PULSE Festival returns to New Wolsey for fringe festival fun
- Credit: Archant
Drawing audiences from all over the region, The New Wolsey’s PULSE Festival is one of the cornerstones of East Anglia’s cultural calendar. Arts editor Andrew Clarke takes a look at this year’s line-up.
PULSE, The New Wolsey’s annual fringe festival, returns, at the beginning of June, for a jam-packed 18th year.
Once again the curation team China Plate have created a programme that mixes new faces with festival favourites producing new work. The idea behind PULSE is that the work featured in the festival must have a life beyond the Ipswich performances and they will help re-stock an increasingly popular fringe theatre circuit.
Among the highlights of this year’s event is a show called Me & Robin Hood, which explores the true value of art and money, the return of Suitcase Prize Day, which celebrates the best new work that can be toured on public transport, and the 10-day festival will end with a new, almost entirely imagined, Bon Jovi musical We’ve Got Each Other, by Paul O’Donnell.
Festival curators China Plate, have a long relationship with the New Wolsey and founders Ed Collier and Paul Warwick, have helped give PULSE a very distinctive feel, mixing experimental and innovative theatre with other types of performance which often utilise different forms of media and technology.
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Elements of the PULSE programme are then folded back into the main programme to offer audiences a wide range of experience.
Ed Collier said: “China Plate has always been an independent theatre studio that works with artists, venues, festivals and funders to challenge the way performance is made, who it’s made by and who gets to experience it.
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“This is the sixth year we have programmed PULSE and we are delighted to see the way that audiences have grown. East Anglian audiences are very discerning and supportive. If you look at the bookings we draw audiences from a wide area, right across East Anglia, because PULSE has got a great reputation for quality and because people like to see new shows early in the run.
“There’s nothing better than the national press raving about a show they saw in Edinburgh or in London and locally people can say: ‘Well, I saw it first at The New Wolsey as part of PULSE,’ and that means a lot.”
This year PULSE opens on Thursday May 31, with Shôn Dale-Jones performing Hoipolloi’s latest show, Me & Robin Hood, which questions the value of art and money over the power of story. Combining theatre and fundraising, Me & Robin Hood will raise money for Street Child United World Cup 2018. Last year his audiences raised £20,000 for the charity, which uses sport to connect, protect and enable the children who live on the world’s streets to build better lives.
This year’s Suitcase Prize Day will see the 2017 winner James McDermott return with his production of Rubber Ring on June 1. This is a laugh-out-loud coming of age comedy, about a teenage Morrissey fan’s struggle with his sexual identity and rural Norfolk heritage.
Critically acclaimed magician and sleight-of-hand artist Vincent Gambini’s returns to the festival with a pre-Edinburgh preview of new show The Chore Of Enchantment, one of the Scratch Day performances, on June 2, devoted to developing new work.
On June 5, Suffolk-based poet, Luke Wright will perform his second verse play Frankie Vah deals with love, loss and belief, against a backdrop of grubby indie venues and 80s politics. Poet, broadcaster and festival curator Wright tours the world each year with his unique brand of poetry. His Channel 4 verse documentaries have been enjoyed by millions of viewers and he curates the spoken word line-ups at Latitude and The Edinburgh International Book Festival.
By their own account, La Pelles Factory’s work is “weird theatre”, using dark humour, relatable stories and modest multimedia to entertain, tease and cause a bit of trouble. Their renegade telling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat is on June 4.
Dante or Die’s User Not Found on June 6 is an interactive digital experience in which you will be handed a smartphone and a pair of headphones before the show starts. This intimate, fly-on-wall drama focuses on what happens to your digital legacy when you die.
Proto-Type Theater’s The Audit (aka Iceland, a modern myth) is on June 8. Using original text, performance, film, music and animation it tells the story of how a nation raised their voices in protest against the global economic crash, after the rich had got richer and the poor were dragged ever downwards.
On the penultimate night of the festival, Friday 8 June, the Wardrobe Ensemble takes the main house back to May 1997 with Education, Education, Education. Tony Blair has won the election, Katrina and the Waves won Eurovision, Channel 5 is just one month old, no one knows who Harry Potter is and “Cool Britannia” rules. Education, Education, Education is a love letter to the schools of the ‘90s, asking big questions about an entire country in special measures. It explores what we are taught and why, and where responsibility truly lies. Using trademark inventive theatricality and irreverent humour, this show explores the stories that have shaped our recent political history, and what the future might look like.
To top off the 10 day festival on Saturday June 9 is Paul O’Donnell’s almost entirely imagined Bon Jovi musical We’ve Got Each Other. With the modern jukebox musical traditionally comes a multitalented cast, a live band (or orchestra if you are lucky), opulent sets and decadent costumes, extravagant dance routines, dramatic key changes and the odd hydraulic lift or two. We’ve Got Each Other has none of these things (they cost a lot of money), but Paul still tries to create this all singing, all dancing spectacle using the powers of your imaginations.
The PULSE festival runs at New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, from May 31 – June 9.
All tickets start at £10 (£5 under 26s). Suitcase Day is £15 for the whole day. Scratch Day is £5 per session, or £10 when you book all 4 together at once.