Take one big group of Freshers, add fifteen Directors and throw twelve scripts into the mix to get one epic performance. Challenge accepted and completed by the New Theatre who presented this year’s up and coming recruits at their very own ‘Fresher’s Fringe’.
The cast performed extracts from a variety of plays, some well-known, some lesser known and some were even student-written. The ‘Fresher’s Fringe’ gives New Theatre the opportunity to showcase to Freshers and Returners alike their broad range of talents in one jam packed event. Each short performance lasted no longer than fifteen minutes, giving the audience just enough time to connect with the piece before being thrown delightfully off guard as the next new performance started.
The standard pre-show buzz that flows through an audience before they take their seats, and usually dissipates once the lights dim, carried on throughout the night as we were constantly teased with new characters, plots and styles.
Speaking of buzzing…you needed your swatters at the ready for ‘The Fly in the Soup’; a play based on a true disastrous dating experience that will have you batting away laughter. This usually annoying occurrence turns out to be the saviour in a very awkward girl-meets-boy-but-wishes-she-never-had scenario. The comedic timing of the actors paired with the genius of the make-up and costume team is a great example of the hilarity on offer.
The ‘Fresher’s Fringe’ also showcased the talents of Rebecca Roberts, Ben Macpherson and Craig Wilmann who are all writers to look out for in the future. Clearly stealing the comedy sphere of the show, they all managed to mould seemingly trivial day-to-day thoughts (like, erm, does it count as adultery when you cheat on your partner in a dream?) and represent them in a new thought-provoking way through the use of witty dialogue and dramatic irony.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that the ‘Fresher’s Fringe’ is all fun and laughter. There are dramatic and emotional performances aplenty; Elizabeth Frainier gives a moving performance in ‘If You’re Glad’, Suzannah Cushine performs a feisty portrayal of Mother Courage and Grace Beckett and John Kaiser play a couple on the edge, literally, in ‘The Kick’, an adaptation for the stage of that well known film ‘Inception’.
As much as these individual performers did shine, it was the interaction between cast members bouncing off one another that really showcased the acting talent. Right from the outset, the ladies from ‘Top Girls’ set the precedent, with each character clearly defining their individuality by vying for attention and looking to impress. They talked over one another while emitting an air of forced politeness which created an energetic dynamic between the actors. This energy infected the audience and got us psyched up for the rest of the evening. Another ensemble which was disturbingly successful was those from ‘The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband’, whipping up a storm of craziness on stage (caution: this performance contains some seriously back-combed hair!).
Tom Sheldon took on the role of several characters, whilst performing a monologue, ‘The Journalist’. He managed to create the sense of there being more than one actor on stage and painted a scene for the audience before he instantly replaced it with another scenario all of which helped to track the movements of a supposedly suicidal columnist.
Of course, the physical action of creating different scenarios on stage rested on the shoulders of the set team. Between each performance they had to effectively create and introduce a new world before the lights went up again. In one night we travel from a comfy living room setting in pre-Second World War Poland in ‘Mother Courage And Her Children’, to a modern day news room in ‘News at 10’. Wondering where we would be transported to next, the music breaks between each scene also cued speculative mutterings as we checked our programmes looking for clues in the name. This was a sufficient distraction from the scene changes happening in front of us, helping when there were more substantial set pieces to be put on stage for particular scenes.
So, whether you are a Fresher or Refresher to the New Theatre, get yourselves down to the ‘Fresher’s Fringe’, and experience a snippet (or twelve) of the theatrical variety they have to offer.