Having recently been extremely lazy about blogging (sorry guys) my most avid theatre-going friend suggested that we take our free Wednesday evening not just to consume copious glasses of wine in a dark bar but to do it instead while watching some innovative fringe theatre pieces. No-brainer really.
Having endured a 3 minute, 15 second voicemail from said friend about the options we had for theatre performances on Wednesday, we plumped for the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, a tiny but well established theatre space attached to the Prince Albert pub, two minutes from Notting Hill Tube station. Large red wines in hand, we settled down for an evening which turned out to posses the great varied vibe of a minature indoor festival. This was the latest collaborative work from Forest Fringe, established originally in 2007 as a completely independent not-for-profit space in the Edinburgh Festival. The two week residency at the Gate provided a new chance for the company and artists to experiment with a more settled space while maintaining the eclecticism and vibrancy of their Edinburgh programme.
The Wednesday programme involved three main performances, followed by a small collection of archive films. The first was ‘Bird Talk’ a piece of spoken word performed by Emma Bennett, which began as a simple slide show of different breeds of bird accompanied by a speech. However, the piece developed into a subtle yet extremely humorous comment on both the frustrations that technology can cause, and how frustration itself materialises through language. The slides began to jump, stick, and repeat themselves in endless circles– indeed like a fluttering bird in a flap. This was in turn reflected in Bennett’s soft, melodic voice, which, with half-words, stuttering, fluffed lines and swearing, proved to be hilarious.
In a completely different spirit to Bennett’s performance however, the second part of the evening was in the style of an interview after a performance. Former director of Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre Annie Lloyd had teamed up with one of the co-artistic directors of Third Angel in a project to remember the space they had worked together in many times. Inspired by an incident of retrieving a lost set object from under one of the theatre’s radiators and simultaneously noticing how much debris and dust had accumulated there over the years, the collection was named the Dust Archive and was later made into a book of snippet interviews and memories which was available to view during the interval.
Finally came Dan Canham’s contemporary dance piece 30 Cecil Street, combining movement and recorded sound sequences in an attempt to revive the experiences witnessed in the Theatre Royal (or The Limerick Athenaeum) at 30 Cecil Street. Having served as an art college, a political forum, a cinema, a bingo hall, a gig venue, and an opera house as well as a theatre, Canham had a multitude of others’ experiences to draw on. Although clearly an extremely talented performer, and clever in his use of choreography to link up to the fragments of interview playing, one couldn’t help feeling that Canham’s piece was somehow constrained by the low ceiling and limited stage room. I believe that the clash of echoey voices and high energy movement would be more successful within a larger space. However, I have since found a video of Canham performing 30 Cecil Street in 2009 in the Theatre Royal (see below), which is altogether more dramatic and captivating.
Forest Fringe are an exciting troupe of fresh-thinking individuals who come together and produce intelligent and thoroughly entertaining performances, where there is something for everyone to enjoy. Look out for them at this year’s Latitude and Edinburgh Festival!
Emma Bennett: recorded version of ‘Bird Talk’ http://soundcloud.com/emma-l-bennett/birdtalk-2