August Top Picks: Edinburgh AlternativesDate: 1 August 2009
Lots of Off-West End readers will be putting their final plans in place for the yearly pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. If for whatever reason that doesn’t include you, never fear because August is going to be another fantastic month for the London Fringe and Off-West End scene. So take the exorbitant sums of money you save from not splashing out on your train fare and Edinburgh accommodation and get along to some of WOS’s top picks for August.
The site is currently featuring a glut of five-star reviews, a good sign of the quality on offer. First up we have The Girlfriend Experience at the Young Vic (until 15 August), a verbatim piece about a prostitutes’ parlour which sees the actors listen to audio recordings made by the playwright and mimic them directly each night. As well as being extremely funny this play offers an objective and considered view of prostitution and director Joe Hill-Gibbins’s cast pull off this difficult material with aplomb.
August is a particularly strong month for the Arcola, with two excellent and very different shows running simultaneously in its two full-time performance spaces. Dirt (until 15 August) is an award-winning one-man play about the experiences of an Iraqi refugee on the periphery of western society. Christopher Domig’s portrayal of the outsider Sad has been lauded for its extraordinary emotional commitment and his intelligent interpretation of Robert Schneider’s text.
Ghosts, or Those Who Return (until 22 August), the Arcola’s other recommended show, is a new version of Ibsen’s 1882 play, which explores issues of incest, venereal disease and adultery in a searing exposé of the sexual hypocrisy of 19th-century society. Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s adaptation of this work follows her version of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, which was produced at the Arcola last year. Award-winning director Bijan Sheibani’s highly experienced cast include Suzanne Burden and Arcola favourite Jim Bywater.
An altogether lighter note is struck by The Pirates of Penzance at the Union Theatre (until 8 August). Sasha Regan’s pared down production sees an accomplished all-male cast accompanied by just a piano storm through the classic Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera.
This summer sees Soho Theatre host the National Youth Theatre in a season of three double bills, provocatively entitled Tits/Teeth (from 14 August), Foot/Mouth (from 18 August) and Eye/Balls (from 20 August). Expect a blend of observational comedy, light-hearted satire and serious exploration of topics that artistic director Paul Roseby believes are relevant not just to the NYT’s young ensemble, but also to a wider audience.
If after all those great shows you’re still itching for that festival vibe, check out the Camden Fringe, London’s fast-growing alternative to Edinburgh. This year there are 399 performances of 118 shows across five venues including the Camden People’s Theatre and the Roundhouse Studio. Grimms (6, 7 and 8 August), an energetic and imaginative adaptation of the works of the Brothers Grimm, looks like a good bet, as does Dummies (3 and 4 August), a show featuring puppetry, clowning and plenty of nonsense.