February 17, 2011 / 11:27 AM / 8 years ago

Curtain to fall on London theater's Fringe Report

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - For almost a decade, the appropriately shoe-string outfit The Fringe Report has played a lead role in helping actors and audiences to navigate their way through the maze of low-budget theatres in London and beyond.

From an office beneath a church in London’s district of Bloomsbury, famed for intellectuals such as novelist Virginia Woolf, it has served as an antidote to the bright lights of London’s West End.

But after its 10th anniversary in July next year, its editor John Park says its work will be done.

“We started Fringe Report on July 12, 2002 because there was very little coverage of the off-mainstream. There is now thankfully a great deal,” Park told Reuters.

“As I will be 65 in 2012, and Fringe Report will reach its 10th anniversary on July 12, 2012, we felt that would be a good time to stop, a good round number.”

The report will still be accessible online as “a 10-year snapshot across the risky arts at the start of the 21st century”.

Its focus is the sprawling London scene, but it also covers “regional fringe” as well as the huge annual celebration of fringe theater at the Edinburgh Festival.

Readers and contributors have emerged from across the globe, including the Middle East, Asia, Vietnam, China, as well as mainland Europe, Canada the United States and all over Britain.

The Fringe Report’s reviews are based on the philosophy the writer must be “only on the level of the performance — not superior or below”, as Park puts it.

It also hosts an annual awards ceremony that is an implicit spoof of the Oscars.

Held each February in the Leicester Square Theater, tucked away in a side street away from the neon of the main square in central London, refreshments are peanuts and cheap wine rather than champagne and caviar.

Acceptance speeches tend toward the anarchic.

At this February’s event, they also included warm praise of Park and loud boos at the demise of Fringe Report and the news next February’s awards ceremony would be the last.

Park does not plan to disappear entirely from the irrepressible network of tiny independent theatres tucked away in the back rooms of pubs and other makeshift spaces.

He has written a play being recorded by The Wireless Theater Company, one of the winners at this year’s Fringe Report awards.

Showing the kind of brave, creative ambition that characterizes the fringe, he also states his ultimate aim with wry humor: “Before death, I’d finally like to get a novel published.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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