The Misfits: Anomalies at the Fringe

Some of the shows on the Fringe defy categorisation. We have a look at some of the misfit highlights

Feature by Eric Karoulla | 31 Jul 2014
  • Theatre: The Misfits

Every year, the bulk of work that hits the Fringe seems to increase. This might be due to the health of the industry, or just the fact that the organisers end up adding more categories: this year, Circus has been attached to the Dance and Physical theatre section, indicating the emerging prominence of the artform. However, there are at least one or two shows that could fit anywhere, from cabaret to comedy to theatre to music. These can be called 'the misfits.'

Usually a misfit is considered someone who doesn’t fit in to societal norms or conventions (and is hence shunned), but here a misfit indicates a show so unique or so cross-disciplinary and awkward that it really should be in the category 'Miscellaneous' rather than a traditional genre. These are sometimes the most exciting shows, as proven by the popularity of Red Bastard last year. Often, they are immersive or interactive shows, although it seems the buzz around this kind of theatre may have died down a little, particularly due to accusations flying around about people being plants in the audience. 

Last year's arch-misfit, Red Bastard is characterised by his red, bubble-like costume, and his insistence that "something interesting must happen every ten seconds." He returns this year, with the heady, intense blend of physical theatre, comedy, and interactive life-coaching masterclass that he calls a show.

Some up-and-coming misfits for the 2014 Fringe range from the ambitious HiBrow Theatre to the down and dirty cabaret of ChristeeneThe Christeene Machine and the alien vocals of the Voca People.

Driven by Don Boyd's ambition to make arts accessible anywhere, while also providing a platform for talented young people involved in the arts – theatre, literature, music, dance, art, and cinema – HiBrow Theatre presents a programme that has something for everybody, as it has such an incredible variety of themes and subject-matter. Each discipline has a curator who is responsible for the shows involved in that section and drives the programming. 

"I had this vision that we could be not dissimilar to the Traverse, in Edinburgh, that has a wonderful theatrical experience, where you can go every day almost in the Festival, see something interesting, and then talk about it," Boyd explains.

The programme that is to be performed in the Festival has been developed over the past two years. It features both established and emerging artists, and encompasses a variety of styles, from Steven Berkoff (Berkoff the Inimitable) to Alison Jackson: A Story in the Public Domain. Each performance will be filmed while it is being performed and streamed live to HiBrow TV, the online home for HiBrow. They will also be appearing live at ODEON cinemas across the UK, while seven of the shows will be taken to the BBC Arts Online. Determined to create a buzz around the arts, HiBrow also include HiBrow In-Conversations at Summerhall. 

While HiBrow are instant misfits due to the variety of their programming, Soho Theatre bring Paul Soileau's Christeene: The Christeene Machine to the Fringe. Described as 'a manic combination of Alice Cooper and Hedwig (of the Angry Inch)' by Spin Magazine, it's hard to know what to expect from this Austin-based performer. Lately, cabaret seems to be the category for acts that have the 'what on earth is this?' effect when you read the blurb. 

More than your average show, misfits tend to be a risk. There will be haterz, and there will be people who love them instantly. Yet like the important things in life, the gamble can pay off, particularly if you engage with them and keep an open mind rather than dismissing them for fear of being embarassed.