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Underbelly’s Biggest and Best Year!

27th Aug 2018

Underbelly made its biggest year of investment in its programme with over £500,000 of assistance to shows in 2018 and is delighted with its best year of awards, critical reception and ticket sales to date.

Over 200 shows, seventeen awards and nominations, over £40,000 raised for charities, over 500 4 & 5 star reviews make 2018 a terrific Fringe for Underbelly and its companies and artists.

  • Underbelly invested over £500,000 in 22 productions and co-productions this Fringe.
  • Three Fringe First Awards – Angry Alan, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and dressed.
  • Queens of Sheba won an Edinburgh Stage Award
  • Break Free and OTOSOTR won Asian Arts Awards
  • dressed was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.
  • It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Mistero Buffo won Stage Awards for Acting
  • Dangerous Giant Animals won the inaugural Sit-Up Award
  • Ahir Shah was nominated for the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Awards for his show Duffer which played Cabaret Voltaire and Underbelly.
  • The Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence went to Thrown, Garry Starr Performs Everything won the Balkan/Otherplace Award, and Hot Gay Time Machine won the  Radio Reverb Out in Brighton LGBTQ Brighton Fringe Award
  • 2 Three Weeks Editor’s awards went to Maddie Rice for Pickle Jar, and Zach and Viggo and Thumpasaurus for Where Did The Love Go?
  • Killymuck’s Aoife Lennon was shortlisted for the Filipa Bragancia award for a solo female performance.
  • Over 500 reviews for Underbelly shows were 4 or 5 stars.
  • 76% of Underbelly’s 517 Fringe staff came from Scotland.

 

With over 200 shows 2018 saw Underbelly’s strongest year yet for ticket sales, with 422,120 tickets sold across its 22 venues and 4 sites – George Square, Circus Hub, Cowgate and Bristo Square.

Underbelly produced or co-produced 22 shows in 2018, investing over £500,000 to support artists to develop existing and new work. The companies are supported by Underbelly in a number of ways, including no risk financial arrangements, guarantees paid to artists, enhanced box office splits, reduced or waived rental fees, accommodation provided, press and marketing support and delivery, and technical and production assistance.

This year marked the return of the stunning McEwan Hall after the University of Edinburgh’s three-year £33million restoration, converted into a 900 seat venue which hosted the explosive family show Brainiac Live through to Don’t Tell Me Not To Fly, Nina Conti, Foil, Arms and Hog and Sh*tfaced Shakespeare.
One of this year’s great successes has been the award established by Underbelly, and now in collaboration with New Diorama Theatre, ‘Untapped’, which saw three theatre shows win the opportunity to present new work at Underbelly this Fringe. dressed, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Queens of Sheba have all played to full houses and critical acclaim with thirty-six 4 and 5 star reviews and prestigious Fringe Firsts for dressed and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True.

 

Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood, directors of Underbelly said: “We are delighted that so many of our companies and artists have been recognised with awards, strong audiences and superb reviews. We have a wonderful team of programmers who have brought together an entertaining, diverse and relevant programme of shows.

“We’re still not on the scale of the big boys Pleasance and Assembly but we’re delighted that our numbers of tickets, performers, staff and stars have grown on previous Fringes. We think though, for us, particularly this year that it has been about much more than numbers. It has been about the opportunity to support artists to perform here, to develop and invest in shows, to present a strong line up of new writing, innovative comedians and the best of international contemporary circus, and give space to those who want to create work which not only entertains but also addresses issues which affect us all.

“We are particularly pleased that our Untapped Award, which we run in collaboration with New Diorama Theatre, has been a terrific success with the three plays dressed, It’s True, It’s True, It’s True and Queens of Sheba receiving a huge number of 4 & 5 star reviews and awards.”

 

Underbelly featured in all three weeks of Fringe First Awards, picking up gongs for  Angry Alan, dressed and It’s True, It’s True, It’s True: The Scotsman described dressed as full of “joy, passion and a rich flow of energy” and Angry Alan as “packs a giant punch”. dressed was also shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.

Queens of Sheba took The Stage’s Edinburgh Award in week three of the Fringe.

Wasabeats' European premier of Break Free smashed expectations and wowed its audience from day one - it's no surprise they won an Asian Arts Award! Founded in 2014, this award promotes Asian artists and art forms at the Fringe, with judges looking for productions that show outstanding originality, creativity and innovation in their work. 

Winner of the inaugural Sit-Up Awards was Dangerous Giant Animals, a play about what it means to grow up alongside a sibling with a disability. The Sit-Up awards are new to the Fringe, launched this year to recognise theatre that which aims to encourage audiences ‘to do something’ if they are affected by work they have seen on stage.

The Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence went to Thrown, a thoughtful and stand-out piece of sci-fi theatre. One of the most popular shows this year at Underbelly, Garry Starr Performs Everything won the Balkan/Otherplace Award, and Hot Gay Time Machine won a Brighton Fringe Award for the second year, taking the Radio Reverb Out in Brighton LGBTQ Brighton Fringe Award.

2 Three Weeks Editor’s Awards winged their way in Underbelly’s direction. Maddie Rice won an award for Pickle Jar with Three Weeks describing it as “Brilliantly written and highly relevant” and Zach and Viggo and Thumpasaurus for Where Did The Love Go?

Over 500 4 and 5 star reviews for shows across the programme including One Woman Sex and the City, Rhys Nicholson, Steen Raskoplous, Pickle Jar, Little Death Club, Tabarnak, Myra Dubois, Abandoman, Josh Glanc, Brainiac Live, Vessel and Dick and Dom marked a successful summer for many who invest in the opportunity to present their work here, on this high profile platform.

This year saw the first company from Khazakstan make a successful debut at the Fringe with their production OTOSOTR (On the Other Side of the River). The List gave it 4 stars and described it as “a gripping, revelatory show” and it picked up an Asian Arts Award.

 

This year saw Underbelly’s largest programme of accessible performances with 48 performances in step free venues, captioned, BSL interpreted, Relaxed or Makaton signed.

 

Underbelly held the Big Brain Tumour Benefit for the second year, this time in the magnificent 900-seater McEwan Hall. The line-up included Susan Calman in her only Fringe appearance this year, joined by Joel Dommett, Nish Kumar, Zoe Lyons, David O’Doherty and Rhys Nicholson. The event sold out and all ticket income (£15,000) is going directly to the BrainTumour Charity, matched by Underbelly announced to raise a total of £30,000 on the night and more in online donations.

A further £13,250 was raised through benefits with Stand Up For Cancer, Austentatious presents Crosstentatious! for Waverley Care, Werewolf: Live…Charity Spectacular! Bongo Club Cabaret vs Cancer and Naked Cabaret for Body Gossip. The grand total raised for charities amounted to over £43,000. The online giving page for Brain Tumour Charity is still open and still rising, please do give what you can to support their seriously underfunded and yet so important work. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/underbellyedinburgh

Alongside plays addressing violence against women and the metoo movement, it was a strong year for women actors, comedians, playwrights, singers and directors at Underbelly with Clare Sweeney, Ria Jones, Janie Dee, Danielle Hope, Don’t Tell Me Not To Fly, One Woman Sex in the City, Louise Beuvnik, Providence of Neighbouring Bodies, Croft and Pearce, Not Yet Suffragette, Alice Fraser, Su Pollard and Athena Kugblenu leading the way.

 

This year we marked the 250th anniversary of circus and the 4th year of the Underbelly Circus Hub on The Meadows by showcasing and celebrating the very finest contemporary circus from across the globe. The Circus Hub programme this year welcomed circus companies from Colombia, Australia, Canada, America, Cuba, Africa and the UK to dazzle and delight audiences both young and old from The Lafayette and The Beauty with the very best traditional and contemporary circus performance.  

 

This year Underbelly employed 517 staff to deliver its programme, 76% of whom were from Scotland (58% from Edinburgh), 18% of them students at Edinburgh’s colleges and universities. All of whom were paid national living wage, paid breaks, paid training, 100% of their tips, and none of which were on zero-hour contracts.

 

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, Directors, Underbelly said: "We’re immensely proud of our 2018 programme and how well it’s been received by audiences, industry and media. In particular, we are delighted that we have been able to raise over £30,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity through the fantastic Gala at McEwan Hall and our audience’s generosity. Thank you to everyone who took part, bought a ticket or donated cash.

“Every year we are inspired by the talent, creativity and commitment of the artists, performers and staff across Underbelly, and we would like to thank 2018’s incredible team who worked tirelessly to deliver such an exceptional year.”

Posted by Annie Wheeler