Brighton Fringe 2021
An eclectic mix of international artists bring comedy, cabaret, live music, circus acts and some surprises in a new show running nightly alongside The Ladyboys of Bangkok. Photo courtesy of JJ Waller.
Bang in front of Brighton’s landmark St Peter’s church sits the pink and gold Sabai Pavilion. Roll up, roll up! it seems to shout. There are wonders here, and mystery too.
Larger than life-size gilded statues greet you at the gate, and large bouncers go through the Covid rules. The tent itself feels quite intimate despite the spaces between tables and complicated one-way system marked in arrows. That carpet is going to buckle, mark my words. Low lit, a silver curtain, show time.
This is a brand new production from the powerhouse couple Phillip and Carol Gandey, who’ve been touring circus and ballet around the world for decades. The Chinese State Circus was a fixture in Preston Park for many Brighton Fringes and in recent years The Ladyboys of Bangkok has done sterling business. The Night shares their venue, offering a rather different and very enjoyable experience.
A neat on-stage band, including Brighton’s horn supremo Charlotte Glasson, plays jazzy interludes and backing for most of the performers with aplomb, from Peggy Lee to Tom Waits.
Compere Abigail Collins is a seasoned performer with many years experience under her jaunty circus pants including with La Clique and Cal McCrystal’s Office Party which stormed Edinburgh in 2008. She combines the naughtiness of Ursula Martinez with the physicality of Spymonkey’s Petra Massey and is a confident, alluring hostess, adept at woman-handling the audience and keeping the energy in the room high. As a foil for the (mainly) younger performers Collins plays up her maturity, throwing in a bit of grotesque; some of the jokes are well worn but the sparky ad-libs show her real metal.
Even more seasoned is Chris Lynam who has been ripping up stages, often literally, for over 30 years and is no stranger to danger. A natural clown with blazing eyes and a shock of wild hair Lynam is a warm and eccentric presence, seemingly slip-shod in the way of Tommy Cooper or Charlie Chuck. He’s the perfect foil to the tightly choreographed, groomed and spangled spesh acts such as French contortionist Anaëlle Molinario and Mexican tightrope walker Gina Morales. The acoustic of the tent hampered much of sword-swallower Bloody Bones patter, but doesn’t distract from his staggering ability to push large metal objects down his gullet.
The unusually named Lovers Duo Eclipse had me watching from behind my hands as they whirled around a tiny platform on skates, she held by her neck. In contrast Polish dueo Oskar Piotrowski and Mateusz Kanigowski had my eyes on sticks. Their balances, choreographed into sculptural shapes, brought the house to its feet.
The audience was a lively, noisy crowd clearly up for a good time. With some audience interaction, encouragement to keep the drinks rolling and orchestrated cheering the emphasis is firmly on having fun. Like a good old end of the pier show The Night makes a welcome addition to the Fringe scene; traditional in form, entertaining and at times a proper thrill.