The Brighton Fringe (not to be confused with the Brighton Festival) is England’s biggest arts festival, and one of the largest in the world. This year it runs from 4th May to the 4th June encompassing two bank holiday weekends and the May half term holiday. The Festival provides a platform for creativity across the arts from theatre to comedy, dance to opera, and showcases talent from all over the world. Unlike many other worldwide fringe festivals as it has expanded it has still retained the charm and inclusivity that has made it a calling point as many as one million performers and audience members alike.
Here at culturised, we have tried to make attending the festival a little less work and have researched and selected our picks of the Brighton Fringe so that you don’t have to.
This is set to be a show bursting with energy and science gags from one of comedy’s biggest talents. Samantha is infectiously funny and definitely one to watch.
Award-winning comedian Samantha Baines (“The Crown”, BBC Radio, “Call the Midwife”) brings her smash-hit, five-star show to Brighton, after a twenty-eight show sell-out run in Edinburgh. Sam needs space… The final frontier one. It’s science meets funny. There will be puns, there will be facts, there’ll even be Cox (Brian). “One of the best comedians on the circuit” ***** (Comedy Coroner), “A fantastic show” (Ed Festivals Mag), “Genius” **** (The Mumble), “Multi-faceted talent” **** (Arts Award Voice), “Fabulous” (BBC Science Focus), “One hour of brilliant comedy” **** (Funny Women).
The Warren Studio 2: May 6, 7, 20, 21; 16:15. £10 (£8.50), student £7.50. 50m.
Any Suggestions Doctor?: An Improvised Adventure in Space and Time (Any Suggestions Improv)
This is certainly not a show exclusively for the Doctor Who fan. After an incredibly popular run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year (which we loved) this talented improv troupe are back to create a different adventure every time.
Jump aboard the TARDIS for a hilarious improvised parody adventure! Our team of highly-trained performers will whisk you away to anywhere in space and time, from when dinosaurs roamed the earth to the futuristic delights of Slough! Coming off the back of a fantastic Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, the Any Suggestions Improv team have short-circuited Cybermen, matched minds with The Master and defeated deadly Daleks, but now they face their greatest challenge yet: Brighton! Choose what, where and who as we grab our bag of jelly babies, adjust our bow ties and get ready to run. Allons-y!
Sweet Waterfront 1: May 25, 26, 27, 28; 18:00. £10 (£8). 50m.
Bent Double (Komedia)
Two nights at the beginning and end of the Fringe that host three great stand-ups fronted by the incredibly funny Zoe Lyons, be warned this is set to be quite explicit so maybe leave the kids at home.
A gay-friendly, irreverent night of fun and frolics, hosted by Zoe Lyons (“Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow” and “Mock The Week”). Featuring three top stars of stand-up. Winner of Best Comedy Club Night (Chortle Awards), Critics’ Choice (The Times).
Komedia Main Space: 7 May, 4 June; 19:30. £12 (£9), student £5. 2hrs 30m.
Dave Benson Phillips: Christ I Thought He Was Dead (Mustn’t Grumble Media Ltd.)
He’s back. After gunging audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe for the past two years, the former host of Get Your Own Back is bringing a new hour of solo comedy to Brighton which is set to be a huge hit!
Do you remember Dave Benson Phillips? If you were a child in Britain from the 80s to the early 00s, there’s a fair chance you watched him on TV… “Playdays”, “Playhouse Disney”, “Fun Song Factory”, “Get Your Own Back!” to name but a few! He was all over children’s TV… then suddenly, he wasn’t. An internet death hoax that worked a little too well halted Dave’s career. Now starring in his brand-new show which is part cabaret, part Q&A, some children’s songs, some audience participation, and possibly some gunge…
*(If Dave does die before you see this show then it will be cancelled!)
Sweet St Andrew’s: May 26, 27, 28; 20:30. £8. 1hr.
Des Kapital: Never Mind the Cossacks! (Andyland Productions)
This is set to inject a bit of the unexpected into your festival programme. A hit for the history buffs and pop fans alike.
Communist crooner Des Kapital (“Gulag’s Got Talent”, “The ex-Soviet Republic Factor”) is “glasnost all over” to present the history of the Soviet Union using the music of Taylor Swift (“Blank State”) Ed Sheeran (“Sinking Out Loud”) Katy Perry (“Perestroika Hurls”) Robbie Williams (“Engels”) Madonna (“Lands were Virgin”) and many more! Hilarious and weirdly educational, entertaining and tragic. The whole history in one hour. With comedian and history teacher Andy Thomas.
“He’s good. What’s his name? And address?” (V. Putin).
Sweet Waterfront 2: May 29, 30; 21:30. £8 (£7). 1hr.
For one night only you can catch a line-up of some of comedy’s greatest female talent as they battle it out to make it to the final. Keep your eyes peeled for some future stars!
“The Funny Women Awards” are back at Brighton Fringe! “The Funny Women Awards” has left a massive impression on the UK comedy map, with previous winners and finalists including Bridget Christie, Sara Pascoe, Katherine Ryan, and Zoe Lyons. See some emerging comedy acts before they go stratospheric!
Komedia Studio: May 27; 20:30. £12 (£10), over 60/student £8. 1hr 30m.
This is dynamic, musical comedy satire at its finest. On for one night only, definitely head down if you’re a fan of hard hitting politics and infectious tunes.
Three-quarters of MPs are millionaires. A third of the country lives below the poverty line. Whatever your politics, Jonny & the Baptists think it’s worth talking about. A riotously funny modern epic about inequality, revolution and betrayal from acclaimed musical comedians Jonny & the Baptists – stars of Radio 4’s “The Now Show” and BBC “Live at Television Centre”.
**** “Wickedly amusing” (The Times),
**** “Broad, daft & punchy” (The Guardian),
**** “Seriously funny” (The Stage).
The Old Market: May 15; 19:30. £10 (£8). 1hr 50m.
Having recently performed at London’s Soho Theatre, this smash-hit show is heading down South to Brighton – for one night only – where it promises to be one of the funniest and most absurdist shows you’ll see.
Post-popular prodigy Lucy McCormick and her Girl Squad present a trashstep-DubPunk morality play for the modern world. Casting herself in all the main roles, Lucy will attempt to re-connect to her own moral conscience by reenacting the New Testament via a Nu-wave holy trinity of dance, power ballads and performance art. With trademark absurdism and enthusiasm, Lucy puts her best foot forward in the face of existential deadlock. Triple Threat has been commissioned by hab and Contact for Works Ahead, with support from Soho Theatre and Marlbourgh and funding from Arts Council England.
Marlborough Theatre: May 6; 21:00. £9.50 (£7.50). 1hr.
Notflix (Waiting for the Call: The Improvised Musical)
A brand new show every time. The remote control is completely in your hands. Chill optional.
Total sell-out show Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Musical Comedy Award Nominees 2016, Marie Claire Magazine Pick of The Edinburgh Fringe 2016, Funny Women Semi Finalists 2015, Laughing Horse New Act of the Year Semi Finalists 2015, The Sunday Times Comedy pick of the Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Elle Magazine Comedy Choice 2015 “Roaringly funny and incredibly talented … ” ***** (Broadway Baby) “A captivatingly well-improvised musical… spontaneous, surprising and delightful” **** (Fringe Biscuit) “One of those groups that can improvise their way out of anything.” **** (ThreeWeeks).
Komedia Studio: June 3 (19:15), 4 (17:15). £10. 1hr.
Planet Earth III (Luke Rollason)
A fabulous introduction to clowning, in a way you wouldn’t expect. Attenborough fans take note, this could be your pick of the Fringe.
‘Planet Earth III’ is a low-budget, one-man nature documentary set in a future where our worst predictions came true. Following ecological collapse, thousands of endangered species are extinct, including the BBC. But one plucky (and unpaid) intern isn’t giving up the fight – and right on programming schedule, he’s going to give us a third series. Armed with obsolete office supplies and a surreal imagination, the angler fish, the hummingbird, the chameleon and more are brought back to life by the “impressive, in a very bizarre way” (LondonTheatre1).
The Warren Studio 3: May 27, 28, 29; 14:30. £8.50 (£7), student £6. 50m.
Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Do Shakespeare (Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre)
This is exactly as barmy as the title suggests, and well worth a watch. These sock puppets have been captivating audiences up and down the country for years and this show is really like nothing you will have seen before.
Earth’s funniest footwear return with their hit show of songs, sketches, socks and violence, taking on The Bard himself. Howl at their Hamlet, roar at their Romeo and Juliet, and peer into their Coriolanus. Plus all the usual satirical nonsense from the Two Gentlesocks Of Verrucca. “The unparalleled pinnacle of comedy puppetry” ***** (Venue), “Had every single audience member… laughing until they cried.” ***** (Edinburgh Evening News), “One of the truly great comic inventions of our time” ***** (Theatre Bath).
Komedia Studio: May 13 (16:30), 14 (17:30). £10 (£9). 1hr.
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (Magnificent Bastard Productions)
Another bizzare take on Shakespeare, only this time it’s the Bard and the booze. This is a unique and hilarious experience but beware of being the audience member with the dreaded bucket (you can probably guess its purpose). You can read culturised‘s opinions on this tipsy troupe’s current London production of Much Ado About Nothing here.
Once again Shit-faced Shakespeare returns to its seaside home of Brighton with another all-new show for 2017: Romeo and Juliet! Featuring a cast of professional actors, one of Shakespeare’s most beloved classics and a single, completely rat-arsed performer every night… What could possibly go right? The award-winning, smash-hit, international sell-out, occasionally well-reviewed show is back for its fifth straight year at Brighton Fringe and is bigger, bolder, bawdier and more drunken than ever.
The Warren Main House: May 14-18, 21-24; 21:45. Various prices. 1hr.
An young undiscovered gem of a stand-up comedian whose show “Unpronounceable” was a real talking point last year.
Steve Bugeja, as seen on “Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central”, Radio 4’s “Fresh From The Fringe” and BBC 3’s “Top 10”, is working on a new show and you can come watch him create it. Steve will be testing out new jokes and stories. Some will be great and will make it into the final show, and some won’t. Come along and help him in this creative process.
Laughing Horse @ Caroline of Brunswick: May 8, 9, 31, June 1; 20:45. Free, Non-Ticketed. 1hr.
Hummingbird (Tooth+Nail Theatre Company)
This critically acclaimed acrobatic production is an incredibly moving piece of physical theatre and well worth a watch.
Edith Cole worked a dead-end job in a funeral parlour. Ralph Conti worked wealthy widows for a quick buck. Neither expected to fall in love. But once they did, they just kept on falling. Inspired by the true story of the “Lonely Hearts Killers”, a pair of latter-day Macbeths who gripped the imagination of 1950s America, “Hummingbird” is dark, compelling physical theatre. Award-winning, Lecoq-trained Tooth+Nail blend acrobatics and action with a striking visual style to tell a deviously touching tale of love and murder. “A sepia-toned doomed romance… Immaculate.” **** (The Scotsman)
The Warren Main House: May 18 (18:15), 20-21 (16:00). Various prices. 55m.
Still I Rise (TRIBE//)
A contemporary dance company that packs some punch. Taking its title from Maya Angelou’s famous poem, this show – on for one night only – promises to be an uplifting piece about female resilience.
Former Candoco and Jasmin Vardimon Company dancer, Victoria Fox, presents her new work “Still I Rise”. Inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem. It’s powerful and defiant words, of struggle and rising up from it, feel especially relevant in our current unsettled world. Five daring female dancers begin a journey of simmering unison, stunning partnering work and tender solos all performed with a gut-wrenching power. Pounding rhythms and a haunting cello drive the movement and create an intense, stark world where hope dies last. Falling down, gathering up… we rise.
BHASVIC: May 6; 16:00. £10 (£7). 1hr.
We Are Ian (In Bed With My Brother)
This is a hyperactive clowning piece bursting at the seams with energy and nostalgia, but it also takes a novel way of looking at the past.
1989. Manchester. A frenzy of drugs, beats and bucket hats. Illegal raves. Acid parties. Just jumping up and down in a field and throwing two fingers to Thatcher… Remember it? Because we don’t. We weren’t even born. But Ian was. And Ian does remember. We’ve got f**k all now (Ian tells us). So, we’re going back to 1989. We’re gonna neck a brown biscuit. We’re gonna get off our peanuts. We’re gonna bounce around like idiots. And Ian’s going to show us how. We’re mad fer it. Let’s party.
Komedia Main Space: May 31 (20:00), June 1 (19:00). £10 (£8). 50m.
The Brexorcist (ArtsLab Network)
Whatever your in/out views might be about the EU in the current political climate, it is definitely worth checking out some topical shows. This piece of theatre certainly looks like a whirlwind.
“Fear and Loathing in the UK – The true story of Brexit, what was behind it and what is going on now. A multi-media, political farce with a killer soundtrack!” (SLAB magazine). A darkly satirical exploration of the events which surround us, “The Brexorcist” is a spectacular and playful romp through retail therapy, division, hope, fear, globalisation, money, power, addiction, prejudice, populism, liberalism, the political elite, the rise of the right and the impotence of the left, all underpinned with a rollicking good soundtrack, played live and in real time! All aboard for this immersive, 360° roller-coaster ride through the neo-geo-socio-political landscape of our time. Enjoy the trip!
Brighton Speigeltent: May 8, 22; 20:00. £10 (£8). 1hr 30m.
Buzz: A New Musical (Fat Rascal Theatre)
Buzz has been on a countrywide tour since its sellout run last year at the Edinburgh Fringe and has been a huge hit with audiences. A joyous (or maybe orgasmic is a better word?) show that will be sure to leave you buzzing.
Winner of the 2016 Stella Wilkie Award and the 2016 Eddies Award, BUZZ is a hilarious musical journey through the history of the vibrator and a brutally honest story of a singleton’s quest to fall back in love with herself. Join us as we finally uncover the untold struggle for women’s sexual independence throughout the ages.
“Bridget Jones meets Miranda Hart … you should sell your own Grandma to get tickets” ***** (Theatre Bubble).
***** (Musical Theatre Review).
***** (London Theatre 1).
***** (Ed Fringe Review).
***** (Hiskind Magazine).
***** (Last Minute Theatre Tickets).
The Warren Studio 2: May 13 – 14 (14:30), 15-16 (20:00). £11 (£9.50). 1hr 10m.
The Girl Who Fell in Love With the Moon (The Human Zoo Company)
A visual storytelling that will offer a slightly different theatrical experience from a company to watch.
“It wasn’t a particularly spectacular night, as she sat stargazing in her room…” Join this tattered troupe as Luna’s tragic tale unravels for the first time. But why tonight? A Tim Burton-esque patchwork of puppetry, poetry, movement and live music stitched together with The Human Zoo’s explosive visual imagination. ‘The Girl Who Fell in Love With The Moon’ sets out to explore humanity’s eternal fascination with the skies through the eyes of this playful and dynamic ensemble. “The Girl Who Fell in Love With The Moon” has enjoyed a UK wide and international tour and is a five-star, award-winning production.
The Warren Studio 2: May 12, 13, 14; 19:45. £11 (£9.50), student £8.50. 1hr.
I Am Beast (Sparkle and Dark Theatre Company)
Most recently at London’s Pleasance Theatre this is an enchanting and dark tale with incredible use of puppetry and staggering visuals.
What happens when the wildest parts of our imagination take control? After her mother dies, Ellie escapes to a flickering world of comic book superheroes and bewitching strangers. As the walls of her new world crumble, Ellie must face the truth behind her fantasies. Following the acclaimed success of “Killing Roger”, Sparkle and Dark return with “I AM BEAST”, an award-winning, visually stunning exploration of the power of grief and childish imagination, using UV landscapes, original live music and unique life-sized puppetry. “Sparkle and Dark’s storytelling has class and power” (The Independent).
The Warren Main House: May 27-29; 16:00. £11.50 (£10). 1hr 20m.
Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons (Fight or Flight Productions)
This production has had massive success following its debut in 2015, including numerous runs in London and elsewhere around the UK. It is certainly worth seeing this much-talked-about production for yourself.
“I can’t know you in one hundred and forty.”
The average person will speak 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. “Lemons” imagines a world with a limit; a world where we are forced to say less. In a play that thrives on contrasts, we are made to question relationships, silence, and the fragility of language; what we want to say, how we say it, and more importantly how we don’t. In a year saturated with questionable politics and censored thoughts, Fight or Flight presents Sam Steiner’s exploration of free speech and democracy with hope for the future and a wary eye on the present.
Marlborough Theatre: May 20, 21; 19:30. £9.50 (£7.50). 1hr.
Oyster Boy (Haste Theatre)
A little-known tale you will have probably never seen staged before. Despite the family friendly label, do not be fooled this exceptional watching for adults. A great cast with exceptional puppetry skills this is certainly a company to keep an eye out for. You can read culturised‘s thoughts on this show’s recent run in London here.
Follow the tale of Italian ice-cream sellers Jim and Alice, who fall in love strolling along the beach in a 1950s whirlwind romance. However, all is not as sweet as it seems when their lives are turned upside down by the birth of Sam, a boy with an oyster-shell-shaped head! Based on the short poem by Tim Burton, this bittersweet tale reminds us of the delicacy of life and introduces us to a range of larger-than-life characters who are sure to entertain and delight. “Oyster Boy” is a multi-award-winning, international production mixing physical storytelling, clown, live singing, dance and puppetry.
The Warren Studio 2: May 6, 7, 13, 14; 13:00. £9.50 (£8). 1hr.
Phillip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke (Escapade)
Phillip Pullman has recently announced he will be penning a new trilogy entitled “The Book of Dust” with teh first installment to be released later this year, so what better time than to catch this adaptation of one of his earlier novels? Take a trip down memory lane as this classic young-adult thriller is brought to life.
Working in collaboration with Philip Pullman (creator of “His Dark Materials”), the bestselling novel comes to life on stage for the first time. After her father’s mysterious death, Sally Lockhart is thrown into the heart of Victorian London, battling unseen forces to uncover the secrets he left behind. Strap yourselves in for a tale of breathtaking intrigue, unforgettable characters and, behind everything, a legendary ruby waiting to be found… “Must see show” (Fringe Review), ***** (ThreeWeeks), **** (British Theatre Guide), **** (EdFringe Review), **** (Broadway Baby).
Sweet St Andrew’s: May 29-31, June 1-4; 13:25. £9 (£7). 1hr 20.
Rap Guide to Consciousness (Soho Playhouse)
This production certainly offers something unusual in its humourous rap-storytelling. Baba Brinkman is a wonderful performer who will have you utterly captivated in this thought-provoking and witty piece.
Called “astonishing and brilliant” by the NY Times, Baba Brinkman’s “Rap Guide” series of Hip Hop theatre shows have thrilled audiences since 2009, when “Rap Guide to Evolution” won a Fringe First Award in Edinburgh and was a hit off-Broadway and around the world. In his latest “peer-reviewed rap” production, Baba explores the study of consciousness, the how and why behind your thoughts and perceptions. Mixing cutting-edge research with comedy and mind-bending rap storytelling, Baba takes you through the twists and turns of the only organ it’s better to donate than receive: the human brain.
The Warren Studio 2: May 7-8 (21:30), 9 (21:45), 10-11 (20:00). £10 (£8.50), student £7.50. 1hr.
Tennessee Williams’ 27 Wagons Full of Cotton (Fox and Hound Theatre Company)
An infrequently performed piece that was met with great responses from audiences and critics alike at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. This is a rare opportunity to see this work performed.
In 1930s Mississippi, a cotton gin mysteriously burns down. In difficult financial times it appears that the rules of business are different. Do two wrongs make a right? A dysfunctional relationship is at the centre of this disturbing look at abuse and how one woman may find a silver lining in a desperate situation. This play deals with the social and economic climate of a country coming out of recession, and transcends this with the still relevant issues of mental health, domestic abuse and rape. “Seemingly fragile people are the strong people really”. Classic Tennessee Williams.
Rialto Theatre: 29 May (21:00), 30-31 May, 1-3 June (22:00). £10 (£8). 50m.
Trainspotting (King’s Head Theatre & IYFT Presented by James Seabright)
This production needs no introduction and has been seen by thousands of audiences from all over the world and is even more relevant now following the release of T2 (on which you can read culturised‘s thoughts here). This is an immersive experience that you certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
This acclaimed production recaptures the passion and controversy of the famous novel and hit film, repackaging it into an immersive show. The audience is literally part of the show, including the notorious ‘Worst Toilet in Scotland’ scene. “Trainspotting is the story of Mark Renton and his friends living through the Edinburgh heroin scene of the 80s. This is a no-holds-barred, immersive, in-yer-face theatre production: this is your ticket to a ride you won’t soon forget. Choose life. “A big fat hit. Just don’t sit near the toilet!” (NME), “I was shocked – and I wrote the f***ing thing!” (Irvine Welsh).”
Sweet King Alfred’s: May 16- 21 (19:00), 19-20 (20:45). £20. 1hr 15m.
That is our selection of the offerings at this year’s Brighton Fringe Festival, but there is still plenty more to see and one of the joys of fringe festivals is going out and seeing something unexpected. Programmes can be picked up across Brighton and many have begun to pop up in London theatres too, so grab one for yourself and find some gems that we’ve missed.