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Hot August Fringe by Catia Ciarico

Wednesday, 15 June, 2011

Festival runs 25 July to 26 August 2011

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern hosts Hot August Fringe

Here at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern we are fast approaching our third Hot August Fringe festival, which we are very excited about. The Hot August Fringe runs from 25th July through to 26th August, Monday to Friday. When we first launched the HAF in 2009 we didn’t envisage it would be something that would take off as much as it did, but its popularity among performers and punters alike means that it has become a regular affair.

The Hot August Fringe is a performance festival with a particular focus on cabaret, if you drop in you might see alternative cabaret followed by a sketch show followed by poetry; or a contemporary magic show alongside experimental theatre followed by a band. At the RVT we have never been one for conventions and have always embraced the idea of turning performance on its head, subverting it and defying expectations. This year will be no different.

We took some real risks last year when we programmed work all over the building, even in a bedroom upstairs where only one audience member at a time was allowed in to see the show. There was a show on a bus (yes, you heard me, a bona fide routemaster bus!) and shows in the middle of the RVT space not just the stage. We even had a performer entertaining the audience from the toilet, in the best possible taste you understand. We really wanted the festival to reflect the exciting directions being explored by artists in the cabaret and performance world at present, and we still do.

Last year we had 75 shows, and over 2000 tickets sold, not bad for a pub venue with just one stage! This year we will have up to 100 performances in two venues, with two other well know producers programming whole nights themselves create mini festivals in the HAF – Wotever World and UnderConstruction. Both are programming their particular blend of avante garde and genre busting work. There are some weird and wonderful things going on in the cabaret world at present, it’s the most exciting area of theatre and performance generally. We want this festival to reflect and encourage this, and give a platform to the dynamic experimentation currently taking place.

The acts this year include performers such as cabaret underworld superstar Ophelia Bitz; comic  Ava Vidal; comedy  sketch performers  Morris & Vyse; Lorraine Bowen’s cabaret show about Polyester; Alp Haydar – an actor whose one man shows include lots of multi-media ; a film night curated by Ben Walters with work from Dickie Beau;  Ste McCabe curating a band night; musical actor Andrew Pepper; The Mustadashio’s – a Manchester based dance duo; and physical theatre company FarRemoved with a new piece of work about the famous 70’s documentary, Grey Gardens. The genres covered by the festival include performance art, cabaret and alternative cabaret, theatre, comedy, music, club nights, political debates, sketch shows and film.

It’s wonderful to see a new show being born at the festival and to watch it go on to grow and develop, then continue life in other places. Many shows and performers in the Hot August Fringe have gone on to do this, and we know many shows will do so again this year.

It isn’t all plain sailing, and dealing with the demands of such varied and wide ranging performers can have its ‘challenges’ – from the categorisation of some of the work, through to the throwing of tantrums and tiaras. In the process, tears are mopped up, tiaras retrieved and lots and lots of triumphs celebrated.

One of the things that make this festival unique is the approach to ticketing, tickets are priced at £7 but if you come along to the venue, You can still stay and watch whatever is on after (or even before if you arrive early enough) and are simply asked to make a donation to the show you haven’t bought a ticket for in the infamous HAF bucket which is passed around after. This has been a huge success, allowing people to see shows and performances they would never have dreamed of buying a ticket for and sometimes making life long fans of new work and performers.

There are some great festivals in the UK and we all know them, Edinburgh being the biggest with London now coming into its own in creating some very vibrant festivals that showcase great work, such as the Camden Fringe, The Alternative Arts Festival and the London Bridge Festival, by comparison to some of these we are fledglings, a small, but beautifully formed performance festival even if we do say so ourselves!

We look forward to seeing you all at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

(c) Catia Ciarico (Programmer and events co-ordinator, The Royal Vauxhall Tavern)

14 June 2011

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