Almost a quarter of 2018 Fringe theatre shows relating to social issues

The SIT-UP team has released its analysis of the 2018 Fringe theatre programme, which reveals that just under a quarter of all theatre productions (235 of the 966 shows, 24.3%), relate to social issues.

With 2018 being the 70th anniversary of the NHS, five productions relate to our health service. Mental Health remains the biggest issue to be talked about on the Fringe.

Given the recent press of the #metoo campaign and women in society in general, it is not surprising that these are hot topics with a combined 40 shows. Social media is also high on the agenda rising substantially from one production last year to twelve this year.

Plays around refugee and migration issues have fallen.

Despite the media attention surrounding David Attenborough’s powerful rallying call to do more to protect the environment, this is not reflected on the fringe.

Other significant changes include productions looking at abuse which has seen an increase whilst productions around Human Rights and Prison have seen a decrease from last year. An interesting addition to this year’s Fringe are two productions looking at the role of young carers, an important issue as currently there are around 700,000 young carers in the UK.

“Theatre can play a crucial role in highlighting the many issues that society faces today,” says David Graham, founder of The SIT-UP Awards. “The arts provide an excellent platform to act as a catalyst for change.

“The SIT-UP Awards have been set up to help productions have a further life or to help them raise awareness of a pertinent issue.”

He added: “Given that most UK local authorities are looking at ways to combat loneliness and social isolation, I would have expected to see more productions looking at this important issue. Also as LGBT becomes the norm, it is not that surprising the number of productions are going down.”

Alice Millest, co-founder and trustee of the charity theatre company Clean Break and youth-led initiative Art Against Knives added: ‘”We have become almost numb to the sterile facts and figures we read about in the media or hear on the news. Empathy for strangers can only be built through connection and experience.

“When theatre is at its best, an audience is captivated by a story and lives it alongside the characters. Through this experience we build compassion and a desire to do something to help.’

Data for all theatre productions was provided by Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

The analysis was based on descriptions and information provided by each production.

Some productions in other categories, e.g. Comedy, Musicals and Dance may also relate to issues but have not been included in this analysis.

The SIT-UP Awards are new to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and aim to harness the power of plays to achieve greater social impact by supporting theatre companies before, during and after their productions.

A shortlist of six productions will be announced during week two of the Festival with the winner announced in week three.

Although the panel expects the shortlist to consist mainly of theatre productions, they are open to including comedy, dance or physical theatre.

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