Brighton Fringe 2019
The Odditorium is a place where anything can happen – and usually does. Linked to Brighton’s Catalyst Club, and presented by Brighton’s David Bramwell, which has the aim of ‘celebrating the singular passions of everyday folk’ and offers the most unusual and bonkers short talks by a whole variety of people, the ‘Oddi’ branches out into whole evenings of entertainment based on themes often of a Fortean, hidden or obscure nature. It is always fascinating and never fails to amuse and educate.
The Odditorium is a place where anything can happen – and usually does. Linked to Brighton’s Catalyst Club, which has the aim of ‘celebrating the singular passions of everyday folk’ and offers the most unusual and bonkers short talks by a whole variety of people, the ‘Oddi’ branches out into whole evenings of entertainment based on themes often of a Fortean, hidden or obscure nature. Always fascinating and never failing to amuse and educate, this year there were four very different experiences on offer – the ‘Future Starts Here’, which began with an author-led talk about a new book of the same name by author John Higgs and then on to related work by guest performers, the ‘Gothic in Popular Music’, a talk followed by a panel discussion, ‘Unburied’, an extraordinary piece of theatre about a children’s folk horror TV serial from the 1970’s, and finally the ‘Cult of Water’, in which our host David Bramwell explored incidences of watery magic (this last one not reviewed).
The ‘Future Starts Here’ was a fascinating and optimistic evening of talks, comedy and poetry looking at how we can build a better future and come to a better understanding of what lies ahead. Author Higgs was joined by poet Salena Godden, comedian Joanna Neary, CEO of the social enterprise ‘Turning Point’ Lord Victor Adebowale , and the artist Shardcore in the second part of the evening, which was compered by David Bramwell. Higgs presented some really interesting and thought-provoking material regarding how young people are displaying a new kind of empathy, and backed up his theories with illustrations and anecdotes coming from different generations. Particularly fascinating was his explanation of how young people perceived the character of John Bender, the hero of the film ‘Breakfast Cub’, in a different way to the audience at the time of the film’s release in 1985 – in fact, they didn’t rate the intended hero as a ‘hero’ at all, branding him as selfish. In the second half of the evening, we were treated to the poetry of Salena and the delight of Jo Neary’s impersonation of Bjork interpreting her vision of the future. Cross -bench peer Adebowale was interviewed about democracy and Brexit, and emphasised that it is our duty to be sceptical – sadly though it was hard to hear him as he was speaking quite far away from the microphone. Comic relief was provided by ‘Algohiggs’, a piece of technology invented by artist Shardcore (AKA Eric Wrass) and styled to look like Orac (a portable super-computer capable of reading any other computer’s data, from the cult 1970’s TV programme ‘Blake’s 7’) which spouted out Higgs-style wisdom on request.
The ‘Gothic In Popular Music’ began with a talk from Ian Trice, with a fascinating talk on the rise of the Gothic in music with liberal references to literature and social history. Trice’s talk was much appreciated by the specialist audience, who added a fabulous extra visual dimension to the evening by having dressed to look the part for the occasion. The second half featured an all-star panel of ex-Goths and associated characters including members of the band ‘The Specimen’, co-founders of the Batcave Jon Klein and Hugh Jones, music journalist Simon Price and Rose McDowall of Strawberry Switchblade. Whilst interesting, it was somewhat Batcave-heavy until McDowell arrived having been held up in traffic, providing a refreshing female perspective and her own views on what and who qualifies as ‘Goth’.
‘Unburied’ was presented by Carrie Marx from Hermetic Arts, who invited us to join her on her journey as she investigated the trail of this almost-forgotten and never aired TV series made in 1979 by HTV. Hermetic Arts is described as specialising in the dark arts, horror, cryptozoology, mischief, science fiction and odd stuff, and is therefore a perfect guest for the Odditorium. Her story was wildly captivating and made the audience feel like children, excited beyond belief at the adventure and excitement of discovering the clues and fragments of the lost TV series and piecing it all together. But the audience was an adult one, not children, and soon the story began to turn darker … Marx’s use of language is excellent, with references to our cultural past, nods to TV series’ such as the Owl Service and Children of the Stones, and then bringing us into the present with mentions of the dark web… all rooted in our collective mythology. A superb and genuinely unique show, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
All of the shows suffered a little due to the venue being physically not that comfortable and noisy. The tent has narrow wooden bench seating, which means that the audience begin to wriggle after about an hour, and sometimes it is hard to hear due to the Spiegeltent site which has nearby traffic and a noisy beer garden. It can also get quite chilly. ‘Unburied’ suffered bit from the light getting in, a black box would have suited it better. But the venue is a traditional entertainment space, and even with it’s drawbacks it’s still charming.
For lovers of things weird and wonderful, the Odditorium is the place to check out.