Fringe drama tackles life’s big questions

Theatre at the Buxton Fringe (July 6-24) is nothing if not ambitious with many performers choosing to address big questions about how we live our lives.

A number of plays examine the psychology behind our actions. Ashrow Theatre looks at denial in Declining the Future, a far-reaching work in which a businessman refuses to accept change in 1816, the Jewish wife of a famous German surgeon believes herself safe in 1936 and attitudes towards climate change are explored after 2007’s floods. A new dark comedy drama, Absence of Separation from Theatre Ellipsis, delves deep into the minds of two characters as they fight for their own beliefs, dissect their dreams and almost lose their minds, and the ever popular Off-Off-Off-Broadway introduce psychoanalysis to cabaret in Hidden Mother, a darkly comic piece about patients in a mental asylum heading for closure, though in her mind, Diana is a glamorous singer descended from the Romanovs and Leon is her accompanist.

The biggest dramas are the life-changing ones. In Rabbits and Ferrets, Beth Webb looks at the What, Why and How of the big decisions social workers have to make, and how people make you laugh and cry and sometimes come and live in your heart. In 2012 a middle-aged father attempted to swim the unconquered sea-channel between the Mull of Kintyre and Ireland; Heart of Oak’s Hitting the Wall recreates this extraordinary endeavour. Cold water, strong winds and treacherous tides, what could go right? In Waiting Room, Thomas waits for a train to arrive and a moment that will change his life forever, as All Things Considered Theatre returns with a chilling exploration into the nature of control. Marriage can certainly be life-changing - the happiest day of your life, or is it? What does the father of the bride really think of the groom? And what does the best man know about the bride? It’s good to see shows outside the confines of Buxton, take your seat as a guest for Top Table by Gekkota Arts at Spring Bank Arts Centre in New Mills.

Focussing on the lives of women, fishhouse theatre’s Cloaks by award-winning writer Alison Dunne, focuses on Kath, who is forced to reflect on her past in a theatre cloakroom where coats become characters. Nipple Tassles and Nursing Bras from Little Glimpses Theatre Company is a funny, moving and empowering story about friendship, motherhood and burlesque. Easily last year’s most talked about show - even among those who didn’t see it! – was Joanne Tremarco’s Women Who Wank. This one-woman improvised Fool show returns this year, taking you, gently, on a journey into the concealing darkness and the pleasurable light of feminine sexual power.

For those looking for some laughs with their drama, Under Two Floorboards’ Is It Tabu? promises to be like Waiting for Godot on speed as an old actress from Hi-De-Hi and a young classical actor get together to stage their own play. A sense of the ridiculous is essential for Cul-de-sac’s Return to Eredurf up and down the stairs at Scrivener’s Bookshop: after a breach in the space-time continuum help is needed to reconstruct a shattered portal to a parallel universe. A regular at the URC, Library Theatre Touring Company presents My Brilliant Divorce, packed with amusing anecdotes as Angela recounts her journey back to happiness after husband Max leaves her for a younger woman. Mixing storytelling and physical comedy, Running Dog Theatre’s Wanna Dance with Somebody is part physics lecture, part dance lesson, part school disco. Is the hokey cokey really what it's all about? Josh doesn't know, but he's damn well going to find out.

Some of the most exciting Fringe performances come from youth theatre companies. Regular visitors Shadow Syndicate bring a new play, Creed. Unravelling through generations, the play explores whether we all read the same way. In REC Youth Theatre’s DNA, a group of teenagers do something bad, then panic and cover the whole thing up. But when the cover-up unites them and brings harmony to their once fractious lives, where's the incentive to put things right? And as a young woman comes to terms with her life, she uses the power of good music to tell her story in Dolly’s Playlist at Buxton Community School’s Drama Studio.

Sometimes it takes a trip to the wild side to shed a light on reality. Much anticipated is the return of Buxton's own award-winning poet and playwright Anna Beecher with FAT CONTENT’S Skin of the Teeth in which 19-year-old Nicholas finds a fistful of teeth and is propelled into a perilous world of manipulation, ritual and dangerous men. An ancient story with a modern heartbeat, this promises to be boldly physical, inventive and surreal.

Details of these and many more theatre shows can be found at and in the widely available free Fringe programme.

The Fringe wishes to thank its sponsor The University of Derby as well as financial supporters The Trevor Osborne Charitable Trust and High Peak Borough Council, its Fringe Friends and the town’s many Fringe supporters and venues.

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