Monday, 7 May 2012

Floods, plagues - it's the Old Testament

There we were, fresh from the excitement of the Tideswell Male Voice Choir, only to find that a violent storm of another kind had flooded the Fringe Desk. The emergency response team was quickly on hand, but if you visit the desk tomorrow and it smells a bit - well don't look at the staff in an old-fashioned kind of way. The whole place may still be drying out. In the mean time what else is coming up?

On Fringe Sunday (and I can't resist a little smirk having found out that Edinburgh has cancelled its Fringe Sunday for lack of a suitable sponsor) one of the new and pleasant surprises were the excerpts we heard from a new musical about the Eyam plague. This is a big, big production for one night only - 21st July, Buxton Community School. Pete Robinson filled us in on some of the background to the show. Our interview began by raising the inevitable question - musical? Eyam? Ring-a-ring-a-roses? (And, yes we do know that the rhyme isn't really about the Plague).

No – quite right – no ring-a-roses, though if you listen very carefully it has been threaded into the orchestrations in one or two places!

The music is English folk based – a lot of it was written originally on guitar but by the time the songs were fully orchestrated you’d never know it. But we think the folksy feel is still there.

When we set about writing The Ring of Stones, we were looking for a story strong enough to get the full modern musical treatment. If needs be we were prepared to write it ourselves but an historical piece would be much better! It had to have gravitas; it had to deal with the human condition; it had to have laughter, love and tears in equal measure and it would be nice if it were English. So when we came upon the heroic story of Eyam it was a no-brainer.

In its present form the show is fronted by a narrator who steps into and out of the 17th century at will. Connections and parallels with current news stories are used and the audience is frequently asked what they themselves might do in a similar position. To quote a line or two from one of the songs… “Are you sitting pretty out there? Is the temperature rising? What is your discomfort factor? What if we should turn the heat up? What if none of us should make it – do you think that you could take it?”

It is a very big show and the cast are largely veterans of the original production which was staged at Manchester’s Dancehouse and Salford’s Lowry Centre in 1999/2000 (apart from a couple who weren’t even alive then!). Whilst there are three or four identifiable lead characters the show is very much an ensemble performance and the energy and power of 17 actors on stage gives the show a raw and passionate feel. They are definitely not a choir – they are actors first and foremost. Take a look at the website and see what the audiences have said so far about the 2010 production -

Arriving in Buxton today are Fringe dance favourites Spiltmilk. In in exclusive (in the same sense as used by the Sun) Press Release this is what we have learned.

Highly acclaimed, dance company Spiltmilk Dance are set to take Buxton Festival Fringe by storm this summer. The award winning company return to the Fringe with their work ‘Spiltmilk say Dance’ in which their distinctively quirky style puts a new spin on popular social dance crazes of the 20th Century. The piece was performed at the Fringe last year but has been given a total makeover for this season, with new dances added and old ones reworked.

The company will be performing ‘Spiltmilk say Dance’ at Underground Venues (The Pauper’s Pit) on 15th & 17th July at 6.30pm and 18th & 25th July at 1pm.

Audiences can expect to see popular dance phenomena such as The Twist, Charleston and Ballroom re-imagined to create a completely new dance experience. Spiltmilk are keen to encourage people who may have seen little or no dance before to come along and be entertained by their performance. Co-artistic director of the company, Adele Wragg explained that 'Spiltmilk say Dance takes the form of lots of short dances each looking at a different dance craze. The choreography is fun, quirky and each dance completely unique so there's bound to be something for everyone to enjoy!’

Fringe reviewer, Robbie Carnegie, said that the company 'convey an infectious delight in what they do as well as a technical mastery that is simply amazing, especially in the close-up environment of the Paupers Pit' whilst a previous audience member stated, 'Awesome, dance but not dance, sort of like hiding vegetables in kids food!'.

Why not come and see for yourself?

by Keith Savage - Published 14/07/2010

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