Trees Company: Forest Fringe explored
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Forest Fringe takes place at The Lir from 13-15 December. Doors 6.30pm. First performance 7pm. 

Performances include: Action Hero with the Irish premiere of Watch Me Fall. Dan Canham with his Dublin Fringe Festival 2012 performance 30 Cecil Street; Veronica Dyas' solo performance In My Bed; Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment) with a new installation in response to the space at The Lir; HotForTheatre's Amy Conroy is sharing early elements of her new performance Break; Kieran Hurley with the Irish premiere of Hitch; Charlotte Jarvis with her installation version of All American Hero; and Deborah Pearson with her latest work The Future Show

Main Image:
Action Hero's Watch Me Fall


Trees Company: Forest Fringe explored

In recent years, following the separation of the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Dublin Theatre Festival as concurrent events, some people began to speak longingly of redesigning the performance calendar. “What would be really helpful, and I’m sure everybody has said it for years, would be if those two festivals were at opposite  ends of the year,” one producer told ITM in 2011. “We’ve all got our backs broken putting on shows weeks apart.”
This, admittedly, is a luxurious complaint made by theatre makers at full canter (not everyone made work for both festivals) and a very easily fatigued media, but the announcement of the Forest Fringe – a three-day nanofestival of adventurous works from Ireland and Britain – might have resembled a modest exploration of the idea.
“I don’t think this speculation is coming from our audience,” Dublin Fringe Festival director RĂ³ise Goan told ITM by email, pointing out that such speculation may be coming from those who can’t see the wood for the trees. “The critical mass of cultural activity in Dublin in the autumn is in my view a good thing, with more and more festivals springing up each year(Mountains to Sea, Culture Night, Dublin  Fashion Festival, Phizzfest, Open House etc). Dublin Fringe Festival currently has no plans to move its calendar dates outside of this nascent Dublin Festival Season (Sept/Oct).”
Looking at the success of this year’s festival, there’s no compelling reason for it to do so. In 2012, the Fringe increased in scale, with 640 performances compared to 525 in 2011, and increased its box office intake by 30% over the previous year. Following similarly encouraging box office for Galway Arts Festival and the Dublin Theatre Festival, it may be premature to say the struggle for audiences has ended, but the Fringe had its biggest year since 2009.

An alternative platform for performance that began in Edinburgh in 2007, the Forest Fringe has now been planted in Dublin in a co-presentation between The Lir, the Dublin Fringe Festival and the British Council. Opening last night and continuing until Saturday, it takes place at a time of the year that is, traditionally, starved of everything but tradition: pantomimes, light entertainments and lavishly costumed winter warmers.
Forest Fringe serves The Lir well, keeping its stage management and technical theatre students occupied with its realization while connecting the National Academy of Dramatic Arts to an outside audience. The British Council also gets to support a project in which British and Irish theatre makers maintain an acutely judged equilibrium (It is curated largely by Andy Field and Deborah Pearson, but all partners contributed and shared its costs). But it also increases the visibility of the Dublin Fringe throughout the calendar: last April the Dublin Fringe debuted a ‘rep-experiment’ collaboration with Project Arts Centre, Turn Around, and later launched the Fringe
 Lab, an artist support scheme. The Fringe isn’t moving. If anything, it seems to be expanding and Goan is not shy about programming outside festival time, “in part to satisfy our brilliant audience, in part to provide further opportunities for artists we present and collaborate with on a regular basis”. Asked if we could expect more events during months as yet untouched by the Fringe, Goan replied, “Watch this space…”

In some respects, Forest Fringe may be a test case to see how brilliant the audience can be just before Christmas, when – even at the best of times – money is tight. That could explain a very competitive price for four and a half hours of performance and installations. Forest Fringe is a welcome addition to the Dublin calendar, but it’s not out of the woods yet.

Peter Crawley is News Editor of Irish Theatre Magazine.


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