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New Wolsey’s annual fringe festival takes the Pulse of contemporary theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:15 01 June 2018

Education, Education, Education,  part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

Education, Education, Education, part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

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The New Wolsey’s fringe festival PULSE opens its doors today for its 18th year of showcasing new talent. Arts editor Andrew Clarke takes a look at this year’s line-up

Pulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre. Picture:AARON WEIGHTPulse Festival at the New Wolsey Theatre. Picture:AARON WEIGHT

One of the great theatrical success stories of recent years has been the development of fringe theatre – shorter, ingenious, imaginative and frequently off-the-wall, this contemporary form of peformance allows shows to be more topical and to address issues (both comically and seriously) which are in our minds now.

From today the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich plays host to the PULSE Festival which is celebrating its 18th year giving vital exposure to upcoming writers, emerging performers and companies looking to try out new shows before heading to Edinburgh later this summer.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to see some of the best new work in UK theatre before anyone else.

Nasi Voutsas & Bertrand Lesca in Palmyra, part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo:Alex BrennerNasi Voutsas & Bertrand Lesca in Palmyra, part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo:Alex Brenner

Curated by China Plate, an independent theatre studio that works with artists, venues, festivals and funders to reimagine the way that performance is made, it has put together a programme which offers a showcase for contemporary performance from established and emerging artists.

This 10 day festival will take over the New Wolsey Theatre, Studio and bar, and will include performances at the Ipswich High Street Exhibition Gallery (HEG) and DanceEast.

China Plate founders Ed Collier and Paul Warwick said that they wanted to open up theatre to the widest possible audience. “At China Plate we have always challenged who makes theatre and who gets to experience it. Theatre is for everyone and PULSE is a wonderful opportunity for audiences from a wide variety of different backgrounds and interests to come along and experience something they will not have encountered before.”

I Wish I Was A Mountain is part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE FestivalI Wish I Was A Mountain is part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

With over 50 shows in the programme, there really is something for everyone. Audiences can choose from fly-on-wall drama, experimental theatre, bite-sized works in development, immersive digital experiences, visceral verse, laugh-out-loud humour, musical theatre and even magic and sleight-of-hand.

PULSE opens tonight with Shôn Dale-Jones performing Hoipolloi’s latest show, Me & Robin Hood, which questions the value of art and money over the power of story. Combining theatre and fundraising, Me & Robin Hood will raise money for Street Child United World Cup 2018. Last year his audiences raised £20,000 for the charity, which uses sport to connect, protect and enable the children who live on the world’s streets to build better lives.

On Friday June 1, Suitcase Prize Day returns to find the best show that can be toured using public transport only. Last year’s winner, James McDermott, will close the day with his laugh-out-loud coming of age comedy, Rubber Ring.

Burning Tales part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE FestivalBurning Tales part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

Scratch Day on Saturday June 2 will see 13 acts bravely present new works before asking for audience feedback, and Free Day on Sunday June 3 will invite audiences to pay what they think for the shows that they see.

On June 5, Suffolk-based poet, Luke Wright will perform his second verse play Frankie Vah deals with love, loss and belief, against a backdrop of grubby indie venues and 80s politics.

By their own account, La Pelles Factory’s work is “weird theatre”, using dark humour, relatable stories and modest multimedia to entertain, tease and cause a bit of trouble. Their renegade telling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat is on June 4.

Punch and Judy part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE FestivalPunch and Judy part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

Dante or Die’s User Not Found on June 6 is an interactive digital experience in which you will be handed a smartphone and a pair of headphones before the show starts. This intimate, fly-on-wall

drama focuses on what happens to your digital legacy when you die.

Proto-Type Theater’s The Audit (aka Iceland, a modern myth) is on June 8. Using original text,

The Knot is part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE FestivalThe Knot is part of PULSE 2018, hosted by the New Wolsey Theatre. Photo: PULSE Festival

performance, film, music and animation it tells the story of how a nation raised their voices in protest against the global economic crash, after the rich had got richer and the poor were dragged ever downwards.

On the penultimate night of the festival, Friday 8 June, the Wardrobe Ensemble takes the main house back to May 1997 with Education, Education, Education. Tony Blair has won the election, Katrina and the Waves won Eurovision, Channel 5 is just one month old, no one knows who Harry Potter is and

“Cool Britannia” rules. Education, Education, Education is a love letter to the schools of the ‘90s, asking big questions about an entire country in special measures. It explores what we are taught and why, and

where responsibility truly lies.

The festival will end on Saturday June 9 with Paul O’Donnell’s almost entirely imagined Bon Jovi musical We’ve Got Each Other.

Tickets start at £10 per show (£5 for under-25s), with offers such as the Frequent Flyers deal, where if you book 5 or more shows you get all tickets for just £5. To book your tickets call the New Wolsey Ticket Sales team on 01473 295900 or visit the website at www.pulseipswich.co.uk

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