Spoken Word Reviews

VOICES FROM THE PEAK - Mark Gwynne Jones

Previous Fringe award winner and acclaimed Poet, Performer and Recording Artist, Mark Gwynne Jones, returns to Buxton Fringe this year with three new recordings completing his series Voices from the Peak.

Since winning the Fringe Award for Spoken Word Mark has added audios on Water and Well Dressings, Stone Circles and Ravens in the Peak District to his “Soundscape” bringing the current series to six episodes.

His mission ... to help us rediscover our connection with the land, to record a disappearing world, and to reveal the poetry of things people say. He accomplishes this mission in grand style.

Mark delivered an entertaining and absorbing presentation featuring spoken word, soundscape, and pictures. He is a charismatic and engaging performer and established an easy rapport with the audience he held our full attention throughout the evening. He took the audience at the High Peak bookstore on a poetic trip through his native Peak District drawing on childhood experiences and encounters with trogs (trolls who live in the Tors), shepherds and mineral miners.

Mark kicked off the evening with an amusing poem about our parks and open spaces, how we use them and the characters we can meet there.

The first soundscape Mark shared was the reminiscences of local miners played over a side show of these gaping intimidating spaces under the ground. Mark asks one of the miners what he was thinking about when walking into the mine – “walking out again at the end of the day, in one piece” is the sobering reply.

The next Soundscape is one from his new collection on Ravens, these birds were almost extinct in the Peak District hunted and persecuted as “evil” and only returned here in the early 2000s. The voiceover this time comes from a group of school children that Mark has been working with to create poems on these birds as well as a National Park Ranger who describes their cry as that of a “flying frog”.

This is followed by archive footage of Snow, the big freeze of 1947 and 1963. Local people talk about shovelling their way out of the house to the outside WC or walking with hunched shoulders through corridors of snow. The photos bring a chill to the otherwise warm and comfortable room, especially when we hear the haunting story of The Lost Lad.

Mark ended the evening with a poem about the river Derwent which he has recorded from its birthplace high on the ridge to the mills at Cromford. He sent us off into the night still laughing and smiling at his tale of the tortoise who is in love (or lust) with a purple shoe.

The Voices from the Peak District series has won praise in The Times and been featured on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row with Samira Ahmed, as well as winning recognition by the International Year of Sound – a global initiative to highlight the importance of sound in all aspects of life.

Sadly, this was the only performance from Mark at this years Fringe, fingers crossed he will be back next year.

All the Voices from the Peak soundscapes are available online and are highly recommended.

Carole Garner

INVERTS - Matthew Drapper

A long time ago, before Pride and before Stonewall, in fact over 100 years ago, physician Havelock Ellis investigated so-called 'inverts' – those now considered to be within LGBT+. One of the most fascinating parts of his research is that he interviewed hundreds of people as part of his research and much of that testimony is published and available.

In the tradition of verbatim theatre, Matthew Drapper has constructed this semi-staged spoken word piece that takes Ellis’s investigations and analysis and intersperses them with the testimony of many of his interviewees.

Drapper has constructed the performance excellently, choosing testimony that is touching, comic and recognisable. Lines such as 'a boy’s soul in a girl’s body' give us proof if any were ever needed that people have always been homosexual, bisexual or transgender, and there is nothing new here. What is particularly clear is that the inverts are in the main very comfortable with who they are - it is their family and friends that struggle to adapt.

Though this is simply advertised as a play readthrough, the staging is well handled. Drapper, as Ellis, sits centrally at an imposing desk in medical garb and is convincing as the authoritative but curious physician. All the invert voices are competently handled by Christine House and Dennis Fitzpatrick, with linking narration by Ben Simpson. The switches between Ellis and the interviewees are nicely managed by the simple expedient of the speaker turning their light off and the next speaker turning theirs on. It is a very effective way of focussing the audience’s attention.

Ellis’s journey is intriguing; he feels that these states can be explained by some combination of internal or external factors, and there are amusing dead-ends that he follows that brought much laughter. But despite some of his language being very dated today, his conclusion is that his interviewees’ relationships have 'equality with love as ordinarily understood'. Of course they have.

Drapper continues to develop this work and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Stephen Walker

MURDER FORETOLD - Chapel Arts Creative Writing Group

'Someone here will soon commit a murder...'

Despite this chilling declaration, and Madame Marie's ominous fortelling, the ensuing series of events were anything but predictable in nature and I was enraptured with every word.

The talented writers of the Chapel Arts Creative Writing Group breathed life into an eclectic cast of characters through their passionate delivery and well-crafted prose, flavouring a depiction of familiar, day-to-day life with the sinister and the sublime to amass a vivid collection of stories, poems, and songs that ensnared the audience from the very start.

Beginning with a visit from the charismatic, fortune-telling Madam Marie, 'Murder Foretold' takes you on a voyage through the lives - and deaths - of 'gossiping' grannies, unlucky plants, figures of folklore, and the occasional extra-terrestrial: whilst the evening was brimming with plot-twists that I never saw coming, I don't need a crystal ball to predict that any future members of the audience will have a fantastic evening.

Leo Morton

DOCTOR COPPELIUS - Chris Neville-Smith

Chris Neville-Smith is always a welcome visitor to Buxton Fringe, a supporter of Fringes and Fringe artists across the country, who has transferred this enthusiasm into creating his own spoken word events.

Scriveners Bookshop is the ideal setting for this intimate storytelling session, as Neville-Smith reimagines the character of the dollmaker Doctor Coppelius, immortalized in the ballet by Delibes, as a tragic figure rather than a sinister puppet master. An orphan taken in by travelling players, Coppelius finds a forbidden love with a high-born lady, only to have it snatched from him as his people become the subject of government persecution. It is in an attempt to memorialize this lost love that Coppelius builds his doll, Coppelia.

Chris Neville-Smith creates a palpable atmosphere, building an adult fairy tale that feels very topical in its themes of toxic populism turned against a minority. He explains that this is still a work in progress and at present the story could do with some honing. It is a complicated tale, spanning decades and involving numerous characters, and would benefit from some streamlining to make it a clearer, pithier narrative. However, there is no doubt that this is a committed, heartfelt performance which kept its audience enthralled.

Robbie Carnegie

SECRETS + SCANDAL! VICTORIAN SALTAIRE WITH POLLIE - Joanne Crowther (AKA Pollie Toothill circa 1871)

This evening we joined our hostess Pollie Toothill in her Victorian drawing room (aka Scrivener's Bookshop) as her guests. As the friends and neighbours of Pollie from the village of Saltaire, we were of intimate company and as the evening progressed, scandals and secrets of the village were shared and debated amongst those assembled.

This was an interactive evening where the participants had the opportunity to take part as one of the characters. Pollie, in full Victorian dress, took us in her time-machine back to the nineteenth century to describe the life and work of the businessman and philanthropist Titus Salt who built a village for his workers to live in. Taking a virtual tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Village in West Yorkshire, Pollie's guests learn about its history, culture and rules of living in Victorian society.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, entertaining and educating hour leaving the audience wanting much more from Pollie and without doubt a desire to visit Saltaire itself. Polly quickly draws her audience in by delivering Saltaire's history to us with humour whilst observing the frailties of the Victorian character with compassion and wit. An hour of Pollie is just not long enough.

Pollie is next opening her drawing room on Friday 12th July from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at Scrivener's Bookshop. Do pop round - you never know what you may discover!

Julie Alexander

FOTHERINGHAY: MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS AND MEN - Jane Collier

Jane Collier dressed as Mary entered a small cellar room in the Crescent where an attentive audience was gathered. Jane told the story of Mary’s life from her perspective on the eve of Mary’s execution at Fotheringhay on the 8th February 1587. Jane Kennedy, Mary’s servant was also present in the cellar room, again in the dress of the period. Some parts of the story are generally familiar to those with a general interest in British history.

We learnt of the four Marys who were Mary’s ladies in waiting – Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, Mary Fleming and Mary Livingston. Mary perceived her main enemies to be the English William Cecil (Lord Burghley) and Sir Francis Walsingham. The Scottish reformation led by John Knox was also an important factor in Mary’s life, as she always maintained her Catholic faith. Mary was a member of both the Scottish and English royal houses. Various Scottish houses played their part in her story including Linlithgow, Falkland, Stirling Castle, Holyrood House and Dunbarton Castle.

Mary became Queen of Scots at a young age and so Scotland was under the control of various regents. She spent time in France later marrying Francis II of France. After Francis’s death she married Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley), also a member of both Scottish and English Royal houses. Mary’s friend Rizzio was murdered, followed soon afterwards by Darnley. James VI and I was Darnley’s son.

Later James Hepburn (Earl of Bothwell) raped Mary leading to Mary being branded a witch. Mary then fled to England where she was moved progressively further south. Mary came to Buxton, where she was the prisoner of George Talbot (Earl of Shrewsbury) and Bess of Hardwick. Mary talked about her habit of writing letters to friends. These led to her trial and subsequent execution. She wore a red kirtle as a sign of martyrdom.

Jane is an excellent storyteller. She held the audience’s attention throughout. At the end of the performance she dropped out of character, allowing the audience to ask questions.

John Hare

FIFTY SHADES OF ARCHAEOLOGY - Enrichment Through Archaeology

Over forty people gathered at the High Peak Bookstore to listen to Dr James Wright FSA give a presentation on Historic Buildings and myth busting.

James started his presentation by giving us a brief introduction to himself and what he would be covering. James is a buildings archaeologist and has worked in the sector for 25 years. His interests lie mainly with castles, great houses and churches, but he also looks at smaller vernacular buildings too. His presentation is based on a book that he started writing during lockdown, which has been published this year.

He started by explaining to the audience why buildings matter, highlighting the role that ancient buildings have in our everyday experience positing that lots of people aspire to, one day, live in an older property (perhaps in the country). Similarly, lots of us might enjoy going for a drink or a meal in an ancient pub. Churches are also important, in terms of key life events such as marriages or funerals. While not strictly true of everyone, his argument did resonate in the room.

He explained that if a building is listed, we assume we know everything about it, but then revealed that between 90 and 95% of listed buildings or ancient buildings have not had any research carried out confirming their origin or construction.

The knowledge we do have about these buildings is heavily influenced by myth and folklore. James explained that while he was debunking myths in his work, he was not denigrating them. A prime example of myth and folklore were secret tunnels. If, he said, all the tunnels of legend were real, we should all be very worried as the ground we were stood on could collapse at any moment!

He then moved on to ask the audience what was a castle? In this section of his presentation, he explained that the interpretation of castles of any type had all been done initially by men with a military background. James argued that whilst the majority of interpretation boards, audio guides and guidebooks are geared to sieges and jousting knights, castles had a much wider function which is ignored by many, citing their religious function, their expansive parklands, manorial courts, and trading activities.

The next section covered in his presentation was burn marks. These are tear dropped burns found in multiple buildings that date from the Middle Ages and earlier. They are frequently located on doors, door jambs, windows and chimneys and have always been interpreted as being caused accidentally by a falling taper or candle. He explained that in practice, it is extremely difficult to recreate these marks and recent experiments have proved, that they must have been created deliberately, but why? He cited accounts of medieval practices such as 12th Night and Candlemass, where the residents of a household would gather to protect their homes from devils and demons by processing round a building with candles and marking the property at points where demons could gain access (wherever there was a draft). James argues that without folklore and tradition we would not have been able to solve this mystery.

James then moved on to the final section of his presentation where he talked about ships timbers being used in buildings, particularly pubs!

He used a local example (that I shall not name) that claims its timbers came from a Spanish ship lost during the Armada. Given, he said we are about as far away from the coast as we can be in Derbyshire, this was a stretch. He showed us the map of the route that the Spanish ships had to take to try and get home following their defeat, looping around Scotland and the West Coast of Ireland.

James explained that this happens across the UK. Interestingly the timbers are never sourced from a battle the English lost!

This was such an interesting presentation. James is a confident and engaging speaker, and his use of diagrams and pictures throughout really brought his subject to life. He tailored his presentation to include Derbyshire examples throughout to ensure his audience could relate to the stories he was telling us. He talked for an hour before giving the audience a break and then returned to answer questions.

If James attends the Fringe again, I would really recommend you get yourself a ticket. You won’t be disappointed.

April Irwin

BUXTON SPOKEN WORDS LIVE AT THE FRINGE - Buxton Spoken Words

A performance from the writers’ group Buxton Spoken Words has now become a regular feature of Buxton Festival Fringe. They usually combine their own work with classic poetic works, either one major work or a variety of shorter works. For 2024, the evening was very clearly divided between a first half of substantial excerpts from Under Milk Wood, and a second featuring twenty-seven works by nine of the group’s members.

The group’s performance of Under Milk Wood involved seven members, but perhaps owes most to Anne Shimwell, who edited and directed the performance. With around forty characters to portray, and some complex lines to deliver while maintaining pace and rhythm, this is a challenging piece to perform. Some in the audience will no doubt have in mind classic performances, perhaps from past staged or broadcast versions, so expectations will have been high. This was a strong performance overall, engaging the audience throughout, with particularly strong delivery from the female trio of Sarah Raybould, Alison Morton and Anne Shimwell herself. The alliterative elements of the writing came across strongly, the pace good throughout, and the complex rhythms were largely achieved.

The second half demonstrated the considerable range of subject matter (youth, romance, dogs, the news, overwhelming numbers, COVID) and poetic style exercised both by individual writers, and across the styles of each writer. All presented strong and engaging work, providing humour challenges and emotion in varied combinations. The highlight for me was Sarah Raybould’s performance of her poem Love’s Monologue, commissioned by English Touring Opera.

The standards of writing and delivery on display across both halves of the evening were very high and were fully appreciated by a large Fringe audience. The strength in depth within the group is evidenced by the ten performers involved this evening. Alison Morton finished the evening by thanking on behalf of the group and the audience Don Dolby, their ‘convenor’, for all his work in running the group and organising the evening’s performance. As a group of writers, Buxton Spoken Words meet monthly (second Mondays) at the Green Man Gallery. Keep an eye on the Gallery’s web site for notice of forthcoming meetings.

You can hear more of the work from one group member in Rough and Rowdy Days - Live by The Rough and Rowdy Collective, when Alan Budge reads from his acclaimed collection of Odes to Rock and Roll, with a soundtrack of Sixties' and Seventies' classics performed by Will Hawthorne, with guests Emma O'Brien and Michael Clement (Green Man Gallery, Tuesday 9th July at 7:30pm or High Peak Bookstore and Café on Saturday 20th July at 7:30pm).

Ian Bowns

THE BEAT GOES ON - The Glummer Twins

They're not twins, but they are a bit glum, largely due to their age, aches and growing pains. David and Ray introduce themselves as part of the Beat(en) Generation and take the audience on a musical mystery tour of their lives.

Listed as spoken word, but what is hip hop other than spoken word over music? In the twins' case, this is snappy lyrics delivered machine gun style by a couple who look like, and occasionally sound like, The Proclaimers' favourite Uncles.

Baby boomers will love this affectionate lyrical wordplay and timely wisdom as they time-travel back through the decades to visit hippies, rockers and the summer of love.

Think Lancashire Hotpots meet John Cooper Clarke played over a three string guitar backbeat fringed with eastern sitar strumming. Find out the connection between The Beatles, Percy Bysshe Shelley and a small pork pie! A pun-filled musical melange for the ages.

David Carlisle

WWII - HOW IT CHANGED WOMEN'S LIVES FOREVER - Shirley Mann

As a woman, I was drawn to this talk in the Fringe programme, because whilst I know about key events during the war, I have very little knowledge of individual stories.

Shirley started the session with a summary of her background at the BBC, before taking us on a journey linked to the four novels she has published and the two further novels she is currently working on, all set during WWII.

Her first novel was inspired by her Mum who was in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). When her Mum passed away, Shirley realised, in her own words, that she 'hadn’t asked her enough questions' about her role during the war and set about trying to find out more. This research started Shirley on a journey of discovery. She has travelled widely and interviewed many women who served and has used the insights they gave her, to share their experiences. What came across throughout her talk is her strong desire to not allow the real-life experiences of these ladies to be forgotten.

One particularly poignant memory that was shared with her, related to the Lancaster bomber crews. The women of the WAAF were often envious of the crews because they got bacon at breakfast whereas they didn’t. Soberingly though, they recalled the mornings when the crews weren’t there to get their breakfasts. They didn’t have time to grieve or process the loss – they just carried on doing their job, lest a lapse on their part affect the war effort.

Having written her first novel, she progressed to a second - this time her focus was a female pilot in the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary). Shirley travelled to the Isle of Wight where she met a remarkable lady who shared her story about her days as a female pilot whose role was to move planes around the UK, to where they needed to be. Shirley has a real gift for engaging her audience and imparted lots of information that you just don’t hear about when people talk about the war. One gem was hearing about the ATA pilots staying at railway stations overnight if they were unable to get home at the end of the day. They did this to save their £1 overnight allowance. Their sense of thrift would be unimaginable to later generations.

We also learnt that these ladies had no radar, no radio, or heaters. They flew with a simple compass and protractor and learnt how to handle the plane as they flew having had no specific training relating to each aircraft beforehand.

Shirley then moved on to the Women’s land army for her third novel. I had no idea that life for the land girls was so tough. Women who had no other aspiration than to marry and have children suddenly found their lives opening up and their confidence growing as they learnt how to drive a tractor and manage shire horses. We learnt that many land girls died from skin cancer due to their prolonged exposure to the sun and that many women existed on a subsistence diet while working the fields.

Shirley then went on to research internment camps on the Isle of Man. I had no idea these existed prior to this talk. Her research has fed into her novel about a female police officer who had to ‘manage’ the internees - a mixture of women from all classes and persuasions.

This talk was so interesting and has encouraged me to do some research of my own into the everyday experiences of people (both men and women) who while not on the front line, helped Britain win the day. As Shirley said, it is so important that this social history is not forgotten and is passed on to the younger generations. If Shirley attends the Fringe again, I would really recommend you come along to her session.

April Irwin

ON TRUTH & UNTRUTH IN SIR GAWAIN & THE GREEN KNIGHT - Michael Gibson

This hour long talk by Michael Gibson centres around a text written in the second half of the 14th century. He began by telling his audience that he was going to attempt to fit a quart into a pint pot and he wasn’t wrong!

Michael has been fascinated by the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight for 50 years, after first discovering it at university, before then returning to the text again and again, to unravel its mysteries.

He started the session by checking everyone’s knowledge of the story, and tailored his presentation based on the feedback he received.

There are so many questions about the text and the unknown author and I and the other audience members were soon drawn into the web of investigations Michael has undertaken over the years.

What resonated with me throughout the session, was how passionate, Michael is about his subject. He has gone to incredible lengths in searching for clues about the text and has completed a full translation. I learnt things that I had never been aware of and left the session wanting to learn more. His enthusiasm and approach is infectious. You sense his frustration at not having more time to tell us more.

If you are looking for something a little different this Fringe and want to be taken on a journey into the mindset of a society from long ago, I would definitely recommend this show. It’s also a must if you like Arthurian legend. Its quirky and entertaining, but most of memorable. At the end of our gallop through the tale, the audience and I all left smiling.

April Irwin

ISLAND OF LOVE - The Off-Off-Off-Broadway Company / Polis Loizou

Polis Loizou is a regular, welcome visitor to Buxton Fringe each year, with his beautifully crafted one-man stories, and this year’s offering, Island of Love, continues that tradition.

Island of Love tells the story of Cyprus, Polis’s homeland, from its roots in ancient Greek mythology, to the civil war and bloodshed around the time it was partitioned. But this is also a backdrop for a very personal tale, as Polis talks about the love story of his Greek uncle and English aunt, and his own struggles with body image and coming to terms with his sexuality.

This is a fascinating, carefully constructed story, told in Polis’s warm, mellifluous tones – the perfect accompaniment to a summer afternoon. His authentic pronunciation of the names of the Greek gods, and for the Greek words for different aspects of love, reminds one of the oral tradition where so many of these stories have their origins, and which Polis taps into so successfully.

If you’ve never been to one of Polis’s shows, this is a great starting point to his work – accessible, inclusive, personal and touching, a warm hug of a theatrical experience.

Robbie Carnegie

STRANGER ON THE RUN - Ian Gregory

Scrivener’s Bookshop is a delightfully intimate setting for Ian Gregory’s captivating storytelling.

In a one-off performance he drew us into four of his original stories set in the 1920s at a seaside town on the south coast of England. The hero of these tales is a 19-year-old incomer, Nye ap Morgan, but we soon learn that he does not see himself as a hero in any way.

Born and brought up in a South Wales mining town and sent down the mines at the age of 13, he was knocked about by his bullying, Bolshevik-supporting dad. Then something happened that traumatised him still further…

Nye is indeed a stranger on the run but is he truly free of his father and will he ever be free of his huge insecurities? These interlocking stories are partly romantic with a young woman who works at a local hotel, sings in the choir and has a voice “as warm as mother’s milk”, taking him under her wing, but they are also full of adventure as we learn what happens when Nye joins the crew of a lifeboat and is plunged into many a dangerous mission.

I think what really transfixed me however was the entire world that Ian managed to evoke. I could picture the small town and the simple lifeboat dragged to the water by horses and powered by oars. I could see the women dropping to their knees on the shoreline with pebbles rattling beneath them at the news of a missing fishing boat where “all hope was gone”. There were intriguing incidental characters such as the collector of folk songs and the geologist from Ukraine and a sense of simple community pleasures as the local choir sang Blow the Wind Southerly.

Soft-voiced Ian is not a flashy performer but his voice and gestures were very expressive. He knew how to convey moments of humour, drama or tenderness and crucially how to keep us all engaged. He has performed at the Fringe in the past so it is to be hoped that he returns in the future. In the meantime, these and other stories can be read on the website https://www.shortstories101.com/

Stephanie Billen

ANOTHER BUXTON - ALTERNATIVE HISTORIES OF OUR TOWN - BCA Events

Another Buxton recounts some of the untold stories of Buxton’s past, normally concealed behind the image of the historic Derbyshire spa town and the fine façade of The Crescent. Presented to a packed house by local historian Julian Cohen, author of Surely Not in Buxton, and Simon Fussell of Buxton Civic Association, the illustrated talk is hosted by La Gaby Pizzeria; drinks are available at the bar.

Simon and Julian know their subject, while being very aware of what they don’t know; they help us realise something of the nature of people’s and communities’ histories – that so much material lies out of sight waiting for the right person to unearth it. They intrigue us with accounts from the records of antisocial behaviour at St Anne’s Well in the 16th century, and pose questions about the largely undocumented history of Buxton the quarry town: who worked in the lime and coal industries, and where were their make-shift homes? (The answer may surprise the modern resident!) Many of the minor revelations in the talk would make good pub quiz questions: Of which winter sport was Buxton once the English centre? Who was the locally born footballer who became the first and only Chinese heritage England player?

In Simon and Julian we meet historians who are passionate about telling the stories of the people, lowly and lofty, who made the town we know today, with a distinct bias to the ordinary folk so often overlooked by official histories, and they do it warmly and entertainingly.

The talk was followed by a time for the audience’s contributions and questions, which produced a good response and further insights from local residents.

Your reviewer is a recent incomer who was fascinated by the presentation, leaving with new insights into the history of his new home, but Another Buxton would also be enjoyed by visitors who would like to know more about the town. It’ll be presented again on July 9th, so book early if you’re interested; and you can purchase Julian Cohen’s book, which is available at a number of local shops as well as the Visitors’ Centre (at The Pump Room/Venue 84).

Simon White

OUTSIDE, IN THE LANEWAY, UNDER THE STARS - Hard Times

The small intimate upstairs room at the Green Man Gallery was the host venue for this evening's spoken word performance by this captivating Canadian actor. Telling his story about the difficulties he encountered whilst growing up as a gay young man in a small Canadian town with both self awareness and self compassion, he treated the audience to a theatrical monologue which drew them into the society of a bygone age.

Describing how he found solace in the world of the theatre in the early 1980s, the performer used his descriptive energy to enable us to almost stand at his side reliving these past experiences. Displaying the ability to tell a tale with humour and honesty, he relayed desperate times where confusion and disappointment reigned supreme, balancing these recollections in equal measure with heart-warming and loving memories. In just one hour, this production wove a tapestry of the intricacies and emotions of life in front of the audience's eyes.

The show left the audience with much to consider and a desire for more - which is available in Part 2 later this week. This performer, with his talent for reflecting upon life in the form of clever story-telling, is reminiscent of the talented American writer David Sedaris .

Julie Alexander

THE MONOLOGUE PROJECT 2024 - Strajanka Productions

Over the last few years, Strajanka Productions, the brainchild of Buxton multi-media artist Will Blake, has created new and interesting audio dramas for the Buxton Fringe. This year, Strajanka has brought us something a little different. It launched The Monologue Project, a competition for writers to create short audio stories, the final six of which he has presented here for the enjoyment of the listening audience. Listeners can vote for their favourite from the list by email, and the ultimate winner gets a cash prize.

I don’t want to go into too much detail on the stories themselves (I wouldn’t want to sway the ballot!) but the six stories offer nice variety, whether taking the form of autobiographical reminiscences, Tales of the Unexpected-esque supernatural stories with a twist in the tail, or taking the eccentric point of view of an item of furniture. All are delivered clearly by a series of readers who convey the stories with clarity and sympathy.

Strajanka Productions is to be praised for launching this undertaking – an excellent springboard for budding writers. Hopefully this is just the start and The Monologue Project will become an ongoing part of the Buxton artistic calendar and will inspire many more writers to try their hand at this medium in the future.

Robbie Carnegie