Ventnor Fringe was a great success this year with many more artists, lots of sell out gigs and the lovely Moroccan restaurant, Chez Mourad, taking centre stage on Salisbury Gardens in a big red marquee. And you couldn’t miss the big red number 38 London Routemaster bus parked next to it that was home to the ticket office. On the upper deck the windows were blacked out and it hosted a small cinema – so cool.
Headline acts this year were Disraeli and the Small Gods who played a great set on the first evening, Wednesday 17th, in Chez Mourad, and the multi talented violin playing balladeer, Marques Tolliver, who played on the Friday night in St Catherine’s Church. Later he made an impromptu appearance at Chez Mourad much to everyone’s amazement and enjoyment.
I missed the lunchtime Tea Dance, hosted by Brighton’s Ragroof Theatre on Thursday at St Catherine’s School Hall but heard glowing reports of all the waltzing around that was going on up there. Teas in vintage cups and saucers and pretty homemade cakes were served – it all sounded like vintage heaven.
But I did manage to get to Al Bowlly’s Croon Manifesto there in the evening, which was great fun. Al Bowlly was a crooner from before the war who travelled from S. Africa, via Germany and London to the bright lights of New York. This fast paced show got the audience in on the act and was very amusing, and extremely well performed by Jake Oldershaw and Nick Trigg.
Music was supplied by our very own highly talented Gramophone Party and the team were off to Edinburgh Fringe to perform on the Sunday – quite a coup for Ventnor Fringe to have got them first I think.
Friday was Patchwork Picnic in the Park day, with strolling entertainers, live music on the bandstand and a superb magic snake labyrinth installed by Eva Wolfram, with a central wishing tree. Thijs Oudenhooven told his Fantastical Tale of the Boy on the Run much to everyone’s amusement, especially the children.
In the evening the Red Tie Theatre Company presented Immaculate, a very irreverent and hilarious play about Mia, played by Emily Ross, who finds herself pregnant when she hasn’t had sex for eleven and a half months. The ensuing visit from the Archangel Gabriel, Lewis Wheeler, was hilarious and outrageous in equal measure. As was the leering Ben Curtis as Lucifer – both were claiming parentage.
Mia’s best mate Rebecca, Hebe Gregory, got a round of applause for her take on the situation. Michael, Sam Robertson, made a great ‘bloke’ as Mia’s ex and Gary Goodman, played by William Holland, was a perfect ‘dick’ – we particularly loved his ‘in character’ acting in the first half when he invaded the audience. All in all a very well acted and presented play worthy of Edinburgh Fringe too I thought.
Then a dash to St Cath’s Church to catch the Marques Tolliver gig and I managed to see the end of Dave Thomas’s set, who not only played his haunting tunes on the accordion but also managed to play a keyboard at the same time – amazing and mesmerizing. Marques Tolliver was similarly multi talented, singing and playing his violin and it was great to hear him again at Chez Mourad later on.
Saturday it was Art in the Park with artists from all over the Island taking pitches and setting up their work. Then in the evening it was Ventnor illuminated carnival, with DJ Jon Kennedy at Chez Mourad later on. A surprise candle lit performance by Dave Thomas also took place at the newly installed open-air theatre above La Falaise car park at midnight. Magical.
In fact the whole Fringe Festival had a magical air, and nobody seemed to want it to end. Ventnor was buzzing for the whole four days and most of the performances were sold out. A great achievement again for the young crew who organise this decidedly stylish event.