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Waste Paper Opera (Photo credit Claire Shovelton)
Waste Paper Opera (Photo credit Claire Shovelton)

How Festivals are Changing the Way we Think About the Performing Arts

The London theatre scene is known for excelling at a variety of genres, from musicals to Shakespeare – but all too often, some of the best shows defy categorisation. As theatremakers of all kinds descend on London this summer, Jasper Bartlett, Head of Communications for the Stagedoor app, shares more about how the city’s festivals can be the perfect spot to discover theatre makers who are pushing the boundaries with their interdisciplinary work.

Here at Stagedoor, we know how lucky we are. We live in a city bursting at the seams with talented artists. This is more visible than ever during festival season. I’d hardly begun wearing t-shirts again when the Wandsworth Arts Fringe was upon us, lighting up south west London with circus, cabaret, theatre, comedy, music and visual arts.

One of the many things that’s lovely about Wandsworth Arts Fringe is the way it brings so many different forms of expression under one (figurative) roof. It creates a wonderful atmosphere of cross-pollination. Audiences watching a comedy show have their eye caught by an art installation or a cabaret night. When I get into a rut of seeing one particular kind of show, festivals always help broaden my cultural horizons by reminding me of just how much is out there, waiting for me to discover it. This cross-pollination has an effect on performers too, as they mingle in bars and draw inspiration from each other’s shows.

We humans have a tendency to compartmentalise things, and the way we treat the arts is no exception. Are you expressing yourself by moving your feet in this way? That’s contemporary dance. Doing that with your face? That’s clowning. No . . . wait . . . because you mentioned the NHS . . . that’s alternative comedy.

Of course, these labels carry meaning. Artists train and perform in specific traditions with centuries of heritage – and audiences use these labels to find what they’re in the mood for. But in recent years, we’ve seen increasing numbers of artists creating work that resists easy categorisation. As Lyn Gardner wrote recently, ‘the old labels are defunct and the artists know it’. This trend may give marketing departments a headache, but it’s a symptom of innovation. As Lyn points out, this trend means that artists are ‘more collaborative and fluid . . . more outward-looking’. If you went to this year’s Wandsworth Arts Fringe, you may have seen some examples of these interdisciplinary artists at work – the brilliant Waste Paper Opera Company, for example.

We’re looking forward to seeing more work by in interdisciplinary artists; and where better to find them than at London’s fantastic summer line-up of festivals? From LIFT and Incoming to Camden Fringe, it’s all on your doorstep (and, of course, on the Stagedoor app).

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Everything Theatre is proud to support fringe theatre, not only in London but beyond. From reviews to interviews, articles and even a radio show, our work is at the heart of the industry, and we are official assessors for the Off West End OffComm awards. Founded in 2011 as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts, today we are staffed by diverse contributors - people who not only work in theatre, but also in law, medicine, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for theatre.