Wandsworth will be filled with street performances, music, dance, workshops and exhibitions for the annual Wandsworth Arts Fringe, running from 6-22 May. The Resident picked out a few that you won’t want to miss, and spoke to some of this year’s star performers…
Words: Madeleine Howell
From The Cat’s Back in Putney to The Bedford in Balham, and down in little known green spaces such as Heathbrook Park in Battersea, you can stumble across fun and frolics to suit all tastes. Family-friendly fun, near-the-mark stand-up, bonkers immersive experiences – there’s something for everyone. ‘There’s even an 82-year-old cabaret burlesque performer,’ laughs head producer Cath Mattos. ‘It’s an open access arts festival, so anyone can take part. We try to encourage people to do things that are different, to collaborate with other performers, and to extend their boundaries.’
You can expect local performers, as well as troupes from further afield. We’re particularly excited about Reynard the Fox from The Fabularium, an internationally touring company coming to Heathbrook Park and St Mary’s Church in Putney. ‘Reynard is the lovable rogue of the forest,’ says actor Joshua Patel. ‘An absolute scoundrel, forever pulling pranks. Kids will get a lot out of the slapstick humour and the physicality of the piece, while grown-ups will appreciate the script.’ What if it starts to rain? ‘The show must go on,’ he declares.
Also bringing new life to Heathbrook is interactive giant puppet show Citizen Squid – you can even get a selfie with the friendly oversized mollusc. ‘We hope it will activate people’s imaginations,’ says producer Ivan Thorley. ‘The idea is that the squid is a monstrous, alien metaphor for the outsider, for the other. It’s a highly visual exploration of compassion, and it’s aimed at families.’
Another stand-out event set to go far is On the Edge of Me, a solo show which uses storytelling, poetry audience participation and live musicians to depict a few home truths about being a 20-something in London. Created by Yolanda Mercy, a resident artist at the Roundhouse and herself a South Londoner, it’s already sold out in Soho, and met with much applause in Leicester, East London and Oxford. ‘This is our first ever show in South West London,’ says Mercy. ‘It’s good to be working in my own community and bringing theatre to the area. We’ve also been working in schools. I know arts funding is being cut, but so many artists and organisations are still making it work.
‘My show resonates with so many people and starts a dialogue about issues such as mental health, but it’s entertaining because it’s just so honest. The audience find it funny because it’s so relatable, but I wouldn’t say it’s funny in the same way a stand-up set is.’ You can also catch the likes of American folk musician Al Clogston’s family cabaret at The Bedford, a fun mix of traditional and original camp-style songs aimed at children aged 0-5 and their families. On a darker note, The Killing of Charles Bravo will delve into the story of a real life murder that took place in the very same Balham building in 1876.
From 20-22 May, Dash Arts will present Dacha, an immersive, time-travelling experience modelled on the iconic ‘Russian country house’, taking you from The Tsarist Russia of 1913 through to the post-Soviet era with the requisite vodka, music and an oasis of opulent Russian furnishing. Think full-on War and Peace.
Over at the Dyson Building in the Royal College of Art, electronic artists Graham Daniels and Mark Vidler from Addictive TV will run the Orchestra of Samples, a fusion of sound and vision in collaboration with musicians from around the world.
The Midnight Run on 14 May is another unusual attraction en route to SW for the festival. Giving you the opportunity to explore the streets while the city sleeps, it’s billed as an ‘arts-filled, site-responsive walking tour’ which heads off into the night from Battersea Barge at Nine Elms Lane at 6pm. Battersea Barge are also hosting the Femmes by the Thames cabaret show, led by comedian Rosie Wilby.
As well as performance, there’s artwork, and a pop-up bar at Wimbledon Art Studios on Riverside Road. The Open Studios Art Show will see 200 studios open over four days. We love Vera Blagev’s home studio in Southfields – Vera Vera On The Wall is home to an eclectic mix of abstract, colourful modern paintings, mixed media and artisan jewellery. The Pump House Gallery by the lake in Battersea Park will host creative activities to get stuck into, while in Tooting market you can take part in Love Art’s mass self-portrait drawing event celebrating the residents of SW17 – the aptly named Show Us What You Look Like Tooting.
One final pick for your attention is an installation under Putney Bridge. The brainchild of artist Matthew Hopwood, who has worked with BBC Radio numerous times, A Human Love Story is an audio visual experience based on love stories collected from real people. ‘I wanted to talk to people about the things that are really important to them,’ he says. ‘It’s about ordinary people with ordinary stories, a simple way of talking about something huge. People seem to respond to it really well. The installation is in an amazing space in an old archway – when the tide comes up too high it’s flooded with water, so it’s got a really strange, earthy atmosphere. We’ll have the audio playing out on a loop, so it will be a chance to reflect and just enjoy the Thames.’
With such a vast array of events to suit all ages and tastes, we recommend you attend a few and let us know what you think…
Laugh Comedy presents Milo McCabe & John Robertson in an exclusive Edinburgh Fringe preview
20 May; Ram Brewery, Ram Street, SW18 1TJ
Seska the clown performs his popular comedy show Milkshake, with magic tricks, sword-swallowing and mind reading galore
15 May; The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
LUNAS Dance Project and choreographer Ellie Aldegheri present Poetic Ramblings of Existential Delight
British Ballet Organisation, Ensign House, Battersea Reach, SW18 1TA
Lynn Ruth Miller’s show, Get A Grip, offers uplifting stories and a rollercoaster ride through her award-winning career
17 & 19 May; The Cat’s Back, 86-88 Point Pleasant, SW18 1NN
Get Over It productions present The Vagina Monologues, the infamously hilarious set of monologues penned by Eve Ensler
17 May; The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
You can find the full programme of events at wandsworthfringe.com