This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 06/04/2018.
Croydonites Festival 2018: a broad and confident church
Croydonites Festival is returning with its third edition of contemporary theatre and performance; ten programmes of work showcase twelve artists (seven of them local) over four weekends. We’ve come a long way since 2015, when four artists made up the programme; and I like to think that we’re reflecting a new confidence in local artists and the arts scene.
When I decided to start the festival, I didn’t know any theatre-makers working locally. I just knew that little of the kick-arse, thought-provoking and frankly brilliant theatre that I was watching in venues all over London was coming to Croydon. I was sure that if I didn’t set up Croydonites then someone else would do something similar – I mean every town needs an experimental theatre festival, right? I could easily fill the whole programme with Croydon artists, and maybe one year I will, but for now the idea is to encourage a local scene and bring in work that wouldn’t normally get here because – let’s face it – we don’t feature on any national touring circuits.
Croydonites has been lucky enough to get Arts Council funding again, plus support from Croydon Council. I notice that other companies are starting to get some support nationally – SliDE Dance run by the irrepressible Gemma Coldicottt (performing on 12th May in the Braithwaite Hall) has also just been successful. Maybe it’s related, maybe it’s critical mass, but there’s a shift and it’s exciting. All we need now are a few well-equipped venues.
There is talent to be found all over the borough
Performing with SliDE is Anusha Subramanyam, a well-known and highly regarded (at national level) bharatanatyam, dancer, choreographer and teacher; also a resident of South Norwood. Oh yes, there’s talent all over the borough.
Croydon is also home to Parabolic Theatre Company, which offers immersive performance experiences. Owen Kingston, the director, is currently running the COLAB Factory in Borough, SE1, one of the few spaces in the country dedicated to immersive work. His recent show Keep Calm And Carry On actually MADE money on its last run. Yes, that is unusual unless you’re selling thousands of tickets in the West End. Like I said, we are not short on talent.
Vinicius Salles is a Brazilian-born Croydon convert who has worked with big names in dance theatre, most notably Jasmin Vardimon. This is his Croydonites debut, with an interactive dance work in which the audience gets to influence the action and can become part of the narrative. I have bets on this piece luring a critic from a national broadsheet to the exotic climes of Zone 5…
Anita Wadsworth (Addiscombe) is another seasoned maker and performer. She is offering an intimate experience in this year’s programme, a one-on-one performance in which you, the solitary audience member, open your bag and empty your pockets to get creative with your stuff. It’s part workshop, part art event and all anti-anxious activity, where you get to curate a tiny exhibition of yourself.
If you’ve lived in Croydon for a couple of years, you are bound to have come across Gill Manly, local eccentric, star baker, and a stalwart of the London jazz scene. However, Gill is returning to her first love (theatre) and Croydonites has commissioned her to make a work to open the festival. She is bang on trend with Radio Apocalypse, with strains of fake news, apocalyptic predictions and Trump emanating from her computer screen as she’s holed up in a radio studio late into the night.
Last but not least for the locals is DISCO DISCO, a group of neuro-diverse adults who are part of the performance company Drunken Chorus. I’ve seen two of their shows and they are genuinely funny and surreal in equal measure. They’ll be supporting Sarah Blanc, who’s bringing her Feminist Bonerto Croydon as she tests a range of over-the-counter beauty contraptions all designed to for making the better you.
Half Breed is a dark, shocking comedy about finding your voice
Of course Sarah isn’t our only visitor. The legendary LGBT activist Scottee is presenting Bravado, a memoir of working-class masculinity, at Croydon Boxing Academy, and heavyweights Soho Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company present Half Breed, written and performed by Natasha Marshall at Matthews Yard. This semi-autobiographical Edinburgh hit, described as ‘shocking, emotional and triumphant’, is a dark comedy about finding your voice.
Richard DeDomenici (“Think of comic activist Mark Thomas crossed with TV satirist Chris Morris”) is one of the UK’s best-known live artists who creates performance, film, art and general mayhem. Croydonites has commissioned him to make a low-budget recreation of several minutes of the 2017 Michael Keaton action thriller American Assassin, set in Istanbul, but actually filmed in St George’s Walk, Croydon. See the film on 18th May in Matthews Yard – but not before you take a walking tour of Hollywood movie locations in Croydon town centre with the man himself. We’re looking for actors and crew to make the film on 22nd April – see the Get Involved page on the Croydonites website if you’re interested.
Pop Up Opera aims to broaden the appeal of opera, and want to challenge how it is performed
Opera in Croydon? Well, it happens more than you think, but this is the first visit of the highly-acclaimed Pop Up Opera, which will present a Mozart double bill at St Andrew’s Community Hub in South Croydon. Its contemporary productions aim to broaden the appeal of opera and challenge how it’s performed, and its members are particularly keen to reach those who might be hesitant about the art form. What I can say about them is that they are funny, relevant and can definitely hold a tune…
So that’s it for the programme. It’s a broad church this year, but one that I hope will continue to grow an audience for theatre in Croydon. With the opening of Fairfield Halls only a year away, it’s a moment full of possibility for artists, makers and live arts.