We hear the words Fringe Theatre a lot, I own a company that is a fringe theatre production company and Manchester is full of brilliant fringe plays; however the definition of what fringe theatre is seems to be a bit blurred. ‘Theatre without a budget’, ‘Experimental Theatre’ or ‘Plays in Small Venues’ I’ve heard it all, even I’m confused, I mean don’t get me wrong I know clearly what my company is and what we try to achieve but the outside world seem to be still trying to figure out what exactly fringe is.... even some venues seem to have their own take on it.

You see my notion of what Fringe Theatre is is the following, I see fringe works as simply being plays (new or revived) that are being done on a small scale with the hopes of getting the work seen by somebody who could help develop it further (artistically or financially) or at least that’s what it is to me and my company.  If we are doing our original plays that we write in house or we are producing UK Premieres of Off Broadway Plays we still have the same objective.  Entertain the audience, know our market and hope that we can get the work seen by someone who can help us take it further.

Some people I know avoid Fringe Theatre like the plague, they associate those words with abstract, a man in a black leotard dancing around a box.... you know the type.  It took me ages to get them to come and see one of our plays because that’s what they thought we did.  To their surprise our plays were commercial, accessible and for everyone ‘It’s just like normal theatre but smaller’, at first I laughed at that statement but in reality he’s absolutely right.

All fringe writers, producers, directors and actors would like their work to be seen on a bigger stage for a longer run, anyone who tells you they don’t are lying.  So the fringe team’s work day and night producing plays in small venues in the hopes that one day it will happen.  I guess in a strange way we could all be classed as Try Outs and we keep trying, but we all want the same thing right?

Recently a venue said to us that our work (which has ranged from serious dramas about High School Shootings to UK premieres such as Dog Sees God) was ‘too commercial’ to be fringe (for that venue). I was a little shocked, so does this mean that some people still think that if you are commercial you have no place in Fringe Theatre?

Recently my company got the rights to produce the Tony Nominated writer Charles’s Busch smash hit Off Broadway plays Die Mommie Die and Psycho Beach Party here in the UK for the 1st time. I was talking to the great man himself about Fringe Theatre and how frustrating it can be to be told you are Too Fringe or Not Fringe Enough, he understood the situation well. His early plays (and even many of his later ones) were either parodies or homage to old Hollywood, Charles would play one of the leading ladies and the shows could often be a bit outrageous. So on one hand his plays were very commercial, but on the other hand they were not commercial enough and could be seen as fringe..... and that was back in the 80s.

So after all this time we still don’t seem to have quite figured out what Fringe Theatre is.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe as long as audiences keep arriving and the shows keep getting coverage we should just accept that we are part of the theatrical world.

So what do you think best describes fringe theatre?
Now sticking with Fringe I’ve decided that each time I write one of these blogs I would like to give you my recommendations on what ‘Fringe’ shows I’m looking forward to and maybe you guys would like to check out. After all we are all part of the same team and should all support each other. 

So here are my highlights:

Undone – AXM, BadCheck Productions.
I will be posting my review on here for this play this week and it’s a piece I’m very excited about. The write up about the play sounds great, my kind of theatre, and it’s wonderful to see other company’s bringing theatre to Manchester’s Gay Village (that place really needs a theatre).

How do you survive the Gay Village with two devils on your shoulders and no angels in sight?

DEX wants to forget his past, his mistakes and his regrets. BEX is loud, drunk and sarcastic and exists through the bottom of each drink.  CHARLIE is trying to figure out which white baggy is which and AUSTIN is searching to find a place to belong and thrusts himself onto the party scene.

Undone is a sharp-witted look at one young man trying to navigate his way through relationships, lovers and friends via the underbelly of Manchester's Gay scene.  Through the mist of neon lights, dilated pupils and hangovers, DEX attempts to discover true intimacy, peeling back the layers of expectation and coming face to face with his fears head on.’ Playing this over Manchester pride, book tickets here

Organised Chaos are fast making a name for themselves as a producing house on the fringe scene. Enjoying success with the Benefit of Time, Seconds Out and Afternoon Tea the company now have another play opening, this time at Studio Salford.

Jeffery Bernard is Unwell
Jeff Bernard (played by award winning actor Phil Dennison) awakes early one morning locked in his favourite haunt, The Coach and Horses pub in Soho.  Unable to leave, and with only alcohol for company, he makes the best of the situation and reminisces about his world of women, drinking and cat-racing. Check out the Studio Salford site for more info on the play that opens in November.
Till next time, I wish you all a good bank holiday weekend, and if you are going to Manchester Pride then have a great time