Five fringe theatre shows to see this November
A solo sung-through musical in Scotland, a new play in London, a documentary theatre piece in Manchester, and more...
Hello, and welcome to another issue of The Crush Bar, a weekly newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
Apologies for the prolonged absence from your inbox. I had some sad family news last week, which meant I was not able to put together and send out a newsletter last Friday. I’m back now, though, with your monthly pick of fringe theatre shows to see in November.
You can find out more about The Crush Bar here, and if you want to subscribe – or, better still, become a paid subscriber to help keep this newsletter going for the price of a coffee-and-a-half a month – then you can do so via the button below. That’d be just super.
More from me at the bottom, including some info about upcoming issues. First, though: five fringe theatre shows to see in November. Head along to them and support live theatre!
Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World - HOME, until November 5th, then BAC until November 26th
In 2017, theatremaker Javaad Alipoor debuted his superb show The Believers Are But Brothers at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was an intriguing, innovative piece of theatre, part-lecture, part-storytelling, using WhatsApp, video, news footage and more to explore online radicalisation. In 2019, he followed it up with Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran.
Now, he is completing the trilogy with Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World, a new work co-created with Natalie Diddams and Chris Thorpe, which is currently running at HOME in Manchester and which transfers to Battersea Arts Centre in mid-November for a two-week run.
It is, Alipoor says, “a thrilling post-colonial ride down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and murder mystery podcasts”, centred on the 1992 killing of Iranian pop-star Fereydoun Farrokhzad, and contemplating how the internet marshals narratives for Western perspective. You can read Verity Healey’s excellent interview with Alipoor in the Stage here, and you can buy tickets for its Battersea run below.
Crocodile Rock is one half of a double-bill of small-scale musicals touring Scotland. Both have been written, composed and directed by Andy McGregor and produced by his theatre company Sleeping Warrior, both started life as part of the Glasgow-based series of lunchtime shows A Play, A Pie and a Pint, and both have been redeveloped and restaged to visit venues in tandem this Autumn.
Crocodile Rock is worth catching if you can. Set in the small town of Millport on the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde, it follows a troubled teenager as he struggles to fit in at school, starts questioning his sexuality, and eventually discovers his dazzling drag-queen alter-ego, Milly Port.
Stephen Arden’s solo performance is absolutely superb, very versatile and very funny, and he is excellent in Crocodile Rock’s sister piece A New Life, too. You can read my review of both in The Stage here, and you can book tickets to see them using the button below.
For a long time, Anoushka Lucas wanted to be a singer-songwriter. She never wanted to be an actor, let alone a playwright. And yet, the 34-year-old has spent 2022 appearing opposite Kit Harington in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Henry V and starring in Daniel Fish’s radical adaptation of Oklahoma!, soon to be arriving in the West End.
Before that, she is appearing in her debut play, an autobiographical solo show called Elephant that runs at the Bush Theatre until November 12. It is based on a viral video Lucas made as a rapid response to the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and it sees her attempt to confront the racism she has experienced in the British middle classes and in the music industry.
“It is also about the piano,” Lucas told me earlier this month, for an interview in The Stage. “I have always used the piano to feel safe and heard – to feel free. I found that people didn’t listen to me when I spoke, but they listened when I played the piano. My director Jess Edwards calls it a two-hander between me and the piano.” You can read that interview here, and book tickets below.
Nathan Ellis is the bold, boundary-breaking playwright behind 2018’s No One Is Coming To Save You and this year’s work.txt – a show designed to be performed by the audience that had everybody talking at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and which is set to go on a European tour in 2023.
Before that, though, comes the premiere of Ellis’ new play, which runs at Soho Theatre until early December. Shortlisted for the Verity Bargate Award in 2020, Super High Resolution follows a doctor Anna – a character inspired by Ellis’ own sister – and attempts to evoke the sheer relentlessness of working for the NHS.
It is a play that asks: “What are the limits of our empathy for other people? Can you care too much?” says Ellis, interviewed by Natasha Tripney in The Stage. You can read that fascinating chat here, and you can book tickets via the button below.
It is impossible to say exactly what will happen in Zoo Co.’s Perfect Show For Rachel, one of two joint winners of this year’s Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award, along with HighRise Entertainment’s The UK Drill Project. Even the show’s creators don’t know exactly.
That is because of the show’s experimental concept, which sees Zoo Co.’s artistic director Flo O’Mahoney hand the directorial reigns over to her theatre-loving, learning-disabled older sister Rachel O’Mahoney. There is a cast, a crew, a custom-designed tech desk, and a range of directions that each performance could go in - but what actually happens is entirely up to Rachel.
“One night could feasibly be 60 minutes of fart jokes and nothing else,” explains O’Mahoney. “One night we might watch a video of Rachel riding a bike 17 times. One night, Rachel might not come.” You will find out more about Perfect Show For Rachel in a future issue of this newsletter – but for now, you can book tickets to see it at the Barbican via the button below.
That’s it for this month’s issue. Next week’s issue will have an interview with experimental, theatre-making duo PJ Stanley and Emma Clark - AKA emma + PJ - whose show Ghosts Of The Near Future was one of the best things I saw in Edinburgh in August. Future issues are going to have chats with Flo O’Mahoney of Zoo Co. and Sam Ward of YESYESNONO. Lots to look forward to!
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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.