Five fringe theatre shows to see this October
Two one-woman plays about coercive control, a drama about the Spanish Civil War, Chekhov set in space, and more...
Hello, and welcome to another issue of The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
As explained in last Friday’s issue, the last issue of every month is now going to feature five fringe theatre recommendations for the following month, so below you will find five shows worth catching in October in London, in Edinburgh, and elsewhere.
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More from me at the bottom, including some exciting info about upcoming issues. First, though: five fringe theatre shows to see in October. Head along to them if you can!
October at the Soho Theatre looks great. There’s Karim Khan’s Fringe First-winning two-handed Brown Boys Swim. There’s A Gig For Ghosts, a new gig-theatre show from Becky CJ and Fran Bushe, who made the hilarious solo show Ad Libido a few years ago. Heck, there is also Tim Key doing his new show Mulberry, too, which was one of the funniest things I saw at the fringe this year.
Best of all, though, there is the return of Sh!t Theatre, the intrepid, award-winning, avant-garde company co-run by Louise Mothersole and Rebecca Biscuit, whose previous hits include 2016’s Letters To Windsor House, 2017’s DollyWould!, and 2019’s Sh!t Theatre Drink Rum With Expats. Each of those shows tackled a different topic – housing, Dolly Parton, and Malta – in what has become the double-act’s signature style: scrappy and silly, but somehow deadly serious.
New show Evita Too! promises more of the same. It is, apparently, a “performance-art mega-musical” about Isabel Peron, the third wife of Juan Peron – Evita, the one from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, was his second – who succeeded him as president of Argentina in 1974. You can read Natasha Tripney’s interview with Mothersole and Biscuit for the Evening Standard here, and book tickets via the button below.
In 1936, four men from Prestonpans – a town on the East Lothian coast, not far from Edinburgh – travelled across Europe to join the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. 549: Scots Of The Spanish Civil War, from Scottish company Wonder Fools, tells the true story of their experiences.
Based on research conducted by the creatives, 549 originally ran in the summer of 2019, but returns in expanded, extended form for a mainstage Scottish tour that started at Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre last weekend, and visits Glasgow’s Tron Theatre, Inverness’ Eden Court, Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, and elsewhere over the next month-and-a-bit.
Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon’s powerfully political show flits back and forth between present-day Prestonpans and the late 1930s, and features some fiery performances from its five-strong cast. Director Nurse, designer Becky Minto and lighting designer Benny Goodman combine to create some striking visuals, and VanIves’ original score is starkly beautiful, too. Well worth catching if you can.
Ruckus was one of my favourite shows of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, as I predicted it would be back in July. Written and performed by Jenna Fincken, directed by Georgia Green, and produced by Wildcard Theatre, the company behind the hit 2018 gig-theatre show Electrolyte, it is a gripping and gut-twisting one-woman play about coercive control.
Fincken plays Lou, a twenty-something teacher, who meets and spontaneously moves in with the seemingly lovely Ryan. Over an hour, she recounts the increasingly coercive behaviour Ryan displays in their relationship – the games, the gaslighting, the threats of self-harm, the psychological abuse.
Green’s staging – with sound from Tingying Dong and lighting from Simeon Miller, two former interviewees of this newsletter – is taut and tense, as is Fincken’s performance. Look out for a full issue featuring her next week, but in the meantime, you can read my The Stage review of Ruckus’ run at Summerhall in August here, and you can book tickets to see it at Southwark Playhouse using the button below.
Another show about coercive control arrives in the world premiere Wormholes, a new one-woman play written by Emily Jupp, directed by Scott Le Crass and starring Call The Midwife’s Victoria Yeates. It is produced by Keith Merrill and his company The Salon and runs in The Other Palace’s Studio over two nights from October 14th, with a proportion of the proceeds going to charity Refuge.
Wormholes focuses on a woman who wakes up in a mental facility, and explores both the abuse she suffered that led her there and the alternative lives she might have led. Playwright Jupp regularly writes about theatre for a variety of national publications and was shortlisted for the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize in 2019.
“I wanted to dispel some of the myths around the 'type' of woman who could become a victim,” she continues. “It doesn't matter how confident, rich, successful or self-sufficient you are. This will not protect you, because this is not your problem to solve. This is a problem with society and with the perpetrators.”
Chekhov in space? It sounds like the sort of insane idea Alan Partridge might pitch in a TV meeting, but Vinay Patel’s new version of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard does exactly that - and, apparently, it works really well, having opened at the Yard Theatre earlier this month, where it will run until October 22nd.
Patel – who wrote BBC Three drama Murdered By My Father, as well as the hit play An Adventure and several episodes of Doctor Who – has turned rural Russia into a speeding spaceship, transformed ailing aristocrat Ranyevskaya into Captain Ramesh, and reimagined The Cherry Orchard’s social satire into a sci-fi setting.
Anjali Jay leads an eight-strong cast, while James Macdonald directs, Rosie Elnile designs, Max Pappenheim provides the sound and Lewis den Hertog the video. It is, according to Natasha Tripney’s review in The Stage, a “vividly imagined and emotionally textured adaptation” that is “philosophical, questioning and heartfelt.”
That’s it for this month’s issue. Next week’s newsletter will feature an interview with Jenna Fincken about Ruckus. I, meanwhile, will be seeing Rona Munro’s new play James IV on Tuesday evening, before I head off to Dublin Theatre Festival next weekend. Exciting!
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Thanks for reading. If you want to get in touch with me to ask about anything, or to suggest someone who deserves a shout-out in this newsletter, you can reach me on Twitter - I’m @FergusMorgan - or by simply replying to this email. Right. See you next week.