Genre-Bending - Shows at Assembly Festival are choosing to break new ground by mixing things up
8 August 2018
By ‘Providence’ co-creator Simon Maeder
‘A what??’ A woman on George Street responds to my flyering pitch with confusion.
‘A horror/comedy...’ I repeat and smile as I hand her the flyer. I explain the plot of my show, Providence, but as I walk away from her picnic table I fear that I’ve created more questions than audience members…
You’d expect the patronage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest live arts festival in the world, to be used to companies mixing things up to create new and different shades of colour to dazzle their public. I’m not suggesting that the ‘horror/comedy’ was something we invented, those two styles have been mixing comfortably for years, but in the miasma of originality that is the Fringe, even familiar faces can appear surprising.
If, unlike the poor woman I accosted with my genre-bending show, you are not taken aback by classic mixes, Assembly Venues will aim again and again to find new and original ways to spark your curiosity and imagination. There’s the ‘interactive performance party’ that is Don Juan (The Bubble, 13:10), a show that mixes music, comedy and performance in a heady, hedonistic haze of love. After my own interest there’s the ‘darkly comic’ Where The Hell is Bernard (Studio 5, 16:10) where Haste Theatre manage to mix ‘magical visuals, movement, live song and clown’ in a crazy, dystopian futurescape. Speaking of the future, you might want to enjoy pondering eternity with Alice & Roxy in You Only Live Forever (Studio 4, 13:35), which boasts ‘meta-theatre comedy’. Or you could choose to visit an 1830s taproom with the folks over at A Swell Mob and witness an award-winning cocktail of ‘clown, puppetry and cabaret’. Whatever your taste buds crave, you’re bound to find the right concoction eventually. I hope that with the all the mixtures on offer with Assembly, other companies don’t shy away in the future from creating their own mix, something made up of the old that can give birth to a truly original beast.
As for Providence, we’re very happy with our blend of madness and macabre. We take you through a fast-paced, whirlwind of the life of America’s most infamous horror writer: HP Lovecraft. I myself get to play Lovecraft and I’m having a blast. I love playing with people’s expectations: we set the scene in a haunting, misty atmosphere and then smash through it with quick-witted, Marx-Brothers-esque comedy. And, just when you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, we’re in one of Lovecraft’s stories and your whole world is upside down and you’re on the edge of your seat, praying for the tension to be released. That’s why we mix genres. To keep you, our audience, guessing. This is the Fringe after all, the forefront of creativity and as soon as you think you know what’s going on, it’s our job to surprise you.
Photo credit: Tom Figgins