Living on the fringes

Continuing my thought process from the other day regarding how the space of the fringe is defined, I’m now thinking what happens when this space is home? How does the fringe setting up camp alter the way you perceive – or exist in – the place you live? Does it have any effect at all, or can the fringe just pass you by?

I’ve lived in the same city as Brighton Fringe for four years and yet it wasn’t until this year that I’ve really gotten stuck into it. And yes obviously this has a lot to do with the fact that I’m putting on a show this year, but does it also mean you need some sort of special participant’s key to truly unlock the world of the festival?

It’s true that this year I’ve certainly felt the buzz of excitement a lot more, and I also think this year the fringe has really taken over the city a lot more. Just look at the excellent Dip Your Toe project from the Nightingale and the Marlborough Theatre to get an idea of what I mean. Currently lots of Brighton landmarks are somewhat altered, and it’s due to a large Victorian bathing machine being there.

The Dip Your Toe project is all about the fact that performance can happen anywhere (Peter Brook anyone?), these bathing machines make up an “interactive performance adventure in the streets of Brighton” and have been applauded as the most exciting commission of this year’s fringe. Something unusual happening somewhere ordinary; art brought to everyday locations and making a scene. Is this not what geographical location based fringe festivals do themselves? Or should be doing…

A fringe festival in your own city probably can pass you by, or its benefits and greatness possibly can as I doubt anyone can fail to notice the hordes of performers milling around – especially in Edinburgh in August. Because the thing is, as I said in my previous post, why would you even look at a brochure if you weren’t interested in theatre?

The great thing about such a geographically based fringe festival is that it isn’t contained within an arts venue, but has an entire city to play with/in. Let’s embrace such festivals’ abilities to turn a normal walk into town into an adventure, to render the everyday exciting and the mundane surreal. If, as artists, we feel that theatre can have an effect on the world and the everyday lives we live (I’m not suggesting groundbreaking world changes here, but simply anything) then we should use such festivals as a platform to showcase that.

The space of the fringe, probably, in such cases is defined by the places where you can no longer feel its energy and its magic anymore. Where you know you’re back in the real world where nothing’s quite so special. The question of how large that space is is open but it shouldn’t just be limited to the participant’s hub.

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