Festival preview: CroydoNites Festival of New Theatre, 12th-20th November

By - Friday 16th October, 2015

Anna Arthur on her hopes for Croydon’s newest cultural event – the CroydoNites Festival of New Theatre

Figs in Wigs.
Photo by CroydoNites Festival of New Theatre, used with permission.

Last December I decided to start a theatre festival in Croydon. The idea came out of the blue whilst I was on a work trip to Norway. I love theatre, I love Croydon, I’m already the general manager of a dance festival – it was a no brainer. So I consulted friends and colleagues, and after much deliberation and discussion the Croydonites Festival of New Theatre was born.

Croydonites – definition:

1. noun/plural: Croydonites – residents of the London Borough of Croydon (see also Croydoners and Croydonians)

2. noun/plural: Croydon Nights – seriously good nights out at the theatre… in Croydon

Kate O’Donnell.
Photo by CroydoNites Festival of New Theatre, used with permission.

When I talk about theatre, I don’t mean West End stuff, or even National Theatre stuff. I mean independent and alternative work that is thrilling, controversial, hilarious, surreal and downright brilliant. It wasn’t hard to select the programme as I spend a fair amount of time traveling round London watching shows. Finalising the schedule was another matter… however, I’m very proud to finally reveal all.

The first Croydonites Festival will take place between Thursday 12th and Friday 20th November and features artists from across the UK. Four companies will present work at the newly launched Utopia Theatre at Matthew’s Yard, and the recently refurbished Stanley Halls in Norwood.

The line-up features Jim Barnard and Scallywag Theatre with the UK premiere of Stan, a (nearly) life sized puppet with a confrontational style (he’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind, or on yours). Jim has taken Stan to theatres and festivals around the world, from Bolivia to Slovenia, Belarus to Capo Verde, winning the hearts of critics and audiences: “Jim Barnard’s accomplished performance and his remarkable physical skill is not just slapstick but has discreet depth”, said the German newspaper, Nürnberger Zeitung.

Let’s rival the Edinburgh Fringe. You up for it, Croydon?

Figs in Wigs is an all female, five strong performance company which makes work that is a unique mix of theatre, dance and comedy. Using puns, fairy lights, and pop culture references, they create shows that are refreshingly surreal and absurdly comic. Show Off delves deep into our digital existence, examining how social media has bred a new form of narcissism. What do the critics say? “Figs in Wigs proves that silly and whiplash smart go hand in hand. Terrific fun”. (Lyn Gardner, The Guardian).

Jonzi D, artistic director of Breakin’ Convention and the father of hip hop theatre, was offered an MBE (an honour presented by the English monarch whose letters stand for ‘member of the order of the British empire’) in 2011 for services to dance. Not knowing whether to accept it, he made The Letter: to be or to… MBE to help him decide. Told through the eyes of a colourful cast of characters, Jonzi uses choreo-poetic language, politics and wit to paint a picture of “stunning rhythmical clarity”, according to The Stage magazine. Did he accept? You’ll have to come along to find out.

Jonzi D.
Photo by CroydoNites Festival of New Theatre, used with permission.

Kate O’Donnell is a contemporary queer theatre performer and cabaret artist. Her work, Big Girl’s Blouse, is her story of growing up as a boy in Coventry where she got all of the lead female roles in plays at her all boys’ school. This gently political performance exudes pride and strength in being a transgender woman and sees Kate make a song and dance about her life using humour, music and costume. “Furiously funny” said the Sunday Times Style Magazine, and “a Manchester legend” said Time Out Manchester

I’m very excited about the work in the programme, I hope that people come out and support it. I can envisage a day when we have a four-week festival to rival the Edinburgh Fringe. You up for it, Croydon?

Here’s the programme for the Croydonites Festival of New Theatre:

All tickets are £10.00 full price and £7.50 concessions, and you can book here.

Theatre Utopia at Matthew’s Yard
8:00pm Thursday 12th November. Jim Barnard and Scallywag Theatre, Stan
8:00pm Saturday 14th November. Figs in Wigs, Show Off.

Stanley Halls
8:00pm Wednesday/Thursday 18th-19th November. Jonzi D, The Letter: To be or to be… MBE
8:00pm Friday 20th November. Kate O’Donnell, Big Girl’s Blouse.

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur

Anna Arthur is a mum of three, dog owner and director of Croydonites Festival of New Theatre. Born in the north-east, she grew up just outside of Portsmouth but London and Croydon have been her home for over 20 years. She also works in contemporary dance, but don’t hold that against her.

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  • Rosie E

    bring it on ! Can’t wait for this.. hope it’s not already sold out