Birmingham Fest line up at Old Joint Stock

City centre theatre sages second annual fringe events.

Last summer saw the launch of Birmingham’s newest theatre festival, Birmingham Fest. Designed as the first ever Fringe festival for the second city, four venues took part. From 11th-27th July, the festival is back and offers a programme of events packed full with new writing, dance, music, comedy and much more!

As part of the festival, the Old Joint Stock theatre will be presenting a number of productions, beginning with Far From the Sea, a new play from the multi-award winning Theatre Absolute, Coventry. Told through the eyes of a contemporary Polish woman, an affluent early nineties family, and a bombastic Alderman of a 1950s local authority, Far From the Sea is a witty and darkly humorous play about power, place, and the industry of war.

Born and bred Black Country comedienne Gemma Layton brings her one-woman show, Mercedes Benson: The Pleasure is Yours, to Birmingham. Gemma has been a semi-finalist in several comedy competitions, including Laughing Horse and Funny Woman, and is one third of the sketch group Fun Bags.

Dedicated to creating vibrant, honest theatre and finding comedy in the unexpected and beauty in the mundane, Headless Doctor present their latest show. In Love Is a Cat Skin Rug, two girls ponder the timeworn question…what is love? The show is currently on tour and will appear at Boom Town Fair Festival and as part of Edinburgh Fringe’s Free Fringe in August.

South African based a capella group Simply Soweto Encha will also be performing as part of their UK tour. Simply Soweto Encha showcase a unique blend of sound and rhythm where r’n’ b, doo-wop, gospel, pop, and jazz meet on one stage. The show is an amalgamation of original material, cover songs as well as traditional African music from Zulu, Tswana and Xhosa cultures.

Birmingham’s Big Script writers group will be returning for a second year, with their new show Under The Sun, directed by Birmingham based director Graeme Braidwood. In a miscellany of new short plays, the contemporary, the bizarre, the serious, the absurd and the just plain funny will be explored to challenge audiences and to push the boundaries in new writing.

Manchester based sketch group, Thespianage, make their Birmingham debut with their show Sketch Appeal. With one Edinburgh show now successfully under their belts, as well as having performed with Phill Jupitus and Seann Walsh, this is an experienced and talented group perform for one night only before heading to Edinburgh.

Threnody for the Sky Children is a surreal modern fable that draws inspiration from Ovid’s epic poem Metamorphoses, and fuses mythology and music with a hint of zombie apocalypse. In a town in the middle of nowhere, a man convinced he was born with wings flees from the chaos outside and picks through his confused past.

A tale of two women held against their will, and the mind games they to keep one another alive. Locked in a room and chained apart, language is their only currency, and comes to mean everything when a single word becomes the hanging point between life and death. Nine is a harrowing, funny and tender account of the psychological price of survival. Cataclysm Theatre is a Midlands based company aiming to bring intimate and shocking theatre to audiences.

Theatre Exchange is a rolling, strolling, informal showcase of some of the best work-in-progress theatre in the region. This July, The Best of Theatre Exchange brings exciting new work to an intimate space as three thirty minute staged readings of the best work from their recent visits to Birmingham Rep, Coventry’s Theatre Absolute and the Old Joint Stock itself are presented.
An incident has occurred. The authorities are outraged. The actors are upset. Someone in the audience knows something…Letter’s to Eric Theatre Company present Mark Ravenhill’s Yesterday an Incident Occurred, questioning the behaviour of the society we live in by asking Are we happy to accept widespread surveillance as a price for safety? What lengths are we prepared to go to, to uncover perpetrators of violent crime?

As well as all the performances, there are also two special one-off workshops as part of Birmingham Fest, led by experienced local director Tracey Street (Czech National Theatre, Belgrade Theatre, National Youth Theatre). Intro to Acting offers anybody and everybody to try their hand at acting for the first time in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Tracey’s second workshop, Auditioning for Drama Schools, will teach you about good audition techniques, choice of audition speeches, helping develop those pieces into performance. Both are taster workshops ahead of the full courses starting at the OJS in September.

Tickets are now on sale for all performances and workshops. For more details, visit