Guestblog: How To ‘Do’ Brighton Fringe

An event as large as Brighton Fringe can seem rather overwhelming (well, it IS England’s largest arts festival, with over 1000 separate events) so here are our PLATF9RM Member, Steve Bustin's thoughts on how you can have your best Fringe EVER!

The First Steps...

Get tooled up. Pick up a copy of the Brighton Fringe brochure, the family brochure (if you’ve got kids), download the app and log into the website. Set up an account on the app or site so you can store your favourites. The app and website will also have listings for hundreds of shows that didn’t make it into the brochure, so it’s worth looking online as well as offline. All the large venues also publish their own brochures, with more space for each show so they can be slightly easier to peruse than the main brochure, but you can book tickets for all shows at all venues in one place.

Think about becoming a Friend of Brighton Fringe to access 2-for-1 ticket deals on hundreds of shows (which will cover your membership almost immediately), no booking fees, invites to Friends events and a range of discounts and special offers all year across the city.


Explore Some ‘Cross Sections’ Through The Brochure

OK, we know the Brighton Fringe brochure can be a little overwhelming with so much to choose from and so many listings. The trick is to take some ‘cross sections’ through the brochure, looking at smaller groups of shows and events so you can ‘see the wood for the trees’. Here are some ideas how:

  • The Seasons. This year the Fringe includes a Dutch & Flemish season, a Finnish season, The Freedom season and the arts industry focused ‘Window’ season of shows that are ready to tour nationally and internationally. Each has its own page at the front of the brochure and on the website. Check them out to catch some of the best international shows.
  • The award and bursary winners. You’ll also find these at the front of the brochure – shows, performers and companies that have won awards or bursaries in the last year, often at Brighton Fringe or other fringe festivals around the world. Catch an award-winning show or see if you can spot this year’s winner.
  • On the website or the app, simply do some keyword searches for things you like. For instance, I love Stephen Sondheim’s work so I always search for ‘Sondheim’ - and hey presto, this year there are two shows featuring his work. You could search for anything from ‘puppets’ to ‘Black lives matter’ to ‘Donald Trump’ to find anything from drama to satire.
  • Keep an eye out for previews and reviews. All the local print, broadcast and online media will be previewing shows and then reviewing hundreds of shows afterwards. I particularly like Broadway Baby and Fringe Guru.
  • Many of the major venues run ‘Pick of the Fringe’ or ‘Heart of the Fringe’ shows, especially The Speigeltent and The Warren. These shows are a great chance to see a selection of excerpts from shows you might want to catch later in the month.
  • Take a punt. Pick up a flyer and give the show a try. Stay at a venue after your show has ended – and try the next show too. Go to visit the fab pop-up bars but catch a show while you’re there. Take a risk and see something you might not normally have chosen – you might be pleasantly surprised, and if you’re not, you’ve only spent about a tenner on a ticket. Share the shows you’ve discovered with your friends and ask if they can do likewise.

Here’s What I’m Hoping to See or Recommend Catching

These are very much my taste but you might see a few things here that appeal to you too!

  • Bourgeois and Maurice, Style over substance, Spiegeltent, Fri 4th & Sat 5th May 9pm – dark, twisted humour from this brilliant cabaret duo – not for the easily offended.
  • La Clique, Sabai Pavilion, every night of the Fringe, 9pm – cabaret/vaudeville/burlesque show.
  • Ida Barr, Granarchist, Spiegeltent, 1-3 June, 6.30pm – hilarious character comedy with this rapping music hall star. There will be bingo, there will be community singing and there may well be a hokey-cokey
  • Abstraction Park 7090: Preparing for Take Off, FREE – 31 May – 03 June. Fabulously surreal playground full of music, films and installations. Likely to be totally bonkers, but in a good way.
  • Warmth – pop-up sauna on Brighton Brach – every weekend throughout May. £10 per ticket. Enjoy a performance as well as a real sauna.
  • The OS Map Fan Club – The Dukebox, 14-20 May, 18.15, £9. This is my ‘take a punt’ show – I like maps, I like theatre, so thought I’d give this is a go, despite knowing very little about it.
  • Brighton Food Tours – Fri & Sat in May, 11am. 3 hour walking tour of some of the lesser known independent Brighton food and drink makers and sellers. £40 including all food and drink!
  • Geoffrey Mead’s London Road Tour – Fri, Sat & Sundays throughout May, 5pm. £8. This was one of the highlight of the Fringe for me last year. If you think London Road is a down-at-heel, low rent shopping drag, think again. This fascinating tour takes in history, geography, sociology and architecture.
  • Take Shelter – 12&13 May, 19&20 May, Downs Junior School. Step back to the 1940s when visiting the original WW2 Air Raid Shelter under the playground. £5.
  • Wind in the Willows, by Box Tale Soup – The Warren, 27&28 May, 2 June, 4.15pm. £10. My tolerance for puppets is VERY low but Box Tale Soup are the exception to the rule. Their adaptations of classics are beautifully done, using homemade puppets and a cast of just 3. Definitely not just for children.
So, you may well not want to see ANY of the above shows and events but don’t let that put you off. Dive in. Take a punt. Have fun. Have a great Fringe!