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Barnstaple Fringe Theatrefest


Now over for 2018.


Barnstaple Fringe Theatrefest has to be one of the hidden gems of the Fringe Theatre scene. Running over just four days, it is also probably the most do-able Fringe in the country, with plenty of theatre on offer and the chance to see all or most of it in one trip!

“Fringe Theatrefest embraces the widest possible range of theatre forms. Events take place in a variety of circumstances including venues provided by Fringe TheatreFest, venues found and equipped by participating companies and many outside locations.”

Essential Links

The programme is here.

Browse shows by time here

Find theatre shows here

Find a venue

Follow them on twitter.

Follow Theatrefest’s Bill Buffery on Twitter @BillBuffery

Also find them on Facebook

View Theatrefest on Instagram

I Want to See … at Theatrefest

Here is our quirky but highly useful show-finding tool…

I want to see…

… soaring melody lines, dirgy, intense a capella vocals and complex rhythmic structures. Then see Songs of the Hollow

… a family-friendly comedy magician. Then see SESKA – SPOT THE DIFFERENCE!

… some dance theatre. Then see Softly Fall

… some theatre about the First World War. Then see Tommy Atkins and the Canary Girl

… some very different spoken word poetey. Then see T.S. Idiot & His Orchestral Testicles

… a stand -up comedy show from Norway. Then see Wingrid

… a lovely story of two clowns cultivating true friendship. Then see Friendly Ever After

…  a world authority on the Whitechapel Murders. Then see Jack The Ripper: Facts, No Fiction

… a one-woman show on how ADHD affects women in their early adulthood, whilst exploring a mother-daughter relationship and how ADHD affects that relationship. Then see Failing at ADDulthood

More to come

Theatrefest Link Collage

Here’s another way to choose a show at Theatrefest. Use your instincts and click on an image that draws you and you can reveal the show behind the image. Then get booking…




More to come

Theatrefest Keyword Chaos

We’ve selected evocative phrases from the Theatrefest programme.

Click on the ones that intrigue you and you might just find the show you need to see…

“If you like the idea of a topless Englishman talking about open heart surgery then you’ll love Chest Pains.”

“Expect silliness, sexiness and some sincerity from a performer described by his local council as ‘in very poor taste’.”

“A treatise for our troubled times encompassing tragedy, history and comedy; satire, philosophy and social comment; drama, theatricality and hilarity.”

“What if we live in a multiverse where all possibilities exist and every relationship can take infinite paths?”

“a student’s inner thoughts and feelings, visualising the internal battles when your heart meets your head, and your confidence takes a knock”

“What is art? Who can be said to truly own a piece of art? Why did Leanne’s father never hug her?”

“A young successful designer tackles the biggest job of his career. Working long hours in his studio, external events begin to take a toll on his work, his family, and himself.”

More to come.

Social Media at Theatrefest

Here are some of the top tweeters at Theatrefest…




Artistic Director Gill Simmons, from Brave Bold Drama, talks about Sticky Ends

What’s the theme of your show?

Sticky Ends is a set of brand new comic cautionary stories and songs exploring what might happen if you do really bad stuff, like leave things all over your bedroom floor, demand ice-cream every day or refuse to go to bed…

What’s new or unique about the show?

The show ends differently every time!
Audiences write what they’re always being told NOT to do on little confession slips which are put in our “Tombola of Truth” at the start of the show, and we spin the tombola to choose one at random at the end to become our brand new BONUS story!

How did the show come into being?

The show has been around since 2000, when I first discovered the story of Struwwelpeter when I was studying for my MA in Drama and Theatre Studies. I took a version of the show to Edinburgh that year. After that it lay very much on the back burner until 2017 when it visited Buxton Fringe, in a revised form with lots of updated stories on songs.

It was updated because it needed to be, but also by that time I also had 3 children, so the phenomenon of telling people why they shouldn’t leave stuff all over the bedroom floor is no longer just a funny hypothetical notion for a theatre show…it’s now a very real and daily battle.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

It’s a solo show…so mostly the rehearsals are just me, grabbing a few moments to scribble an idea, strum a few chords and then start talking or singing and see what would happen.

I wanted to make sure the stories that would resonate with many parents, so I did sound out on parenting websites and with friends with parents whether the “crimes” that I explore in the show (refusing to go to bed, messy bedrooms, too much icecream) are familiar to them.

How is the show developing?

The show is developing nicely thankyou! This summer’s tour began in early June at the Bath Fringe, where I performed the show on the Theatre Bath Bus. It’s been to Buxton last year where it was very warmly received, and it’s heading on to Priddy Folk Festival and Wells Theatre Festival after Barnstaple.

How has the writer been involved?

You’ll have gathered by now this is very much a solo project! So it’s written and performed by me. With no technician. It’s a big bag of props, a ukulele, a pair of ridiculous dungarees, and me.

How have you experimented?

Every show I experiment as I challenge myself to invent a brand new bonus story on the spot. That feels pretty experimental. I love the thrill of it though!

Where do your ideas come from?

They always have the germ of their beginnings in my life. Things I’ve actually observed. Things I think are funny, important, interesting, curious. I’m convinced that’s the only way to make anything authentic. If I’m not interested in it, the audience certainly won’t be!

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

By making up a story on the spot every show!

What are your future plans for the show

I have plans to develop the show with my Brave Bold Drama colleague Paul into a 2 person show in time for October 2018 which will be called “Spooky Ends”, and will possibly include improvised songs as well!

What are your favourite shows, and why?

Nos Three are great friends of ours, so we’re looking forward to catching their show “Friendly Ever After. ” Also I really like the look of “Monster” by Croon Productions!

Show dates, times and booking info: Friday 28th June, 4.15pm
Saturday 29th June, 3pm
Sunday 1st July, 3pm
Bookings here:

Company web site: http://www.braveboldddrama.co.uk


Writer Kate Ellis, from Rabblerouse Theatre talks about A Cautionary Tale

What’s the theme of your show?

The show is a modern gothic tale, exploring ambition and apples, books and Bear Grylls, friendship and Faustian temptation.

What’s new or unique about the show?

The show is punctuated by a series of Victorian ‘cautionary tales’ for children, poems of the kind that inspired Hillaire Belloc’s tales subsequently. The rhymes allow the company to play with form, rather than delivering a straight drama, reflecting back on the drama of the scene, via the dangers of sucking your thumb, looking down your nose, or playing with matches.

How did the show come into being?

A tweet from @horriblesanity caught my eye about 12 months ago. It said something along the lines of “The body count is rising in Victorian children’s literature’, then printed a picture of a poem about poisoned fruit. I loved the contrast between the dark content of the rhyme, the matter-of-fact way in which it was offered, and the prettiness of the accompanying illustrations. I set out to write something that offered that same contrast, that also played with the dark humour of the rhymes.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

I love our rehearsals, particularly in the early stages of a project. They are a place to play with the text, and peel away different layers. We start with a warm up, with different games and exercises, then launch into the play. For me as the writer, the part of the rehearsal process that gives me chills is at the beginning, after casting, when the playtext is available. Our director plays some music and then invites the cast to move around the room, inhabiting the body of their character as explore their daily routine. At that moment, characters who I have imagined through words on the page become living, breathing, people. That is a special moment.

How is the show developing?

The show has had two development showings in Plymouth, once before Christmas, and once at the end of May as part of the Plymouth Fringe Festival. We have been able to use feedback from those performances to refine the piece, and add in more light and shade. We are looking forward to sharing our work at Barnstaple Fringe because we will be performing to audiences who may not be so familiar with our work, which will give us another perspective again.

How has the writer been involved?

As a company, we pride ourselves on being fully collaborative, where the creative team – the writer, the director and the producer – and the cast all contribute to the creative process. As the writer, I attend every rehearsal, and we continue to develop and tweak the script as we work through the play. I’m also on hand throughout if any queries come up about the significance or meaning of a line etc.

How have you experimented?

In ‘A Cautionary Tale’, the main experimentation has taken place around the interludes, which are the Victorian rhymes – who delivers them, how are they delivered, what is the relationship between those rhymes and the scenes that precede / follow them? How does that change when you change the storyteller? We have also played around with the idea of triangles, and how the relationships between the three main characters are affected when the points of the triangle are manipulated. Who are drawn closer together? Who are pulled apart? When two are drawn together, what happens to the third?

Where do your ideas come from?

Our ideas can come from anywhere. We like to explore time-lapse plots – the mirroring of a modern story in an historical event, or vice versa, so finding unusual or unexplored connections can generate a huge amount of material. ‘A Cautionary Tale’, for example, connects the Victorian rhymes with the plot of Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus’, and combines it with the 21st century challenges facing twenty-somethings. Another project of ours – ‘She Persisted’ – parallelled 17th century witchcraft trials with the 18th century transportation of convicts, and the 2015 trial of Stanford swimmer / sexual predator, Brock Turner. Minor news stories often throw up interesting characters and questions. But really, even the smallest thing – a tweet, a signpost, a picture – will generate an idea that germinates in your mind, until it finds something else to latch on to and becomes a bigger piece.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

We challenge ourselves to create unusual pieces of theatre, with a twist or an unexpected edge.

Show dates, times and booking info:

The Guildhall, Barnstaple, as part of Barnstaple Fringe Theatrefest:
Friday 29 June at 4:30 p.m.
Saturday 30 June at 7 p.m.
Sunday 1 July at 5:45 p.m.

Booking is through the Fringe website, via: https://tickets.theatrefest.co.uk/program/show/2

Company web site: https://twitter.com/rabblerouseuk


Artistic Director Hannah Brooks from TicTac Theatre  talks about Nature Knows Best












What’s the theme of your show?

A comedic look at relationships through the eyes of nature.

What’s new or unique about the show?

A unique blend of word witty comedy and physical theatre, mixed with animals and multi-rolling, all in the space of an hour!

How did the show come into being?

The writer Nick Discombe came to see our production “The Open Couple” (Dario Fo) which is a comedy that we made very physical. He loved our physicalisation and specially commissioned us to do this piece. We had unfortunately already programmed our next show, so it had to wait an extra year. But here it is and we’re extremely proud of Nature Knows Best.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

Our rehearsals (with director Jacquie Crago) generally consist of a real physical and vocal warm up, followed by getting to grips with the text. Before flipping upside down in a seagull dive, or learning how to lie down as a sheep (knuckles first) or trying to flirt with your seahorse husband whilst telling him about the dangers of overfishing, all whilst trying not to laugh!!! Our rehearsals are intense, hard work and fun.

How is the show developing?

Each time we are revisiting the text we pull out more tiny nuances, the audience reaction helps us tweak little physicalisations or allow it space to breathe.

How has the writer been involved?: Nick has been the perfect mix of involved and trusting us to do it justice. He has given us all the information and ideas for where he saw the piece going (and where it came from) but then has allowed us complete freedom to adapt, change and add in anything that makes the piece stronger. As he says, the writer is the heart but the actors make it come alive, they know what works on stage. It’s been a wonderful experience collaborating with him.

How have you experimented?

We’ve experimented a lot with the physical aspects. Do we make the animals humanistic, or play humans who have animal traits and how does that work. We researched a lot about animal behavior. We also experimented with audience participation, how much, how little if at all.

Where do your ideas come from?

From the text, we’re fortunate that all the productions we have done so far (“Open Couple” Dario Fo, “You Were After Poetry” Steven Bloomer, “Bride To Be” Peter Quilter) have been fantastically well written. We get all our ideas from reading the text in depth and then putting them up on their feet and seeing the possibilities.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

We constantly push ourselves to give physical, high quality productions but that make sense as to why we’re doing that particular thing. We also go back to our ethos of minimalistic set to draw attention to the text and action of the play, which can prove very challenging!

What are your future plans for the show ?

To tour it for the rest of this year, before starting a new project.

Booking Details and info:

28th June-1st July Barnstaple theatreFest

Book here

Company web site: http://www.tictactheatre.co.uk


Writer/performer Emily LeQuesne from Croon Productions talks about MONSTER

What’s the theme of your show?

A toy and puppet theatre exploration of cinematic horror.
Classic cinematic monsters have escaped their retirement home.
Who will save the world from this onslaught of evil?
Why does the car never start?
Why does the girl ALWAYS fall over when she runs and why isn’t she wearing enough clothes?
Can Chuck, Nancy and their friends discover the weak spot of each monster and kill them once and for all but still adhere to all the tropes and clichés of the horror genre?

What’s new or unique about the show?

This is a puppet show that uses toys to tell the story rather than puppets made especially for the show. It is a pre-written script ,this is unusual for puppet theatre as it is usually created through devising, improvising, choreography and adaptation.

How did the show come into being?

I am one of the performers and I’m currently researching script writing for puppetry as pa rt of my PhD at Bath Spa university.

As part of my ongoing research into script for puppetry and the format they can be, how they are created as a lone playwright and the needs of puppeteers and directors, I wrote MONSTER as an experiment in process and the script has been directed by someone other than the performers ( we usually self -direct)

Describe one of your rehearsals.

We’ve had a bit of trouble finding rehearsal space as we are not being funded (apart from a small grant from the university to pay the director)Eventually we managed to get a basement space at uni. The post graduate courses at Bath Spa run at Corsham Court ( a fabulous stately home – like going to big school at Downton Abbey!)
So, we found ourselves underground, rehearsing on flag stones – using Barbie dolls and toy cars to tell our story.
To be fair, we did also get offered space by the lovely Prema Arts centre (https://www.prema.org.uk/ ) in Gloucestershire which is a beautiful airy converted chapel. From one extreme to the other!

How is the show developing?

Our last session with the director (Tomasin Cuthbert who is artistic director of Soap Soup theatre ( http://www.soapsouptheatre.com/ ) went really well, not only have we got a funny and well paced show but we also realised something about the protagonist that creates a much darker, adult sense of depth to the narrative.

How has the writer been involved?

As I am a performer/puppeteer as well as the writer I’ve been there all the time.
As it’s been an experiment in the process of a director using a puppetry script they haven’t seen before, I was very keen that it ‘belonged’ to Tomasin and she should do with it what she wanted .
Tomasin is a collaborative director and has involved us performers from the start. I did have to convince her of a couple of things but once she’d ‘settled’ into the script she had a similar idea about the story line as I had imagined when writing.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

Rehearsing in a cold 18th century basement in a space 1.7 metres by 2 metres (we thought our first show would be on a bus!) with dolls, who’s heads keep coming off, when performer 1 has headaches everyday brought on by a head injury and performer 2 is suffering from intense period cramps!
Show business IS glamorous.

What are your future plans for the show ?

We are performing at Shambala festival in August , in the puppet parlour and we hope to tour it further in the autumn, perhaps in Gloucestershire and Bristol ( where we’re in talks)

Show dates, times and booking info: Barnstaple Fringe Theatre festival.
The Baptist Hall
Thu 28th June at 6 p.m.
Sat 30th June at 9:45 p.m.
Sun 1st July at 5:45 p.m.
Book here

Company web site: http://croonproductions.blogspot.com/


John Bassett,  Actor and Writer from Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company talks about Tommy Atkins And The Canary Girl 

What’s the theme of your show?

The experiences of a Gloucestershire family during the First World War especially for women.

What’s new or unique about the show?

The show draws on archive research and looks at the First World War from a very personal perspective. This may not be new or unique but ultimately it is a play about how people are affected by global events and have little or no control over the outcome. There will be things that people don’t know about the First World War especially on the Home Front including rationing and the lives of the munitions workers.

How did the show come into being?

I was doing some research on another subject and came across information about the Canary girls – the women who worked in the munitions factories. This was about 10 years ago before the Centenary Commemorations and the story was one which I wanted to tell in the simplest way possible.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

As we have been performing the show for 10 years they consist of coffee, setting up a table and two chairs and just running the play. They are relaxed and fun rehearsals – a pretty stress free environment.

How is the show developing?

I think in terms of what audiences now know about the First World War. Thanks to the Centenary Commemorations a lot of people have put faces and stories to what we’re just names on war memorials. They know what happened and audiences become more emotionally engaged especially if they have researched family archives and found relatives killed in the First World War.

How has the writer been involved

Yes. As writer, actor and director I’ve been there from the start as the show has grown.

How have you experimented?

I think with the simplicity of the performance. The show is about a couple (and their unseen children) and telling a global story of war from such a personal side and in a simple way. No massive sound effects, no massive lighting changes – the story of their survival is the root to the piece.

Where do your ideas come from?

Stories – historical, factual, personal, folk tales, legends and modern personal tales. A small piece of information, a picture, a statement or an item in a museum can lead to stories which are quite remarkable. I am creating a final First World War piece at the moment which will explore Shell shock and comes from a comment on a supply drivers records from the First World War – the fact that after being invalided out he died a year later in the local asylum. It only takes up two lines on his record but there is a massive story behind those lines.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

To always try and make the next piece better, stronger and different from the last and incorporate styles which I haven’t tried before.

What are your future plans for the show ?

We have a number of shows booked in at village halls and theatres in Gloucestershire and other bookings are coming in. The show will continue to tour.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

I like all kinds of theatre and this is one reason I started a theatre festival in Stroud in September to get a wide range of theatre to a wide audience. I like any show which engages me on an emotional level – whether that is making me cry or laughing hysterically.

Show dates, times and booking info

Thursday 28th June 8.00pm
Friday 29th June 10.15pm
Saturday 30th June 2.30pm
Castle Centre, Castle Street, Barnstaple

Tickets from https://theatrefest.co.uk/18/booking.htm

Company web site: http://www.spanielworks.co.uk


Rhi Lloyd-Williams, Playwright from Autact Theatre, talks about The Duck

What’s the theme of your show?

The Duck is about a late-diagnosed autistic woman, exploring her memories and feelings around diagnosis, and the ways that we all misunderstand each other regardless of brain type.

It’s sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always fast-paced and engaging.

What’s new or unique about the show?

Most autistic characters we see tend to be written to ‘showcase’ autism. Which means that they try to shoehorn as many traits into one person as possible, no matter how unrealistic the result. The Duck is about one autistic woman. It’s written by an autistic woman (me).

It does exactly what it says on the tin (thank you, literal brain, for insisting I take that image of a tin and wrap one of our imaginary posters around it, to make this true), using a mixture of story-telling, memories, and labels to connect with the audience in its own unique way.

Just as I connect with things in my own way.

How did the show come into being?

Our Director, Jo Loyn – also currently directing the ‘Bard in the Yard’ open air production of Macbeth at The Barbican Theatre, Plymouth – was the catalyst for Autact. She had read my Blog and Poetry, and she had a wonderful actor, Lucy Theobald, that she wanted the right role for.

One overcast, Welsh afternoon last Summer, Jo asked me if I’d consider writing a play. With the benefits of autistic hyper-focus, she had a completed version by the end of the week. Autism has its uses!

It was the perfect coming-together of the right people at the right time. Sometimes the world gets the patterns right.

Describe one of your rehearsals.

Theatre is new to me, so I found the whole thing fascinating. Watching Lucy slowly unravel the character of The Duck, was a revelation.

I spent many years masking my autism, and the process of creating that mask was incredibly similar to Lucy’s process. The careful layering of movement and intonation. It made me feel a real part of the production.

It was so very important that the character of The Duck moved in the right ways; that she wasn’t a caricature or an autistic stereotype. The physical movement is such a big part of it, which meant much of the rehearsals were me being free to share my delight in textures, my revulsion in the sound of the lights, my awareness of everything.

Rehearsals became moments of pure communication and connection. They were beautiful.

How is the show developing?

The most difficult balance for the show has been finding that narrow corridor of understanding, that touches both the autistic audience and the non-autistic audience.

I want autistic people to feel understood and reflected – even though we are all completely different in actions, the root of those actions is shared – and I want the non-autistics in the audience to feel like they have expanded their communication and found new affinities.

The connection to the audience is a huge part of this play, and it’s been a joy to see how different people react to it. I have had people tell me that they feel they understand autism better. I have had people tell me that I have put their whole life on stage, even the things they never told anyone.

There is a lack of autistic voices in the arts, because the variables involved and the connections are all so difficult for us to navigate. Theatre is a powerful connection and far more effective at sharing experience than a documentary.

How has the writer been involved?

I’ve been very heavily involved throughout, from planning, to rehearsals, to marketing.

So much ‘Autism Stuff’ relies on being inspirational, or pity-fuelled, or is about ‘overcoming autism’ (whatever that means). It was really important to me that this was about realism and positivity; no wistful pictures of a woman behind a rain-streaked window-pane. Autistic people see these images too. They see their brains used to inspire pity instead of accepted.

I’m most inspirational when I inspirationally clean my bathroom. You’ve never seen an inspirational autistic, until you’ve seen her in rubber gloves, scrubbing a toilet bowl. Sometimes I inspirationally have a sit down and a cup of coffee. Sometimes I inspirationally pick at a scab. If I’m feeling particularly inspirational, I usually have to have a little lie down until the feeling goes away.

I thought I overcame my autism once, but it turned out I’d just tripped and somersaulted down some steps. It’s hard to tell those two things apart.

I’m sorry… what was the question?

How have you experimented?

When Jo Loyn said, “Just one woman on stage for nearly an hour could be a bit flat, I’ll get some props.”, and then came back with a chair, a sheet and some paper and pens, I didn’t have the highest of hopes.

What could Lucy do with just those few objects to make the necessary connections? I’m a natural problem-solver, but all I could see were more problems.

And yet… they created new layers of communication that worked so perfectly with the words.

This play is about the musicality of the words, the flow of the movement, and the building of bridges. The experiments have all been in how to be understood by everyone.

Where do your ideas come from?: One of the advantages of the autistic mind is that the ideas never bloody stop. My brain is constantly looking to make sense of everything, it wants to create cob-web patterns from the entire world.

It’s like the perpetual toddler, constantly asking, “Why?!” and following the answer up with more questions.

My ideas for the play all stem from my own experience of autism, they are all rooted in memories and reality and truth. I have been writing about autism for years, and have always worked in flashes of inspiration. I often have to pull over at the side of the road to quickly jot down an idea before it escapes.

I’ve lost more ideas to my wayward tangents, than I’ve ever managed to trap on a page.

How do your challenge yourself or yourselves?

Interacting is hard work. I have a mind that doesn’t do the social communication side of things, so I have to do it all consciously. This takes effort and concentration. It is exhausting, it triggers migraines, it takes my words from me and leaves me still and silent.

But… I really love people. I really love socialising. I cannot wait to get to Barnstaple to share my newest creation and interact with the world. I have learned that I will need to balance this later; I will be borrowing energy from the future, but that is a compromise that I’m not just willing, but enthusiastic to make!

And I know it’s a bit late, but I’ve just designed a Flyer that can be folded into an origami duck. I will be in Barnstaple, folding Ducks on Saturday the 30th of June, so come and find me. I’ve even made an instructional video so that you can make your own – https://autact.wordpress.com/duck

How do I challenge myself? I don’t stop, until I need to stop. I’m the optimistic pragmatist. I’m like The Duck, ‘Fast and Frenetic and Funny’ (always hoping for the amusing type of funny, and not the other one).

What are your future plans for the show ?

We’ve been doing a mini-tour this June, and Theatre Fest is our final stop on that, so we’re really excited about doing it.

We’ve already performed at Plymouth Fringe and in Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and the response has been incredible. We couldn’t have hoped for better.

After Barnstaple our plan is to tour The Duck around the country, and take it to as many areas as possible. When someone tells you after your show, “This is the Play that I NEED everyone to have seen.” Then you really want to make that happen.

What are your favourite shows, and why?

I’m a huge fan of Tom Stoppard and Samuel Beckett. When I first saw ‘Waiting for Godot’ I fell in love with words all over again.

I love the pace and the way they play with language. I feel like a child cupping a handful of water and letting it trickle through my fingers, when I watch them. The irreverence of humour and sadness, and their intermingling, has definitely affected the way that I write.

Show dates, times and booking info

The Duck will be on at The Castle Centre on:-
Friday 29th of June at 8.45pm
Saturday 30th of June at 5.30pm
Sunday 1st of July 1pm
Book here

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for Duck-Shaped Flyers!
Company web site: http://AutactTheatre.wordpress.com


The news from Theatrefest…

27th June 2017: Secrets to enjoying Barnstaple Fringe TheatreFest with kids (North Devon Gazette)