four of the cast delivering impressive performances, it feels wrong to single out anyone in particular.  But it would be a travesty to ignore David Mounfield’s appearance in Coppelia, the piece which illustrated the art of the “soft sell”.  As the eager and nervous innocent caught in a longed-for yet terrifying scenario, his demeanour was a joy, his expression the perfect match for what I was thinking.  Still, that’s just one example: I could equally talk about the cheery-but-vulnerable charity worker, the parodically well-rehearsed estate agent, the astronaut struggling to convey the concept of urgency to an over-solicitous sales rep.

As part of the cheap-and-cheerful £5 Fringe, this performance is packed into a room behind a pub – with co-writer Brian Mitchell also serving as tech guy, chief door-opener, and sometime stage-hand.  I actually quite liked the homely nature of it all, and it’s is a good match of a high-energy show to what can be a rather noisy space.  But I do wonder whether the direction paid enough heed to the lack of raked seating or raised stage.  From my position halfway back, it turned into a radio play whenever the actors sat down… and they sat down more than they absolutely had to.

There were occasional lulls in the pace – not an unusual criticism, on a show’s first night – but there’s already a nice attention to detail, right down to the American salesman who’s tried to impress his Scottish client by wearing a tartan tie.  So there’s self-evident five-star potential in Seven Studies In Salesmanship, once they’ve had a few performances to properly tune it, and either moved up to a better venue or adjusted to its current one.  But don’t wait till then; it’s a delight as it stands.  See it now.

Monday 3 June 2013

Africa Entsha - 5 stars in Brighton

Africa Entsha will be performing in a number of places during the Buxton Fringe - including our own party-in-the-park Fringe Sunday on July 7th. Meanwhile they are touring England and here is what the reviewer in Brighton had to say.

A Cappella prevails across Edinburgh Fringe in August. Less so in Brighton in May.
Five young men, casual suited, warm-hearted and loaded with stories from African history. This is, in fact, largely song and movement, rhythm and harmony. The hour flies by and so many songs are packed in, the pace never lets up. 
It isn't the English weather that has brought this fine five to our shores but an infectious restlessness to share. (They even sang happy birthday to someone in the lobby afterwards)!
The sheer verve, energy, talent and courageous simplicity makes this an unmissable experience at the Old Courtroom. The quality of all five is very high and none upstages - they've set the level consistently across the quintet. There are different leads for, and during, different songs, but these aren't just songs - there's narrative in the way they move, micro-stories spring up and fade suddenly away like a speeded up movie of a garden over a year. The variety is a feast for the eyes and the ears, as singing and talking blend with dancing and stepping, gesturing and smiling. Individuals pop out of the group and we engage with them as the supporting four do just that - support in the background. This blend of ensemble and emergence of individual set pieces keeps the variety of the show fresh, unpredicatble and vibrant.
Between singing are interludes of spoken introduction and explanation - not too much to get in the way of playful ensemble step work, clapping and body rhythm and, of course,  music born of Life's energy. We find out things, but mostly we lap up things.
We learn about music and about South Africa along the way. We watch them range the styles of music from around the world and through the years but root in the African Heart with ten feet, a hundred fingers and some tongue clicking for easy expert percussion.
They've created a unique style and, in places, we are in the playful jazz of life and song.  In a few other places its almost too busy for its own good. But so often five human voices take flight and the song soars that  you just have to accept that, like a fast-paced comedy, you won't take it all in first time round. Let it wash over you, and through you.
I enjoyed the bits of spoken narrative and wish they didn't disappear towards the end. The second half became more of a parade of songs but each was different, infectiously foot tapping, and full of heart.
These are set pieces, each with its own visual narrative and, and best of all, it's own unique mood. This is theatre, this is cabaret, this is dance and this is music gig all rolled into one with a decent dose of playful comedy. It's this variety in the mix that adds to the outstanding brew. A history of music and culture, never too intense yet intense in its impact. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and have to tell you this is one of the hottest tickets at the Old Courtroom.
Outstanding: Outstanding because of the unique alchemy, blending comedy, dance, physical ensemble movement, spoken word and rhythm in a way that creates vibrant, life-affirming impact. Huge talent, clever choreography delivered with a collective natural style - a celebration of much, in a way that pitches itself with its audience not to it.  And these young performers achieve this with maturity and poise that serves as a sure-footed through line throughout the entire show.
And the message? Never let go of your dreams. Thank you, Africa Entsha, for bringing your sunshine to a rather chilly Brighton. Here's five well deserved stars in return.

Reviewed by Paul Levy 23rd May 2013