Brighton Fringe 2010
No.9 Bus to Utopia
Venue: The Earthship at Stanmer Park, Brighton
A one man presentation taking place at the appropriately utopian setting of the eco-friendly ‘Earthship’ house in Stanmer Park near Brighton.
The chip-fat fuelled ‘Big Lemon’ bus drove those members of the audience who chose this method of transport from the ‘Upstairs at the 3 and 10’ venue to Stanmer Park.
A guide from the venue then escorted the audience to the Earthship. A recorded announcement introduced Dr. Bramwell and his quest for utopia. Bramwell then made his entrance and gave us a short history of his life and how it had led him to his quest. He then proceeded to give the audience a lecture, illustrated by slides, about the utopian communities he had visited. These ranged from communes such as Findhorn to a female dominant S&M community in the Czech Republic.
There was an emphasis on subject matter of a Fortean nature as the author evidentially enjoyed talking about and sharing ideas such as time travel, strange and alternative technologies and sexual experimentation. The piece finished with his musings about his own utopia and how he might create it in Brighton.
The show was well written and came across in a lively and personable manner, as it consisted of accounts of events that the author/performer had actually experienced whilst researching a book on the subject. For much of the time David Bramwell was speaking as himself, a situation with which he was clearly very comfortable, and he received a great deal of warmth and empathy from his audience.
The majority of his tales were very funny but also laid bare his weaknesses as a human being as he negotiated himself through the various customs and moralities of the communities he visited. Occasionally he went into character either as someone he had met during his travels or as an Open University-style lecturer. He was less comfortable when doing this; he stumbled over a few lines and coming in and out of this character seemed a little awkward for him, however it did serve to draw the different components of the show together effectively.
The fact that the performance took place at the Earthship added to the enjoyment of the experience and brought the subject matter a little closer. The setting was warm and homely (with very reasonably priced refreshments, a lovely view and a composting toilet for the gentlemen) and the slides and sound effects were used well.
As a whole the show was very entertaining and gave food for thought. There were some hilarious anecdotes about his research and also some touching moments as he described how he had bonded with members of the groups he had visited. His was a genuine quest.
When The Big Lemon bus arrived to pick us up it had ‘No 9 Bus to Utopia’ lit up on the front – a lovely end to a lovely evening.