Fringe 'circus' targets schools

2nd August 1996 at 01:00
"Competition for theatre groups to get into schools is fierce. We attempt to build bridges," Stuart Buchanan, compiler of the Fringe schools programme, says.

Hilary Strong, the Fringe's director, adds: "Making connections, that is my role." Both come from community theatre backgrounds, and as the 50th Edinburgh Festival gets under way next weekend they are the link between audience, performer and administrator.

The need to maximise audiences and to appeal to the general public as well as target groups like schools is reflected in their approach to publicity. The Fringe brochure and the special booklet for schools have been redesigned. Flagging events by subject area rather than venue has produced a more informative guide to the 1,238 shows at 187 venues on offer this year.

Ms Strong has also initiated a "three-strand educative approach". The Studio, a "research and development arm" of the National Theatre, will stage classes and workshops in the Fringe Club. In tandem with the Big Issue, Studio Art will run writing and drama workshops within established venues.

But the most ambitious of Ms Strong's plans to supplement links with schools is the establishment of Edinburgh's first circus school for 10 to 16-year-olds in a joint venture with Edinburgh City Council's outreach department.

"We have canvassed community groups all over the city. Schools have been notified and particular emphasis has been made on attracting pupils from outlying districts," she says. "All are welcome without a prior audition. But those with relevant skills like gymnastics will be introduced to trapeze and other big top specialities."

It is hoped that the circus will continue beyond the Festival.

One company with a good record in conducting workshops in schools and community halls all over Scotland is Theatre Cryptic, which has been in existence for four years. "We aim to educate through entertainment," Cathie Boyd, the director, says.

Referring in particular to the company's Parallel Lines (at the Traverse Theatre from August 8-18), she adds: "Art in theatre must be exciting and new." Based on James Joyce's Ulysses, the hour-long show, previewed at the Tramway in Glasgow in June, is a skilful evocation of the lonely lasciviousness of Molly Bloom, or rather two Mollys: a singer (Colette McGahon) and an actor (Muireann Kelly).

Fast-paced and often funny, it aims to fulfil Theatre Cryptic's aim of communicating and popularising. The relationship of high and low art, which a youthful audience might debate, is pointed up by the final scene where Molly immerses herself in the "womb-waters of memory" by dipping into a glass-sided bath, which produced an unintended snigger.

* Next week: Festival shows for the young.

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