This year, Pleasance Theatre Trust will be supporting a record number of artists and companies at all stages of their careers through the investment of over £140,000 (both in-kind and direct financial support) through its Pleasance Futures programme. Recognising how important it is to help open the door for talent, Pleasance’s major investment reflects its core beliefs in creating opportunities, supporting ambition, encouraging excellence and building reputations. These 20 productions go on-sale today exclusively via The Pleasance.
The Charlie Hartill Special Theatre Reserve Fund provides a young theatre company with the extraordinary opportunity to present a ground-breaking performance of a fully produced play at the Edinburgh Fringe. 2017 recipients Unpolished Theatre won a Fringe First and received an Olivier nomination for Flesh and Bone, while 2018 recipients Strictly Arts were shortlisted for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Fringe Award, two Off-West-End Theatre Awards, and have just completed a UK tour with Freeman. This year the Fund has been awarded to Poor Michelle for Bible John. In 1969, Barrowlands Ballroom Glasgow was haunted by a murderer who was never caught; Bible John tells the story of the three murdered women, and the four women who try to solve the case once and for all, exploring our current cultural obsession with true crime. This year the Fund will also support Wonderbox’s semi-autobiographical A Womb of One’s Own, which follows Baby in her discovery of partying, sex, religion, and her bisexuality, just as she finds out she’s pregnant.
The Charlie Hartill Special Comedy Reserve Fund supports The Pleasance Comedy Reserve, taking four up and coming comedy acts to the Fringe. Celebrating its 15th year, it is a clear marker of ones to watch, previous recipients include Jack Whitehall, Roisin Conaty, Doc Brown, Lou Sanders, and Joe Lycett. This year, after stiff competition, it has been awarded to Josh Jones, Mamoun Elagab, Lily Phillips and Mo Omar, providing them with a launchpad onto the circuit.
Now in its third year, The Network is a unique collaboration between the Scottish Drama Training Network and The Pleasance to support acting, performance and technical theatre graduates from Scotland’s Colleges and Higher Education Institutions to produce a new work annually during the Fringe. In 2019, The Network is excitingly supported by Grid Iron, the seven-time Fringe First winning company based in Edinburgh. Using Grid Iron’s expertise in creating site-specific and location theatre, the world premiere of The Brunch Club will take place in a new pop-up Pleasance venue at The Levels. Set within a cafeteria, it takes on labels and cliques in today’s Edinburgh schools in a vibrant homage to classic coming of age movies.
New to 2019, the Pleasance Associates Programme is for companies and artists with a stellar record of presenting excellent and innovative work at the Fringe looking to make a change in their company trajectory. Fringe First award-winners Jordan & Skinner (Sanitise) present A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego, a riotous new show that cuts to the bone of gender politics. After his sell-out success with In Loyal Company and Trashed, David William Bryan returns to the Fringe with Fragility of Man, an exploration of the effects of one man’s battle with the justice system. Last year’s Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve Fund recipients Strictly Arts present Not Black & White, interrogating the complexity of black female identity through the prism of an interracial relationship. In a frenzy of post-truth news, award-winning experimental theatre company YESYESNONO summon hyper-reality in The Accident Did Not Take Place, featuring a new guest performer every night. Re-developed for the Fringe after a hugely successful run at the New Diorama Theatre, The War of the Worlds, from Rhum & Clay Theatre and playwright Isley Lynn, is inspired by Orson Welles’ infamous radio broadcast and the ongoing and unsettling power of fake events to cause real reactions.
Also new for 2019, The Pleasance is partnering with six of the UK’s most dynamic theatres to identify exciting local artists and companies, and to support them to present work at the Fringe as part of Pleasance’s new Regional Theatre Partnerships. Swim is an intimate new show about the healing properties of wild swimming in processing grief, from theatre-makers Liz Richardson (Gutted), Josie Dale-Jones (dressed. and Me & My Bee) and Sam Ward (Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist and [insert slogan here]) supported by HOME. Manchester. Produced in association with Leicester Curve, Mighty from Curve Breakthrough Artist Jack AG Britton uses a mixture of spoken word, comedy, a megaphone, a loop pedal and lots of copies of The Yellow Pages to ask: should we take heightism more seriously?
Beach Body Ready is a defiantly feel-good show which sticks two fingers up at the media’s dictation of beauty standards from The Roaring Girls, and supported by Absolutely Cultured and York Theatre Royal. An anarchic journey through 400 years of gender relations as two people meet again and again on a Dorset beach, Wild Swimming from Full Rogue is supported by Bristol Old Vic Ferment. With support from Royal & Derngate Northampton, Jo Blake’s Blodeuwedd Untold combines movement and ritual to re-examine the Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd for our disastrously unmythic times. Oxford Playhouse presents Give Me One Moment in Time, Doug Crossley’s wonderfully sad, funny and life-affirming story about loss, grief and the absurdity of being human.
The COMMON Award, supporting a working-class artist or theatre company to take an exceptional show to the Edinburgh Fringe is delivered in partnership with COMMON, has been presented to Welsh performance artist Rhys Slade-Jones for The Land of my Fathers and Mothers and Some Other People. An all-singing, all-dancing re-enactment of Rhys’ parents’ love story, based on his mam’s diary, this frenzied one-man cabaret breathes life back into the Treherbert rugby club as it explores communities and fitting in to big cities and small towns. COMMON is a nationwide arts organisation supporting the UK theatre industry to achieve greater socio-economic diversity.
In collaboration with Les Enfants Terrible, the 2019 LET Award goes to award-winning nine piece progressive brass band Perhaps Contraption for Nearly Human, a new gig theatre show which contemplates our baffling origins, complete with triumphant horns, intricate rhythms, enormous choral harmonies and dynamic choreography. The Greenwich Partnership Award 2019 goes to Dead Rabbits Theatre for their performance My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice. This vividly visual and physical journey following three explorers who took off to the Arctic in a free-flying balloon in 1897 and the woman they left behind, and is supported by Greenwich Theatre.
Dedicated to offering dynamic and professional theatre opportunities for young people through workshops and large-scale productions, Young Pleasance will bring a song and dance to Edinburgh as they revive their rip-roaring musical comedy pastiche A Grave Situation ten years after first staging it. Five grave-digging brothers must Dig for Victory to tunnel their way back to Blighty in this brilliantly playful invention.
Also returning to the Fringe is the award-winning New Diorama Theatre with the world premiere of their new production of The Incident Room, directed by Artistic Director David Byrne and co-authored with Olivia Hirst. The production is co-presented at the Fringe by The Pleasance and Greenwich Theatre. Set in Leeds, in 1975, The Incident Room is a forensic examination of the police hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper. As public pressure mounts the investigation resorts to increasingly audacious attempts to catch one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers.
Anthony Alderson, director of Pleasance commented: “The Pleasance exists to support and develop the most exciting new voices across theatre and comedy. That’s why for 2019 we are investing in more artists and shows than ever before. This is a powerful statement of our ongoing commitment to ensure artists are able to present bold, new and ambitious work at the Fringe, and also to play our part in ensuring the wider theatre landscape continues to thrive all across the UK. Ultimately, Pleasance is a giant family and this network of shows – through our associates, co-productions and partnerships – cements how vital support is to this industry.”
Pleasance is also increasing its offer of support to every company in the 2019 programme. This support will include: an expanded Pleasance Producers Programme, a series of monthly workshops in the lead up to Edinburgh, to provide support and assistance across every aspect of producing at the Fringe; weekly onsite Artist Surgeries in August, to provide bespoke support to companies during the Fringe; new networking and training events throughout August; and the annual Pleasance Companies Meet and Greet in London will expand to include more tailored advice sessions and chances to meet with the Pleasance team one-to-one and in small groups.
The Pleasance’s programme will offer some of the biggest names in entertainment, much-loved returning acts and exciting newcomers. With more shows to be announced over the coming months there will be comedy, theatre, circus, magic, dance, kids’ shows and much more, alongside support for some of the most innovative newcomers through artist development strand Pleasance Futures.