You can find fringe venues everywhere in Manchester, our city is full of them, each one unique and exciting and full of possibilities for local fringe writers/directors and actors to show the theatre world just what they can do. However as someone who produces/writes and directs on the fringe scene with my company I have to say it’s been a long time since a new fringe venue has popped up that gets EVERYTHING right....... step forward The Three Minute Theatre.
 
I had the pleasure of stumbling across this wonderful venue when I went to see a fellow fringe writer present his new show there. Located on the bottom floor of Afflecks Palace the space is unique, equipped and full of heart and creativity.  However it was not until I co-produced the event Queer As Fringe at the venue that I realised what a gem this place really is.
 
The fringe scene changes on a year to year basis, and sadly so many fringe venues have put in place far too many obstacles (show must not have played a local festival, or Manchester, or be an adaptation, or be to commercial etc.) that they have slowly moved away from the real fringe scene and fast become just another selective theatre. Some like the wonderful Taurus Bar still have an open door policy to all fringe events and they tend to have some exciting things play there, but others I won’t mention by name that are funded by us the public have become less about the spirit of fringe.
 
The Three Minute Theatre is open to everyone, from comedians to musicians, improv to fringe, commercial to experimental. They have classes galore devoted to all sections of the arts run by exciting organisations and they house festivals from this year’s 24/7 to the aforementioned Queer As Fringe as well as starting their own. You can enjoy film nights with cheeky old fashioned adverts playing before the film or simply use it to rehearse. Something exciting is always happening because the owners have tapped in to the real spirit of community... and what of the owners?
 
Gina Frost and John Topliff are the reason this venue works, a fabulous partnership that have years in the arts themselves. They live theatre and devote every waking moment to the venue. It’s far more than a business to them it’s their way of life, to say these two are an inspiration is an understatement. I have struck up quite a relationship with these two and I’m constantly amazed by their warmth, dedication and drive, the moment you walk in to the 3MT you are greeted like a family member. If you have a production playing there the couple will bend over backwards to help in any way they can (a rare thing on the fringe scene) and most importantly you never stop smiling when the two are around.  For local artists who take a huge chance every time they put a show on its these kind of people you need around you to remind you exactly why you do it and why you continue to do it.
 
If you are looking for a venue that’s equipped then look no further, lighting rigs, full stage, sound equipment, projections they have it all.  If you go backstage at the venue you will see rails after rails of costumes and props that they will happily let you use. If you need something John always seems to be able to pull something from backstage, it’s a treasure chest back there; I have never seen anything like it.
 
So I wanted to write this article to let everybody know that one of the most exciting fringe/indie venues exists in Manchester. Hidden in the perfect setting of Afflecks Palace (a fabulous place to shop) this perfect new addition to the scene has started out with a bang.

So if you are a regular fringe attendee then I urge you to check out this venue. This place MUST stay in the city, we can’t let this one slip away, not that I think we have anything to worry about on that front, if John and Gina keep doing exactly what they are doing then the 3MT will be around for years to come.
 
So for this year I will happily say that the best fringe/indie venue in the city is The Three Minute Theatre, and I have a feeling I will be saying the same year in and year out.

- Craig Hepworth