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Pick of the Fringe

Who needs Edinburgh when we have a cracking Fringe on our doorstep? Go on, breathe in the cool culture! Muddy picks of the best bits of Reading Fringe Festival.

Need a cool culture fix? Look no further than Reading Fringe Festival and its curated collection of talent bringing their alternative acts to Berks. With more than 100 shows, over 6 days, there’s an eclectic mix of local performers, Edinburgh-bound artists and international acts daring you to laugh, cry and drop your jaw.

Reading resident and BBC Radio presenter, Fiona Talkington, is one of RFF’s curators, and has contributed ideas and a wealth of knowledge to help make this year’s festival the best yet. Fiona splits her time between Reading, London and Oslo – and her Norwegian contacts can definitely be felt. “Reading is in an exciting chapter of its life,” Fiona explains. “It is a town with a hugely diverse population and is becoming a real cultural hub.”

“I’m really excited for Terje Isungset to be here. He has a real connection with nature, working with stones, moss and wood as well as ice. It’s not a gimmick,” insists Fiona. “He is an incredible percussionist. I’m also looking forward to seeing Düsseldorf-based guitarist Arturo Castro Nogueras perform at St Laurence’s Church with the Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra (enthusiastic and accomplished amateurs). The show will have a real Latin flavour and rumour has The Tasting House will be serving Latin American wine.” Hello! Cue stampede to church.

Whether you’re looking to for something to make your kids laugh, dance to your own beat at silent disco, have designs on becoming the Berkshire Banksy or you just want to drag your bottom off your sofa, there is is something for everyone at Reading Fringe. Just to prove the point, here are Muddy’s picks of the programme.


MUSIC: Ice Music, Fringe Main Stage, Fri 27 Jul

Reading Fringe Ice music 2016 Terje Isungset Maria Scrapes man and woman surrounded by ice made int instruments wearing hats and fur trimmed coats

Heatwave? What heatwave? Totally not an issue for percussionist Terje Isungset and his ice instruments made from ancient glacier blocks. This is one of Fiona’s must-see events and she knows her musical onions. “Terje is a phenomenal musician. The sounds he creates is delicate and ethereal. There is a great beauty and purity to it.” Terje is joined by Norwegian vocalist Maria Scrapes. Tickets £15. The ultimate chill out. 
Want to know more, quiz the ice musicians at Ice & A Slice, Three Guineas (Cellar Bar), Fri 27 Jul – free but must be booked.

COMEDY: Eddie Summers: Rocket Fuel, Purple Turtle, Sat 28 Jul

Comedian Eddie Summer Rocket Fuel Man wearing fur coat headphones with sparkle in his mouth

Any man who can pull off a faux fur coat and smokes a sparker like a cigar, gets my vote. But there’s more to Eddie Summers than just being fabulous. He sells out every year at Bright Fringe and as the title suggests, Eddie is a supercharged comedian full of chaotic banter and daft comedy that spews out onto the stage. Slightly embarrassing snorty laughter guaranteed. Tickets £7.

MAGIC: Seska: Spot The Difference, Purple Turtle, Sun 29 Jul

Reading Fringe Festival Seska Spot the Difference bared man in white hoodie and bobble hat with blue tongue surrounded by doodles

When SESKA comes to town kids laugh out loud, Dads f*rt out loud and mums faint at his feet! He’s that good. Spot The Difference contains magic, mayhem and happiness and is crazier than finding a penguin in your fridge! Jonathan Ross’s kids love him. His shows sell out fast and the whole family end up bent double and in pain from laughing so hard. He’s back for another year at Reading Fringe Festival, it begins at 1pm and lasts for 50mins. Tickets £8/ £25 for a family ticket (2 adults & 2 kids). 

THEATRE: Bicycle Boy, Fringe Main Stage, Station Hill, Wed 25 – Sun 29 Jul

Reading Festival Bicycle-Boy – 2 men wearing a yellow and blue cape playing guitars surrounded by bicycles

If you could have a superhero power what would it be? Invisibility is always the winner, but what about peddle power? Fnar. From the writer and director of the hit Alby The Penguin Saves Christmas, Helen Eastman’s Bicycle Boy is a musical about a lad called Sam who has 24 hours to clear out his grandad’s old bike workshop – and find the Grandad’s hidden present to him. This where you come in. Sam needs electricity to unlock the clues. Join the pedal power train to generate enough ‘lecky for Sam’s journey (and the show). Tickets £10/ £8/ £30 family.


DANCE: Exceso de la Nada; Excess of Nothing, South Street Arts, Sat 28 Jul

Reading Fringe Festival Exceso-de-la-nada-Excess-of-Nothing man arms outstretched crouching with dark background

Maura Morales is a dancer with an extraordinary background. In her own words, “At the age of 6, I learned how to dance, how to use a Kalashnikov at the age of 10, and at age 18, that the history of my country was a lie.” Maura left her native Cuba in 1996. Her dance performance challenges the postcard perception versus the heartbreaking reality, with the spotlight on the consequences of exile. Powerful stuff from one of the best in the biz. Tickets £8/£10. Maura Morales is also running a free Masterclass on Fri 27 July, 4.30pm, at Reading Rep Dance Studio (suitable for ages 16+). 

ART: Urban Art Demo by KJ263, Whitley Wood Community Centre, Wed 25 – Thu 26 Jul

Düsseldorf’s answer to Banksy, the internationally renowned urban artist KJ263 (real name Konstantin) is coming to Reading to run a workshop. Konstantin’s signature style is defined by his characters’ flexi noses and bad behaviour. If you have a budding urban artist or you love the art form, don’t miss this unique opportunity to earn from one of the best. The event is free, spaces are limited to 12, so booking is must.

COMEDY: Stand Up, Weather Girl, The Rising Sun Arts Centre, Sat 28 Jul

Reading Fringe Fetsival Stand-Up Weather Girl blonde woman holding umbrella wearing read bobble hat and satin slip and a scarf

In a post #metoo world, feminism is back and empowering a new generation of women. So it all gets a bit awkward when part of you loves flirty online comments about your bottom, when the other part is demanding outrage. BBC local weather presenter Sam Fraser, faced such a dilemma. Rather than fight it, she created this comedy show, questioning whether you can be a full-time feminist and a part-time weather girl? Tickets £7.


COMEDY: Trampoline, The Rising Sun Arts Centre, Sat 28 Jul

Reading Fringe Jim_Campbell_Trampoline – man in glasses holding mug and blur of him half naked crying swigging spirits out of a bottle

Comedian Jim Campbell is a man of the edge of greatness. He’s part of a huuuugely successful podcast (The Football Ramble, since you ask), is award nominated, isn’t on TV nearly as often as he would like and, to top it all, he’s single. Trampoline is Jim’s new show about not just being dumped but mega dumped. He had an engagement ring and everything. It’s a gag packed show, well written and there’s an ring for sale, so bring cash. Ticket £7 (18+).


FAMILY: Big Howard’s Yuckfest, Fringe Main Stage, Sat 28 Jul

Fringe Festival Big Howard’s Yukfest barded man in red jumper jesters hat angry face

Put the valium back in the bathroom cabinet, you’re not going to need it for Big Howard’s Yuckfest (I know, the jester hat is making my eye twitch too), but the man is a genius. You see, Big Howard writes Horrible Histories and Danger Mouse for CBBC, so I reckon his words, songs, pictures and noises, will go take you from reluctant titter to crying laughter before your kids.  Tickets £10 / £8 / £25 family ticket.


THEATRE: Bad Luck Cabaret, Purple Turtle, Fri 27 Jul

Reading Fringe Bad-luck-cabaret black and white hair, yellow and black tape and have black makeup

A woman who comes with her own warning label. Laurie Black is badass alternative cabaret artist who taunts the gods of Bad Luck. Her cabaret features special guests, all of whom take drag, burlesque and cabaret to the edge. ‘Kick bad luck in the dick’ is her mantra – angry at Brexit, angry at the world, she’s not taking no for an answer. This is a glitzy, glam and dangerous night out.  Tickets £13/ £10 (age 18+).

MUSIC: Gato Preto, Purple Turtle, Fri 27 Jul 

Reading Fringe GATO PRETO PRESSE – black womankind man wearing black and sunglasses magic

No Floella Benjamin and have not formed a supergroup with Humpty Dumpty, Big Ted and  Jemima. This is Gato Preto – aka producer Lee Bass and rapper/singer Gata Misteriosaa – fully paid up members of the afro-futuristic scene. It’s a bit like having a slice of Notting Carnival – electronic beats, warm percussion and powerful female vocals. It’s a FREE gig (18+)… so put your hands in the air and party.


THEATRE: My Shadow And Me, Penta Hotel, Thu 26 Jul and Sun 29 Jul 

Reading Fringe My Shadow and Me man protecting shadows onto a wall

My attempt at shadow puppetry is poor at best – rabbit, butterfly, dino/wolf mash up, BGT winners Attraction then introduce us to shadow theatre, but Drew Colby is taking us back to basics with bells on. Drew will be creating a menagerie of animals with two hands. Be amazed as shadow crabs creep from the sea, a shadow monkey does a hula-hoop dance and a tiny shadow man goes riding on a great, big shadow elephant. Who doesn’t want to see that? Tickets £10/£8/ £25 family (ages 4+).


ART: Uplift, Riverside Car Park Lift, Tue 24 – Sun 29 Jul

Reading Fringe Kev Munday Stand Together Graffiti caricature art

Most lift graffiti is less urban art and more crap ‘Gaz woz ere’ vandalism. It rarely reaches the Instafabulous heights of Shoreditch. But, Reading, we’re in for a treat. British artist Kev Munday is creating a colourful bespoke installation inspired by people-watching, throughout the Fringe Festival. Where? Riverside Car Park Lift. And on Wednesday only, musicians will be performing alongside him. Watch the man at work, and try get your face immortalised on the lift walls. Please can it stay forever…

COMEDY: Too Busy Living To Be Dying, Three Guineas Cellar Bar, Fri 27 Jul 

I’m quite partial to black humour (standard newsroom coping mechanism), so Too Busy Living To be Dying is right up my street. Local entertainer and musician Martyn Cooper was diagnosed with a brain tumour 2 years ago and this show is his hilarious adventures with cancer, death and incontinence through song. If this doesn’t shatter the awkwardness around illness, I don’t know what will. It’s also being held in the Three Guinea’s cool Cellar Bar. Tickets £7 (ages 18+)

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