Drama in the round: theatre at the Rotunda

PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release May 21st 2019

In its third year in Pavilion Gardens the Rotunda is entrenched on the Fringe scene, and this year its theatre offering is dominated by plays from established production companies with enviable track records.

Hint of Lime Productions are behind four plays at Rotunda, Alison Skilbeck is perhaps best remembered for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt, this year she explores Shakespeare's older women in The Power Behind the Crone, as Professor Artemis Turret she sets out to refute that ‘There are no good parts in Shakespeare for older women’. Skilbeck also tells the linked tales of four women in comedy drama Are There More Of You? which charts each wildly different character’s search for love and happiness. In A Substitute For Life, Francis Kenworthy used books to hide from reality, to forget the brutalities of his Victorian upbringing, until a family accident forces him to face real life. Finally from Hint of Lime, the friendship between the First World War poet and composer, Ivor Gurney, and musician and pioneer of women music critics, Marion Scott is celebrated in Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-Sort.

Tayo Aluko & Friends return with their two popular plays; Call Mr Robeson, a rollercoaster journey through African-American actor-singer Paul Robeson’s remarkable life, highlighting his pioneering and heroic political activism, and featuring Ol’ Man River and other famous songs; also, Just An Ordinary Lawyer tells of Britain’s first black judge, a fine singer and keen cricket fan musing on black liberation struggles from the heart of empire.

Another company out in force is Grist to the Mill, which previously brought the superb Unknown Soldier, and this time, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Herman Melville, presents a stunning, new one-man adaptation of the classic novel. Join Ross Ericson on the high seas in the hunt for the great white whale. Ericson is also the writer/star of Gratiano, a challenging sequel to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in which the politics of prejudice in Mussolini's Italy and the present day are explored. Two more productions look at two famous women: Mulan is no Disney tale but a gritty look at the real story behind the famous woman warrior who fought as a man in the great armies of China. An Evening with Miss Wong offers a musical cabaret as one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars looks back on her life, her fight against prejudice, and the fact that the leading lady was never allowed to kiss her leading man – well, almost never.

Monkey and the White Bone Demon is the first of three shows from Red Dragonfly Productions. Based on the stories from the Chinese classic Journey To The West, the tale finds heroes Monkey, Pigsy, Sandy and Tripitaka in dangerous lands. Will they make it through? In another familiar tale, Tom Jones is an acclaimed adaptation of Henry Fielding's comic novel. A feast of human nature, it is served up in the simple manner of the West Country but with the French and Italian seasoning of sex and vice. The Taking Flight Showcase meanwhile highlights three intriguing short plays from the British Asian perspective.

The programme at the Rotunda is rounded out by two more fascinating shows. Going Slightly Mad from Big Mind Theatre is based on real-life experience of an NHS psychiatric ward; Max has just been sectioned and she doesn't know why. Plush Tiger Productions bring Desert Bloom, in which Rosarita, a fragile Nevada bloom, muses on the fate of Marilyn Monroe and wonders if she herself has been transplanted into the wrong soil.

There are plenty more theatre treats in Fringe40. For further information see the printed programme, www.buxtonfringe.org.uk or the new Buxton Fringe App.

The Fringe wishes to thank its sponsor The University of Derby as well as financial supporters The Trevor Osborne Charitable Trust and High Peak Borough Council, its Fringe Friends and the town’s many Fringe supporters and venues.

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