London 2015: Fringe Theatre (July-December)


Battersea Arts Centre at Battersea Power Station


Battersea Arts Centre brings a new arts space to the iconic Battersea Power Station, Caryl Churchill's 'A Number' is at the Young Vic where Simon Stephens's new play 'Song From Far Away' directed by Ivo van Hove makes its debut from 2nd September 2015. Rachel Halliburton reveals the best fringe theatre in London in 2015.

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Battersea Arts Centre at Battersea Power Station

Circus West is part of the first phase of the redevelopment of the iconic power station.


The news that the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) will be creating a new arts space at the iconic Battersea Power Station is just the latest sign of how London's fringe and Off West End theatre scene continues to break new boundaries. For more than a decade, these venues have displayed an experimentalism and intellectual daring that has increasingly fed directly into mainstream theatre. Now the BAC - after a terrible start to the year, when its main building was partially destroyed in a fire - will be part of Circus West, the first phase of the redevelopment of the power station. Its space, to be called the 'Village Hall', will bring in local residents and artists to help develop new cultural projects. While work on the Village Hall begins in 2016, there's a free 'Battersea Art Station' weekend, from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th September 2015, to celebrate the art that the Power Station has inspired.


Alternative Reality

'Fiction' and 'The Body' are two fringe plays presenting an alternative reality.


In the meantime, theatregoers can make tracks to the original Battersea Arts Centre in July, where Fiction, by the hugely respected David Rosenberg and Glen Neath, plunges its audience into total darkness. You are invited to a lecture, but end up being led into an alternative reality, in which voices on headphones take you into 'the sprawling architecture of your dreams'. Technology and theatre interact in an even more intimate way in The Body this November at the Barbican's Pit. Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, winners of the Oxford Samuel Beckett Award, have created an experience, which only begins when all members of the audience are attached to a heart monitor. From this moment, live sound, video, and dolls are all used in an exploration of what it means to be alive and human.


What Does it Mean to be Human?

Real-life father and son, John and Lex Shrapnel star in Caryl Churchill's new play.


A rather different take on what it means to be human can be found at the Young Vic, where Caryl Churchill's A Number runs from early July to the start of August. Bernard has always thought he was an only child, but he discovers that he is one of a series of clones, and must confront his father on the decisions he has made. Real-life father and son, John and Lex Shrapnel take up the roles for this ethically complex work, while Michael Longhurst directs. Longhurst's star is clearly on the rise; his production of Constellations - the love story in which a couple's relationship is explored alongside quantum multiverse theory - can also be seen this July at the Trafalgar Studios.


Theatrical Resurrections

The London fringe pays homage to Orson Welles, Burt Bacharach and Laurence Olivier.


There are several theatrical resurrections this summer and autumn. Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Tynan can be found in Orson's Shadow at the Southwark Playhouse. Burt Bacharach fans can head to the Menier Chocolate Factory for What's It All About: Bacharach Reimagined. And Vivien: Letter to Larry at Jermyn Street Theatre brings yet another chance to hook up with Olivier, on this occasion with Vivien Leigh, his lover and second wife. At the Hampstead Theatre, which under Ed Hall is going from strength to strength, Roger Allam will appear this October as John Christie, founder of Glyndebourne, in The Moderate Soprano. In a huge coup for the theatre, Simon Russell Beale will also make his debut here this September in Mr Foote's Other Leg, as a satirist, impressionist and dangerous comedian from the Georgian era.


Politically Engaged

The environment, reforms to legal aid and what people believe and why.


Those searching for more politically engaged new works should head for the Bush Theatre where this September they can see Tanya Ronder's work looking at individuals and the environment, F*ck the Polar Bears. Over the summer Rebecca Lenkiewicz's play The Invisible also tackles the fraught topic of David Cameron's government's reforms to legal aid. At the Gate Theatre, The Christians asks difficult questions about faith in the modern world. Lucas Hnath's work, which will also go to the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, features a full community choir, and tries to investigate the dynamics about what people believe and why. Julia Pascal's Crossing Jerusalem in the meanwhile, at the increasingly well-regarded Park Theatre, looks at the inflammatory interaction between different faiths in the Middle East.


Three Hits at The Young Vic

Ivo van Hove, Romola Gara and the Belarus Free Theatre are all at this excellent fringe venue.


As The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time continues to garner accolades on both sides of the Atlantic, Simon Stephens, who adapted the work, has produced a new play Song From Far Away. Directed by Ivo van Hove at the Young Vic, it tells the story of a young man who must return home to his family in Amsterdam following a bereavement. This dynamic venue will also be producing a new version of Measure for Measure, directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and starring Romola Garai. And in November, Belarus Free Theatre will be Staging a Revolution to mark its tenth anniversary here, standing up against censorship with ten productions in which the audience will be invited to make their way to different secret locations.


Marvellous Musicals

Cult roller-skating musical movie Xanadu comes to the Southwark Playhouse.


For those who just want some alternative fun, there's a wide range of musicals on the Fringe and Off-West End. Xanadu at the Southwark Playhouse this October recreates the cult roller-skating musical movie starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly. A well-reviewed production of Bugsy Malone will play at the Lyric Hammersmith till early September (it will be replaced by a stage adaptation of Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet), and cabaret music and acrobatics will combine when 'La Soirée' returns in triumph to The Spiegeltent at the Southbank Centre. All in all a wealth of entertainment and stimulation here, with no sign of an inspirational downturn. A high chance for all intrepid theatregoers of tracking down some gems, and perhaps even identifying the stars of tomorrow.

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