Manchester has always had a great theatre reputation, with a choice of great venues and major shows visiting the city it’s easy to see why so many people flock to the theatre here.

However, it’s our vibrant fringe scene that really stands out. On any day of the week you can see something playing somewhere from one of the many fringe companies in the city. Experimental theatre, dramas, short plays, new musicals, camp comedies etc. the Manc fringe scene has it all. I have been proud to be a part of this scene for the past 5 years with my own company Vertigo, the fact the company has become so successful is down to the city, the diehard fringe fans who will seek out new works, first time showings of American fringe shows or just something a little different, there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be doing fringe.
 
However with such a vibrant scene to rival that of London it’s always been a shame that a major inclusive non restricted fringe festival has never been set up here, sure we have the 24/7 but that comes with restrictions, The Not Part Of only happens once every couple of years etc., but we need something to rival the Edinburgh Fringe Festival....... well it looks like we might be about to get it.
 
Venues such as The Black Lion, Taurus Bar, Satan’s Hollow, Tiger Lounge, Sound Bar, The Lass O'Gowrie, The Dancehouse, O’Shea’s, The Fab Cafe and The King’s Arms are participating in The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, and I for one could not be more excited. The festival will feature something for everyone from drama premieres, live music, dance, stand-up comedy, visual arts, literature and workshops. Running throughout July, the line up is already starting to look most intriguing indeed, and most of it is still yet to be announced.
 
The major shows taking part in the festival are sure to get people talking:
 
Lord Alan Sugar will be one of the stars of the inaugural Greater Manchester Fringe Festival taking place in July 2012 – he just doesn’t know he’s been hired yet! The man who has the power to hire or fire on The Apprentice will be appearing in the WORLD PREMIERE of a brand new play called Together In Electric Dreams. The play, written by Daniel Thackery from Oldham, was specially commissioned by the Lass O’Gowrie for the festival and focuses on a meeting between outspoken Sugar and Sir Clive Sinclair in a restaurant in 1986. The meeting of these two Titans of the 1980s computer scene was when Sugar’s company Amstrad bought out Sinclair’s Spectrum, which had been the world’s best-selling computer.
 
Another major show is Peter Michael Marino’s one man show Desperately Seeking the Exit a fantastic and rare comedy/true story show that I’m pleased to say my company are producing the Manchester run of. Marino wrote the four million pound West End musical Desperately Seeking Susan, but after only 4 weeks, the show crashed and burned losing all its money. Now Peter tells how it all went wrong in this show that is playing around America at the moment to rave reviews. He also offers his funny insights about an American trying to navigate life in the UK. Playing the 30th and 31st July at Taurus Bar before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a 4 week run, Manchester will see this show before anyone else in the UK. Tickets are already close to sold out on Quaytickets.
 
Are you a fan of Doctor Who? If so, then this next one is for you, Blake's Seven star Paul Darrow is appearing in the opening nights of Robots of Death and Storm Mine, brand new stage adaptations of Dr Who stories from 1977 by Alan Stevens, thanks to a joint collaboration between Fab Café and the Lass O’Gowrie. As with the adaptation of Russell T Davies’s Midnight at Lassfest in January, neither story features Dr Who or his companion. They feature the main characters from Magic Bullet’s series of audio adventures Kastron Iago and Elska Blayes, taken from Chris Boucher’s original rehearsal scripts.
 
If you are a dance dan Manchester City Ballet and Jazzgalore dance companies will be showcasing A Dance Review at The Dancehouse (July 5-7). If comedy is more your thing then Jongleurs Comedy Live - the legendary London comedy club brings a selection of the country's finest up-an-coming stand-ups to The Dancehouse on July 27.

Other highlights include Cabaret Regale (July 13) and Grimm Up North, a horror film double bill (July 19). There will also be a brand new live stage adaptation of the classic sitcom Porridge at the Lass O’Gowrie, plus a welcome return for Fearne Cotton's favourite chap hop rivals Professor Elemental and Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. Also returning will be the Sitcom Trials and the Scottish Falsetto Puppet Theatre. And that’s just for starters!
 
So I urge you Manchester folk to get behind this exciting new theatre festival, our city needs something like this and I take my hat off to everyone who has set up this festival, all who are taking part, Arthur Bostrom from 'Allo 'Allo for becoming the patron as well as the theatre goers who will attend. This has to be one of the most exciting new theatre festivals in awhile, I am sure you will all agree. If you need more information, Quaytickets will be selling tickets for all shows.
 
On a personal note as much as I love a good fringe festival, I applaud Manchester for going out and supporting the fringe shows all year round that are not part of festivals. I know certain newspapers or awards ceremonies seem to forget that fringe has a life outside of a festival but the theatre patrons most certainly do not. Fringe simply works on a lower budget, no matter how experimental or commercial it is all still fringe. Each company spends what is to them a lot of money to stage these shows and it’s very easy for them to collapse if the support is not there for them, but Manchester has such an amazing theatre going audience that all the hard work we all put in is truly appreciated by you all. 

So I would just like to say a big thank you from every one of us fringe writers, directors, productions companies, actors and venues, you never let us down and it means the world to us.

For further info, vist the website.
 
Till next time!
 
- Craig Hepworth