Brighton Fringe: performers raring to go

Mural in Brighton, titled 'Brighton Fringe'
Brighton Fringe mural. Photo credit: Pam Fray, Creative Commons Licence

Alivia Arief is going into her final year of journalism at the University of Sussex. She lives in Hove and enjoys writing about fringe theatre, politics and neo-paganism.

Brighton & Hove is set to host the annual Brighton Fringe Festival from 28 May,  having received £143,000 from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. After a year of unpredictable chaos and anxiety within the arts sector, the Fringe Festival has been given the green light.

Many actors, directors, producers and technicians have suffered at the hands of Covid-19 – not only due to the impact that the virus has had on the economy, but also because of live performances being banned during lockdowns.

Last year Brighton Fringe had to cancel the annual festival in May and instead re-opened theatre doors in October for a restrained, yet still very significant, Fringe Festival.

“The appreciation you felt, it was emotional,” Heather Rose Andrews, actor in Jekyll & Hyde, A One-Woman Show says.

Live streaming of performances

Theatre and other live performances have had to adapt around social distancing laws and ongoing lockdowns, with many creative industries having to reinvent platforms and establish new ways for audiences to view live entertainment.

In 2020, throughout May and October, many theatre venues created their own websites from which to stream live theatre.

This year’s Brighton Fringe will have online performances available for those unable to view live performances, and some tours will be digitised also.

The challenge of rehearsals

The build-up to the Fringe this year has been an emotional and intense journey. Without adequate rehearsal spaces or even much opportunity to meet up in person to rehearse pieces, so many artists have found this a testing time.

“The biggest challenge is that you’re not in the room,” Andy Moseley, director of Make-up says of not being in the venue space and able to visualise how the show will look in it. “We’ve developed everything over Zoom.”

Heather Rose Andrews adds: “You can’t sing over FaceTime as there’s a time delay!”

Long Covid

It seems as if the lockdowns have caused a wide variety of problems that aren’t just related to rehearsing pieces to put on in May.

Performers who contracted Covid-19 last year have reported the virus having long-term effects on their lung capacity, which has meant that singing and acting can be physically painful.

“A lot of us haven’t performed in a year – your body is an instrument and if you are not using it, it gets tired,” says Heather Rose Andrews.

Group of people dressed in bright, colourful clothes.
The Champagne Anarchists fashion show, Brighton Fringe 2013. Photo credit: Heather Buckley, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Excitement of live performances

Whilst preparing for the upcoming Fringe has been difficult, there also seems to be a sense of excitement and optimism growing amongst those who will be performing for live audiences.

Many artists and audiences alike prefer fringe theatre to larger-scale venues because of its edgy nature. The festival is a perfect opportunity to dip your toes into the theatre world if you have never seen live performances before.

“I just want to perform, it’s what I do,” Heather Rose Andrews admits.

If you do intend to see live theatre during the Fringe, it’s important to remember that social distancing measures will still be in place, and masks will be required when sitting inside the venue.

“This Fringe is not for profit; people aren’t making any money from this,” she added. “But they will have the chance to perform and get back on their feet, and I think that’s vital.”

There will be changes and it may feel alien to some, but a lot of artists are eager to step onto the stage once more.

“Whatever happens, we’re going to put the festival on,” Andy Moseley, director of Make-up, says.

The arts sector has really come under the spotlight in the last few months as the government announced that on-the-day testing may be put in place for live entertainment and nightclubs. This would mean audience members and club goers would have to get tested on the day or maybe show their Covid status, if the proposed Covid passport app is ready.

Optimism is infectious

Even though the journey back to being able to perform live again has been a hard road full of many challenges, the optimism that is brewing around Brighton Fringe is infectious.

“I’m fascinated to be performing in a pandemic. When I did it in October, it was absolutely magical,” Heather Rose Andrews says.

It seems as if this year’s Brighton Fringe is set to give audiences its heart and soul.

Andy Moseley’s show Make-up will be performing at the Rialto from 11 to 13 June, 6:30−7:30pm.

Heather Rose Andrews will be performing Bignell & Andrews Do A Fringe! from 28 May to 6 June, 8:30-9:30pm, and Jekyll & Hyde: A One-Woman Show from 21 to 27 June, 7:00-8:00pm, at Sweet Venues.

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