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Belt Up announce Edinburgh line-up
Written by Richard Stamp   
Published on Tuesday, 23 February 2010

In the second part of my interview with the young, York-based theatre company Belt Up, the group's four founders - Alexander, Dominic, James and Jethro - share their plans for the Edinburgh Fringe this year.  Apart from a few cryptic hints on their blog, they've been tight-lipped about their much-anticipated third Fringe season, so I'm delighted they've chosen FringeGuru to unveil their programme for 2010.

C VenueAnd, my goodness, what a programme it is.  Once again, Belt Up are planting their flag in a corner of the sprawling C Venues chain - this time redesigning a fire-damaged office building into a venue-within-a-venue, called The House Above.  The house's four rooms will host a crowded programme, with no fewer than eight separate scripts performed on a daily rotation.

Click here to listen to the interview (Part 2, 11 minutes) >>

Or if you'd prefer to download the audio file and listen in your own MP3 player, get it here.
If you haven't yet heard Part 1 of the interview, you can find it here.

Perhaps the most intriguing show is the snappily-titled Lorca Is Dead, Or A Brief History Of Surrealism.  Another contribution to Belt Up's famously meta-theatrical canon, it's a play about a play about dramatist García Lorca, viewed through the eyes of his surrealist contemporaries.  Continuing the company's fascination with interactivity, members of the audience will have a chance to take on "fundamental and integral" roles - although, as the foursome disarmingly admit, they haven't quite figured out the details yet.

Classical influences will also be a strong theme.  A free adaptation of Antigone promises a less political, more familial focus, while a travelling poet will retell the Odyssey "with a horrible twist".  One further adaptation, Quasimodo, will deconstruct the classic tale of Notre Dame, rebuilding it around a central story of romance.

They're returning, too, to Metamorphosis, with a new treatment of the story which first made their name at the National Student Drama Festival in 2008. But there'll be no third season for the group's trademark Tartuffe, to which they'll bid a tearful - and permanent - farewell in the York Theatre Royal at the end of May.

Among the original scripts, The Boy James is inspired by Peter Pan, but offers an all-new take on the trials of growing up.  Another new work, Atrium, explores the mind, memory and subconscious through the medium of autobiography; and in Belt Up's first foray into family theatre, Octavia is styled on a Cornish fairy tale.

The House Above will also play host to a guest company, Paper's Weight, whose play Second Star will slot daily into their programme.  And Belt Up will in turn be guests of the Edinburgh International Festival; for the second year on the trot, they've won an invite to Edinburgh's most prestigious programme, with an enticing experimental adaptation of Dracula styled as a Victorian seance.

The Red Room Returns 

So what do I make of it all?  To my mind, Belt Up Theatre's meteoric reputation on the Fringe scene owes as much to audacity as it does to achievement.  Their 2008 debut was exhausting just to watch; running all day long in their own space, the Red Room, its ambition invited your respect - and the talent was there to cement it.

As Belt Up themselves told me, 2009 was all about consolidating their successes, proving they could deliver consistently within a much smaller line-up.  Yet something had been lost; denied the frenetic energy of the Red Room, I felt I was drinking a very fine, but rather flat, champagne.

So my heart leaps at the scale of this year's programme, even as my head enquires whether it's really such a good idea.  It's the moment of truth: here's whether we discover whether Belt Up can combine the shock and awe of their first Fringe assault with the technical refinement they brought to the second.  I don't know the answer to that question, and I'm not sure they do, either.  But one thing's certain: I'm looking forward to finding out.

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This is an archived column from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.