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Theatre festival guide 2015

Brighton Festival Fringe. Photo: Dade Freeman Photo: Dade Freeman
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With 2015 set to be another strong year for theatre festivals, Natasha Tripney rounds up the best events taking place over the summer months…

LAST UPDATED: November 4

Ordered by date – scroll down for later opening dates

Brighton Fringe

What The open-access Brighton Fringe is the largest annual arts festival in England and this year will encompass some 760 shows at more than 100 different venues across the city. There has been a Fringe of sorts in existence since the early days of the Brighton Festival in the 1960s, but the two only officially de-merged in 2006. In the years since the Fringe has grown rapidly, especially since Julian Caddy became managing director in 2011.

When May 1-31, 2015

See this Mary Beth Morossa’s solo show, Greywing House, a macabre mix of storytelling and poetry, previously seen at the London Horror Festival, sounds intriguing as does Current Location, the new show by Bristol’s FellSwoop. You should also try to catch cult fringe hit Shit-Faced Shakespeare, which is both smarter and funnier than it sounds.

Brighton Festival

What The prestigious Brighton Festival has, since 2009, been curated by a guest director. Hofesh Shechter and Anish Kapoor have done the honours in the past. This year it’s the novelist Ali Smith, whose work includes the award winning How to Be Both. The ecelectic line-up includes a number of pieces which push at the boundaries between visual art, music and performance, including Vast White Stillness, a musical installation performed in the cellars beneath the Old Ship Hotel. Paines Plough’s Roundabout auditorium will also be in town along with acclaimed productions of Duncan Macmillan’s Every Brilliant Thing and Lungs.

When May 2-24, 2015

See this Pioneering musician and artist Laurie Anderson returning to the Brighton Festival with an exclusive concert, All the Animals, on May 24, and there will be a special screening of Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy accompanied by a live performance of its score by Cat’s Eyes.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival

What The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is a showcase of work from the East of England and beyond. It’s one of the oldest surviving arts festivals in the UK and traces its origins back to the concerts which were held in Norwich Cathedral in 1772 to raise funds for Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. In 1988 it became an annual event and has since grown steadily to become one of the UK’s largest multi-art form festivals. Work is performed across the whole of Norfolk as well as venues around Norwich and there are usually a number of original commissions, including this year’s new large-scale outdoor show from Wildworks. There’s also often an international flavour to the programming.

When May 8-24, 2015

See this The festival’s big theatrical offering this year is Wolf Child, a grown-up fairy-tale by outdoor theatre specialists Wildworks at Norfolk’s Felbrigg Hall. There’s more outdoor spectacle in Periplum’s 451 – based on the novel by Ray Bradbury – and another chance to catch Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother.


What Bristol’s annual festival of contemporary theatre presents a broad range of work from leading theatremakers in Bristol and beyond in venues around the city. Co-directed by Matthew Austin and Kate Yedigaroff, this year’s Mayfest contains a number of pieces exploring death and dying – including a death cafe. There will be new work from Still House, which will be performing its new dance event on the rooftop of a Bristol carpark, and work-in-progress from Action Hero. Festival hub and speakeasy, the Blind Tiger, returns, along with a version for younger audiences, The Blind Tiger Cub.

When May 14-24, 2015

See this Still House’s dance car park event Of Riders and Running Horses – “a communal animation of urban space”– should be well worth experiencing, as should Christopher Brett Bailey’s onslaught of a solo show, This is How We Die.

In Here Festival

What Intended as a counterpoint to Great Yarmouth’s September street arts festival, Out There, and presented in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre’s Collaborative Touring Network by Seachange Arts, this two-week programme of circus, theatre and workshops takes place at venues across Great Yarmouth. Now in its second year, the BAC touring initiative features a roster of core shows – currently including Spitz and Co’s playful movie spoof Gloriator – which are presented at festivals around the UK, in Thanet, Hull, Darlington, Gloucester, and Torbay, alongside a programme of local work.

When May 7-23, 2015

See this Bucket Club’s Lorraine and Alan, a whimsical modern reworking of the selkie myth, and The Adventure, an interactive show which takes place in Great Yarmouth’s historic Tolhouse Museum.

Physical Fest

What Liverpool’s annual international physical theatre festival, hosted by Tmesis Theatre Company and presented in conjunction with the Unity Theatre, consists of eight days of performance, street theatre and physical theatre workshops. This year’s line-up includes a weekend of free workshops and events for young people and families as well as performances from artists including Wendy Houstoun and Jamie Wood, and clowning from Ship of Fools who are also hosting a workshop on the art of the Bouffon.

When May 22-30, 2015

See this Jamie Wood’s O No!, a piece inspired by the relationship between Yoko Ono and John Lennon, and Fest Live on May 29, Physical Fest’s showcase for new physical and visual work from both emerging and established artists.

Salisbury International Arts Festival

What Salisbury’s multi-arts festival was founded in 1973 and since then has annually presented a programme of music, theatre, dance, film and literary events at locations all across the city, including the historic cathedral, with a series of free outdoor City Encounters taking place in the Salisbury streets. This year’s line-up includes Gandini Juggling’s new show, 4 x 4, a performance by the brilliantly physical Australian circus troupe Circa, comedy from Rich Hall and Shappi Korsandi, and Burn The Curtain’s nocturnal adventure, The Company of Wolves, based on the stories of Angela Carter.

When May 22 to June 6, 2015

See this Caroline Horton’s award-winning play about anorexia, Mess, and James Dacre’s production of King John, which, having been performed in churches in Northampton and London, will be performed in the cathedral ahead of a run at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Watch Out Festival

What Cambridge Junction has in the past shown real willingness to experiment with the micro festival form. Its new work weekender, Sampled, was last year replaced with an all-night performance marathon, Night Watch, a perhaps overly bold bit of programming. This year it’s presenting Watch Out on May 23. Starting at 2pm, it promises to be a day of innovation. Everyone showcased here has been supported by Cambridge Junction at some point on their creative journey. Getinthebackofthevan’s Lucy McCormick will be creating (potentially naked) chaos and the Figs in Wigs will be showing off.

When May 23, 2015

See this Action Hero will be presenting a work-in-progress of its new show, Wrecking Ball, and Igor and Moreno will be performing a new dance piece, A Room for All Our Tomorrows, a co-commission with The Place.

Plymouth Fringe

What The inaugural Plymouth Fringe Festival, curated by Toast, and presented in partnership with Theatre Royal Plymouth, Barbican Theatre and Peninsula Arts, stages work in various locations across the city, a lot of which is local in origin. The line-up includes dance and cabaret as well as theatre and “one-on-one walking performance”, plus new work from emerging Devon-based artists – including musical theatre company Bad Habit – mingles with touring shows, like Joseph Wilde’s sharp fanged little play of adolescence, Cuddles.

When May 25-30, 2015

See this Score, by Documental Theatre, a Devon based-company who make work based on ‘lived experience’ sounds promising and Thomas Martin’s Professional Supervision, a coming of age tale, was well received at Vault festival earlier this year.

Pulse Festival

What A 10-day festival of performance and music based at the New Wolsey in Ipswich. Curated by China Plate, Pulse is a mix of existing touring work – like the delicate Hiraeth and Danny Braverman’s moving exploration of family history and outsider art, Wot? No Fish!! – as well as newer pieces. As in previous years there will be a Scratch Day of work in progress and an annual Suitcase Prize designed to promote sustainable small scale touring theatre as well as a day dedicated to work for children and family audiences.

When May 28 to June 6, 2015

See this Barely Methodical Troupe is presenting its award-winning circus show, Bromance and the Suitcase Prize line-up on May 29, featuring work by 2 Magpies and Sh!t Theatre, allows you to catch new work by a number of companies.

Incoming Festival

What Eleanor Turney and Jake Orr of A Younger Theatre join forces once more with London’s New Diorama to curate a 10-day festival of emerging theatre. The line-up of companies at this year’s festival is genuinely exciting, ranging from Bristol’s Fell Swoop to the award-winning Spanish company Atresbandes, monobrowed sequin queens Figs in Wigs to Little Soldier, winners of The Stage Award for Acting Excellence for their smart, irreverent, and playful take on Cervantes, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. There will also be a chance to catch a 15-minute glimpse of a new piece by Curious Directive, makers of intricate, intelligent shows like the recent Pioneer.

When June 1-10, 2015

See this Perhaps most excitingly, Incoming offers you a first look at Some People Talk About Violence, the new show from Barrel Organ, the young company behind Nothing, one of the success stories of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. You should also try to catch the dark, daft, He Had Hairy Hands, from horror comedy specialists, Kill the Beast.

The Festival of Love

What The Southbank Centre’s loved up summer festival encompasses a wide-ranging programme of events – performances, music, and exhibitions, as well as wide range of free happenings. For the duration of the festival both the buildings of the Southbank Centre and the riverside space will become home to pop-ups, art works (including Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner’s Love Flags) and installations. There will also be a series of themed weekend across the summer cumulating in a Big Wedding Weekend on August 29 – 30 in which people are invited to get married or renew their vows at the Royal Festival Hall.

When June 6 to August 31, 2015

See this Paines Plough’s pop-up Roundabout auditorium will be in situ and the delicate wage-packet sketches of Ab Solomons, which form the basis of Danny Braverman’s touching solo show Wot!! No Fish? will be exhibited in the Festival Village space under Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Origins Festival of the First Nations

What Celebrating the art and culture of the First Nations, this three week London festival sees work taking place across a number of venues including the British Museum, the Southbank Centre and Rich Mix. Programmed by Border Crossings, the intercultural theatre company, the festival line-up includes a mix of theatre, live performances, talks, lectures and a particularly strong programme of ciname. There will be performances from the The Lani Singers from West Papua, and The Voladores de Papantla, the birdmen of Mexico.

When June 9-25, 2015

See this Kava Girls, a play with songs by Samoan writer and director Sani Muliaumaseali’I, and Oxlajuj B’aqtun, a performance piece by the Guatemalan Maya company Grupo Sotz’il.

BE Festival

What Birmingham’s festival of European theatre will once again be taking over Birmingham Repertory Theatre, having in past year’s been housed in the AE Harris building in the Jewellery Quarter. The festival still follows the same model, presenting the audience with the opportunity to see four 30-minute long shows each night and then to eat dinner with the performers in the interval. The act of sitting down and eating and talking together is integral to the festival and its atmosphere. The theme of this year’s festival is democracy and there will be companies from Germany, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic presenting work.

When June 23-27, 2015

See this Locus Amoenus, the new show by Barcelona-based Atresbandes, the company behind the playful Solfatara, as well as Antonio Tagliarini’s Show, the 2014 BE Festival prize-winner.

Fringe Theatre Fest

What Barnstaple’s festival of Fringe Theatre enters its ninth year with an eclectic programme featuring 33 companies, with work encompassing circus and comedy, and ranging from a one-woman Richard III to new work from a number of emerging Devon-based companies. Events take place at spaces in Queen’s Theatre and the Baptist Hall and there will be five-minute theatre ‘tasters’ available in the Barnstaple coffee shop along with the cappuccinos and croissants.

When June 25-28, 2015

See this Devon-based company Documental Theatre’s new piece Friction, exploring the emotional impact of post-natal depression, and Spit and Sawdust’s She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother, a piece originally developed for University of Exeter’s inaugural RAW platform.

Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

What GDIF is a10-day festival of outdoor performing arts performed in public spaces across Greenwich and east London. Founded by artistic director Bradley Hemmings in 1996 it has grown and developed in the years since and is now a huge operation, last year attracting audiences of more than 110,000 people. A founder member of the Without Walls consortium, the festival is a platform for the best in outdoor and street theatre. The festival kicks off with Kori Kori, a colourful new work from one of France’s leading outdoor theatre companies, La Compagnie Oposito, and from June 29 to July 4 the public spaces of Canary Wharf will colonised by dancers, care of Dancing City.

When June 26 to July 5, 2015

See this The Secret Princess of Severndroog is a GDIF commission from interactive theatre specialists Look Left Look Right, while this year’s stand-out show looks to be The Four Fridas, an outdoor aerial production celebrating the life and work of Frida Kahlo.

Bristol Shakespeare Festival

What Founded in 2004 and taking place in parks and other green (and not so green) spaces around Bristol – including the Redcliffe Caves – as well as in more conventional venues, like the Tobacco Factory, this annual celebration of the work of Shakespeare plays host to a wide range of theatre companies from established touring companies, like The Lord Chamberlain’s Men who perform Twelfth Night on the last night of the festival, to local youth theatre groups.

When June 30 to July 31

See this Brite Theatre’s one-woman Richard III sounds intriguing, as does a version of Macbeth performed in local caves by Bristol-based company, Insane Root (though it does feel as if there’s A League of Gentleman joke to be made there somewhere).

Greater Manchester Fringe

What Now in its fourth year the Greater Manchester Fringe is a grass roots festival encompassing the best of Manchester’s alternative scene. The programme includes theatre, dance, cabaret and comedy, and takes place in theatres, pubs and halls across the city, alongside the International Festival and all throughout July.  There’s a strong showing of work from local companies and a distinct Manchester flavour to a lot of the programming, including both a Mancunian Rhapsody and an Under Manc Wood.

When July 1-31, 2015

See this Robin Ince will be performing his Farewell Show (until 2017 at any rate) and Phil Jupitus will be in town wearing his Porky the Poet hat

Manchester International Festival

What Launched in 2007, the focus at the biennial Manchester International Festival has always been on original new work from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and music. Highlights this year include Damon Albarn’s collaboration with Miora Buffini and the National Theatre’s artistic director Rufus Norris on Wonder.land, a major musical production to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of the iconic novel by Lewis Carroll. There will also be a whole range of work presented in conjunction with independent comedy producers, The Invisible Dot, including The Crocodile, a new pay by Tom Basden. And Bjork. There will be Bjork.

When July 2-19, 2015

See this Maxine Peake, whose recital of Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy was one of the highlights of MIF 2013, teams up once again with her Hamlet director Sarah Frankcom for a revival of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker, with music by Anthony of Anthony and the Johnsons.

Hat Fair

What Founded in 1974 and based in the picturesque streets of Winchester, Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running festival of outdoor arts. It was originally set up as a busking festival, hence the name – the hat would be passed around the audience after the performance – but it has since grown into one of the UK’s main showcases of outdoor and street theatre.  There will be juggling, street art and dance, the latter care of Southpaw Dance and Stopgap Dance – as well as ‘ethereal beekeepers’ apparently.

When July 3-5, 2015

See this There’s a mass participation dance event called Swingtime on July 4 and Slung Low’s Knowledge Emporium will be in town and parked outside The Discovery Centre in Winchester.

Buxton Fringe Festival

What Buxton Fringe was established in 1980 to run alongside the renowned Buxton Festival. But whereas the latter focuses on opera, music and literary events, the Buxton Fringe is more wide ranging in its programming and is often a port of call for shows previewing ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe. The eclectic line-up includes theatre, music, and comedy. There will be free street theatre, and a chance to see new work from emerging companies, like Sparkle and Dark, the puppet theatre company behind the acclaimed Killing Roger, which will be performing its new show I Am Beast. And speaking of Beasts, the sketch comedy troupe will also be performing.

When July 8-26, 2015

See this Comedy duo Max and Ivan will be presenting their new show, The End, and time-travelling Victorian magicians Morgan and West will be previewing their magic show for younger audiences, Morgan and West’s Utterly Spectacular Magic Show for Kids.


What This biennial festival brings contemporary Arab culture to a London audience. This year, the third Shubbak – which means ‘window’ in Arabic – will see performances taking place at the Young Vic, Arcola Theatre, Bush Theatre, Rich Mix and the Cockpit Theatre. The festival also includes a programme of visual art, including the Echoes and Reverberations exhibition taking place this summer at the Hayward Gallery, and a series of films – including a series of screenings in homage to the celebrated Palestinian director Michel Khleifi – talks, and a display of ‘calligraffiti’ at the Village Underground space.

When July 11-26, 2015

See this Written by Baghdad Wedding playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak, Love, Bombs and Apples is a new comic play at the Arcola, while Razor Sharp at Rich Mix is a series of three rehearsed readings by three leading female Arab writers.

Flare Festival

What Running alongside the Manchester International Festival, this smaller-scale festival of international work includes a varied programme of shows from Georgia and Belgium – Hof van Eede’s, intricate Where The World if Going, That’s Where We Are Going (which got a 5 star review from The Stage at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe)  as well as from the UK.  Arranged in a series of double and triple bills, the focus will be on the experimental, interactive and durational, as well as on works-in-progress.  There will also be a programme of workshops and talks.

When July 13-18, 2015

See this Jamal Harewood’s participatory show The Privileged, previously seen at CPT, and The Preston Bill, a work-in-progress from Tim Crouch’s What Happens To Hope collaborator, Andy Smith.

I am Your Neighbour

What To mark the fact that Ovalhouse will be moving home in 2017, they are hosting a series of events in Brixton to introduce people to the venue and what they do. This introduction takes the form of a weeklong festival of performance, spoken word, music and arts produced as part of the Truth about Youth project – a scheme designed to promote the positive contribution that young people make to their communities – and designed to appeal to all ages. Events will take place both at Ovalhouse and at Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives as well as at the new cultural and entrepreneurial space, Pop Brixton.

When July 13-18, 2015

See this I am a Promise is a show devised by local 13-18 year olds and performed in the courtyard of The Black Cultural Archives. The festival concludes with Live Fest, a showcase for emerging local talent.

Postcards Festival

What After a year off, Jackson’s Lane Theatre’s celebration of circus returns for a two-week festival of inventive, contemporary work. The 2015 line-up at the Highgate venue features a number of world premieres and specially curated cabaret nights. There will be hip hop promenade circus in Bring The Noise, indoor trampolining from Max Calaf, juggling from Gandini performer Frederike Gerstner and experimentation from Shunt artist Layla Rosa.

When July 14-25

See this Les Femmes Circus curates an all-female circus cabaret night on July 17 and the festival closes with Mary Bijou Cabaret’s Hitch!, a circus cabaret tribute to the films of Hitchcock with a party to follow.

Latitude Festival

What Cue up the Adam Buxton festival song because the Southwold weekender – often dubbed the Radio 4 of festivals – is now in its 10th year. As ever it offers one the most wide ranging line-ups of theatre, dance, cabaret and spoken word of all the major festivals. This year Portishead and Noel Gallagher are headlining, but there will also be theatre from Paines Plough, Caroline Horton, Clean Break, Sabrina Mahfouz, Scottee and a special NT Live screening of Everyman. There’s also a new space in the Faraway Forest dedicated to live art and, as is ever the case with Latitude, there will be a superb line-up of poetry including performances by Ross Sutherland, Hannah Silva, Luke Wright, Tim Clare, and the legendary John Cooper Clarke.

When July 16-19, 2015

See this Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn will be presenting a special Latitude edition of their show Fake It ‘Til You Make It, Kneehigh will be coming to Latitude for the very first time with a work-in-progress of their brand new show, 946, and be sure to check out Seiriol Davies’ How to Win Against History.

Departure Lounge

What Derby Theatre’s summer festival of new work returns for a third year, produced by In Good Company. The weekend-long festival sees the theatre’s main space transformed into a indoor garden and the line-up includes finished shows as well as work-in-progress and scratch pieces. There will also be a number of masterclasses and talks, including a panel on artist development led by Lyn Gardner.

When July 23-26

See this Barrel Organ, a bright young company whose debut show Nothing was one of the talking points of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe will be previewing its new show Some People Talk About Violence on Saturday 25 and Not Too Tame will be performing Early Doors, its lively show about the relationship between pub culture and community at a nearby social club.

24:7 Festival

What This really is Manchester’s summer of culture, what with the MIF and Flare taking place in July. Founded in 2004, this weekend-long festival seeks to bring the spirit of the Fringe to the city while supporting local artists and makers and providing a platform for their creative development. Earlier in the year it was unclear if it would go ahead having lost its funding but through a combination crowd funding and the support of the Arts Council they manage to put together a five-play programme combing new writing, rehearsed readings and a family show.

When July 24-26

See this Laura Harper’s We Are The Multitude and James Harker’s Gary: A love Story – an angry play about the social impact of the criminal justice system – sound particularly interesting.

Camden Fringe

What 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the Camden Fringe, a festival of performing arts which provides a London-based alternative to and runs over the same period as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Founded – and still run – by Zena Barrie and Michelle Flower, who previously ran the Etcetera Theatre in Camden for eight years, the festival’s line-up is eclectic, encompassing new writing, opera, musicals, stand-up, sketch comedy, dance, cabaret and poetry, and takes place at a range of venues across the borough of Camden including Camden People’s Theatre, the Hen and Chickens and the Etcetera.

When August 3-30

See this Mary Beth Morossa’s exercise in Gothic storytelling, Greywing House, at the Tristan Bates Theatre, and Holly and Ted’s Pond Wife, a reimagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, at Camden People’s Theatre.


What Launched in 2007, this year marks the ninth Grimeborn festival, the Arcola Theatre’s festival of new, innovative and alternative opera. The festival is committed to introducing new audiences to opera, to making work that is appealing an accessible, and to giving emerging artists a platform for their work. The 2015 line-up features 12 new productions and works-in-progress, including The Invited, a new opera by Richard Knight and Norman Welch.

When August 4-29

See this Lewis Reynolds relocates La Boheme to 21st century London while Liveartshow’s Marsha: A Girl Who Does Bad Things sounds particularly inventive and intriguing.

Wilderness Festival

What A relative newcomer to the summer festival line-up, arriving on the scene just five years ago, this boutique four-day Oxfordshire events boats a varied programme of theatre, workshops, and arts events – as well as a headline set from Bjork. It’s properly eclectic this one, with a series of School of Life talks on business skills and mindfulness and the like, taking place alongside circus from Acrojou. Food is also a huge part of the festival’s appeal, with talks from top chefs including Angela Hartnett and Nuno Mendez (formerly of Viajante, currently getting critics slavering over new Portuguese joint Taberna do Mercado), and onsite restaurant offerings care of Hix and Moro, the latter of whom have their own souk tent.  They have a Moro souk tent. It’s that kind of festival.  I’m willing to be there will be a fair bit of glamping too.

When August 6-9, 2015

See this There will be cabaret from the Tiger Lillies and the divine Camille O’Sullivan, opera from Opera Holland Park, and a special NT Live screening of Polly Findlay’s Treasure Island. Playwright and author Samantha Ellis will be talking about literary heroines.

Edinburgh International Festival

What Established in the wake of the Second World War as a celebration of international culture and cooperation, the first International Festival took place in 1947 and has taken place every August since. This year sees Fergus Linehan – former artistic director of the Sydney Festival – take over as director and chief executive of the EIF from Jonathan Mills and the festival dates brought forward to coincide with those of the Fringe. The programme contains music, opera, theatre, dance and visual art and features a number of world premieres, including Enda Walsh’s new chamber opera The Last Hotel. Simon McBurney’s Complicite will be making their EIF debut with The Encounter, inspired by Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming, and there will also be more emphasis on contemporary music this year with appearances by FFS and the wondrous Sufjan Stevens.

When August 7-31

See this Robert Lepage will be performing the European premiere of his new work, 887, a typically ambitious piece about the nature of memory and there will be a preview performance of a similarly ambitious adaptation of Alisdair Gray’s playful, unruly Lanark by Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre and David Greig.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

What This is the big one. The world’s largest arts festival. Established in 1947 alongside the Edinburgh International Festival (see above), this annual open-access orgy of performance sees people from all around the world descend on the Scottish capital for the month of August. The Fringe colonises much of the city. Last year there were 3,193 shows playing at 299 venues. The programme features theatre, comedy, dance, circus, spoken word and everything in between, and everyone from student companies to established big-ticket names. It is a huge, consuming thing, heaven and hell combined, and once it has you in its grip, it doesn’t let go.

When August 7-31

See this Where to start? The size of the Fringe means it can be overwhelming but part of the fun of it is diving into the unknown, taking a chance on something new and untested. Or you can read The Stage for our picks and reviews.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

What One of the UK’s biggest literary festivals, beginning life in 1983 and becoming an annual event in 1997, colonises Charlotte Square Gardens for the last two weeks of August. While it’s predominantly a literary event, it runs at the same time as the EIF and the Edinburgh Fringe and there’s usually some interesting overlap. This year there’s a particularly strong spoken word programme with talks and performances by poets Luke Wright, Ryan van Winkle, and Kate Tempest – all of whom have performed shows in the Fringe (Wright has a show at Summerhall this year). There will also be talks by august playwrights David Hare and Michael Frayn and theatre critics Joyce McMillan and Mark Fisher will be discussing the current state of arts journalism.

When August 15-31

See this The electric Kate Tempest performs poems from her collection Hold Your Own on August 19 and actor Alan Cumming will be discussing his memoir, Not My Father’s Son, on August 29.

Festival No. 6

What Set in the tiny but beautiful Welsh village of Portmeirion, the place where the cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner was filmed – hence the name – this is a boutique festival along the lines of Latitude and Wilderness, with a programme of music and arts performed in beautiful surroundings, the peaks of Snowdonia providing a backdrop to the festivities. Belle and Sebastian and Grace Jones are headlining, while Ghost Poet and British Sea Power are also on the bill. There will be site-responsive acrobatics from Whispering Woods and an “immersive 3D soundscape” in the village itself inspired by The Prisoner.

When September 3-6

See this Filmmaker Kevin Allen will be creating a live version of Under Milk Wood and comedians Josie Long, Alex Edelman and Ed Gamble will all be performing.

Hightide Festival

What Lots of changes at Hightide this year. The Suffolk festival of new writing – now entering its ninth year – used to be a spring festival but this year it’s been moved back to September and will now take place in the Suffolk coastal town of Aldeburgh instead of its previous home, the picturesque town of Halesworth. New plays form the spine of the festival, directed by Steven Atkinson, and this year’s programme includes new work from Luke Norris and EV Crowe alongside a series of readings, performances from visiting companies and talks.

When September 10-20

See this Luke Norris’ new play So Here We Are and Al Smith’s new play Harrogate, to be directed by the Royal Court’s Richard Twyman.

Volta International Festival

What The Volta International Festival at east London’s Arcola Theatre unites award-winning writers from around the world with British actors and artists. The festival takes the form of four new productions of work by international writers: Austrian playwright Ewald Palmetshofer, American playwright Christopher Chen, Swedish author and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri and German writer Roland Schimmelpfennig. Three of the plays have been translated into English for the first time; the festival also includes a number of rehearsed readings.

When September 2-19

See this Hamlet is Dead. No Gravity by Austrian writer Ewald Palmetshofer, which will be performed in the Arcola’s main space from September 2-12, and Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s I Call My Brothers, a response to a terrorist bombing in Stockholm, directed here by Yael Shavit.

Head’s Up Festival

What Presented by Hull-based company E52 in conjunction with London’s Battersea Arts Centre, Head’s Up Festival is part of the Collaborative Touring Network and twice yearly presents contemporary British and international theatre at venues around Hull. This season’s CTN spine shows include Danny Braverman’s poignant exploration of family history and the art of his great uncle, Wot? No Fish!! and Christopher Brett Bailey’s dizzying dismantling of language, This is How We Die. The Head’s Up programme also includes locally-curated work including workshops and scratch events.

When September 5-12

See this Ensemble 52, in association with Hull Truck, are presenting Revolutions, a piece exploring the cultural upheaval of 1989, on September 8-10, and Christopher Brett Bailey will be assaulting people’s eardrums (in the best possible sense) at the New Adelphi Club on September 12

Release the Hounds

What Release the Hounds is weekend-long festival of poetry and performance staged in the medieval market town of Knaresborough now entering its second week. It was set up last year by enterprising recent graduate Stephanie Jones in order to bring a richer array of new work to her home town and the 2014 line-up featured performances from poets Luke Wright and Ross Sutherland. This year the main focus of the festival is once again is on spoken word and poetry, with featured performances from Molly Naylor and Mark Grist.

When September 11-13

See this The nimble, lyrical Jemima Foxtrot will be performing at Henshaws Arts & Crafts on September 11 alongside Holly McNish while the Poetry Takeaway will have set up shop in the Market Place, offering passers-by a personalised poetry experience.

Calm Down Dear

What Camden People’s Theatre’s festival of feminist theatre – the title references a decidedly dodgy comment made by David Cameron in 2011 – returns for a third year with a line up including new work from Louise Orwin – A Girl and A Gun, which is premiering in London following a work in progress performance at the Forest Fringe this August – Racheal Ofori’s potent, poetic solo show Portrait, and Hula House, the divisive new piece – Lyn Gardner single-starred it at this yeat’s Fringe but others have responded positively – from Permanently Visible, which is inspired by true accounts of the lives of sex workers and will be performed offsite at the Crossroads Women’s Centre.

When September 16 – October 11

See this Milk Presents’ intriguing new show Joan, a Derby Theatre co-production, can be seen on October 8-9, while the festival ends with Tomorrow’s Feminists Today, an afternoon of new feminist theatre inspired and created by teenagers, on October 11.

Jabberwocky Market

What Four-day micro-festival festival created and run by theatre producers from Darlington with the aim of bringing high quality theatre and performance to local audiences. Produced in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre, it’s also part of the CTN, along with festivals in Thanet and Torbay; The Stage’s Stewart Pringle called it “an inspiring project” when he visited last year. As well as the main CTN shows there will be a programme of workshops, a local scratch night and events for family audiences.

When October 1-4

See this  Beats North, a double bill of one man plays by Luke Barnes – whose Weekend Rockstars was one of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – and Ishy Din, with a live soundtrack by DJ Mariam Rezaei, is at the Quaker Meeting House on October 3.


What The annual festival of Latin American Theatre was created in 2007 by Daniel Goldman as a platform for the best Latin American theatre and performance in UK and a way of better connecting two theatrical cultures. This year the festival is spread over 10 days with a programme of work taking place at Barbican and Rich Mix. The 2015 programme includes new work by companies from Brazil, Mexico and Peru, live music and a day of debate, and Nuestra CASA, a scratch night showcasing work by emerging artists, taking place on October 4.

When October 2-11

See this When They Disappear, the first show by UK-based company Las Nanas de La Cebolla, winners of the 2014 Nuestra CASA Scratch Night, and Border Mass, a lively musical collaboration between Mexican companies, Gorguz Teatro and Universiteatro.


What This year’s Fierce, Birmingham’s festival of live art, performance, theatre, music, and dance, will be the last curated by current Artistic Directors Laura McDermott and Harun Morrison, who’ve been at the helm since 2009. The line-up includes work from UK artists as well as those from the US, Brazil, Canada, Belgium and Germany, and the festival will include a number of late night events and Fierce parties. There will also be an opportunity to sleep with a curator: an over-night event in which audiences bring sleeping bags and spend the night in the Digbeth gallery before sharing a communal breakfast with curator Gavin Wade in the morning.

When October 7-11

See this Chris Goode will be presenting his show Weaklings, inspired by the blog of writer and artist Dennis Cooper at the Warwick Arts Centre on October 7-8 and Ursula Martinez will be performing Free Admission, a confessional monologue co-commissioned by Fierce and the Southbank Centre, on October 10.

Strike a Light Festival

What Gloucester’s new biannual festival of performance and theatre, part of the Collaborative Touring Network along with Hull’s Head’s Up and Darlington’s Jabberwocky Market, returns this October with a series of performances designed to connect with the local community and create a cultural buzz around the city. In addition to headline CTN shows, Wot? No Fish!! and This is How We Die, there will be dance from ACE Dance and Music, a night of scratch performances, and a day of discussion concerning the arts and mental health; this year there will also be a programme of work designed to coincide with and celebrate the Rugby World Cup.

When October 7-14

See this Wot? No Fish!!, Danny Braverman’s tender account of Jewish family life in 20th century London is at the Gloucester Guildhall on October 8, and Make Do and Mend’s show for family audiences, At the End of Everything Else, plays the same space on October 13.

Looping the Loop Festival

What The Looping the Loop festival, which encompasses the three towns of Thanet on the East Kent coast – Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs – is another part of the Collaborative Touring Network, a group of festivals which together present a programme of work from Battersea Arts Centre in tandem with a range of locally produced shows. In this instance Ramsgate Arts is the lead promoter working in collaboration with Tom Thumb Theatre. Alongside the CTN spine shows – including, for this autumn’s CTN season, Danny Braverman’s Wot? No Fish!! – there will also be a programme of local scratch events and workshops.

When October 9-18

See this On October 11 there will be a scratch night of local performance at Margate’s Winter Gardens and on October 15, at Margate’s Magistrate’s Court, there will be a chance to participate in Kaleider’s thought-provoking piece, The Money, a show which puts the decision making process in its audience’s hands.

Brighton Comedy Festival

What Now entering its 13th year, the Brighton Comedy Festival presents some of the best stand-up, sketch, musical and character comedy in the UK at venues around Brighton including The Old Market, the Brighton Dome and Brighton’s year round comedy venue, the Komedia. The 2015 line-up features over 70 performances across the festival’s 16 days, with performances from the likes of Rich Hall, Simon Amstell, Bridget Christie and Adam Hills. Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho will be in residence and Fosters Award winner, Sam Simmons, and there’ll be a chance to catch Miles Allen’s fringe hit, One Man Breaking Bad.

When October 9-24

See this Frisky and Mannish will performing their current crop of pop comedy deliciousness, Just Too Much, at the Brighton Dome on October 10 and Max and Ivan will be presenting their inventively surreal show, The End, on October 17.

London Horror Festival

What The UK’s biggest festival of horror performance returns for a fifth year to its home at the dinky Etcetera Theatre in Camden. The 2015 line-up encompasses cabaret, late night magic, screenings of cult films, zombie musicals and new writing, as well as the return of its annual short play competition and, fittingly, a tribute to Sir Christopher Lee in the form of a screening of one his best and most unsettling films, the brilliant The Wicker Man with live musical accompaniment.

When October 11-30

See this The three finalists in the LHF’s short play competition, It’s Not What it Seems, will be performed on October 12 and comedy horror troupe Casual Violence, oft compared to the League of Gentlemen, will be presenting its new sketch show Slow Fade to Black on October 19.

Suspense Puppetry Festival

What Launched in 2009 and running every two years, Suspense’s 10-day programme encompasses the best and most inventive work in UK and international puppetry. Shows are performed at 10 venues across London, including Camden People’s Theatre, Jackson’s Lane and the New Diorama as well as specialist puppet theatre venues, the Little Angel in Islington and the Puppet Theatre Barge. The festival’s line-up ably demonstrates that this is not just an art form for children, showcasing work aimed at all ages and highlighting the richness and variety of the medium, the very many shapes it can take: shadow puppetry, digital puppetry. Companies presenting work include Wattle and Daub and Handspring, the South African puppeteers behind War Horse, with its acclaimed show, Ubu and the Truth Commission.

When October 29 to November 8

See this Rouge28 Theatre’s Kwaidan, a piece inspired by Japanese horror movies, sounds properly unsettling. It’s at the New Diorama from November 5-7. There’s also another chance to see Davy and Kristin McGuire’s extraordinary, intricate The Icebook, their stunning ‘projection mapped pop-up book’ at the Pleasance Theatre on November 7

Spill Festival

What Launched in 2007 by the artist Robert Pacitti, Spill continues to act as a showcase for the best new contemporary performance and live art from UK and international artists, with a programme of live performance, installations, special events and public discussions spread across two weeks and performed at venues including Toynbee Hall, the Barbican Centre and Hackney Showroom. The 2015 line-up includes several Spill commissions and a number of world premieres based around thus year’s theme, ‘on spirit’. The Spill Showcase presents work by emerging artists and performers and the themes and ideas raised by the festival will be discussed further via the Spill Think Tank.

When October 28 to November 8

See this Jamal Harewood’s participatory piece, The Privileged, is at the National Theatre Studio on November 7-8 and Lauren Jane Williams’ durational piece, Here is Not The Place for Nostalgia – described as a ‘sensory, tactile, cinematic’ experience – is at Toynbee Studios as part of the Spill Showcase from November 5-7

Sacred Festival

What The festival of live art and performance has been running at Chelsea Theatre since 2006. This year’s programme, which goes under the heading of the Identity Issue, includes 25 performances, screenings and installations, all the work exploring in some way age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality. There will also be work curated by the Live Art Development Agency. There will be performances from Ms David Hoyle, The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, and Season Butler, whose show, Happiness Forgets explores the public’s relationship with celebrity by way of Bill Cosby.

When November 5-28

See this Drag ‘fabulist’ Dickie Beau will be performing his show Blackout: Twilights of the Idols inspired by the iconography of Marilyn Monroe and there will be a retrospective of work by the pioneering company Split Britches on November 18.

Chrysalis Festival

What The first ever Chrysalis Festival, curated by Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, is a showcase of new work by emerging young talent from across the UK. Hosted by Edinburgh’sTraverse Theatre it features four productions spread across a two-day period. The companies involved include youth theatre groups from Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool, including the Tramway’s youth company, Junction 25. All four shows can be seen on Saturday November 7 and there will be series of discussions running alongside the work designed to explore the issues raised in a wider context.

When November 6-7

See this Under the Covers, exciting new work by the Young Company at Manchester’s Contact, and I’d Rather Humble than Hero, the new piece by Junction 25, the youth theatre group from Glasgow’s Tramway  and the company behind the acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show, Anoesis.

Radar Festival

What The Bush Theatre’s annual festival of new writing is increasingly becoming one the most exciting things in the west London venue’s calendar. This year is no exception, with a strong line-up of work, including many well received shows from the Edinburgh Fringe. Highlights include Racheal Ofori’s debut solo show, Portrait; Antler’s visually considered and engagingly absurdist new show about confidence, If I Were Me; comedian and playwright Lily Bevan’s show, Pheasant Plucker. And if you haven’t already seen Christopher Brett Bailey’s This Is How We Die – and, if you haven’t, you really ought to fix that – there’s another chance to see it here too.

When November 11-26

See this Blank, the new play by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour – the man behind White Rabbit, Red Rabbit – will feature a different performer reading from a sealed script each night. There’s a chance to see a work-in-progress from Curious Directive in Solo on November 23, a company of invention and intelligence whose work is always idea-firing, particularly in the way it mixes science and art. Worklight Theatre’s Labels, shortlisted for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award at the Fringe, also sounds of interest.

This guide will be updated as we receive new information. If you have suggestions, please contact us

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