Watch out Edinburgh, here comes the Camden Fringe

PUBLISHED: 13:54 30 July 2008 | UPDATED: 15:16 07 September 2010

Fed up with the high prices north of the border, the two women running the Etcetera Theatre decided they could do just as well in their own manor, writes Katie Masters Edinburgh isn t the only British city to boast a Fringe Festival - London s in on the

Fed up with the high prices north of the border, the two women running the Etcetera Theatre decided they could do just as well in their own manor, writes Katie Masters

Edinburgh isn't the only British city to boast a Fringe Festival - London's in on the act too.

True, the Camden Fringe doesn't yet have the pedigree or the international status of its northern counterpart - but its founders, 33-year-old Michelle Flower and Zena Barrie, 31, argue that it has other things in its favour.

"The Camden Fringe was a response to Edinburgh - a criticism in a way.

"Shows in Edinburgh go for £12 a ticket, it costs a lot to get there and, during the festival, hotels and restaurants put their prices up. It's too expensive.

"We used to go every year. But three years ago, we thought, 'This is silly. Why don't we just do the same thing here in London?'"

The pair were already running the Etcetera Theatre in Camden High Street. So, in 2006, they used it as the venue for the first Camden Fringe.

Last year, things got bigger and better, as they expanded into the Liberties Bar, a cabaret space at 100 Camden High Street.

And this year, another venue has been added to the mix - The Camden People's Theatre at 58-60 Hampstead Road.

"The idea is that we stick to small, 50-seater venues, so that the performers don't have to bust a gut to get a nice audience in.

"We're very open-minded about what's put on. We see the Fringe as a starting point, a place for people to try things out and be experimental.

"The audience need to approach it in the same way - make their choice and take their chances!"

And there's a lot to make your choice from.

The Fringe opens on July 28 and runs until August 24. There are between seven and 15 shows a day, the earliest starting at 1.30pm - weekends only - and the latest on at 10.30pm.

And they range from theatre and cabaret to comedy, dance and poetry. There's even a children's musical about sheep - Ewe Beautiful You.

"There are some shows we're definitely going to see," says Michelle.

"There's Robin Ince, the comedian, who's bewilderingly clever, but in a very nice way.

"A comedy trio called The Wogans, who are obsessed with The Good Life, also appear.

"And I'm also really excited about watching Shirley Valentine.

"Apparently it's very, very rare for Willy Russell to allow people to perform the play, so it isn't staged very often.

"But the guy who's directing this production did it in Germany and it went so well that he got the rights to do it in Britain too."

Other shows mentioned include Les Anges de l'Enfer - Angels of The Underground - a piece of physical theatre brought over from Paris.

And there's Rosie Smith, Speedcoach, a late entry into the line-up, about a female therapist treating a succession of famous characters, ranging from Superman to Humpty Dumpty.

All the shows are listed on the website - www.camdenfringe.org.

And, at £7.50 a ticket for shows which are all about an hour long, you'll get the Edinburgh mix, without the Edinburgh prices. a bookshop. He has abandoned his music - or music has abandoned him.

This production, part of the Almeida's Summer Festival, is the European premiere of Adam Rapp's one-man play.

It runs for an hour and 40 minutes without an interval - a tour de force of memory from actor Peter McDonald, delivered with aplomb.

It's also a tour de force of concentration for the audience.

One hundred minutes is a long time to listen to one man talk. And the minimalism of the set - a kitchen chair and a bare lightbulb - doesn't offer much in the way of respite.

But respite is needed. Nocturne has the potential to be a good play. Its premise is compelling and Rapp is clearly a talented writer.

But in its present form, it's too long and too self-indulgent.

The text is weighed down with similes - the shadow of a sycamore is like an enormous man trembling, a casino boat looks like a white-frosted wedding cake.

Some of this phrasing is beautiful, lyrical, memorable.

But on stage, the constant wordy digressions bleed the play of any dramatic tension.

When Nocturne best succeeds is in the moments when the descriptive elements are pared away and McDonald is able to act.

His portrayal of conversations between the emotionally stunted narrator and his terminally ill father are genuinely affecting.

Shave 40 minutes off Nocturne, move it from exposition to encounter and use the lyrical to enhance rather than dominate the dialogue - and this would be a memorable play.

As it is, it's worth watching if you enjoy discovering new writers and enjoy poetry as much as drama.

If not, you'll probably find your attention wandering.

Until July 26.

Katie Masters

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