Features Festivals Published 9 April 2012

Forest Fringe

Forest Fringe was started in 2007 by Andy Field and Deborah Pearson as an independent, not for profit organisation ran by artists for artists. With a temporary home coming to life during the Edinburgh Festival as well as a series of events and seasons around the country and recently, internationally, Forest Fringe has brought together the work of artists who are keen to explore the nature of the theatrical encounter, seeking the new, the surprising and the unexpected. They are just about to open a two-week season at The Gate Theatre in London curated by Chris Thorpe and Dan Canham, featuring a variety of work from artists such as Chris Goode, Jess Latowicki, Ira Brand, Theron Schmidt, Tassos Stevens and Lucy Ellinson. Diana Damian talks to Field, Thorpe and Canham about their upcoming season and the impetus behind Forest Fringe.
Diana Damian Martin

A Playful Documentary Unit by Coney

Moment 1: It’s raining, and I’m upstairs at the Gate

Let’s start with the beginning and work our way back; it’s a rainy afternoon in April; the clouds hang thick above the city, casting a concrete light all over town. You’re defiant of this urban lethargy; you’ve made your way to the Gate Theatre and are sat in the small black-box that hovers above the wave of noise drifting from the pub underneath.  What happens next?

“It’s like one of those evenings that you spend with someone, like an old friend or perhaps someone you just met. You take it in turns to play each other different tracks because you’re making a live mix-tape as you go along. You’re trying to excite each other and say this is something you might not have heard before, or if this is something you know, let’s listen to it together. That feeling of excitement, of discovering something new, something about the people you’re with, having a conversation around that and what it means… I wanted to create that atmosphere.”

Chris Thorpe is inadvertently weaving a history of the Forest Fringe within the line-up of the week he is curating at the Gate, shaped around a series of solo pieces he will be reading, sat on a chair in front of the audience with only a spotlight to make him visible and a mic to project his words. What he reads is different every night; it’s a combination of texts he has written for Forest Fringe over the years, a new piece he has written especially for the London residency, and text he is developing for multiple voices embodied by one. Thorpe’s work is focused around the act of speaking; the deliberate choice of reading rather than memorizing points towards the immediacy of the act. “It takes the focus away from the memory trick of knowing and learning. I want to take away the kind of tight rope walk that can distract when you’re watching someone speak a lot of text” he tells me; it’s not about watching someone perform a skill, but engaging with storytelling as a form of conversation. He isn’t sure what text will be read out on which evening; the specificity of that won’t mean anything to anyone else apart from himself.

Thorpe’s work returns to the idea of crafting words and building dense landscapes and narratives; the unexpectedness of his storytelling is juxtaposed with a variety of other works in rejection of any associations with showcases, a distinction which he has gone to great lengths to make. Lucy Ellinson, for example, is doing something she’s never done before: bringing heavy metal and politics together. Thorpe will be playing guitar. “I’ve consciously tried to curate it so there is a huge variety of work that reflects the scope of what Forest Fringe is trying to do, but also brings artists with a similar ethos who might be in the early days to make connections, so to widen everything out.”

So what you will be experiencing is a series of constructed happenings that take place in a certain order, to which everyone in the room will be participating.  “Forest Fringe is a coloniser; when it’s in a particular place it seems to be symbiotic to it, but it brings its own determination to create a certain kind of atmosphere and openness.”


Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.



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