This week’s blog is a quick update from your Web Officer, who’s just back from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 – not-so-fresh, not-so-well-fed and definitely down with a case of the excessive-exertion sniffles, but pretty happy after an amazing month-long tour with P.A.!
Hi folks! Well, what can I say about the preceding month other than “Wow” and “I want to go back”?! After months of rehearsals down in Southampton and a few preview performances to test out our material (there’s nothing quite like asking your friends for an honest opinion!), I was lucky enough to be part of a group of 23 or so students who made the journey up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 at the beginning of August – and now, what seems like an age later, thoroughly exhausted and suffering from post-Festival withdrawal symptoms, I can only summarise by labelling it an absolutely incredible month!
The Fringe is the biggest annual international performing festival in the world – and boy is it obvious when you go up there! Featuring theatre, comedy, dance, magic, circus, cabaret, improv, opera, choirs, music and pretty much any other form of performance you can think of, anywhere and everywhere (be it street corners, theatres, caves, clubs… whereever you go, someone’s putting on a show!), and even those inventing their own performance styles (for example, I caught a show this year which entirely consisted of physical theatre in pitch blackness, with the cast’s clothing acting as the lights!), it’s often seen as one of the pinnacles in a University career for many a theatrically affiliated student, just because it’s such an inspirational experience in how it exposes you to a fantastic depth of international culture and quality.
This year was no different as, under the banner of “Gone Rogue Productions”, SUSU Performing Arts, and in particular its Theatre Group and Comedy Society, following extensive fundraising campaigns (which ultimately required some great sacrifices to be made – particularly of one production team’s hair!), made their way to Scotland and represented Southampton in style, with a highly successful – and enjoyable – Fringe all round.
Firstly, to Theatre Group’s contributions: the group took up two shows to the Fringe this year, a gender-swapped twist on Oscar Wilde’s classic farce, The Importance of Being Earnest, and an enthralling fast-paced thriller, Stephen Belber’s Tape. Aside from the great commercial successes achieved (after all, we’re in it for the love of art, right?!), audience and critical reception was highly favourable for both shows, particularly in the case of Tape receiving multiple four-star reviews and being long-listed for the National Student Drama Festival Edinburgh award 2014, a magnificent achievement which really puts Gone Rogue on the map for future years. Likewise, Earnest also accrued its fair share of supporters, including some of a quite-possibly-famous-but-I’m-not-allowed-to-say-too-much-yet nature – so keep your eyes out in the media next year for that (as a cast member it was a special experience, to say the least)!
There was a slightly more hectic, if no less enjoyable, experience for the members of Comedy Society (most under the company name “Masters of None”) who made the journey, with some performing, at various points in the Festival calendar, no fewer than four times a day in their shows Skimprov, ‘Melon, Coffee, Duck’ and Clusterf*ck with great aplomb; on one occasion, they even ended up playing the crowd like a fiddle at C Venues’ Improvaganza show (although I won’t forget in a hurry their faces when they were asked to, on the spot, sing with an improvised musical group)! Their debut at the Fringe was a tremendous success in itself just to make it there, but to demonstrate high quality stand-up and sketch material, alongside improvisational ability of such a brilliant standard, was exceptional, and it’s hugely exciting to see what they’ll come up with next time around!
Other highlights of the Festival for everyone included the chance to go around and network with other companies, catch plenty of shows for free using our company passes (personally, I caught a grand total of 70 within the space of three weeks – I need a break from it now I think!), witness one of our own alumni, Joe Hart, deliver an outstanding performance in a national comedy competition (placing 3rd in the So You Think You’re Funny? Final, and being commended by none other than Jason Manford), scale Arthur’s Seat and play a round of the classic drama game “Ninjas”, enjoy a fair few nights out (well, it is a Festival after all!), and partake in our fair share of celeb-spotting, Gone Rogue’s top meetings including Jack Gleeson (also known to some as King Joffrey!), John Bishop, Simon Callow, Georgie Henley and Simon Amstell.
And now we’re back, and gradually settling into the until-recently alien concept of a “healthy lifestyle”! It’s been an experience to savour, and definitely one I’d recommend to any and all members of Performing Arts: if you’re in a theatrical society, you owe it to yourself to go for it, and if not, there’s probably a performance venue for your group waiting somewhere up there in 2015, so get considering it! A massive thanks goes out to our production teams (in particular Jed, Mike, Luke, Chris, Jamie & Poppy) and committees (especially Sally from TG), to the University for their financial support of our endeavours through the G F Forsey fund, and any and all persons who helped us reach our fundraising targets to get up there, or who came to see the show – thank you so much for an incredible experience!
As for you, Edinburgh… (hopefully) see you next year!