Not just celebrating ten years of diverse and wonderful programming, but also a decade of involvement with Brighton Fringe, Otherplace Productions are pulling out all the stops for 2015. They manage, promote, produce and present a diverse range of accessible theatre shows. From sketch comedy to musicals, they have endeavoured to support young and emerging talent in the last ten years. Starting in the intimate surroundings of The Marlborough Theatre, they’ve now moved onto hosting a range of pop-up venues, running the Brighton Comedy Fringe, provided a platform for an endless list of new shows and become a true staple of Fringe.
Red Brick Comedy Club comes to The Warren Main House on 16 May, 2015 (Image by Mike Baker Photography)
Originally trained as an actor, Nicola Haydn landed an opportunity to produce plays in the Dome Studio, and offer opportunities to other production companies. Volunteering at The Marlborough led to an offer to take the venue on in 2005, from here Otherplace Productions was born. “I was there every single night. I was a lot younger though,” she laughs. They welcomed 20 visiting companies, with 90 different performances at the Marlborough, during their first Fringe. Amongst these were some regular Fringe participants, including Les Enfants Terribles, Long Nose Puppets and Daniel Kitson.
After two years she, and business partner Tom Arr-Jones, moved Otherplace on to the now legendary Upstairs at Three and Ten. This served as Otherplace’s main venue for the following seven years, offering an intimate, party-like atmosphere and performances that were just a little different. Richard Soames, from acclaimed sketch The Beta Males, has fond memories of this small room above a pub. First performing at the venue in 2011 after being recommended by fellow act Pappy, it served as the perfect place for the company to find their feet. “We’ve got a real emotional resonance with it, so it’ll be sad to see it go,” he tells me. “I guess we’ll still be terrified, but now in a different room.” Returning for a fifth Fringe, Beta Males are another act able to make the considerable step up to performing at Otherplace’s pop up venue – The Warren.
Nursing Lives comes to The Warren Main House on 23 – 24 May, 2015
The Warren was born in 2012, offering a temporary venue behind West Street which facilitated bigger and more ambitious shows during Brighton Fringe. Ollie Fielding from Peaceful Lion is enthusiastic about The Warren’s honest festival feel, as well as the welcoming attitude from its owners. “At Fringe that’s what you want, you want to feel like you’re part of something, that the venue cares about the show as much as you do,” he tells me. These Warren veterans return with two shows this year. A family show Rosie’s Magic Horse and Beethoven-influenced comedy cabaret Ludwig Live. It’s a pair of shows that fit well with a program covering many sides of performance arts. While certain Fringe events in other cities are becoming increasingly more corporate in feel, the Otherplace commitment to giving smaller and more innovative companies a chance encourages a community atmosphere. “What they’ve achieved in the last ten years has been wonderful to watch,” Fielding adds. “It’s nice too they’re continuing with their values.”
Now The Warren has grown again, mirroring the growth of Brighton Fringe itself. So Otherplace are moving this sprawling temporary venue to the grounds of St Peter’s Church, developing new performance spaces and evolving its role. Larger and more prominent, it also sees the unveiling of their new Theatre Box, a bespoke touring venue designed to be portable and versatile. Set to hit the road after Brighton Fringe, it sees a return to the roots of theatre when a group of travelling players took productions from town to town.
Perhaps the common theme in the Otherplace story lies with the care and attention put into booking the shows. Every effort is made to ensure the quality of visiting productions, from actually seeing the shows to reading up on a company’s background – it’s something Haydn herself takes very seriously. “It would be awful if we put something on which wasn’t great, then someone said: ’I trusted you, why did you put that on?’”
The team have also moved their permanent home to The Basement, a venue that offers the capability to put on a larger and more adventurous programme of shows. Starting off in an undeniably tiny space with less established companies, Otherplace and those they’ve supported have grown together. Now they are dragging increasing numbers of innovative artists down to the seaside for fish and chips, sea air and appreciative audiences, becoming a triumph for the performing arts in Brighton. Coming from a performance background, Haydn knows how it is to be treated with less than reverence by a venue. She’s adamant artists will return if you truly understand what they need. “They’re not just numbers,” she explains. “They are real companies… and performance is at the centre of their universe.”
The Warren comes to the grounds of St Peter’s Church, York Place, Brighton, on Fri 1 – Sun 31 May, as part of Brighton Fringe
Shit-Faced Shakespeare (top) return to The Warren Main House on 22-30 May 2015, and bring Shit-faced Showtime to the Basement Main Space on 1 – 4 May, 2015