Swindon’s festival celebrating all things arty is back. GILL HARRIS has a sneak peek at what’s coming up

The Swindon Fringe Festival is coming back! After a hugely successful run around Swindon last year, with 9 award winning shows heading off to Brighton Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe and the West End, Madam Renards is putting together another great celebration of performing arts in Wiltshire from 1st – 9th April 2017.

The Swindon Fringe Festival is back and bigger than ever before. After going through a very successful application process and a heart warming crowd funding appeal, we can officially announce that there will be 43 acts performing in 4 venues from the 1st - 9th April 2017. With almost twice as many shows and a day shorter than last year, the Swindon Fringe will be bringing you a Music Festival, Family Shows, Stand Up Comedy and some hard hitting Dramas.

The Swindon Fringe Festival is delighted to announce their first ever Music Festival being played at The Victoria on 2nd April 2017. Featuring many local favourites such as Sweet Nightingale and Spunking Octochoke, Swindon will also be visited by some big band greats from around the UK. There will be Rock, Pop, Jazz and Punk for the mainstream lovers and some Blues, Flamenco, Folk and Avant Garde Sounds for the alternative types. The Victoria will also be the main home to the Stand Up Comedy nights. Matt Hoss will be coming back again along with local comedian, Tony Cowards to help us laugh in the evenings.

As a way of welcoming a new family to the Swindon Arts scene, the Swindon Fringe Festival will also be hosting events at The Bohemian Balcony. The Palladium on Jennings St in Rodbourne has been taken over by a very creative crew who want to make a wonderful collective work space for all artists in Swindon to share. Seb Wolfe, resident writer at The Bohemian Balcony, will be previewing his show, The Justice Equation alongside a London based writer, Zoe Smith with Breaking Point. There will be an Opening Night on Friday 31st March where the public will get a little taster of what the Swindon Fringe Festival will entail. With the lovely sounds of Canute’s Plastic Army and some wonderful Stand Up Comedy entertainment lined up, there will be prize draw and a chance to meet and great some of the acts performing during the week.

It wouldn’t be a Fringe without performances at the Shoebox Theatre. Improv, Drama and Physical Theatre brought to you by local groups such as Gatecrash Theatre, DTA and Alex Secker alongside some Bristol greats, HimmelTheater and NOxThree Theatre Company. To get even more Fringe-y, the Shoebox will also feature a full afternoon of Soundscapes and Art Installations on Saturday 8th April. A lovely addition to the Swindon Fringe Festival next year will be The Swinge Bar. It will be filled with food and drink from Swindon’s treasured businesses (Crop Circle, Darkroom Espresso, Pippin’s Donuts) for you to enjoy while watching the shows.

And to finish off, the Swindon Fringe Festival will be bringing you some Magic, Musicals, more Stand Up Comedians and Family Shows at the Town Hall. Sell out performer Rob Gee is coming back with Kevin, King of Egypt and we will be welcoming some new BBC Stand Up comedians Louise Rey and Abi Roberts. There will be puppetry with The Homeless Panda and some comedic magic tricks in Laughs With Tricks. The list could go on and on with every performance coming next year, but you could have a look for yourselves at www.swindonfringefestival.com for the full schedule.

Tickets will be on sale in the new year. Keep an eye of the Swindon Fringe Festival coming to you from 1st – 9th April 2017.

  • The Door, an original piece of theatre from a Swindon based cast and crew, hopes to hold a mirror up to society and make people think.

The Arts have often been a place to raise issues and comment on the current state of society.

Some pieces do this through outright telling the story, and others do it through more subtle means. John Carpenter's The Thing was a comment on the paranoia of the cold war, using it's setting and plot to feed into the ideas of

isolation and trust.

Much like the 1980s, when that film came out, the world once again faces a multitude of threats, from the divisions within society, both abroad and at home, to the larger than life uncertainty that is ruled over the Western World

by issues like Brexit and Trump.

Writer/Director Alex Secker is hoping that his new play The Door, a psychological thriller and his theatre debut, can do for the contemporary world what The Thing and so many others did for the 80s, namely, explore the issues facing

society through an exciting, pulpy story that, hopefully, will both engage and leave the view thinking.

“I've always liked film and theatre when it has something to say. I think that's part of what makes something enjoyable. You can have a great time at a popcorn movie or a flashy, stylish musical, but it's the one's that go a little deeper that stay with you,” says Secker, who is currently balancing time

between his work on The Door and his feature film Follow The Crows, “that's not to say I don't want it to be fun, of course I do, and it is a fun play. It's a bit pulpy, very fast-paced and tense. But I also want to make people think, what would they do?”

The story concerns a group of six strangers who awaken trapped in a windowless room. They are given a choice by their unseen captor, they can stay in the relative safety of the room or they can leave through the door, out into the unknown. Quickly tensions rise as each of the group has their own idea of what they should, but they struggle to find a way of working together as they find themselves more and more divided.

“Initially it was supposed to be a film, and I was going to co-write it with a friend of mine,” Secker goes on, “but I had the idea of turning it into a play and submitting to the Fringe. I was shocked when we got accepted, I've never done anything in theatre before and so I was worried I'd be out of my depth. Luckily I have some fantastic actors who really, really know their stuff. So we're all working together to make sure it's the best it can be. Funny, considering the importance of collaboration is one of the points we're trying to get at!”

Laura Coates, Daniella

Faircloth, David Higgins,

Lindsay Linnegar, Matthew

Mordak and Ashley Robson make up the cast Secker refers

to, many of whom theatre goers will recognise from a whole host of local performances. The talent on stage is undeniable, but Secker is quick to point our that a great cast can only go some far into quelling his nerves, “In the end it doesn't really matter how great these actors are, and they

are great! It's all for nothing if the script doesn't hold up, and since I wrote it that's all down to me. That's a lot of pressure. But I do believe we've got something good, and I hope people will come along, support local artists and enjoy what we have to offer.”

And what about those issues he's hoping to explore? “Well, I want people to have a good time, first and foremost. If they get the parallels then great, if not that's fine. If it makes them think, well, then I guess I must be doing something right!”

The Door is part of the Swindon Fringe Festival, and is being performed at the Shoebox Theatre, in Theatre Square, on the 4th of April at 6:30pm. You can find more information on Facebook.

  • ​Flame & Co The Victoria, 5.50pm, April 2. Free. Guitarist Haydn Bonadie and singer Cristina Navazo-Eguía Newton bring real roots flamenco to the Swindon Fringe Festival.
  • Alf the Highwayman Showbox Theatre, 10.30am, April 1 This family theatre piece won Best Children’s Show at the Shaftesbury Fringe 2016. Alf has an eye for other people’s possessions and snatches and grabs without a thought for other people’s feelings. But it’s time for him to change tack and learn that there are better ways to play! The show has many opportunities for little ones to join in and at the end everyone has a chance to come on stage to explore.
  • Just Charming & Appily Ever After The Victoria, 8pm, April 3 Just Charming is an honest and comic exploration of storytelling and a look at the role of gender, masculinity and sexuality against reality’s make believe. Written and performed by James Luckraft-Law, it mixes stand-up style observation, honest confessions and storytelling ‘Appily Ever After’ is one-man, performance centred around Paul Lawless’ experiences appdating. The show blends original song, spoken word and audience interaction. Exploring themes including app-addiction, disillusionment and sexual assault within the gay community,
  • Church of Phil Recruitment Seminar Bohemian Balcony, 2.30pm, April 1 The Church of Phil is led by Phil, a charismatic former childstar who owns a caravan park in Wales. Polly and Liam are two of Phil’s most loyal followers and will lead the audience through a series of visually-striking slideshow presentations, ritual dances, stories about the great man himself, puppetry, a live healing, a human sacrifice, and even a raffle.