This month The Greater Manchester Fringe returns with a month long packed programme of events to tantalise and excite. To help you decide what to see, we’re running our Manc Mini Previews, asking performers to tell us about their productions.
Here Oli Savage talks to us about Wood
How would you describe your show in one sentence?
Easy – an innovative piece of queer theatre that explores sexuality, gender, and what to expect when you go camping.
What appealed about appearing at Greater Manchester Fringe?
When we found out about the Manchester Fringe, we actually completely changed our tour schedule to make sure that we could be there – it has this amazing ethos of marketing to audiences that wouldn’t usually go to the theatre, which we thoroughly support. Actually, that’s one of the fundamental aims of WOOD; to try and engage new audiences with ambitious theatre projects. The Manchester Fringe also fosters such a diverse range of creative projects, we’re excited to see how that changes the face of an already very creative city!
How have you been preparing for the fringe?
We’ve actually been on tour over the last couple of months – we started off in Brighton for a couple of weeks, performing by the sea in the New Steine Gardens. An absolutely stunning spot. We’re also performing at Juju’s Bar and Stage in London at the moment, and will be transferring to Ludlow, Barnstaple, and finally to Manchester. We’re trying to put in a day of rehearsals in every location just to get used to where we’re performing – making sure that every performance space really becomes part of the production.
What do you think sets your show apart from all the other festival offerings?
That’s a tough one! Firstly, our show is alternating between straight and queer performances – so on even dates, males will be playing males and females will play females, but on odd dates, we switch around to have males play females and females to play males. This gives us a perfect opportunity to explore how gender functions in everyday life, while also giving the audience plenty to think about. Apart from anything else, the sheer virtuosity displayed by the actors in switching not just between roles, but between genders on alternating nights, is enough to make the show a must-see. Secondly, we’re experimenting with a new theatrical genre – ‘immersive-lite.’ So if
Secondly, we’re experimenting with a new theatrical genre – ‘immersive-lite.’ So if immersive theatre is all about bringing audiences into the world of a show, we’re all about taking that one step further and bringing that world to them. Our show is basically a pop-up show, but it still brings the audience right into the action of the play, placing them in the middle of the campsite where the story takes place. And we think using this genre augments our discussion of gender and sexuality, engaging with the audience on a deeply personal level.
What’s the show that you don’t want to miss at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe?
We’re really excited for Boabab Tree Theatre Company’s production of King Jack Queen – it’s this immersive piece that puts you into the life of a group of students before a fairly hectic night out. Looks like it’s right up our street!
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given for performing at a Fringe Festival?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – be friendly. It’s easy to get caught up in your own show and forget about everyone else, but last year I was reminded a few times that the positive creative atmosphere at Fringes is one of the things that makes them so great. Being told to go out, meet people, find out about what they’re making and why they think it’s important – that’s the best advice I’ve been given about Fringe Festivals. Because it just makes the whole experience better for everyone!
Manchester is known for its music scene… If you were to select a song that best represents your show what is the song and why?
Ooo – I’m going to go with Still take you home by the Arctic Monkeys. It’s all about masks, attraction and performativity, and it fits the vibe of our show pretty well too!
Wood runs at Sackville Gardens from 4th – 17th July