Camden Fringe 2023

Camden Fringe 2023

As August draws to a close both the Edinburgh and Camden Fringes begin to wrap up. I’ve never been to Edinburgh (it’s on my bucket list) but I’ve been attending the Camden Fringe since 2018. It is always an absolute treat as the shows are so varied and different you are bound to find something you love.

This post will follow the same rules as all my previous fringe reviews. Nothing negative. People dedicate countless hours into producing and performing these shows and just because one person didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean the whole audience didn’t. Plus, the world has so much negativity in it already, doesn’t it? Who would want to add to that?

I choose the shows I attend based on the subject matter (I try to avoid anything too serious) and how easy they were for me to reach from work. While I try to attend as many fringe shows as I can, I am limited by both time and money. If I didn’t see your show, I do apologise. If you really want me to see your performance, drop me a message on the contact me tab at the top of the page and I’ll be happy to leave you my positive thoughts next year.

Glad To Be Dead?

The premise behind Glad To Be Dead? is fictional characters and historical figures talking about their lives, deaths and their views on the modern world from beyond the grave. In total, there were about a dozen different characters including Casper the Friendly Ghost, Dorian Gray, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Anne Boleyn just to name a few. Part of the fun was trying to identify the characters before they reveal their identity.

I found it interesting that the performance was bookended by Casper the Friendly Ghost who both greeted the audience and wished them fair well. Despite his joyful demeanour there is a sense of tragedy around Casper. He is a literal dead child who, for unknown reasons, refuses to move on. This makes him the perfect psychopomp (guide to the afterlife) for the audience and highlights the different attitudes to death as shown throughout the performance. A woman from the seventeenth century accused of being a witch and forced to live in exile welcomes the idea of death, if only to end her suffering. In contrast, Jekyll and Hyde have a more philosophical view about the afterlife and spend their time on stage discussing moral ambiguity and the difference between right and wrong.

It is also tremendous fun (albeit a bit morbid) to debate what mental conditions and sexual orientation the character really had. Dorian Grey would almost certainly be called bisexual in todays world while Jekyll and Hyde would be diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Another interesting idea explored are the fictional characters judging their creators. Dorian was somewhat critical of Oscar Wild while Casper was confused by the actions of his own creators (Joe Oriolo and Seymour Reit) but ultimately supporting of them. (1)

The play was written and performed by mother and daughter due Donna and Jade Flack who researched the play during lockdown. They gave voices to the deceased who were unable to speak during their time and I’m sure if the characters watched the performance, they would approve. Bravo!


Heretic/Gallows follows two men who return to their shared flat after successfully robbing an off licence. As they divide up their earnings and discuss the robbery, the two men get high and debate religion, philosophy and their place in the current world. While the younger robber is remorseful in his actions, that may have resulted in the death of a shopkeeper, the older one revels in this lifestyle.

I don’t know if the company behind the performance, Blackthorn Theatre, have any further plans to run this play. The two men seem to exist in a violent domestic relationship with older one physically abusing and pressuring the younger. While both men are pitiable (the older having endured sexual abuse in prison and the younger ostracized from his friends and family) it is the younger whom the audience are encouraged to support. While it is obviously a dark play, the comedy landed and fulfils the phrase gallows humour. As I’m writing this, I’m starting to think that was the intention.

The writer, Tom Levermore, deserves to be praised for his work. Great work, Tom!

End of the World FM

End of the World FM is hosted by the beautiful Cockpit Theatre near Marylebone station. I’ve been to the Cockpit several times now and they are a wonderful organization. When I arrived in the auditorium I was presented with a QR code which, when scanned, told me more information about the cast/crew and the thoughts of both the producer and writer. This is brilliant for me as I can mention them personally in these reviews, I hope more theatres take this approach.

End of the World FM follows the story of a radio host who has somehow survived an event that has destroyed the rest of the world and does the only thing he knows how to do… carry on presenting. Uncertain if he is talking to an audience of thousands or an audience of one, he carries on regardless. As he continues to talk into the silence, creating fictional news reporters and make believe guests, the host loses his grip on reality, his descent into madness captured on air.

The actor, Kevin Martin Murphy, does a wonderful job displaying a slow descent into insanity. As he sprints around the stage mimicking the sound of a news helicopter or talking to Pokémon plushies, it’s clear he has binged watched Jim Carrey’s The Mask for inspiration. As the show progresses the host experience several psychotic breakdowns and he begins to count the years with tally marks on his arms. One. Five. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. When you reach the realisation that the man has spent twenty years talking to himself, listening to the same songs over and over again you start to understand the temptation as he begins to contemplate suicide. I won’t spoil the ending for you, as I suspect this play will be performed again in the future, but I like my plays to contain a ray of hope which End of the World FM provided.

Dishes in the Fridge

Dishes in the Fridge asks its audience a rather uncomfortable question… are you a hypocrite?

The play follows the story of Mark who in his younger life used to attend protests and marches in London but now lives with his wife in the suburbs. This idyllic life is placed in turmoil when his former best friend and ex-girlfriend stay at his house and question why he’s changed.

There were two aspects of the play that I really enjoyed. The first was the idea of people changing over time. Mark the teenager seems to be a completely different person to the modern day Mark that we spend a majority of our time with. His values, opinions and beliefs have changed meanwhile, his former best friend Greg and ex-girlfriend Eleanor seem to be carbon copies of their younger selves. You could say that Mark is a hypocrite, his old friends certainly do, and that he has betrayed everything he stood for because it became inconvenient to do so. You could also argue that people change as they grow older (they don’t necessary mature) and that this is a important part of growing as a human, as long as you acknowledge who you used to be (2). Counter to this some people become stuck in their development, stunted, or perhaps they are stubborn or have discovered who they are early in their lives. There is no right and wrong in the play with each character firmly rooted in a morally grey area.

The play also tackles several complicated subjects, often debated in the public forum, such as veganism and climate change and examines the hypocrisy behind these. We, the audience, are also guilty of this. I hate violence against animals, I really do, but I’m a meat eater. I love a burger or a nice juicy steak. Do I feel guilty when I look at a cow? Sometimes. Do I do anything about these feelings? No. Is this the same as a Prime Minister flying out on his private plane to a climate change conference? Is it the same as a climate change protester closing a main road so an ambulance crews can’t reach their patient? What about when major high street brands use pride month as a promotional event? If you don’t commit yourself one hundred percent to a cause, do you really believe in it or are you just providing lip service? Would you support something even if it was inconvenient to do so?

Needless to say, Dishes in the Fridge was deliciously complicated.


Scavengers follows the story of Wikki and Zeb, two survivors scavenging from the land, when their base is discovered by a third survivor, Finn. The trio partake in a power struggle with each having their own time to be questioned about their past and what brought them to this moment. Just a heads up, the rest of this review contains spoilers.

There isn’t a clear protagonist in the play as, by the end of the performance, you realise all three characters are selfish. Zeb, who discovers Finn in their base, keeps his existence hidden from her partner Wikki in the hopes of finding a better option for survival. When she learns that Finn intends to turn her into a breeder (I think he might have said a “baby factory” in the performance but I can’t be sure) she betrays him and runs back to Wikki. Finn infiltrates the base to strengthen his position inside his own clan and while Wikki saved Zeb at the start of the apocalypse, he only did so knowing there would be safety in numbers. It’s hard to tell if the romantic relationship between Wikki and Zebb (keep in mind the actor playing Wikki was old enough to be Zebb’s Father) is authentic, the best means of survival or something resembling Stockholm Syndrome. I think the point the play was trying to make, assuming it was trying to make a point, was that being selfish and ruthless won’t help you survive, not in the long run as all three characters discover.

I love the post apocalyptic aesthetic. Weeds sprouting through concreate. Rag tag survivors of some unseen horror camping out in the ruins of buildings. Good, decent, honest men turned into killers by necessary. Although the sub genera appeals to me, it also terrifies me. If there was a event that destroyed most the world we would easily descend to this level of barbarity seen in the play. We saw the first signs of this during Covid when people were fighting over toilet rolls. Imagine that chaos but with guns.

The Girl with the Glass Heart

When first watching The Girl with the Glass Heart, I assumed the character was in a counselling session of some kind with the audience taking the role of unseen observers. The view point morphs throughout the play, changing the audience’s perspective on the character.

The girl, portrayed by Cait Roddam Jones, explains at the start of the show that she is just another fucked up seventeen year old with a long list of mental problems. Now, I work at a reception within a university I spend most of my time booking students, most of which are only a year older than Cait’s character, into appointments with the Counselling team or the Disability team. I watch these students grow in terms of their confidence, their academic performance and as a person over a span of several years and it is clear to me that Cait’s character is at the start of such an arc.

Cait explains that one of the only good thing her Mother did for her was to encourage her to read, resulting in a young Cait devouring lots of feminist literature. From this point she decided she wanted to be a writer because “all writers are mentally fucked” and she’d fit right in. There is half a point here. There does seem to be a high correlation between writers and mental health issues. I touch upon this in my novel Empty Nights, in a previous website post and I’ve recently explored the topic in a short story I’ve been working on. However, I think the struggle is somewhat romanticised with writers being displayed as noble heroes or tragic geniuses in the media. While this may be true for a minority of writers, a majority of us are actually completely fine. (3)

At the end of the show we realise that we’re not watching a counselling session, although the show does feature a flashback to a counselling session. We’re watching a seventeen year old girl having an internal monologue, similar to motivating yourself by talking into bathroom mirror. She is dreaming of a more positive future when our generation are in charge and the problems across the Earth (homophobia, climate change and so are) are resolved. It reminds me of Oxford Dictionarie’s word of the year from 2017, Youthquake which is defined as a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people. Let us all dream of a brighter future.

Ah, what a lovely note to end this post on. The Camden Fringe will no doubt return in August 2024 and I’m already looking forward to it.

Additional thoughts

(1) I wonder what my characters would say and think about me? Honestly, although I think they would admit we are alike (To quote Irene Adler from BBC’s Sherlock “Do you know the big problem with a disguise, Mr Holmes? However hard you try it’s always a self portrait”) I don’t think they would like me as most of my stories end in an unexpected or dark twist. Goodness, I almost feel guilty.

(2) I had a friend like this at university. He was a class clown while we were studying but when I saw him earlier this year, although he was still a clown he had become a mature clown. You know who you are.

(3) I would make the argument that musicians and actors are more mentally fucked than writers. Musicians and actors are, for the most part, extremely extroverted and feed off the energy of others. Do you know what else feeds of the energy of others? Vampires. It isn’t natural. Jokes aside, I can not wrap my head around actors performing in front of others while experiencing zero fear. I sometimes get nervous when I have to speak to a crowd of five or six. Meanwhile Cait, is almost half my age but twice as brave.

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