Preview: Forest Fringe Microfestival as part of the 2016 Progress Festival

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The 2016 Progress Festival is hosting a microfestival of performances from Forest Fringe.  Forest Fringe is an artist-led organization that creates imaginative and unconventional performance events in the UK and internationally, fostering a diverse community of writers, theatre makers, musicians, dancers and live artists. The Forest Fringe Microfestival will hold performances over this weekend, Saturday January 30 and Sunday January 31 , 2016.

We asked the company’s co-director Andy Field a few questions about the upcoming microfestival.

Forest Fringe is a microfestival that’s embedded in the Progress Festival. How is this similar and/or different to what you do in Edinburgh every year, hosting your own venue during the Edinburgh festival?

These microfestivals are our attempt to capture something of the essence of what we do in Edinburgh and reproduce it in different parts of the world. I suppose primarily the thing we’re trying to reproduce is a mood of generosity and experimentation – a space in which artists are encouraged to take a risk with something new, and audiences are likewise invited to encounter something different and remain open to the weird and uncommon. In other ways its very different to Edinburgh – a much smaller group of artists, with a little more time and space to do their thing. Less rain.

Each of the performances sound very different in in approach, tone and style, with the exception that none of them seem like traditional scripted theatre. Is there a theme connecting them, or was there a method to selecting and programming these particular pieces?

We’ve always enjoyed dissonance and unpredictably at Forest Fringe – things bumping into other very different things, creating unforeseen and fruitful connections between artists who are very unlike one another. If there is one theme running through all of these works it is that we have tried to choose projects that we imagine will be very different to anything else you might find in Toronto, pieces that we hope will bring something new and interesting to theatre in the city, whether that’s through innovative forms of intimacy and interactivity or furious speed, movement and noise.

Part of the Forest Fringe is Works In Progress, where you are working with four Canadian artists, each commissioned by a Canadian theatre institution, to develop a new performance. What has that process been like?

It’s a total joy! One of the nicest things about creating these Forest Fringe Microfestivals in different parts of the world is the opportunity it’s offered us to meet artists local to each other in places we’ve visited. This is one of the most ambitious collaborations with local artists we’ve undertaken and I’m really excited about what might come out of it. The artists we’re working with are all great and have really embraced the experimental spirit of what we’re trying to do. I’m really enjoying spending some time with them.

Have you discovered anything about Canadian theatre while you’ve been here?

I’ve discovered some really lovely theatre spaces here in Toronto. We’re working at the Theatre Centre, which is such a beautiful and welcoming space in an exciting part of town. I would like to dismantle it brick by brick and take it back to London in my suitcase. Last night I went to see a great show by Hayley McGee at the Storefront Theatre on Bloor and it was everything a small DIY space should be – intimate, open and full of excited and exciting people. I also like your streetcars.

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Photo by Giulia Delprato