During August in London, much of the performing arts industry heads north to Edinburgh. Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, and other festivals happen in Edinburgh at the same time: Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Military Tattoo and Forest Fringe. London can feel culturally quiet as many practitioners move out for the month with commercial and subsidised theatres marketing largely to tourists. Fringe theatre in London doesn’t completely shut down, however. The Camden Fringe festival, though paling in size to Edinburgh, has grown each year since its inception in 2005. This year, it runs from 3rd – 30th August and has more shows and venues than ever. Even though fringe festivals are known for experimental theatre, comedy and new writing, The Camden Fringe always has some Shakespearian offers. So if you want something different than Shakespeare’s Globe or any of the larger productions in town, head to this north London borough and support emerging theatre makers. Here’s The Camden Fringe’s Shakespearian summer selection:
- MacDeath, by Glow Worm Theatre Company, is “a fast paced, devised comedy thriller based that parodies film noir, crime thrillers and gives an interesting modern back story to Shakespeare.” This student theatre company debuts with this production that uses physical comedy to parody Shakespeare’s play. My verdict: this has the potential to be quite funny and energetic. Shakespeare is often taken entirely too seriously, though this show might be rather far away from what audiences consider Shakespeare. Well done to these young people for producing their own work out in the real world whilst they are still studying, however. 4th – 5th August, 10:00 pm.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by Venture Wolf, is “a new, hour-long version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, focusing on the young lovers.” They’ve cut the mechanicals and all of the fairies except for Puck, setting the story in the Brit Pop ‘90s. Venture Wolf is a film and theatre production company founded by experienced practitioners with a goal of providing opportunities to students and emerging artists. My verdict: tapping into the teen angst and comedy of Shakespeare’s play is a winner, particularly in such a shortened version. We can all remember back to our teen years and relate to the young lovers’ issues and Venture Wolf has produced some excellent work in the past. This one looks like a poignant and funny offering. 8th – 9th August, 5:00 pm.
- Antony and Cleopatra, by Unmasked Theatre, is “set in a 20’s Cabaret club in a boozy England…a heavily physical piece, with live music and dance”. Unmasked Theatre is a new company based outside of London and reinvents classical tales with a modern twist. My verdict: Marc Anthony’s turbulent love affair conflicting with his public face and responsibilities could work very set in the indulgent 1920’s. It’s an interesting idea, but these sort of modern adaptations often fall flat. The promise of live music and dancing is certainly a draw. 17th August at 7:30 pm, 18th – 20th August 9:15 pm.
- The Tempest, by Get Over It Productions, is performed by “stalwarts of the Camden Fringe producing and performing innovative all-female versions of the Bard’s classics”. Founded in 2004, they also seek to give exposure and experience to those at the onset of their careers. My verdict: The Tempest can be very powerful with Prospero performed by a woman. It’s also great to see women given the opportunity to play male classical roles on a professional stage; it still happens rarely in London. This is another established company with great reviews and has potential to be the best of The Camden Fringe’s Shakespeare. 28th – 30th August, 6:00 pm.
All tickets are available through www.camdenfringe.com.