Dip Your Toe, Brighton Fringe


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The Independent Culture

Just outside the Brighton Grand, on the shingly beach, sits a barnacle-encrusted, sea-green hut on wheels.

This is one of six replica Victorian bathing machines that have been scattered around the town to act as makeshift mini theatres, cinemas and galleries for the Brighton Fringe. By far the most exciting commission of the festival, the Dip Your Toe programme includes a performance inside a camera obscura on the beach, a mesmerising kaleidoscopic film for two and a contemporary dance piece that spills out into the gardens of the Old Steine.

Playing on the history of the bathing machines, which were wheeled out into the sea to allow modest Victorians to take the waters away from prying eyes, several of the short pieces have a clandestine feel. The green beach machine houses Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter, a charming 15-minute puppet show about drowned sailors, shipwrecks and mermaids, which is watched from outside through holes bored in the side, like a peep show.

Outside the railway station, meanwhile, is Swimming in the Persian Gulf. Visitors are presented with a library of books containing the true-life stories of women from the local Iranian community. Having chosen one, they are ushered into the machine to meet the “human book” (performer Philippa Vafadari) who tells tales – from bathing in burkinis to exile in Brighton – over a cup of sweet black tea. Well worth dipping in to.

To 27 May in rep (brightonfringe.org)