Features Festivals Published 28 May 2011

Pulse Fringe Festival 2011

Ipswich’s fringe festival begins.

Natasha Tripney

Day two of Ipswich’s Pulse Fringe, based at the New Wolsey though spread through venues across the city, begins with Tim Clare’s hugely entertaining and engaging new show, How to be a Leader.

Clare’s 2010 Edinburgh show, Death Drive, was one of the most pleasing things of last year’s Fringe.  While that earlier show interspersed drawn-from-life stories with poems like Cancer and Divorces, about life’s bloody boxing match, this new show takes the form of a comic lecture (there’s plenty of Power Point business) on the nature of leadership.  It’s more cohesive than Death Drive if less overtly the show of a poet; that said, Clare’s lexical dexterity remains evident in each sculpted, polished line: Willy Wonka, for instance, is described as a ‘bipolar candy pimp’ evoking blind, unswerving loyalty in Charlie.

He covers a lot of ground in a short space of time, the show loosely sub-sectioned into the rules of successful leadership: he touches on the Jonestown massacre and the assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee; he even finds room for some email back-and-forth with a spell caster who advertises her services in Chat magazine and promises great power for an inevitable fee. Frazzles are occasionally used to placate the audience – the maize-based snack of the masses- and the whole thing is wrapped up with a filth-flecked hip-hop paean to female leadership, to Emily Wilding Davison and Mother Teresa.

Amid the ebb and flow of gags both visual and verbal, there’s plenty to get your teeth into with Clare discussing whether ultimately it is power that corrupts or the corrupt that are drawn to power. And it all feels particularly apposite in a week that’s seen Cameron and Obama high-fiving at Downing Street and General Mladic finally ousted from his hiding place. Though still in the preview stage it already feels a solid, finished thing – definitely one to look out for at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Dan Canham’s 30 Cecil Street

Clare’s show is followed by A Life in 22 Minutes, a scratch piece by Inspector Sands, which the company worked up for Pulse over a five-day period. As the name implies, the piece lasts 22 minutes exactly and during this time, a life is pieced together.  Inspector Sands’ Giulia Innocenti plays Natalie, in a commuter uniform, an anonymous black suit paired with trainers. The piece depicts the ribbon of incidents that make up a life from the banal to the spectacular: we see her running for a bus, sending a text message, giving birth to a son (a bit like an ultra-condensed version of Daniel Kitson’s It’s Only Right Now Until It’s Later). Natalie’s life is contrasted with the glazed This is Your Life-style reminiscences of a Hollywood survivor, recalling the high-points of a life packed with incident. A Life in 22 Minutes is destined to form part of a new work by the company, Mass Observation, but even in this abridged form it is both amusing and  resonant.


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Natasha Tripney

Natasha co-founded Exeunt in 2011 and was editor until 2016. She's now lead critic and reviews editor for The Stage, and has written about theatre and the arts for the Guardian, Time Out, the Independent, Lonely Planet and Tortoise.

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