Alone on a Busy Stage Lewes Festival of Solo Theatre 2019

They say everyone’s got at least one novel in them. But for actors it’s closer to being a Solo Show. Lewes is home to award-winning Something Underground Theatre co, and Jonathan Brown, it’s artistic director has been creating solo shows since 2006, and has mentored many successful and award-winning acts on his Solo Show Course..

Now Something Underground and Lewes are together playing host to the first Lewes Festival of Solo Theatre, happening the weekend after the reverberations of the early November fireworks have died down, and in the lovely building of Lewes New School.

17 shows in one weekend is what the billing boasts, from multi-award winning doyenne of the genre Pip Utton’s “And Before I forget I love You, I love you” to Kate Darach’s “Moon Tales”, her (Argus Angel Award for Artistic Excellence) collection of 13 women’s stories, linked by the year’s named moons; Daniel Finlay’s multi-5-Star show “Damien” on the passionate 1780’s Priest who cared for lepers on a Hawaiian island; “Life Without Oscar”, a tale of Hollywood wannabe’s with RSC, NT and BBC director Nick Cohen; and many others, including some of Brown’s own award-winning and 5 Star plays. 

And we’ve Family friendly pieces too, including “Crime Scene Illusion” by Tracy Wise, weaving together the worlds of crime scene investigation, storytelling and illusion, and we’ll be offering seriously affordable tickets for young people too.

Many of the shows have been developed on SU’s “Grow Your Own Solo Show” Course, running since 2012, and which runs again in Lewes in Sept/Oct 2019.  But not all. Ross Gurney Randall is a Brighton-based multi-award winner who’ll be bringing his own raucous “Audience with Henry VIII”, just a few clicks away from Anne of Cleeves House!

Says Jonathan, “The Sussex area has a lot of talent, which in November’s Festival is going to be further augmented by brilliant acts coming from London and further afield. As I’ve seen more and more brilliant work, deciding to run a Festival of Solo Theatre in the town was beginning to feel like a no-brainer, something I’ve been mulling for several years, inspired partly by The Arundel Theatre Trail, and Winchester’s Hat Fair, though both are very different beasts. There’ll be reduced-cost “Passes” too, to enable you to see several shows… and what is remarkable is the number of people who, having seen their first solo show, become utter evangelical converts to the genre. That’s invariably because, rather than in an ensemble play, whereby an actor might rely on others to carry the performance, a one person show performer, because they’ve no one else to hide behind, invariably has to have such incredible energy that they inhabit the whole stage, bring an entire world to life, fully populate the story, and single-handedly transport the audience with their sheer presence and talent. Because there’s no hiding, you invariably get performers who really know their game and how to bring a place alive. 

The audience are also far more engaged, as one person pieces often include acknowledging the presence of the audience, connecting with them, not necessarily in what some might consider rather scary “audience participation”, but simply by turning to them far more, recognising that this genre is more about facing and talking to your audience, than the “fourth wall” style that most theatre is accustomed to presenting. We’re also very pleased to be using the lovely space of the former Lewes New School, and bringing innovative life to the Pells area.”

The Lewes Festival of Solo Theatre launches just 3 days after Bonfire, so let’s see if it’ll go off with a completely new kind… of bang.

When: Fri 8th November – Sun 10th November 2019

Where: Lewes New School, Talbot Terrace, Lewes.

Cost: Individual shows: £10 / £8 concs / £5 young people,

plus various “Season Passes” for deals on seeing several shows.