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Pulse Fringe Festival 2010 enters new venues in Ipswich
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

Sex Idiot at the Pulse Fringe Festival
Sex Idiot is at the New Wolsey Studio on St George's Street

Ipswich's Pulse Fringe Festival is taking theatre to ever more strange venues in the town.

Pulse 2010 takes place 27 May-12 June and is organised by the New Wolsey Theatre.

Shows will be in pubs, a hotel, a flat, car park and shipping container as well as in the regular theatres.

"Pulse is about getting people to take a risk and see something that they might not ordinarily see," said Steve Freeman, festival director.

After starting in 2001 at just a couple of venues, Pulse 2010 has 52 performances across 13 venues and tickets are priced at £6 for most shows.

One of the most eye-catching things is the range of alternative venues being used.

"There are practical elements, because there are only so many theatre spaces in Ipswich," said Steve. "We'd filled those full of shows, but had another 20 that we needed to programme.

Pulse Fringe Festival director Steve Freeman
Steve Freeman outside the spiral underground car park

"We cater very well for ordinary theatre in Ipswich and Pulse is our opportunity to see different genres and types of work.

"Seeing something in the underground spiral car park next to the New Wolsey Theatre is quite an exciting prospect."

The car park show, called Wolf, is on 10 June and it's also visiting Wingfield Barns and Dollops Wood, Polstead.

Inspired by Scotland

Steve Freeman goes to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe every summer and says other promoters are aware of Pulse and more performers are applying to be part of it.

"There isn't a space in Edinburgh that hasn't got a show in. They convert all sorts of weird and wonderful locations into theatre venues.

"Someone said to me recently 'the only person who welcomes change is a baby with a wet nappy'!

"Now, I don't believe that at all. I think people find change exciting as long as it's within a certain framework of security."

Lecture Notes On A Death Scene by the theatre company Analogue may stretch that to the extreme.

For their 16 performances at the Town Hall Galleries on 11/12 June, there is just one actor and one ticket holder.

And a show called Internal by a Belgian company will have five actors and five audience members exploring a speed-dating theme at the Novotel on 29/30 May.

Internal at the Pulse Fringe Festival, Ipswich
The play Internal features 5 actors and 5 audience members

"People might find that a slightly daunting experience," said Steve. "I'm the first one to slump into my seat when I think there's a bit of audience participation coming up!

"But, it's not scary. Those shows are very much what you make them. It's about what you give back.

"You're not expected to perform a dance routine or recite a piece of Shakespeare, but your response will fuel whatever it becomes next.

"Having said that, there is stuff on our main stage at the New Wolsey and at the Jerwood DanceHouse on the waterfront, so if you like your theatre seat, then there's a show for you."

Pushing the boundaries

The New Wolsey Theatre and Pulse are partly funded by the government's Arts Council England.

"Pulse is a fantastic platform for new and emerging artistic talent and this year's event will be no exception," said Helen Lax, Arts Council eastern regional director.

"The New Wolsey Theatre has demonstrated real ambition in creating an event that pushes the boundaries of innovation and artistic excellence.

Poland 3 Iran 2 at the Pulse Fringe Festival
Poland 3 Iran 2 is at The Greyhound pub on Henley Road

"It is one in a portfolio of exciting events and organisations supported by the Arts Council in our mission to achieve great art for everyone."

And Steve Freeman is confident that will continue.

"I see Pulse growing in the same way that the Edinburgh Fringe grew in its early years.

"But I think our job is to ensure that we are constantly meeting the needs of the audience in terms of site-specific, edgier work.

"If the festival grows and we end up building theatre spaces in alternative venues, then that's what we'll do."

In 2009, Pulse sold 82% of its tickets, and the organisers say they'd be very happy if they reached that figure again in 2010.

The box office is on 01473 295900 or visit the Pulse Fringe Festival website. You can also buy a £10 festival pass which then gives you discounts on performance tickets.

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