Suzann McLean, Artistic Director of Theatre Peckham talks about the return of Peckham Fringe, back for its second year in 2023, hosting 18 productions that will take over the main theatre and studio space for five weeks.
Last year’s Peckham Fringe was highly successful, with Tatenda Shamiso’s No ID going on to run at VAULT Festival and the Royal Court, and David Alade’s Offie nominated Sunny Side Up having a three-week run at Theatre Peckham.
With a first-of-its-kind season programmed by Theatre Peckham’s Ambassadors, who have worked with Suzann McLean to choose the featured shows, these productions reflect Peckham’s local landscape as well as celebrating exciting new voices.
Peckham Fringe is returning for its second year, what can you tell us about the event?
Peckham Fringe is a festival of live entertainment that embraces all that theatre has to offer, and there truly is something for everyone. It provides a platform for artists and companies to showcase their untold stories in a way that is authentic to them.
With the festival in its second year, it is evident that Peckham Fringe has created a space for creatives to thrive. The success of last year’s productions speaks volumes about the high calibre of talent and the opportunities that the festival provides. Peckham Fringe is more than just a festival, it is a community that champions real, unfiltered theatre in a vibrant creative space.
Tell us about the Ambassadors who have helped curate the programme?
Our Ambassadors are a group of local people who have been with us for over a year participating in monthly sessions learning about Theatre Peckham’s mission and vision, watching shows together and acting as an advisory board. They were recruited through a public appeal for people to become part of the theatre’s community team to encourage new audiences and as local citizens they wanted to make their voices count.
Their biggest question was how theatre can be accessible for all and platform unheard voices. Amina, Beatrix, Craig, Julia, Omolara, Sahra and Vanessa have been the driving force in selecting shows for Peckham Fringe. Together they have uncovered new performances relevant to Peckham locals and curated a programme that will appeal to first-time theatregoers but also excite regular theatre audiences keen to experience vibrant theatre. Their ultimate goal is to invite people to enjoy a good night out.
What’s been the benefit of working with the Ambassadors?
Theatre Peckham is more than just a space for performance – it is a space for the people and I firmly believe that the community should have a say in what is programmed on our stage. The Ambassadors share this vision to showcase work that reflects our community so it made perfect sense to me to embrace their local knowledge and passion for the arts to ensure a diverse, ambitious and inclusive programme that speaks directly to our hyper-local community.
I have benefitted from the unique perspectives of seven brilliant individuals, each with their own opinions and experiences. Together, they have brought out the richness of theatre in a way that I simply could not have done alone.
What’s been the biggest challenge in putting the programme together?
Making the final selection of shows for Peckham Fringe from so many strong applications was undeniably our biggest challenge. In a time where new writing is more crucial than ever, and with a limited number of venues available to showcase new work, we faced the daunting task of narrowing down our selection to fit within the festival’s capacity.
We wanted to ensure that the chosen shows were relevant and meaningful to the local community, reflecting the unique character and identity of South East London. This involved carefully considering each production’s themes, content, and cultural references alongside the artistic quality and potential to engage and entertain audiences. Through all this challenge we have successfully programmed new shows that will bring forth new ideas, perspectives, and voices, helping to push the boundaries of what theatre can do and say.
Are there any elements of the programme you’re particularly excited about?
We have an exceptional line-up of shows this year and audiences are in for a real treat – from captivating stories that explore heritage, to a delightful farmyard musical designed for children under five, to a roller-skating event that promotes mental wellbeing.
We open on 5th May with a hilarious and thought-provoking play called I Love Acting, But F*** this Industry, highlighting the struggles of being a Black actor. It’s brave, raw and unfiltered and is a voice for any young actor craving a career in stage and screen. The show Cell Outs is another must-see, written and performed by two Peckham based artists who are ex-prison officers sharing their experiences as frontline workers in a hope to initiate reform.
Another top pic is NYAMAKALA: AN AFRICAN STORY by Marie-Ange Camara, an artist from the Ivory Coast who studied at local Goldsmiths University. The play takes us from the Mali Empire in celebration of African oral traditions, griots, kora and live music. With such a diverse range of productions, there truly is something for everyone at this year’s festival, it’s even better than Netflix!
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming along to Peckham Fringe?
Get ready for an unforgettable experience that will fully immerse you in the world of each artist. Every show offers a heartfelt glimpse into the lives of real people, taking you on a journey filled with authentic emotions and experiences. You won’t just be sitting in a seat and watching actors perform; you’ll be transported to another world, feeling a range of emotions, and being part of a community that shares a love for the arts.
At Theatre Peckham, we are committed to making theatre accessible and affordable for all, so you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank to come see a show. Just come along and be prepared to be swept away by the magic of theatre!