Behind Stage Doors: Camden Fringe’s theatre venues you need to know.
By Evi Triantafyllides, Head of Community & Social
But before you get up from your seat and say goodbye to Camden Fringe 2016, we want to share with you our own selection of stories; this time, real accounts of the places that bring countless tales to life, both during the festival and all year round.
Here’s our curated selection of venues that were instrumental in making the festival happen, and that we think you should (sooner, rather than later) visit. ;)
VENUE PROFILE: UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE
Year Established: 1997
Founding members: John & Katie Plews.
Yummiest dish: Fish and chips.
Favourite performance to date: It’s Only Make Believe.
Why: THE best ‘jukebox’ musical ever.
3 words you want people to identify you with: Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment!
You know when a play is good for your venue when…the audience stays awake.
Did you know? We are London’s highest theatre — 446 feet above sea level!
Funniest / most memorable moment at the venue so far: Opening night when the new seating didn’t arrive until the interval.
Which fringe show do you have a “soft spot” this year? A Day in The Lives of Frankie Abbott because it just proves older actors can still cut it!!
VENUE PROFILE: ETCETERA THEATRE
Year Established: 1986
Yummiest dish: Beer!
Favourite performance to date: Too many to list.
Why? We’ve been having some really good companies in. Go new writers -go!
3 words you want people to identify you with: Human / dedicated / local.
You know when a play is good for your venue when…any play is good for any venue, it’s all about adapting it to the space!
Did you know? We’re a team of siblings running the Etcetera Theatre. One is a self represented actress, the other an independent musician. We know what it’s like to be treated badly by venues, it sucks and we know it’s tough. So we do our best to make everyone feel dignified and glorified as an actor. Just because you don’t feel it, it doesn’t mean that you’re not worth a million dollars.
Funniest / most memorable moment at the venue so far: The London Horror Festival short playwriting competition final. It’s a packed house and stand-up comedian Fred Strangebone is hosting the event. An audience member passes out, but Fred doesn’t notice and carries on. We try to get the audience member out of the space, while her friend says that this happens to her regularly. We end up having to evacuate the theatre and 15 minutes later, we resume the competition evening with Fred Strangebone now dressed as his character, the Wacky Walrus. Surreal, to say the least.
Which fringe show do you have a “soft spot” this year? Sid, by Leon Fleming, who after being scouted at the Etcetera Theatre was offered a transfer at the Arts Theatre (starts 19th of September). The show focuses on a young man who idolises Sid Vicious. We saw it during last year’s Camden Fringe and had to bring it to Camden, the home of punk (if punk has a home). PUNK CAN’T DIE!
VENUE PROFILE: THE LION AND UNICORN THEATRE
Year Established: 1980
Founding members: The venue was founded by the Central Drama School, and was also run by David Jubb (now BAC).
Yummiest dish: The squid.
Favourite performance to date: Niall Ransome’s new one man show about Hull.
Why? He is the new Godber.
3 words you want people to identify you with: Value, insight, engagement.
You know when a play is good for your venue when…the locals stay around for hours wanting to discuss the play and swap stories.
Did you know? We have just staged the first new play about Larry Grayson and his relationship with a gay psychic that toured nationally to great acclaim.
Funniest / most memorable moment at the venue so far: The actor / voice artist Jon Culshaw trying to pay for his tickets in dollars, as Columbo.
Which fringe show do you have a “soft spot” this year? John Hill’s How Does That Make you Feel. John is tipped to be a good comedy writer.
Highlights of next season: A new festival of Irish Plays and a new show on the Dame Comedian Mrs Shufflewick.
VENUE PROFILE: THE HEN AND CHICKENS THEATRE BAR
Location: 109 St Paul’s Road, Islington N1 2NA, London.
Year Established: Some time in the 1960s.
Special shoutout: To James & Felicity Wren with the amazing Mark Lyminster who have been here since 1999 — we are all actors ourselves, we put on a play in the theatre and stayed ever since — it’s been 17 years….
Yummiest dish: Crisp and nut picnic.
Why? We have had brilliant performers start their career with us, and yet we are still a favourite with established acts too.
3 words you want people to identify you with: Fun, laughs, good-times (if it is hyphenated, is it still 1 word?).
You know when a play is good for your venue when…it’s original, well written, and produced and performed by exceptionally lovely talented artists.
Did you know? We are also a fully functioning movie theatre.
Funniest / most memorable moment at the venue so far: We had a musical show called It’s Christmas Carol, which was about a drag act. I can still hear the songs, it was wonderful. However, a home produced show Umbrage Swain and the Magical Diamond of Ramtutiti, set in the 80s, written and starring James Wren, and with Mark Lyminster in a dress is also up there; it seems we like men in dresses at this theatre!
Which fringe show do you have a “soft spot” this year? Mercy Road because Nick Brown is a legend at the H&C, and Hamlet Part II — this one is by the returning company Theatre of Heaven & Hell, that we love.
VENUE PROFILE: THE COCKPIT
Year Established: 1979
Favourite performance to date: Rosana Cade: My Big Sister Taught Me This Lap Dance (as part of our Beyond Bloodlines festival).
Why? It was intimate, exposing and sensitive!
3 words you want people to identify you with: Theatre of Ideas.
You know when a play is good for your venue when…it’s bold, driven and potentially offensive!
Did you know? We have more shows per year than any other fringe venue.
Special shoutout: To the City of Westminster College for their support to the venue.
Funniest / most memorable moment at the venue so far: Too many to mention!
Which fringe show do you have a “soft spot” for this year? Dark Vanilla Jungle.
And before that final curtain drop, let’s have one last round of applause; the biggest, loudest, and longest. A HUGE thank you to the lovely organisers who year after year turn these theatre gems into colourful spectacles of theatre and life.
Now, we can properly say…
Camden Fringe 2017, we know you’re going to be ridiculously amazing and we cannot wait.