Norwich Interlude Fringe review: ‘a great day of performance’ packed with something for everyone

A collaboration between Norwich Fringe and Norwich Theatre, Interlude Fringe provided a much needed chance to enjoy live performance and demonstrates how the show can - and must - go on (whilst of course being COVID-secure).

Audiences were welcomed back to take up their socially distanced seats and enjoy the entertainment provided by some of Norfolk’s most talented theatre companies, song-writers, poets and drag artists. The day was hosted with energy and comedy by Lewis Buxton, who later performed his own set of poetry.

After this rabble-rousing introduction, the Norwich Fringe Interlude takeover was kicked off with real ‘fringe’ energy, as REDuck Productions’ fast-paced parody show Ministers of Grace combined Shakespeare and Ghostbusters to thrilling comedic effect. Revelling in the bawdy physical comedy of Elizabethan drama, with telling nods to contemporary culture, REDuck were unfailingly energetic and unashamedly silly.

This local company performs with verve, and work fabulously as a team, having all the attributes to become a formidable comedy force. Perhaps their clear qualities as physical comedy actors would have had more opportunity to shine with a less text-heavy and fast-moving script, as some of the best moments of the show weren’t given the time they deserved. But, undoubtedly, with their unique brand of fun, REDuck were the perfect company to set off the day.

In-between performances, the audience was treated to live acoustic sets by some of Norwich’s finest young musicians. Opening the acoustic tent was Artist Salman Toheed who moved to Norwich 10 years ago and finding the city friendly and creative, now calls it his home. Salman’s smooth vocal quality and acoustic guitar were paired with verses written in English, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi.

Also on the acoustic stage were Barney Holmes, Emily Parish, Harrison Matwij, Kimberley Moore and Yellowlees, all providing outstanding performances, enjoyed by audiences on the greenery of Chapelfield Gardens with drinks in hand from a pop-up Norwich Playhouse bar and food from Norfolk-based independent retailers.

On the main stage, poet Piers Harrison-Reid, co-founder of Grape Arts, performed a selection of his works including More Blacks, More Dogs, More Irish as well as Love is for the Brave - a love poem to the NHS inspired by his real-life experiences as an NHS Nurse. Originally commissioned by the BBC for the NHS’s 70th anniversary, Piers had recently updated it in light of COVID-19, and his artistry highlighted the pressures of creeping privatisation and the sad deaths of over 600 NHS workers, predominantly from black and brown backgrounds, to COVID-19.

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Also gracing the stage was actress, poet and author, Poppy Stevens, performing a selection of her poems, including Zoom In, inspired by her experiences during lockdown, finding joy in the quizzes, conversations and memories of university days. Poppy also shared poems on relationship breakdowns, reconciliation and how timelines can break off and come back together in a negotiation of figuring out how both parties have now changed.

With their double-bill at The Garage earlier this year, Cruyff Turn Theatre Company are quickly becoming a familiar feature of the Norwich theatre scene. Their off-beat character comedy persistently confounds expectations, and their new offering Train in Vain is no exception. Starting off as a seemingly straightforward one-woman show about an actor waiting for a late train, it quickly transforms into a vacillating stream-of-consciousness, as we are given a whistle-stop tour of the issues and ideas running through this young woman’s head, including capitalism, climate change, and her burning ambition to climb a ‘tall hill’.

It takes a lot of bravery to put one woman on stage for 40 minutes, and have her ramble through her anxieties with no clear direction of travel, but Cruyff Turn is a company that is comfortable in its own skin and is constantly experimenting. They wear convention lightly and are not afraid of amusing themselves with gently absurd narrative shifts and unusually crafted speech. These are a bunch of theatre-makers who are silly, political, and strangely watchable. With so much already from such a young company, there is definitely a lot more to come from them.

Jenny Beake hosted Pretty Funny, a musical comedy variety show, with highly relatable songs about shopping in the dark in Hollister, and the mild-annoyance of purchasing avocados which never seem to ripen. Accompanying Jenny were Norfolk-based comedian and ventriloquist Trisha Dunn as well as Ciara Jack, followed by the multi-award winning Welsh stand-up Jenny Collier, whose story about an ill-fated trip to the Doctors Surgery had audiences in stitches.

A highlight of the day was seasoned drag and cabaret performer Titania Trust, a Norfolk-based orange-haired sequin-donned Diva, with her outstanding vocals and acerbic wit providing a much needed fix for drag and cabaret loving audiences. Titania had the whole audience on their feet for a standing ovation in true diva style.

Molly Naylor, co-writer and creator of After Hours and Director of TOAST poetry, was the penultimate performer on the main stage, performing a selection of poetry and stand-up, including works written about much missed nights out during lockdown, as well as a poignant poem about trying to find someone whose ghost of the past gets on with yours.

The final performance of the day was Amplify Theatre’s return of Bodily Functions and Where to Find Them, an incredibly frank and honest exploration of everything we normally find disgusting about our own bodies. Thought-provoking, deftly performed and full of the kind of grim humour that might put some off their dinner, Bodily Functions shows that there is still more to talk about when it comes to… well, to bodily functions. A great final show to follow a great day of performance, and one that we hope to see return to Norwich soon.

As we moved towards the evening, Lewis Buxton, who had taken us through the day as our MC, brought his own show to the stage, hitting us with a fury of words, as his energetic performance poetry took on masculinity, mammals and the macabre. Buxton is a performer in full control of his craft, combining the confidence of an arena comedian with the sensitivity of a performance poet.

As an MC, he became a familiar and friendly face, deftly combining comedy and COVID-secure instruction. He was full of praise for Norwich as a city brimming with talent, and Buxton himself is a prime example of just that. Don’t be surprised if you see him on your television screens soon.

- INTERLUDE FRINGE was part of INTERLUDE at Chapelfied Gardens, a six-week programme of performances running until September 20. Presented by Norwich Theatre and Lost in Translation Circus with the support of Norwich City Council and Norwich BID in association with Aspall