Michael Spencer, Course Leader for MA Performance Design and Practice, spoke to us about his time at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the graduates and students to look out for and his future plans for the course.
So, earlier this year you spent time at the Festival Fringe?
Yes, having not attended the Edinburgh Festival for many years I spent four days up there researching performance practice, which related to MA Performance Design and Practice. On the course, students initiate and develop their own performances, often on a modest scale and from a personal agenda.
Over 3,000 events took place in this year’s festival so planning what to see prior to the trip was essential if I was to achieve my aim. I focused on venues and organisations where realistically the graduates might find an opportunity to further develop their work. This involved not only seeing shows throughout the day but also talking to venue organisers in order to understand their agenda.
Did you spot any Central Saint Martins students whilst you were there?
I bumped into (or saw credited in programmes) several ex-students. The course is open to different specialisms within performance making, such as designers, performers, writers etc., so the recent graduates referred to here were undertaking a wide variety of roles in different contexts – from design for a main festival production to performing stand-up comedy on the Fringe.
Were there any performances or organisations that stood out for you?
Two venues/organisations struck me as relevant for our future graduates – Summerhall and Forest Fringe. Both offer multiple performance spaces in a converted site rather than a purpose built theatre. Both cater for a younger audience, looking for something different and new.
I was particularly impressed with Forest Fringe, now in its eighth year, encouraging their selected emerging artists by providing them with free accommodation in Edinburgh and free use of the venue. Events are free but donations are welcomed, half going directly back to the artists. This represents absolutely vital support for young artists making the transition from college to professional practice.
Some productions are picked up by other venues – I highly recommend, ‘Tonight, I’m gonna be the new me’ by Made in China on at the Soho Theatre London throughout September, direct from Forest Fringe.
Earlier in the summer I saw ‘The Moon is the Sun of the Night’, a piece devised on the course by recent graduate Laurence Dollander and shown again at the Camden People’s Theatre. This is the sort of piece that could be taken up by someone like Forest Fringe.
Has the Festival inspired you for the future of MA Performance Design and Practice?
The trip was really useful as a way to help future MA Performance Design and Practice students explore possibilities for life after Central Saint Martins, and to help them in their quest to make work for new audiences, outside of the College environment. In addition, I saw a number of what might be termed ‘immersive theatre’ shows, which relate to a book I am currently proposing which will explore the development of the practice known as Theatre Design, and what it has become, over the past thirty years.
An example of this is ‘Hug’ by artist Verity Standen, where blindfolded audiences are individually hugged by singers who perform an aural soundscape which literally resonates through your body. Again, highly recommended and again, very MA Performance Design and Practice.
There are only a few places left on our MA Performance Design and Practice course. Visit the course page to find out more and to book your open day.