The Camden Fringe, you say? Nestled into nine venues dotted around the already eclectic Camden Town, NW1’s answer to the Edinburgh Fringe gives us veteran and fresh artists alike, in what is an August-long month of theatre and comedy.
So what exactly is a Fringe festival? The world over knows about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival − the grassroots festival that sprouted up alongside the Edinburgh International Festival over 50 years ago. Now everywhere from Bath to Brighton has their own little incubator of craziness and creativity taking place to showcase and encourage talent.
After producing comedy at its Scottish counterpart, It’s Alright For Some Ltd begot the Camden Fringe Festival. From 57 performances in its debut year in 2006, the festival has grown and grown each year and shows no signs of stopping if 2010 is anything to go by.
Science fiction, knife and gun-crime musicals, Euripides, an all female cast of Romeo and Juliet, improvisation and the intriguingly entitled How to have an Orgasm and really enjoy it – A pocket guide: there is something for every taste and then some.
This reviewer’s first two experiences of Camden Fringe on 13th and 14th August will most definitely will not be her last.
A stark and welcome contrast to the made-for-tourists musicals at any given West End theatre, Blonde Compassion: A Yoga Comedy is surely the only play of its kind. Shri-Shri is a stressed-out yoga teacher from LA, come to London to share her Eight Steps to Enlightenment yoga programme with the recently recession-struck, unappreciative British public. She is met with tube delays, karmic retribution and dwindling class numbers…but also finds love and wisdom in tube poet, Freddie. Mahny Djahanguiri (who has also worked with Mark and Jez of Peep Show) both writes and stars as Shri-Shri in this manic and hilarious little number, with the support of Aqil Zahid who does an impressive job of morphing between the four male characters. Blonde Compassion is practically tailored made for neurotics, commuters and yogis alike, but is sure to have you laughing out loud regardless of your yoga level.
Located above the pub with which it shares its name, the teeny tiny Lion and Unicorn theatre is a perfectly unassuming venue for what is also an intimate, fun and unassuming gem of theatre.
Above the Oxford Arms on Camden High Street (which everyone will have passed by en route to Camden Loch), the cosy Etcetera theatre − the festival’s birthplace − played host to When Women Wee, Dirty Stop Out Production’s first ever show. Faced with a view of the inside of the ladies’ loos, the audience live out a night out through the drama and depravity that goes on off the dancefloor and away from men’s eyes. The five gorgeous girls who make up the cast delight us with a huge range of quirky characters that come in and out of the toilets to talk, wee, gurn and even shave their armpits! Not only do the characters and drama come alive with the skill and enthusiasm of the actors, they astound us with the frankness and accuracy of female behaviour. Ringing all too true for the girls in the audience, whilst disgusting, educating and astounding the boys, When Women Wee is nothing if not lewd, crude and fun for every second of the sixty minutes. Keep your eyes peeled for these dirty stop outs who are just as funny as they are sexy.
While the laughs may be over for this year, Camden Fringe 2011 is not to be missed. Watching what feels like tailor-made theatre within metres of the cast in a small theatre above a pub is something that can not be enjoyed at most theatres. Plus, they won’t give let you take your wine through in a proper glass!