DEparture Lounge is Derby’s pre-Ed fringe theatre festival of new work, artist development, and conversation. Tied with In Good Company – the East Midlands programme for professional artistic development, the festival is in its third year and keeps growing year on year. And the programme is gorgeous.
I picked up my festival pass, checked what time everything kicked off and headed into Derby’s Eagle Market for a coffee. Coffee bought, I hovered awkwardly, waiting while a group of folk left their table. As I move past them, one of them, an elderly woman, turns to me, taps the table and says ‘We saved this just for you.’
Isn’t that lovely? Isn’t Derby great?
DEparture Lounge, as a festival, is doing something important. Initially a platform for shows from the region who were Edinburgh-bound to present a preview, the festival has kept that core and added to it workshops, talks, street performance and site-specific work. This year, Derby Theatre has been transformed, with the car park turned into ‘Derbados’ – the festival beach; the main auditorium has become the ‘Garden Stage’; the bar area has live music. Over the weekend, there are 6 workshops, 10 performances, 4 sharings, a scratch night, breakfast AND a picnic.
Every time I look at Derby, it seems their artistic ethos is to constantly outdo themselves. And they’re doing that.
Blind Man’s Song – Theatre Re
Blind Man’s Song is a wordless piece of musical dance theatre. Which sounds limiting but there’s that old consequence of picking specific restrictions when making a piece which generates work with a fragile complexity. The narrative unfolds almost straightforwardly, of a chance encounter on a train platform, blossoming into romance. The framing device, however, of the blind man alone in his room with a bed, piano and violin (and loop pedal) complicates the context. A pair of masked figures dance around him, and a story unfolds that could equally be remembered, imagined, or a combination of the two.
Aesthetically, Blind Man’s Song comes across like some kind of German Expressionist Brief Encounter, directed by Storm Thorgerson. It’s a confident piece, and it establishes and utilises its performance language well – repetitive musical motifs spiral and drag the dancers about the stage; moments of intervention between the blind man and his own fantasies explore the tension between reality, dream and false memories. It’s tragic, romantic, and very simply and cleverly communicated.
Blind Man’s Song plays at the Edinburgh Fringe at the Pleasance Theatre, Aug 6th – 30th.
Western? – Sleeping Trees
Western? very much feels like the result of three blokes getting drunk and having a wild west film marathon, then getting some more drunk, watching some surreal British comedy, possibly getting high, then ringing up their mate who’s in a band to get him in on the action. So obviously it’s ludicrously good fun. And the band are fantastic. In terms of content, what we’re presented with is a long and thoroughly goofy pastiche of ‘The Western’.
The three performers kick the show off with a musical number, which there are far too few of in this piece, and by the show’s end are dripping with sweat. This show is fast, energetic and clearly exhausting (each performer plays multiple characters – I lost count how many). It’s not cerebral, and nor is it trying to be, it’s great fun, loose (the performers corpse multiple times and it’s great), and everyone has a daft time.
Sleeping Trees are performing Western? and Mafia? (which I’m assuming is similar silliness in a different genre) at the Edinburgh Fringe at the Pleasance Two – Pleasance Courtyard, Aug 5th – 22nd.