’45 minutes with Danny’ – a heartfelt and dedicated performer

If I could only use one word to describe this show, it would be ‘heart’.

Danny Cashmore has it in spades and it absolutely shines through when he is performing. Even with a small but appreciative crowd, Danny still gave a show worthy of a full house and rightly so.

There was a great range of musical theatre classics sung throughout the evening, with many of them suiting Danny’s voice beautifully (Hushabye Mountain a particular highlight). As Danny himself mentioned in the show, he completely embodies the characters whose songs he is performing. I would have liked Danny to showcase ‘himself’ a little more as he is a tenacious and dedicated performer with so much to offer.

As the evening came to a close, I feel we all got to know Danny a little better and he relaxed into the performance even more. I left the theatre rooting for him as he regaled us with his hopes, fears and ambitions for the future. Danny is a star in the making and I really hope he always keeps his heart.

Billy Buckingham

‘Breeding Grounds’ – a witty and relevant outlook on domestic life and world issues

‘Breeding Grounds’ tackles major world issues of climate change, immigration, overpopulation and the role of carers from the domestic setting of a marriage between two seemingly contrasting characters. Years after hoping to change the world for the better together, Ingrid and Stewart debate the capacity for politics to solve the issues facing our society with Steward discussing how his hands are tied politically, limiting the capacity for change in his role as an MP.

A witty perspective on domestic life, ‘Breeding Grounds’ is able to tread the line between the small domestic sphere of the two characters and their marriage with the broadness of the political decisions that will shape our planet’s future. Through a realistic look on British politics and a glimpse into village life familiar for many of us the piece challenges audiences to reconsider not only what we understand, but rather the truths that we don’t want to understand as we move forward.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘One Man King Arthur’ – an audience spell bound by a story that will never die

Sam Gibbs can make me laugh just by standing still, stone faced, rolling his eyes, giving that look. In One Man King Arthur add a black cloak and a slight stoop and voila, there stands Merlin, our narrator of the tale.

This performer knows his craft, as with a battalion of varying voices, minimal nuances, gentle gestures or enormous sweeps of his arms he creates characters who carry his spell bound audience effortlessly, and always with humour, through a story that will never die: the tale of the first King of Britain, his fight for justice and the search for the Holy Grail.

But don’t take my word for it. Go and see it for yourself! You will not be disappointed.

Annie M

The Corpus – a storyteller’s perspective on stories

A living testimony to the timeless power of stories, ‘The Corpus’ is an exploration of the stories that surround us everyday and the process of story creation and telling. Mark Ashford, discusses the role of truth in stories, tackling the issues with the plethora of fantasies that masquerade as the truth on social media that forms an increasingly large part of our lives. This he mixes with stories he has collected from himself and others adding a personal dimension to the piece that moved us all.

A highly relevant and powerful show – ‘The Corpus’ will be performed again at 1.45 on Sunday in the room at the top in the Queen’s.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘Out of Words’ – surely the most joyous show on the fringe this weekend

A beautiful blend of sound and movement, telling the story of a man’s life and work with grace and compassion.

Rudyard Kipling stands alone upon a pile of books while three dancers enter one by one, pick up a book and read out loud a line of “If”.

Accompanied by a gorgeous score, these four dancers bring the writer’s story to life.

The tranquillity of the writing process is beautifully punctuated by playful creatures literally plucking their stories from Kipling’s head. The characters from The Jungle Book are brought to life before our eyes as they weave around Kipling in sensuous, flowing movements.

In turns both playful and poignant, the performance is enhanced by pinpoint precision from the production crew.

To paraphrase Kipling, these young dancers truly “walk with Kings”. A triumph.

‘Out of Words’ will be performed once more on Sunday at 7.15 on the main stage of the Queen’s.

Claudia Richardson

‘Good Grief’ – a witty and poignant exploration of emotion and family dynamics,

‘Good Grief’ follows the narrative of a family distanced by a sense of personal betrayal who are brought together for the funeral of a loved one. The piece is a mix of moments of wry dark humour and of quiet, but emotive, pathos between characters as they try to come to terms with what has happened. Challenging ‘what’s normal when grief is involved?’, ‘Good Grief’ acknowledges the complexity of human emotion and the role of family in difficult times.

This is widened to the times we live in with the ever-presence of COVID-19 being keenly felt throughout the piece, creating a show that is at once satirical but also deeply respectful. ‘Good Grief’ will be performed again at 2.00 on Sunday at the main stage of the Queen’s.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

BEGIN: – the search for meaning in a world of disillusion

In BEGIN we meet B, M and E.
Three characters who represent the Beginning, the Middle and the End, each one a part of the narrative but none of them able to tell their whole story without the others.

All three are stuck in their own destructive cycles. All three are seeking connection and meaning. Until they are unexpectedly brought together with shocking consequences.

B is the first to put voice to his disillusionment and his thwarted plans to become an artist. He’s grown up to work with paints, but not in the way he wanted – so he has to find new ways to express himself. Alfie Dale’s register ranges from downtrodden to despair and finally to violence as he rages against his unfulfilled life.

M has been rendered listless by heartbreak. He fiddles constantly with a Rubik’s cube, but he never reaches a solution, never comes to the end of the puzzle. Every twist he makes changes every part of the cube, just as the decisions he makes mean his life will never be the same again.

E expresses passionate monologues about the circle of life, nature & spirituality. She looks to the future, while M & B are both trapped in their disappointing pasts and can’t move forward.

E offers the others a chance to escape their pasts through “little changes” – “the small action that causes the avalanche”.

Live music accompanies the action, with George Bennett’s evocative sound design adding atmosphere and tension.

With minimal set and props, the cast fill the stage with their physicality as the actions builds to a devastating crescendo.

Claudia Richardson

‘Witch’ – a gripping mystery and tale of victimisation

A bitter but true tale of injustice and betrayal, ‘Witch’ tells the true story of a woman convicted of witchcraft in the Devon area where the anger of a man who has lost it all combine with a fatal abuse of power. Through this show, ‘Circle of Spears’ hopes to give a voice to those deprived of theirs in witch trials and highlight the relevancy of historical injustices.

A poignant show that holds an audience as tensions rise and the ‘truth’ is finally revealed, ‘Witch’ will be performed again at 7.45 on Saturday and 3.45 on Sunday at the main stage of the Queens.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘One Man King Arthur’ – tales filled with humour and life

Once again Sam Gibbs of Autojeu is able to create joy for a fringe audience with his mix of precise mime, hilarious character work and unbounded energy. ‘One Man King Arthur’ is a retelling of the Arthurian legends, bringing the old tales to live in a physical performance truly enjoyable for all ages that plays with metatheatre and the role of the creator in performance.

Silly but captivating, ‘One Man King Arthur’ is a must-see for enjoyers of theatre and comedy that will be performed at 4.30 on Saturday in the Baptist Hall.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘Fire in the Belly’ – the evocative and deeply moving story of Woody Guthrie

‘Fire in the Belly’ is the deserved tribute of the life and stories of the Woodrow ‘Woody’ Wilson Guthrie. Dave Plimmer tells the story of the musician and the man mixing biographical monologue in the voice of Guthrie with his music celebrating his art and fire plagued story. A testimony to the emotional power of a single performer creating a living biography, Plimmer is able to take us into the world of Guthrie and create a sense of the bittersweet reality of his life.

A must-see emotionally fuelled event for lovers of music and stories alike, Plimmer will be performing at 1.00 on Saturday and 12.30 on Sunday in Bridge Chambers.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘Journal of an Encouraged Girl’ – a timeless reflection on the power of learning by the next generation of fringe performers.

‘Journal of an Encouraged Girl’ created by SParkS Youth Theatre Company tells the story of a modern secondary school pupil from a disadvantaged background trying to find her way through learning, who discovers the diary of a 17th Century maid telling of her struggles for education in a less equal age. The piece subverts the archetypes of the works of W. N. P. Barbellion and Andrew Motion in their descriptions of events from ‘The Journal of a Disappointed Man’ – through an enjoyable and highly relevant glimpse into the importance and power of education.

A story of learning across time, ‘Journal of an Encouraged Girl’ will be performed at Barnstaple Library on Saturday at 1.45.

‘The Red Balloon’ – a joyous and imaginative adventure

The Red Balloon is a joyous and imaginative adventure through the backstreets of Paris, with Pascall and his new friend, a balloon.

Lucky Dog have impressed audiences with their comedic skills before at Theatrefest, but this show might just be their best yet. It’s a wonderfully heartfelt story of friendship, filled with laughter and fun.

The jokes come thick and fast in this show, as do the many colourful inhabitants of the Parisian suburbs, all brought to life on stage with verve, energy and an outrageous wig and fake beard or two.

Ultimately though it is the relationship between Pascal and his balloon that stays with you, a beautiful reminder that there are some friends, you just can’t let go of.

By Mark Ashmore

‘Re Submission’ – ELLIOTT SPEAKS!

When you’re the silent, enigmatic, musical half of a two-person company and your loud, sweary other half disappears to foreign parts it takes some guts to get up on stage alone. And to do it in a dressing gown and underpants and then enact every performer’s worse nightmare? That takes real courage. Elliott Grant looked nervous. He sounded nervous. He was unprepared for this and had a sheaf of pages of unlearned half-written script to prove it.

And bang – that’s the hook. While you’re still just slightly worried about whether he’s going to get through the next 50 minutes you find yourself snagged on a line and gently – with a self-effacing grin, another apology, and a very deft touch – he’s reeling you in.

His self-described “Bad student poetry” is actually a beautifully balanced sequence. Well-written, delivered straight from the heart, there are eye-wateringly funny epics that are comic gold. (Trust me. The Bridgwater saga with have you crying with laughter. And as for that robin…) Peppered in between are reflections on the nature of theatre itself, childhood memories, intense and righteous political rage, and deeply tender moments.

A really lovely show. Highly recommended.

By Tanya Landman

‘Poor Old Horse’ – a journey through time

Everyone has got 30 minutes to spare sometime this weekend right? And there can be no better way to spend it than in the company of Back ze Vore and their wonderful production of Poor Old Horse. Through the medium of song, dance and dark Devon storytelling this charming performance takes you on a journey through time and the changing circumstances that affect us all.

A not to be missed experience catch it at Castle Green 6.00 pm Friday, on Sat 11.45 at St Anne’s Art Centre outside, 2.30 on the High Street or 10.30 at St Anne’s Art Centre inside and on Sunday 1.45 on Castle Green.

This trio of stunning performers will have you ohing and ahing and dancing with joy by the end.

Annie M

‘The Comprehensive School of Art’ – irreverent but hilarious

In this show, Shirley Halse takes us on an irreverent journey through the history of art and some of its most famous paintings. In her guise as ‘art expert’, we are presented with her particular take on art, with interesting facts and silliness running along side by side, though undoubtedly with the emphasis on silly!

Shirley engaged the audience from the beginning with a little audience participation in the way of drawing (on your own and nothing difficult!). She then continued to maintain an easy rapport with us throughout, creating an easy and relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy the humour. I left the venue with my spirits lifted!


The Comprehensive School of Art – a witty reinvention of the art that has shaped our world

‘The Comprehensive School of Art’ leads us on journey through the history of art satirising both masterpieces and modern life through the eyes of a contemporary viewer. The piece deconstructs the concept of deconstruction tearing into the paintings of Leonardo DiCaprio and the works of the latte renaissance through hilarious – albeit fictional – backstory.

A very witty show that plays with language, reinventing artworks and exploring the link between art and the self. A must for lovers of art and/or comedy, Shirley Halse will be performing at 9.15 on Friday and 1.45 on Saturday at the castle centre.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘Selich’ – a look into the role of voice, control and the often bitter link between fantasy and reality

Selich is a retelling of the old tale of ‘The Goodman of Wastness’ where a man steals the skin of a selkie – a mythological half-woman-half-seal creature – thus trapping her to land where she becomes his wife. This show is taken from the perspective of the selkie, exploring her perceptions of life on land as an outsider, and of her husband as both a ‘goodman’ but also as one who has held her captive for seven years.

The show talks about the links between the mystical and the all too real elements of the story telling the tale of a captive woman – who it could be argued is never ultimately free. Jess Cox is able to rekindle the story-telling tradition through vocal soundscapes, song and the richness of language with lines such as ‘shifting shingle and shell in the moonlight’ that create atmosphere and root the story’s link to the sea. The piece also has moments of profound silence, deepening our sympathy for the powerlessness of the selkie and her sense of personal betrayal once she is ‘flippered and free’.

If you want a show that explores what it is to be free, and what it is to be human: Jess will be performing at 1.30 on Saturday, and 7.00 on Sunday at the Guildhall.

Nathan Rodney-Jones.

‘The No Show’ – an improvised look into the chaos of theatre when all seems to have gone awry

‘The No Show’, explores what happens to a show when the main performer fails to arrive and those around them have to improvise a show based on the responses of their audience. It is a hard piece not to become involved in as an active observer, as we see the panic unfurling before us and become involved as the fourth wall is broken down. The piece also plays with the idea of the comic double act – albeit one created seemingly by accident – through the characters of the ‘performers’, harking back to commedia delle’arte with us seeing the show created by two modern zani.

The sense of panic and the need for quick thought required when performance does not go to plan was really brought out through the performers who are all either current or former students at London Metropolitan University. The piece was in part inspired by the sense of apparent pandemonium found within the works of Mischief Theatre – creators of The Play That Goes Wrong. This genre they are able to take in a different direction through the use of song, dance and perhaps the best lip-synced opera I have ever heard!

If you fancy a chaotic show rooted in improvisation, tackling the role of chaos in theatre – you can see them perform at 2.15 on Friday and 6.30 on Saturday at St Anne’s.

Nathan Rodney-Jones

‘Bertie Bassett’ – a comedic look into the performer’s life

Bertie Bassett (aka John) might be 50 something and sad but he is also very passionate about all sorts, licorice pun intended.

This show is a punk fueled trip through the music that John loves and the politics that he hates, with some personal history and clog dancing thrown in for good measure.

John has performed many times at the Theatrefest, but this is the first autobiographical piece since his debut at the Fringe in 2009. If you have ever wanted to shake your first at the establishment, John can show you how and provide the soundtrack.

This show is next on at the castle centre on Saturday at 3.30 and Sunday at 4.30.

‘Pathfield presents’ – energy and camaraderie

One of the most wonderful things about Fringe Theatrefest is the creative opportunities it gives to performers and creators of all ages.

The performers from Pathfield school may be the youngest at this year’s festival, but the energy they brought to the stage was so wonderful it is hard to imagine a better way to kick off the festival.

The ensemble knew all the songs and showed no hesitation in singing each one as loud as they could, with a new soloist being handed the microphone at the beginning of each song.

The camaraderie and support the performers gave each other through each number, was nothing short of inspirational, the joy they seemed to take in seeing their friends do well was brilliant and at the end of the final encore, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Mark Ashmore

‘This is Not Therapy’ – a show tackling the meaning of life, age and therapy

With her winning stage presence and endearing smile it is hard not to fall for Tina Sederholm as she engages her audience, weaving stories of her life and the films she loves with poems, which, it turns out, encompass some of the big questions about the meaning of life.

This show might tell you it isn’t about therapy, and it isn’t – it is far too entertaining – but really it is.

Join Tina on her magical journey of self discovery in Gallery @QT Fri 6.15 or Sat 6.00

Annie M

‘Pathfield Presents’ – Pure Barnstaple Magic

Pathfield Presents was my perfect start to this year’s Theatre Fest. An awesome group of young people from the Pathfield’s school’s Drama and Music group and Choir who impressed their audience with their huge musical talents and great enthusiasm for performance and song. Pure Barnstaple magic. Not 1,000 but a dozen voices singing loud and clear together.

If you missed today’s performance you have a second chance to catch it at Tent on the Strand tomorrow (24th) at 11.00. This will be a great start to anyone’s day 2. In the words of one of the songs they sang today they are ‘Simply the Best’.

Annie M

Well here we go!

The venues are ready, final rehearsals are taking place and Barnstaple is about to be deluged in a storm of theatrical activity.

To help make sense of it all we have a band of trusty reviewers ready to proffer their opinions.

Join in the conversation!

And check back often over the weekend to keep up with the news.

Annie with the last word – a requiem

It has become a tradition that poet Annie Moir signs off each Fringe TheatreFest with a summation of the long weekend, weaving in many – maybe all – of the production titles or the company names that have entertained us.

This year she has woven her requiem from empty Barnstaple with ghosts of a few companies past. You can see this year’s show list, greyed-out, on the website. We very much hope that we’ll be seeing them in Barnstaple next year – in glorious technicolour.

Sponsorship ties us into the town

The funding from sponsorship gives us the means to mount the festival: the technical infrastructure, the advertising and the festival brochure.

But it also binds us to the fabric of the town rather than being an arty appendage. We are delighted to see so many businesses investing in sponsorship or supporting us by advertising in the festival brochure.

Thank you Claire

One of the key figures who guided Fringe TheatreFest through its formative years was Claire Thomson (now Claire Woods).

The first Fringe TheatreFest was a collaboration between multi story theatre company (otherwise known as Gill&Bill), North Devon Theatres and North Devon College.

From 2009 the partnership was between multi story and North Devon Theatres and so it remained until 2017.

Claire was our main point of contact with North Devon Theatres and it was she who did all the heavy lifting. She superintended our relationship with all the other parts of NDT – the publicity department who produced all the print, the technical department who provided the bulk of the equipment and personnel and the box-office – using her finely-tuned diplomatic skills where necessary and keeping us in order if our ambitions got out of hand. She managed to be both passionate and realistic in the pursuit of TheatreFest’s goals. She also did a lot of the administrative work that we rather took for granted before we went solo in 2017 when North Devon Theatres ceased to be. She took on the licensing and a lot of H&S and safeguarding, she superintended the budget and I think she particularly enjoyed crunching the numbers at the end of each TheatreFest.

The collapse of North Devon Theatres was severely traumatic for many of the staff, a lot of whom were particularly fond of what Fringe TheatreFest brought to the Queen’s in June. None more so than Claire. And we had to set up a committee to fill her shoes.

Thank you Claire. And I hope you remember Jesus Quintero – who made you cry and you didn’t know why.

Claire always let others take the limelight. But she’s there in this team photo – smiling through from centre-back.


Where are the posters we see in town
Advertising Fringe TheatreFest
Where’s the gazebo on the High Street
Manned with informers doing their best
Where is the marquee on the Square
We are now well into June
Where are the flags swaying in the breeze
“TheatreFest is coming soon”
Where are the black t-shirted team
Heralding the event
Where are the a-boards outside the halls,
Cafes, library and tent
Where is the clown in the High Street
The uni-cyclist and children’ choirs
Where are the volunteers with badges
And programme flyers
Where is the box office now
What’s on in the Green Lanes
Where is the bard and the minstrel
And the comedian playing games
Alas its 2020 and covid-19 has closed us down
This year we have only a deserted, lonely town
But we will be back in ‘21 in our usual place
Fringe TheatreFest will resurrect
We promise – watch this space!

Chris Brown June 2020

Fringe TheatreFest podcast – the complete package

Don’t miss the Fringe TheatreFest podcast created by Liam Gifford.

All seven episodes are now there for your delectation. The final episode is an entertaining meander with a couple of old codgers – Liam does his considerable best to keep them on subject. But listen to the powerful wisdom of younger voices in episodes 1 – 6.

Liam is a superb interlocutor, drawing together threads to create a coherent whole.

Click here to be taken to the podcast homepage.

Or here to listen to the codgers

Liam Gifford – photo by Dave Green

Messing with the tech staff

I made my first visit to TheatreFest in 2019 with my show Everything Wrong With You Is Beautiful, and the whole festival was so friendly, fun and fully embraced the concept of expanding to cope with whatever happens.

However, I didn’t get off to an auspicious start.

My tech Rachel was stuck on a train somewhere near Taunton as the minutes ticked towards the start of my one hour dress rehearsal. I rang her to tell her not to worry as the stage lights were currently stuck on a disco setting and, whatever the chief tech tried, they just kept flashing red, blue, green at two minute intervals. Rachel still ran up from the train station, dragging a large wheelie bag behind her and arrived hot and flustered.

Venue tech Mark and the chief tech eventually fixed the problem, and we had our run through. Rachel and I decided to go back to our digs with the lovely Graham and Pat, so Rachel could have a shower and calm down. We dragged all our bags to the car and drove to Graham and Pat’s house.

As we unloaded the boot, I thought, ‘Rachel’s got a lot of stuff for a four day run.’

She said to me, ‘Do you want your rucksack?’

‘I thought that was your rucksack?’


We peeked inside. It was stuffed with leads, gels, filters, batteries…. Rachel had ‘stolen’ Mark’s rucksack.

We were five miles away, without his phone number. I rang the venue, The Southgate, who passed a message upstairs to Mark… and we drove his rucksack back. 

‘I’ll be keeping an eye on you,’ he said, looking stern. Then he smiled. ‘Actually, I hadn’t noticed until you sent the message.’

I bought him a beer anyway.

Because you never never mess with the tech staff.

Tina Sederholm