Theatre Focus: Camden Fringe 2024

Camden Fringe

Set up as a viable alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe, “Camden Fringe is a performing arts festival, established in 2006, which takes place in Camden during August. Anyone and everyone is welcome to apply. Previous fringe events have encompassed new writing, opera, musicals, stand-up, sketch comedy, dance, cabaret, poetry, opera, mentalism, improvisation and Q&As. Shows take place throughout the day and generally last one hour.” This London-based fringe festival “aims to give anyone the chance to perform and showcase their talents, from very experienced performers and companies, to ambitious newcomers.”

Visit the Camden Fringe web site.

Browse the programme.

Camden Fringe is socially active online on Facebook, on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, with trailers and promos on YouTube and TikTok.

There is helpful information and a process for taking part in Camden Fringe here. The process for booking tickets a pretty straightforward. And there are directions to, and information about the just under thirty fringe venues here.

We’ll be doing a bit of previewing and reviewing at Camden Fringe in the run up to, and during the Fringe. 

Here are our early theatre recommendations. We’ll be covering comedy in our next article.

Gloria’s Gift?, back at the Old Red Lion Theatre is billed as “an innovative new play, reminding us the importance of human connection in our often lonely world. Gloria is funny, bored and lonely. She also is God. The God. That part isn’t a joke. The thing is, she never wanted to be known by that name. Join Gloria as she makes a last ditch attempt to bring a little more hope to our human lives and cure our world of disconnect.”

Magpie received an outstanding review from FringeReview at Brighton Fringe. This two-hander “probes the complexity of loyalty between family and national allegiance, ideology, and experience. It resonates powerfully in today’s volatile times of war and conflict; enduring themes, as relevant today as they were a century ago.”.

For some international theatre, over from Kansa USA, Blind Faith/Centrsl Standard Theatre bring Just Like Hollywood (I See You Watching), This is a collaborative work by Director Melanie Stewart and Playwright John Clancy, featuring performer Kylie Westerbeck. This piece explores the entrapment and control over a young woman’s body in post-Roe v. Wade America. On a bare stage, with minimal props provided by a master of ceremonies, Westerbeck must justify her survival and prove her right to choose her destiny. The performance examines themes of degradation and control, portraying the struggle of women trapped in societal and legislative constraints. Central Standard Theatre also brings a second production called One and The Other by award-winning writer Kent Stetson, in which “two young men grapple with nihilistic twenty-first century hatred, hatred to which one succumbs, hatred over which one triumphs. From its shadowed depths, the play rises toward the light.”

Rank was also a hit at Brighton Fringe, playing the prolific Lantern Theatre in May 2024. This debut play from Goldie Majtas is an “absurd piece of dark comedy” that “will take you on an unexpected journey through the lives of two twenty-somethings trying to sort their sh*t out. All starting at a taxi rank. Think Waiting for Godot meets Fleabag.”

And for something surreal, a unique solo show called The Waiting Room, was another Lantern Theatre hit at Brighton Fringe. “Being abandoned would break anybody down. Meet Lemon. She’s bitter, sour, and desperate for your attention. Songs, costume-changes, spilling her darkest secrets… anything to keep you interested. Join Lemon as she fights against her worst selves to escape her sanctuary: the waiting room.” When we saw it in Brighton it was full of intensity, unhinged poise and important discomfort.

Award-winning And I’ll Blow Your House Down is “a disenchanted storytelling and physical theatre show about family disability in an ableist society.” It covers timely and important issues and one a well deserved Brighton Fringe award in 2023.

For some history-based theatre, My Female Husband is a new play by Billie Billington play from TOMBOY Productions. “In a courtroom in 1767 east London, Eliza Williams accuses her husband Henry of being a woman. Henry, desperate to save his reputation, tries to stop her from ending their marriage. Based on real historical accounts, ‘My Female Husband’ is a queer and mischievous courtroom drama exploring the true lives of female husbands in the eighteenth century.”

Maar, Dora is an important biographical piece. “Dora Maar (1907-1997) was a prolific photographer and artist, developing her career in fashion photography, before hailing as one of the first women in the surrealist movement. She used her creations as a social commentary on beauty, gender and war.”

For a solo piece that recently played Hollywood Fringe Festival (which FringeReview sometimes covers), Refuge is billed as ” a one-person play that tells the story of Braham, an ordinary shopkeeper who is forced to leave the comforts of his home and take a perilous journey as he becomes a refugee. Braham describes how his hometown is slowly attacked and destroyed. And as the carnage gets closer to his own house, he makes the difficult decision to take his family and run for safety, by whatever means necessary.”

For a debut solo theatre piece, Procreate, from Bethan Screen is our next choice. “Full of clowning, eggs, a sprinkle of audience interaction, practicing my strict telling off voice with voiceover, mid-late 90s cultural references, entertaining the wee ones with puppetry and juggling, Bethan births a surreal, and silly show about contemplating procreating.”

For some immersive and interactive theatre, Love vs Fear and My Mothers Prayers “follows the thoughts of Kike, as she tries to follow her heart despite pressures from her pushy religious mum and cultural differences as a Nigerian in the UK Diaspora.”

Our physical theatre recommendations are Secret Bath from Alice Motta whose work we have reviewed highly in the past, “a playful exploration of body ownership, consent, safety, and spirituality. Blending poetry, movement, storytelling, and humor. This solo is also a ritual and a manifesto that challenges societal norms and invites audiences to reconsider their freedom and the ownership of their fire.”

Our second choice is from The Writers Mark, “a company that celebrates the work of surrealist writers through the mediums of art and performance”, and whose exploration of Franz Kafka was pretty unique at Fabrica in Brighton earlier in 2024. Artaud is the focus of FILLE DE MON COEUR “will be an emotive visceral immersive experience that explores through movement, poetry and multimedia; the last five years of Artaud’s life from Rodez Asylum to his final moments at the Ivry-sur-Seine. Artaud spent his life subjected to many horrors; unable to have his ideas for: cinema, theatre, art or radio fully realised in performance – and yet despite his suffering, psychosis and internment – he had an unwavering desire to continue living. We are invited to “expect a fusion of physical theatre, poetry, Shakespeare, mime and multimedia.”

It is good to see more dance work at the fringe this year. Our early pick is Tools to Survive, billed as “an interdisciplinary art project. Young Korean artists from Seoul, London, and Paris collaborate to express their experiences through sound art, movement, and theater. They reflect on challenges faced by young workers, including emotional and economic difficulties, climate crisis, and social turmoil.

This next one is an Editor’s pick. The Distance from Mollusc Theatre adapts the work of a fiction writer from Italy whose work has rarely been adapted for the stage (There have been memorable stagings of novellas such as The Baron in the Trees). An Italo Calvino short story is here turned into theatre in The Distance. “a fantastical show for all ages using song, physical theatre, and clowning, to tell a story about the power of companionship and remembering who you are amidst a chaotic, noisy, and fragmented world.” For prep, I recommend you read Cosmicomics and be prepared for times when the Moon was a lot closer to the Earth…

Using sounds from everyday objects and reinterpreted daily movements, the project evolves from individual survival to an experimental choir and contact improvisation, embracing diverse experiences. Audience participation allows for sharing concerns about survival, inviting everyone to discover the best tools to navigate today’s challenges.

Onto musicals now, For a story-based musical show “performed by an all-female cast who share their stories to each other through dialogue, music and dance”, we recommend Imbokodo The Musical. “The stories looks at the struggle women from all aspects of life go through. The women who left for exile to fight for the liberation of our country leaving their behind. The horror of Chobediso, looking at the effects on the victims. We look into the horror of GBV and other situations women go through while trying to survive. The show is covered by beautiful sounds of Marimbas and indigenous instruments.”

Already highly acclaimed, solo production Apple of My Eye: The Steve Jobs Musical, tells “the story of the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. A divisive character, deemed a genius by some and hated by others.” It was OFFIE winner for Best Camden Fringe show of 2022.

We are glad to see a section on New Writing in the Camden Listings. Schrödinger’s Lesbians (Sappho: A Year in the Life) is our early choice. “Structured around Sappho’s fragments, ‘Schrödinger’s Lesbians’ is a joyful, irreverent new play from Themis Theatre about love, lesbians, and how to cope with a history that’s written you out of it”

We’ll be adding more reviews in the run up to and, during Camden Fringe so check back regularly.