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James Haddrell speaks on the Edinburgh Fringe festival and the financial impact on theatre goers

One of the most exciting moments in the theatre calendar is undoubtedly the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, where thousands of companies fight it out for the attention of audiences and critics, make new professional connections, hone their craft and launch new work.

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre

I’ve often written before about the increasingly prohibitive cost of taking a show to Edinburgh.

So many emerging artists and companies want to do it, but with the average audience number in single digits and with accommodation and venue providers charging exorbitant fees, it’s tougher every year.

What is often less considered, but has a similar impact on the festival participants, is the cost for audiences to attend the festival.

The appetite is still there but with the same economic barriers affecting attendance as a punter, audiences are dropping.

It is becoming more and more important then, both as income generators for the companies and as affordable opportunities for audiences, for companies to present fringe try-outs at venues around the country before the fringe starts, and post-fringe transfer performances after the festival is over.

At Greenwich Theatre, we’ve put together our own “pick of the fringe” for October, sharing a wide range of shows with audiences in South-east London.

I’ll introduce a selection of the shows this week, and a further list next week, but we kick off our fringe highlights with Lucy Stevens in the theatrical cabaret, Gertrude Lawrence – A lovely way to spend an evening (October 5).

The show allows audiences to meet the 1930s star of musical comedy as she tells her own story in her own words, complete with songs from Variety and Revue to hits by Noël Coward and Kurt Weill.

Nominated for an Off-Fest award, Fringe Review said “the audience was enthralled from the first moment and laughed and cried”.

Another Off-Fest nominee is Sad-Vents (October 10&11), described by writer-performer Eleanor Hill as a tech-heavy tragicomedy using live streaming, projections and music to explore the hilarious and heart-breaking realities of mental health, heartbreak and trauma in the age of social media.

Having secured a host of four- and five-star reviews, the show also won the Neurodiverse Review Exceptional Theatre award at the fringe this year.

A very different type of show, described by The Independent as “both profound and devastating” and as “absolutely a must-see” by Broadway Baby, Madeleine Farnhill’s post-apocalyptic horror The Hunger is the third show featured at Greenwich to have picked up an Off-Fest nomination.

Directed by Natalie Simone (who featured here last week as director of The Ugly One, currently playing at The Hope Theatre in Islington), the show follows the fortunes of Megan and Deborah who live alone on their farm in the Yorkshire Dales.

However, what was once their home has now become their only refuge from an increasingly dangerous outside world.

They have their farm, their food and each other.

But when their fragile harmony is sent into a dark, downward spiral, the cost of survival is chillingly laid bare.

With many more shows to follow, a trip to Greenwich in October really should offer a glimpse of the very best of this year’s fringe, without having to take the train ride to Scotland.

 

 

Picture: Eleanor Hill in Sad-Vents. Picture: Murdo MacLeod

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