|By Terri Paddock|
Boss Blog: Theatre's Debt to Comedy
Date: 11 August 2011
It’s a common complaint amongst theatre fans that the Edinburgh Fringe has gone to the comedy dogs. And there are plenty of stats that would seem to back up this view.
Just six years ago, theatre ruled the roost as the largest festival genre, representing 37% of the overall Fringe programme. In 2011, it’s comedy that claims 37% of the programme, with theatre running a fairly distant second at 30%.
So in terms of domination, yes, it’s true, comedy is the victor. But it’s not that the Fringe is any less a breeding ground for drama than it was before. Comedy’s win is merely proportional to the rapid growth of the festival overall.
Theatre’s 37% of the programme in 2005 amounted to 666 shows of the 1,799 on offer that year. This year’s 30% amounts to 763 shows. That’s a perfectly respectable – some might even say impressive - 13% increase. So theatre is still growing in Edinburgh – it’s just that the rest of the Fringe, fuelled largely by comedy, is growing faster. (In fact, more than twice as fast.)
My personal experience of the Fringe is that it’s very easy indeed to take in nothing but theatre - and, if you select well, nothing but highly original and inspirational theatre at that. And when I’m not feeling so rigid with my scheduling, an occasional comedy interlude makes me enjoy more intellectually challenging theatre even more.
Besides, is there really such a massive division between the two? As Nica Burns pointed out at this week’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards launch, “Comedy and comedians are making a larger and larger contribution to our cultural life as a whole.”
My own trip to Edinburgh this year was delayed by the opening of Double Feature at the National Theatre, featuring a new play written by Tom Basden, a stand-up who won the Comedy Awards’ Best Newcomer prize in 2007. Basden also acts in both his own play and another in the NT season.
Other former Comedy Awards winners who have made and are continuing to make a splash in theatre include Daniel Kitson, whose storytelling pieces have always defied categorisation at the Fringe (and as a result, earned him a coveted annual berth at the Traverse). In October, Kitson will also be at the National, bringing his Fringe First-winning It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later to the Lyttelton, with extra dates already added in December.
Then, of course, there’s Australian madman Tim Minchin, who made his musical writing debut with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s hugely acclaimed adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, now transferring to the West End’s Cambridge Theatre.
And even at the Fringe itself, there’s plenty of crossover evidence. The schedule allows theatrically inclined comedians to multi-task, doing theatre during the day before delivering their stand-up schtick at night. The Comedians Theatre Company was founded here in 2005 to take advantage of this very situation – and it’s still going strong. Another Comedy Award alum, company co-founder Phil Nichol, has provided me with one of my five-star experiences at this year’s Fringe, the new one-man play Somewhere Beneath It All, A Small Fire Burns Still, written especially for him.
Nica’s own CV proves the point. She’s run the Comedy Awards (formerly the Perriers, now sponsored by Foster’s) since they were founded 31 years ago. She’s also just stepped down as president of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), and as boss of Nimax, is one of the West End’s biggest theatre owners and producers. If she can criss-cross the comedy and theatre divide, I don’t see why the rest of us can’t too.
- by Terri Paddock
Any opinions expressed above do not represent the view of Whatsonstage.com nor any of its staff or contributors beyond the bylined author.
|Other Posts By Terri Paddock|
|Boss Blog: WOS 15th birthday: Reporting on the Oliviers over the years - 24th Apr 2012 blog|
|Boss Blog: WOS 15th birthday, counting years & stats - 2nd Apr 2012 blog|
|Boss Blog: ETA for New-Look Whatsonstage.com = March 2012 - 26th Sep 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: She-wee, He-wee, We all wee for She-wee - 4th Aug 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: Are You Part of Whatsonstage.com's Future? - 11th May 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: Friday Capers & Our Twitter Milestone - 12th Apr 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: Who's Squealing Like a Stuck Pig? - 5th Apr 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: The Lure of the Longrunner - & Other Tourist Tales - 29th Mar 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: Oliviers 2011 - My View from the Stalls - 13th Mar 2011 blog|
|Boss Blog: A Personal Awards P.S. - 22nd Feb 2011 blog|
| - 1st Jan 1970 |
|Fosterís Enhances Fringe Profile, 31st Comedy Awards - 30th Jun 2011 News|
|Exclusive Video: Matilda's Bertie Carvel 'interviews' Tim Minchin at Drama Desk Awards - 10th May 2013 tv|
|Matilda the Musical & Kinky Boots lead Tony nominations - 30th Apr 2013 news|
|Review Round-up: Matilda storms Broadway - 15th Apr 2013 roundup|
|Photos: New production pics released for Matilda - 3rd Jan 2013 photos|
|Top Ten: London shows for half term - 23rd Oct 2012 features|
|Matilda releases 400k more tickets for Roald Dahl Day - 13th Sep 2012 news|
|RSC announces four new girls for West End Matilda - 9th Aug 2012 news|
|Matilda the Musical confirms Broadway transfer, opens March 2013 - 20th Jul 2012 news|
|Michael Boyd announces final RSC season, Ravenhill responds to Candide - 10th Jul 2012 news|
|David Leonard & Annette McLaughlin take over in Matilda - 1st Jun 2012 news|
|Matilda, Faust & Frayn triumph at South Bank Awards - 2nd May 2012 news|
|Matilda wins seven, One Man overlooked at 2012 Oliviers - 15th Apr 2012 news|
|Matilda, Guvnors & Constellations compete at South Bank Awards - 2nd Apr 2012 news|
|Bertie Carvel sets Matilda departure date, show extends - 28th Mar 2012 news|
|Matilda, Guvnors & Ladykillers lead the field at 2012 Oliviers - 15th Mar 2012 news|
|Sondheim sounds off - 5th Mar 2012 blog|
|RSC confirms plans to take WOS Award-winning Matilda to New York - 28th Feb 2012 news|
|Jo Caird: Why Can't We Resist Adaptations of Children's Classics? - 9th Jan 2012 blog|
|RSC Keeps Control of Matilda on Broadway??? - 9th Jan 2012 gossip|
|Matilda The Musical - 25th Nov 2011 reviews|
|1st Night Photos: RSC Matilda Swings into West End - 25th Nov 2011 photos|
|Review Round-up: Matilda is Top of the Class - 25th Nov 2011 roundup|
|Photos: 57th Evening Standard Awards Shortlist - 7th Nov 2011 photos|
|RSC Cancels First Five Previews of West End Matilda - 29th Sep 2011 news|
|Matilda & Girl Lead Theatre Awards UK Nominations - 29th Sep 2011 news|
|Take Ten ... London Autumn Season Highlights - 13th Sep 2011 features|
|Photos: New RSC Matildas Fly into West End - 13th Sep 2011 news|
|Cast Announced for West End Transfer of RSC Matilda - 23rd Aug 2011 news|
|Double Feature - 5th Aug 2011 reviews|
|Photos: NT Opens Paintframe for New Play Double - 4th Aug 2011 news|
|Opening: NT Paintframe, Scoop Fest & EdFringe - 1st Aug 2011 news|
|Christie Brinkley Delays West End Debut in Chicago - 8th Jul 2011 news|
|Photos: First Peek at London Matilda's New Look - 19th May 2011 photos|
|RSC's Matilda Confirms London Opening, 22 Nov - 19th May 2011 news|
|London Extends, NT Opens Backstage to Double - 16th May 2011 news|
|Moore, Basden, Holcroft & Puwanarajah Featured - 12th May 2011 news|
|Minchin's Matilda Comes to West End in Autumn - 31st Mar 2011 news|
|Will Minchin's Matilda Dream Come True??? - 13th Dec 2010 gossip|
|Review Round-up: RSC Move Critics with Matilda - 10th Dec 2010 roundup|
|Tim Minchin: Why You Should Come & See ... Matilda, A Musical - 6th Dec 2010 interviews|
|RSC Sets Dates for Dahlís Matilda Musical, 9 Nov - 24th Mar 2010 news|
|RSC Premieres Musical of Roald Dahlís Matilda - 30th Sep 2009 news|
|Edinburgh Comedy Awards website|