Canned-Culture-Composite Simon Kane / Richard Tyrone Jones Has A Big Heart / The Great Puppet Horn

Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on the hottest happenings in the global cultural calendar this week, including fringe performance in Camden and dealings with the devil at the Salzburg Festival...

The Main Event: Camden Fringe

Camden may currently be hosting the international Amy Winehouse media circus. But the London borough is partially defined by its multiple identities – and many of them will be rounded up and paraded in August’s Camden Fringe, from the highbrow to the low, the glam to the gutter-stained, the willfully amateur to the gleefully obscure.

Once dubbed David to the Edinburgh Fringe’s Goliath (we’ll be banging on about that one next week), the Camden Fringe (which kicks off on Monday and runs throughout August) is considerably younger and a whole lot slenderer than its Scottish cousin. Begun six years ago with only 57 performances, it’s now knocking on closer to 1,000 and attracted 13,800 visitors last year - enough to secure its place on the cultural map while maintaining that approachable edge (no ticket costs more that £12.50).

Anyone deterred by the sheer iPhone-frazzling scale of the Edinburgh Fringe will find the same mix of theatre, dance, stand-up, storytelling, performance poetry, improv and silliness in Camden. But you won’t feel the need to decompress in a flyer-free isolation zone for weeks afterwards.

Picking names isn’t really in the spirit of things, but here goes. For starters, don’t miss Simon Kane’s one-man comedy Jonah Non Grata (Camden People’s Theatre, 2-17 August). A writer for Mitchell & Webb and experimental theatre collective Shunt, Kane has taken the bible story of Jonah and the whale and turned it into a crazed cabaret incorporating everything from Choose Your Own Adventure books and a song about Sonic The Hedgehog to buckets of viscera. Theatre and comedy critics have fallen at his feet in the process, and not just because of the slippery fish guts.

Also treading the line between laughter and despair will be Richard Tyrone Jones Has A Big Heart (Camden (Camden Head, August 2-7) a debut show from the performance poet about the cardiac dilation that nearly killed him (one of those rare, ‘cycling, non-alcoholic poets’) just weeks after his 30th birthday.

In the run-up to London 2012, RoundPeg Theatre have the topical drama thing sewn up with Swifter, Higher, Stronger, (Camden People’s Theatre, August 22-27) a play about the formidable female Olympians who took part in the 1908 and 1948 London Olympics. It may also attract more than its fair share of confused stag parties, as it’s set in a women’s changing room.

Which just leaves room to mention The Great Puppet Horn (Etcetera Theatre, Aug 23-24), a duo of cultural and political satirists operating in the medium of… shadow puppetry. They're somewhere between South Park and The Daily Show, and you can watch their new shadow puppet video about the phone hacking scandal here.

null © Krafft Angerer
Best of the Rest:

  • It’s the poshest classical music and theatre festival in the world. But the Salzburg Festival – founded in the wake of WWI and later exploited by the Nazis – has also proved one of the most colourfully controversial. The ‘annual cultural bun-fight’ starts tomorrow and runs to August 30 and includes a marathon performance of Goethe’s Faust (pictured).
  • Madrid’s one-day hip hop festival, Cultura Urbana, takes place this Sunday, with a headline from top-selling Spanish rapper Nach, whose switched-on lyrics about everything from ghetto life to homosexuality and prostitution are backed up by his degree in Sociology.
  • Now here’s what we call a long-running festival: heavy on the patriotism, poetry and peculiar ancient rites, such as the ‘Horn of Plenty’, the National Eisteddfod of Wales (Saturday-Aug 6) dates back to a gathering of poets and musicians at the castle of one Lord Rhys of Cardigan in 1176. These days it’s a mix of populist performers (Wynne Evans, who’s better known in the UK as the opera geezer from the ‘Go Compare’ ads) and druidic ceremony, including the crowning of the victorious poet in a stone circle (except, that is, on the odd frugal year when the stones are made out of plastic).
  • Running from Thursday-Saturday, the Norberg Dance Festival = hard-edged Scandinavian electronica in a disused (and authentically rusty) Swedish iron mine. Nuff said.

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