FEATURE: NEWCASTLE FRINGE FESTIVAL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: as british as a watermelon by mandla rae, image by Benjamin Liddell

Staunch advocates of regional practitioners, fiercely independent theatre Alphabetti are also driven to work with touring companies who provide vital opportunities for audiences to immerse themselves in diverse stories. Their Newcastle Fringe Festival has always been a place for innovation to thrive, with a programme of theatre, comedy, music, spoken word, film screenings and much more taking place from Tuesday 27th July until Saturday 7th August. All shows will take place both in person and online, and tickets are (as always) Pay What You Feel.

The programme has something for everyone: 39 Horses, presented by local theatre maker Izaak Gledhill, is an immersive lip-syncing comedic journey which shares the joy and dubious wisdom of taxi drivers in the North East (throughout the festival, Tues/Weds/Fri/Sat only); fantasy and reality collide in Paperback Theatre’s twisted romantic comedy Me & My Doll, in which an inflatable doll comes to life (Tuesday 27th July); the ever-creative artist gobscure presents ‘rose carved in rain’, which draws on childhood wisdom and big-kid dissent (Wednesday 28th July); The Oedipus Album promises a kaleidoscopic adventure into sound and vision thanks to live art alt. electro pop band Pecho Mama, which features songs laced with heartbreak and grief and set to a soundtrack of prog-rock, electronica and techno (Friday 30th July); there’s more music from The Folding Desert, with elements of R&B, jazz, electronic and improvised sounds (Friday 6th August); and a tense and unusual tale of Franz Woyzeck sees the young soldier grapple with reality in Woyzeck (Saturday 31st July).

Diverse voices and otherworldly themes are prevalent in the programme

Diverse voices and otherworldly themes are prevalent in the programme: told through an unflinching autofiction narrative, queer Zimbabwean writer and curator mandla rae scrambles to piece together their life in their production ‘as british as watermelon’, which explores mandla’s fragmented asylum and migration memories (Thursday 29th July); inspired by the “voices in the sea”, the utterly beguiling [whalesong] is Xavier Velastin’s sound-centred creation, a fusion of experimental gig, immersive sound installation and performance art which incorporates bioacoustic research data and global mythology to present a celebration of the diversity of the ocean (Tuesday 3rd August). Also set to be a real highlight is a collaborative production from disabled artists Lisette Auton and Richard Boggie, who present a rehearsed reading of Chop, Dissolve, Burn, a dark comedy which pokes fun at society’s attitudes towards disability (Wednesday 4th August).

We can all agree it’s about time we had some fun, and there’s plenty of laughter on hand too. Comedy Muslim First Dates looks at how third generation Muslim women navigate the dating scene whilst keeping in line with tradition, and promises to be a fascinating insight into culture and religion co-produced by Alphabetti and non-profit organisation Other Stories, who use performance and creative expression to generate conversations around underrepresented communities (Friday 30th July); Retrained is a chaotic exploration into ‘unviable artists’ from theatre troupe In Bed With My Brother (Thursday 5th August); Third Angel bridge the gap between astrophysics and stand-up comedy with 600 People, exploring how we think about evolution, intelligence, belief, communication and space travel (Friday 6th August). Providing a fitting end to the festival, Ugly Bucket theatre company process the death of a friend via a high energy maelstrom of clowning, movement, verbatim and thumping techno in Good Grief (Saturday 7th August).

Newcastle Fringe Festival takes place at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle from Tuesday 27th July-Saturday 7th August


Image: Good Grief by Ugly Bucket

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