The Shiny New Festival was established last year, and returns next week to celebrate the best of Liverpool’s talent about to decamp to the Edinburgh Fringe.
The likes of our pals Jollyboat (pictured), Sam Avery, and the Legion of Doom, plus ninja magician David Alnwick and up-and-coming stand up Alastair Clark will be honing their latest shows before heading north, and the festival will also be showcasing some new one act dramas, its own brand new productions, and even a children’s show. Last year’s programme was five days long, this year it is twice that, running from this Friday (July 12) until July 21 at the Lantern Theatre.
The festival is the brainchild of theatre technician and director Pete Mitchelson, who by night can usually be found behind the scenes at the Lantern, and previously, comedy nights including Rawhide Raw. Shiny New is now not just a festival, but a theatre company year round.
No slacker, Mitchelson himself is directing three of the in-house shows – including zombie survival comedy No Names and David Griffiths’s The Brief Afterlife of Reginald Tanner, which will be performed back-to-back in Edinburgh under the Shiny New banner; and Bump, the latest work by Liverpool playwright and Lady Parts Theatre founder Laura Kate Barrow, which was selected for Manchester’s 24:7 festival and will head there after the Liverpool preview (see more info and a very good trailer here).
“The idea is, see these people here before they go on and do something bigger,” Mitchelson says. He’s not wrong, and it’s an attitude – ‘use ’em or lose ’em, maybe – you realise can be somewhat lacking in the city. Jollyboat‘s gigs see them returning to Liverpool straight from Glastonbury and working with the BBC; Laura Kate Barrow beat playwrights from all over the world to be selected for 24:7.
Mitchelson investigated the UK’s theatre festivals as part of his MA at Liverpool Hope last year, and says the model of 24:7, that has seen its reputation for new writing grow and offers a higher box office share to acts than many other events, is one to aspire to. Shiny New remains unfunded in any way yet remains committed to giving a higher portion of its ticket sales to the acts involved.
He continues: “The point is, all these shows – whether that’s stand up, magic or one act plays – are heading to Edinburgh. People are making this stuff, and there is no central area in Liverpool to try it out. We don’t have a preview scene in Liverpool, or that [next level] for people trying to break into the mainstream – when people have ambitions they want to make bigger, they are still having to move to London. People need to get out of the city and I don’t think that’s right. We have to support the arts scene or it will never grow.”
Only one new play in the schedule – Pornovision by John Maguire – is not Edinburgh bound. The idea of Shiny New is that all shows are 50 minutes to an hour long, and are for the most part performed several times throughout the run of the festival; which itself has a different line up of three or more shows per night, of which you can catch just one or stay for the whole thing.
If that’s as clear as mud, check out thelanterntheatre.co.uk for dates and times.
The question could be whether Liverpool is really aware of this wealth of new talent bubbling away under its surface; the answer remains yes – but no: “We bring in a great crowd but still the idea of fringe theatre like this can be looked down on by the mainstream audiences,” Mitchelson says. “But we want people to see this isn’t ‘arty’, people definitely won’t find it boring or inaccessible.”