Based entirely within the Junction (a compact art centre in the middle of an industrial and shopping estate) Junction Sampled is as mini as micro-festivals come. But far from squashing any ambition, its comfortable size means that an audience of festival goers bonds in a way that those at Glastonbury (it’s just so large now you know?) could only dream of. That going from show to show you see the same people can only be a good thing when random conversations about the work at hand emerge amongst hitherto strangers.
Sampled is a rich mixture of fully formed shows, playing alongside pieces in their absolute infancy. The result is a relaxed hub for both exciting new talent and old voices flexing their muscles. Hostess Bryony Kimmings is a fabulously down to earth diva who none-the-less infuses the café space with a shot of decadent glamour. The sweet jars perched temptingly on tables lend a sense of silly fun and the Pimms Bar and bunting add to the party atmosphere. There’s a distinctly village fete feeling to the whole shebang which is mirrored in a Sunday programme with a wholesome bent. This is more arts and crafts than polished commercialism and it’s all the better for it.
In a day brimming with potential two shows in particular stick out for me. Imaginative Brighton based company non zero one provide a discombobulating 20 minutes in a sports changing room with the time out. I feel an easy going but piercing sense of companionship with my fellow swimmers and a little breathless as I exit. As part of the excellent JAM section (The Junctions’ experimental scratch platform) Dan Canham’s haunting 30 Cecil Street evokes a lost theatre once at the heart of a now crushed community. With a transporting and deceptively effortless skill Canham brings these ghosts to life in what succeeds in being an immensely human and in a strange way powerfully political piece.
Rounding off my experience is Michael Pinchbeck’s mischievous The End which takes a cheeky wink at Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction ‘Exit pursued by a bear’. Just as Pinchbeck is finishing his career, so his performing partner Ollie Smith is beginning his, one character exiting pursued by another. It’s a sweet piece of meta-theatre, a show about a show. But it’s also a love song to an art form Pinchbeck believes he will be leaving, a tender goodbye to an audience he feels he can no longer reach.