On the 20th and 21st of June the Nottingham New Theatre put on the Student Fringe Festival (StuFF), and though it is only in its third year, the programme of performance and art has shown itself to be an unmissable event. Alongside the vegan fast-food stand, Mocky-D’s, serving unbelievably delicious burgers outside, the brilliant abstract artwork of Conor Hurford and Ryan Heath in the two foyer areas, and the beautiful weather, this year’s festival has showcased some of the best of fringe theatre.

Strangers: A Magical Play II by Strickland Productions

“The magic is woven into the scenes seamlessly”

Imagine a musical, but instead of songs you have magic tricks, and you get Strangers. This interesting and unique play consists of four stories that will perplex and wow; the magic is woven in seamlessly. My personal favourite was the second scene, the tragic story of a woman whose life has fallen apart from a poker addiction. The tricks are clever and work brilliantly in tandem with the monologue. My only criticism would be that the table was situated quite far back making it difficult to see the smaller card tricks, however this didn’t detract from the cleverness of both stories and magic, which combined to make a truly enthralling show.

7/10 -Great show, but room for improvement

Wrecked by Chris Trueman

“Elicited huge bouts of laughter from the audience”

The piratical meets the political in this comedy about an island of pirates led by a stuffed parrot until the arrival of a British nobleman causes fractures. Currently this show is a work in progress, their appearance at StuFF like many of the other plays worked as a preview for their Edinburgh Fringe show. However, even in this form it still elicited huge bouts of laughter from the audience and though in some parts it felt like a pantomime, it was a genuinely hilarious and enjoyable. The caricature characters created the sense of a dysfunctional society in an all too recognisable way. Well worth a watch, even if by the rather abrupt ending you’re left wishing it was longer. Brilliant fun.

8/10- Excellent, highly enjoyable

The Weird and The Eerie by the Graduates of Central St. Martins College of Art

“Atmospheric and haunting”

In this strange event, four art graduates screened their films based on an essay by Mark Fisher of the same name. As a person who has never seen art-house films before, this was a rather bizarre and confusing experience, however I particularly enjoyed the third and fourth films, even if I didn’t wholly understand them. The third film was in a documentary style and explored the natural local mythology of Norfolk in an atmospheric and haunting way. I also liked the fourth film, a surprisingly funny story of how a man lost some of his fingers, casually told by him, as a distorted video of a hand in the grass played. I’ve certainly never seen anything like this before.

6/10- A promising work in progress

Improvabunga by Watch This Improv Troupe

“Exceeded all my expectations of what improv could be”

Improv can be a mixed bag, with some being cringingly awkward, however, the Watch This Improv Troupe (from the University of Birmingham) was nothing like this. Their incredible show was riveting, hilarious and fast-paced; difficult to achieve considering we asked them to create a dystopian epic set in a library! The audience was kept involved throughout; as well as choosing the genre and the setting, we were given buzzers which had varying powers, a clever way to keep it feeling fresh and inclusive. However not only was it unbelievably funny, it was also a surprisingly coherent show, with twists and a clever conclusion. Obviously, it will be different every time (as is the nature of improv) but it really did exceed all my expectations of what improv could be. Truly unmissable.

10/10- Utterly faultless

Debris by Louise White

“Cleverly used beautiful symbolism and imagery”

Debris is a believable and insightful one-woman monologue about a personal struggle with depression and the issues surrounding it, including the oft-forgotten side-effects of medication. However, not only was it a much-needed comment on mental health, but it also considered the causes, such as the stressful emphases of life on career and relationships. It cleverly used symbolism and imagery to help the audience visualise, my personal favourites were the black balloon dogs and origami butterflies. In my opinion, the play worked best in the scenes where the audience were directly used, therefore it could have worked better in a smaller space to make it more intimate, and the difference between the scenes of audience interaction and monologue less jarring.

7/10- Great show but room for improvement

An Evening of Performance Art by Graduates of Central St. Martins College of Art

“An eerie and intriguing performance”

As the evening drew in it was once again time for an abstract and obscure experience from the art graduates. Once again, my limited experience of performance art meant I had little idea of what was to come, but I was pleasantly surprised. The types of performance varied massively, but my favourite was the first which included hand shadows and speech that was almost comprehensible but not quite, resulting in an eerie and intriguing performance. The performances were refreshingly original, they ranged from the funny to the thought-provoking, but all were fascinating and provided an enjoyable end to the day.

7/10- Great show but room for improvement

Daniel McVey

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