Has New Media Killed The Fringe?
According to recent press reports, the once-bouyant London fringe is dying despite new plays getting great critical notices, and while social media is being blamed nobody is looking to the real reason.
When Time Out’s original magazine folded at the end of last year, London’s listings were lost – to be honest, the paper had been visibly dying for at least three years, but when it became a paid-advert gossip rag it was no longer possible to find Greater London’s fringe plays in a single place.
Now an amalgam of The Londonist, The Arbutarian, What’s On and RunRiot partially fill the gap, but even taken together with the collapse of Dress Circle we still have no complete listings, and it’s impossible to know what’s running unless you’re already aware of the venue. For example, ‘Dear World’, a heavyweight fringe production running in the centre of the city (Charing Cross), big-budget and weighted with stars, has not received a single press review so far, despite the fact that it will most likely transfer to Broadway. The problem – it’s in a theatre that gets no passing trade, one that most people don’t even know exists.
So why doesn’t The Big Issue up its game and sell listings? With print-on-demand available, wouldn’t it make the magazine indispensable in different cities?
London is a city of villages, and every single one has a complex entertainment life. But how on earth do you replace a decades-old search engine and connect with audiences who’d like an alternative to the Disneyfied tat of the West End? The quality is there, and thanks to the above websites many shows are being listed, but the connectivity to the wide diversity of entertaining/thought-provoking work can’t easily be discovered.