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The In/Visible City
Published on Thursday, 10 May 2012

3 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
8-10 May, 6:30pm-7:45pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

I wish I’d been a fly on the wall on that fateful day when, as I imagine it, some bright spark shouted out: “Let’s put on the show right here!”  Right here, on this bus!  On this completely ordinary scheduled public service bus, in front of whichever bemused commuters it happens to pick up along the way! And we won’t bother with tickets or reservations or any boring things like that, and we’ll bring our accordions and dance in the aisle, and we’ll talk about love and peace and harmony and everyone will have the most wonderful time!

…and actually, despite myself, I pretty much did.  The logistics are an utter shambles, and parts of the script are firmly into so-bad-it’s-good territory, but there’s something endearingly eccentric about this guerrilla tour of random bits of Brighton.  The theme, for what it’s worth, is the many cultures and heritages which have combined to make the modern city; an appropriate choice, for a project born in Serbia and linking artists from Denmark, France, FYR Macedonia and of course, the UK.

The mobile setting just isn’t conducive to weighty topics, so some of the reflections on religious freedom fell on stony ground.  And it’s not amenable to quality acting either, given the need to shout pretty much every line over the traffic din.  But they got the main points over: a bit of local history, a handful of broad-brush vignettes on different groups of incomers, and a welcome bit of feel-good back-slapping about how we all, by and large, get along.

Plus, there were folk songs.  I really liked the folk songs.  They had the sense of an old-fashioned sing-along, and you could imagine that this might be what it was like back in those mythical long-lost homelands, gathered around in some ramshackle tavern with the locals on their squeezebox and their fiddle.


Nobody forces you to list your artistic “happening” in the Fringe programme, still less in the brochure of the Nightingale, one of Brighton’s best-run venues.  If you do choose to advertise that way, you have certain basic responsibilities – like getting the time of your performance right, and sorting out tickets or at least organising a queue, and knowing how many people you can actually fit on the bus, so you won’t risk making anyone wait around for half an hour and then turning them away.

And that’s before we’ve even considered the ordinary travelling public, who might not be entirely thrilled to find their ride home taken over by a posse of cavorting troubadours.  There’s just something slightly exasperating about the way they’ve chosen to run this – a sense that it’s less about their audience than it is about themselves.  But still, selfishly, I’m glad I tagged along; if nothing else, it’ll be a long time before I encounter anything quite like this again.

NOTE:  The bus leaves at 7pm, not 6:30 as advertised in the Fringe programme, and it goes from the Big Lemon bus stop on the north side of Churchill Square (in other words, it's heading towards the clock tower).  It would still be wise to be there at 6:30, to claim a space; expect to be back at 8pm or shortly after.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.