2019 was record-breaking for Brighton Fringe with over 600,000 attendees, while 2020 saw the Festival explore digital performance for the first time. Now, for 2021, England’s largest arts festival is back with the most exciting and unusual cabaret, circus and comedy, dance, drama and drag! In the spirit of invention that has always inspired the Fringe, this year will be a hybrid festival with a mixture of live and digital shows.
Already more than 330 events lined up with a mix of in-person shows and digital productions to explore as part of this year’s amazing programme – and there’s more yet to come. This summer, head to the seaside in person or in principle and celebrate the limitless variety of the UK arts scene with Brighton Fringe!
The Brighton Fringe CEO Julian Caddy commented: “I am delighted that after an incredibly difficult year we are now launching ticket sales for Brighton Fringe 2021. Putting together Brighton Fringe is a massive undertaking, especially with the challenges that we have all faced during the pandemic, so I would like to pay tribute to the participants, venues and producers for their passion, dedication and resilience. It is thanks to you that there is any point in having a Brighton Fringe.
We may well put on the largest arts festival in England and provide the year-round resources that we do, but we are far from being the largest arts organisation. Brighton Fringe is a super network of networks. It is the stories we tell, the experiences we have, the recommendations that we make. We can’t wait to welcome back audiences and artists safely to the city to create new connections and celebrate Fringe, safely, with us this year.”
This open-access arts festival embraces every art form and artist in a vast celebration of the weird, wild and wonderful. Brighton Fringe has grown from Brighton’s unique cultural heritage, nurtured and inspired by home-grown talent. The festival prides itself on being welcoming to established and emerging artists, supporting those taking their first steps with a variety of bursaries.
Bursary Award winners for 2021 include the BN1 winner Liv Ello for SWARM, a black comedy on white privilege which re-tells a provocative reality through the behaviour of flies. King Jamsheed: Lonely Piano follows King Jamsheed through their solo year accompanied by a stunning soundtrack of piano, synth and brooding vocals; I Am More Than 2021 by Equinox is about exploring assumptions and challenging prejudices – both come to Brighton Fringe having won the Irene Mensah Bursary.
A powerful new piece about belonging and assimilation, White (Other) by Pole Vault was awarded the South East Dance Bursary. Winning the Michael Graney Bursary for new theatre pieces which hold science fiction at their heart, Waiting For Hamlet by Smokescreen Productions is about one fool who knows he’s a fool, and one fool who doesn’t. Fetch Theatre is the winner of the Ironclad Creative New Writing Bursary for Fiction Romance, about exploring the hidden desires of one man, a sailor and a dreamer who finds love.
Alongside these emerging artists, old favourites will also take to the stage at Brighton Fringe. An unmissable feature of the comedy landscape for five decades, Arthur Smith will be heading to the coast this summer. Marcel Lucont, the flâneur, raconteur, bon-viveur, will be back with his dead-pan stand-up. After two sell-out runs at Brighton Fringe in 2018 and 2019, Circus Abyssinia are back with a heart-stopping show. Award-winning character comedian Anna Morris brings her BBC Radio 4 stand-up show to the stage and, for the first time in her career, steps out of her much-loved characters to reveal a side we’ve never seen. A mixed bill of multi-award-nominated stand-up and sketch comedians, The LOL Word will present an unmissable hour of the queerest comedy. Bent Double is a gay-friendly, irreverent night of fun and frolics hosted by the brilliant Zoe Lyons.
Also returning to Brighton Fringe is Sara Barron who has got a whole new selection of jokes and stories about motherhood, fatherhood, therapists, fallings out, and gettings together. Join Chloe Petts as she presents an hour of new jokes on all manner of pertinent issues including the darts and loud snores on public transport. SMUT is the long-anticipated show by comedy newcomer Lily Phillips; it was going to be about feminism but is now going to be about her dog. Fresh from 8 Out of 10 Cats, Hypothetical and Roast Battle, Harriet Kemsley will be heading to the seafront with a brand-new show. Acerbic comedian and professional slacker Rajiv Karia will be assessing his millennial existence and the worlds of hipsters, yuppie culture and modern problems in Paint.
Theatres may have been closed for the past year but that hasn’t stopped astonishing new pieces from being cooked up. The Wardrobe Ensemble and The Wardrobe Theatre will bring their critically acclaimed two-woman retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, to Brighton this summer. There will be an incredible digital programme featuring work from South African artists from the National Arts Festival including winners of the Gold Ovation Award, Women Hold Up the Sky and The King of Broken Things. The Voice Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award-winner Bard Overboard takes audiences below decks as Wonder World Cruises team tries to record a heart-warming corporate message for these trying times. They’ve got one final Zoom rehearsal before they go live, what could go wrong?
Variety is the name of the game at Brighton Fringe and there is plenty more to enjoy! The Purple Teapot Puppet Company is back with a brand-new family show about a teddy and a puppy vying for love in A Bear Called Bottom and a Dog Called Snoop. Audiences can also join Highly Suspect for a hilarious interactive and fiendishly tricky online murder mystery, A Highly Suspect Murder Mystery. Part history lesson, part cabaret show, and part heart-rending personal quest, A Matter of Time is an attempt to come to terms with a world in which the clock is always ticking. Accio Fandom is a pit-stop tour of fandom – from Lord of the Rings to Sailor Moon – told through comedy and cabaret. Album artist for Radiohead since 1994, Stanley Donwood will bring together a unique selection of original drawings and landscapes in his exhibition, WAY OUT.
Opening their doors to Brighton Fringe once more, The Warren will pop up again with some new socially-distanced spaces in addition to their new year-round seafront venue, The Electric Arcade. Brighton Spiegeltent will take over the Old Steine with a strong cabaret programme while Laughing Horse can be found in three pubs in Brighton – The Caroline of Brunswick, The Quadrant and The Walrus – with their usual programme of affordable comedy and theatre. The Rialto Theatre and The Caxton Arms will both be back with their excellent programmes. After a year packed with outdoor events, Brighton Open Air Theatre will play host to the Fringe as will Komedia, who will be back with socially-distanced versions of their comedy nights having been closed since last March.
Sweet Venues will take over a new space at Pier Werks as the brand new Sweet Old Steine: Main Space & The Comedy Basement. After the success of their first run at Brighton Fringe’s Autumn Season, they will also be returning with their digital programme of pre-recorded work on SweetStream. Living Record are bringing a virtual venue to Brighton Fringe for the first time with a programme of work specially made for the digital realm. Edinburgh Fringe venue theSpaceUK will also make their debut at Brighton with a digital venue presenting a mix of live and pre-recorded online events.
Brighton Fringe’s programme will offer much-loved returning acts alongside exciting newcomers with comedy, theatre, circus, exhibitions, magic, dance, children’s shows and much, much more. Check out the full programme to see the entire amazing line-up.
The full programme and tickets for all shows are available at www.brightonfringe.org, 01273 917 272 or download the app from Google Play or the Apple Store. Prices vary and many are free.