Fringe TheatreFest returns to Barnstaple this month

North Devon Gazette

Barnstaple’s Fringe TheatreFest is back! Not the four full days of close encounters that we’ve become used to over the years, but a fun-filled extravaganza nevertheless.

On Sunday, June 27, you will be able to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Fringe TheatreFest experience as a livestream with a difference.

“So, we’ve got twenty-four shows,” explained Gill Nathanson, long-standing member of the TheatreFest team.

“Eighteen of those are dotted around the centre of Barnstaple, some outside, some in various of Barnstaple’s fabulous buildings, and we’ve got two ‘Theatre Go-Proers’ racing from performance to performance to livestream the shows to your devices, chatting to people they meet along the way – just like real live Fringe Theatre-goers.”

Theatre Go-Proers? Pete Buffery is in charge of the tech wizardry, he said: “Thanks to a grant from Fullabrook CIC, each of our Go-Proers will be kitted out with a Go-Pro camera on their head and binaural microphones in their ears. We will be streaming 360-degree sound and quality visuals, making the experience as 'in the moment and space' as possible for those viewing from home or on mobile devices.”

There will also be six pre-recorded performances from companies too far away to manage a day-trip to Barnstaple, one of the companies is from Montreal, or otherwise prevented by covid concerns from being in Barnstaple on the day.

Every Fringe TheatreFest provides a fascinating snapshot of the mood of the nation. Not by design, but simply by platforming a random range of shows that reflect the concerns of their creators.

It looks like Livestream Fringe TheatreFest '21 will be following in that tradition. It will come as no surprise that the pandemic looms large.

Much has happened over 18 long months. Some shows tackle the pandemic head on, some chart the changes to other aspects of our lives under lockdown, some don't directly reference the pandemic or lockdown at all but are still shaped by the circumstances in which they have been created.

Like many professional performers, TheatreFest favourite Rob Gee saw his livelihood disappear with the closure of comedy clubs and festivals. He went back into nursing after an absence of many years.

“It was quite a shock to the system. But it did me good to be at the sharp end of things on the nursing front. I started writing lots of poems based on my experiences of healthcare over the last 28 years. It was picked up by Burning Eye (a performance poetry publisher) and released earlier this year.”

Many of those poems are in the set that Rob will be performing for the TheatreFest livestream.

As always, the programme is immensely varied – comedy, hard-hitting drama, dance, song, family fun, magic, puppetry, poetry – some of it far from polite – and then there are those shows that absolutely defy categorization.

“What they have in common,” said Gill, “is the urge to keep the flame burning until all we can all throng back to Barnstaple in the way that we’ve grown used to over the last fourteen years. The event is free to view but there will be the opportunity to donate to a fund which will go directly to the artists.”

So, twenty-four performances spread over eight hours of broadcasting between 1pm and 9pm on Sunday, June 27.

None of the performances are more than 15 minutes long and you’re not expected to take in the whole programme.

There are full details and a timetable to help you select at . The event is free but you need to register via the website to secure your link to the livestream.

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