Alternative and experimental performances have always been at the heart of Fringe, but in a time when Brighton Fringe is home to slick productions such as perennial favourite Ladyboys of Bangkok and seasoned shows that return year after year to build an audience of loyal fans, is there still space for something a little more unpredictable?
They also encouraged me to tattoo myself which I did on my kneecaps with a tribute to my mum.
Enter Harry Clayton-Wright. Whereas many perform in lowkey venues with the hope of one day reaching stardom, Clayton-Wright has moved in a different direction and translated internet success into compelling live performances. Describing himself as an entertainer, performance artist and international mischief maker, this Brighton Fringe his new work, The Fortnight, has seen him perform for eight hours every day in The Spire, a beautiful deconsecrated church turned arts creative space in Kemptown, Brighton. Every day of The Fortnight you can expect to encounter something completely different. So far performances have included an all-day Madonna rave and a life drawing session. Wander in at any point and you’ll be encouraged to participate as much as you want to, giving you the opportunity to make new friends and experience something completely new. We caught up with Harry as he approaches his final performances to discover his favourite moments so far and what we can expect next.
Where did the concept for The Fortnight come from?
The Fortnight consists of 14 brand new eight hour performances consecutively premiered over 14 days. It was born from a love of durational performance, making new work and the want to challenge myself. I’d been in conversations with The Spire - the venue where the performance is taking place and also the commissioners of the work - about making something new and I just loved the idea of creating something that could change each day, which would not only allow me to explore lots of new concepts and ideas but give the audiences a chance to see something new each time they visited.
How do you find inspiration for the theme of each day?
The Fortnight is a show about show business. A series of performances about performance itself. The work is inspired by growing up in Blackpool, working class entertainment and my career as a professional performer. A month before The Fortnight opened, I got to spend time with the incredible performance artist Melanie Jame Wolf, developing ideas and structuring them as a two week experience. Alongside that, Ryan Dawson Laight, ridiculously brilliant set designer, created this really epic, multi-layered and spectacular world for the project to exist within. It elevated the themes within the work to feel really tangible. He’s a genius. That teamed with Simon Booth’s incredible lighting design, I just have scope to play. It’s a joy.
What’s been your favourite moment so far?
I loved performing Liza Minnelli’s album Results in full as a 45 minute lip sync piece, on loop for eight hours. And I love that one person stayed with me for four hours that day. It’s one of their favourite albums, as it is mine. At one point when it was just us in the space together, they asked if I needed anything from the petrol station and bought me a bottle of Lucozade. I got tattooed with George Michael, while listening to George Michael, by my favourite artist @straightthingsareboringthings this week. They also encouraged me to tattoo myself which I did on my kneecaps with a tribute to my mum. And rather nicely, we turned the space into an apocalypse shelter and I served hot Ribena while we all did a jigsaw puzzle. Plus, I threw an eight hour Madonna dance party which was quite transcendental as well as lots of fun. Listening to Like A Prayer in a church was just everything.
What do you hope visitors will take away from The Fortnight?
I hope, for people who may have never seen queer durational performance art before, they have their eyes opened to a different style of performance. I hope anyone who comes feels inspired to push themselves too. I hope they leave feeling better about life. I hope they’re both challenged and entertained.
You’re from Blackpool - how does Brighton compare?
I just love Blackpool and Brighton. I’m obsessed with the seaside. They’re obviously wildly different in terms of background, politics, economy and cultural ecology, but they both have such a sense of camp that run through their veins. Blackpool has better charity shops, while Brighton’s vintage clothing stores are second to none. I’ll be taking The Fortnight to Blackpool for a second cycle of shows (14 other brand new performances - I’m making 28 this year) in the autumn. I can’t wait to debut this work to a home crowd.
What it’s like working in The Spire?
The Spire is a gorgeous arts centre set in an amazing deconsecrated grade two listed church. It’s a spectacular space that has just given such grandeur to the work and Ryan Dawson Laight’s stunning set looks incredible in the venue. They’ve been so supportive in making The Fortnight happen, I couldn’t be more grateful and proud to be performing there.
Any hints as to what people can expect in the last few days?
A weird striptease from a beloved figure from my childhood. An eight hour lip sync marathon. They’re going to push me to the brink, I can already feel it.
You can see The Fortnight at The Spire 16th-18th May, 13:00-21:00
Image credit: Joel Devereaux