The radical artists whose work it supports and promotes have no doubt that Fuel co-founders Louise Blackwell and Kate McGrath are the living, breathing equivalent of good deeds in a naughty world – or at any rate, a world that doesn't always appreciate artistic innovation or an inclination to break with conventional theatre practices.
You could, however, say that the Angels are on the side of Fuel, for in 2005 and again last year, the company picked up Bank of Scotland Herald Angel awards for work showcased on the Edinburgh Fringe. The 2005 accolade arrived when Fuel was scarcely a year old, and already making a mark with artists who were ostensibly outwith the mainstream but whose work connected with audiences who were prepared to take unknown entities on trust.
Last year, Fuel set up shop – or rather sheds – in Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens for an utterly beguiling site-specific adventure with the umbrella title, The Simple Things In Life. Once again the concept and delivery left promenading audiences utterly transported: intrigued and amused at the time, but prone to deeper reflections and insights afterwards.
Now two of those sheds are being re-constructed inside Tramway, alongside a series of live performances, workshops and podcasts, as part of the FuelFest week there.
"It is a kind of taster-pack of what we do," says Blackwell. "We do tend to recoil a bit from the idea of a Fuel 'stable of artists', because we work with people who are all very different. Different in what they do, how they do it, and how it is presented. I suppose that the only thing you could say they share is that they are all committed to exploring the boundaries of what theatre is, and pushing those forms in fresh and interesting ways.
"We want to reach out to audiences, offer them new experiences and encourage them to trust us to the point where they will go to something they know nothing about, by an artist they have never heard of. So by having this amount of work in one place and at the same time, we're hoping that audiences will be able to get a feel for what we stand for and be open to watching our productions in the future."
You don't even need to buy a ticket to look and listen to Fuel in action. There's a multi-screen film installation about "climate, connectedness and home" in the Tramway foyer, where there is also a selection of Body Pods where you can hear podcasts about the human body that have been written by Deborah Pearson, Chris Thorpe and David Rosenberg, among others. Blackwell is hugely enthusiastic about the listening/hearing dimension that percolates through FuelFest.
"With Ring – which takes place in total darkness – there's nothing coming between the listener and their own imagination," she says. "There's no temptation to turn to whoever you came with and exchange a glance or a whisper. Instead, you're free to create your own journey and your own pictures – sad or funny – in response to the words, the music, the sounds, that feed into your ears. It's the darkness that makes it such a strange and wonderful experience."
For poet, performer and graphic artist Inua Ellams – whose writing workshops precedes his solo show Black T-Shirt Collection on Thursday – the listening is part of the timeless appeal of storytelling. Originally from Nigeria, Ellams has spent time growing up in London and living in Dublin, three very different environments that might not necessarily share the same speech patterns but which, he reckons, can all tune in to the rhythms of stories that reflect the kind of hopes, dreams and struggles that are common to us all.
"We all want the same things, really," he says, and that's almost a cue for the interactive production called Make Better Please that Uninvited Guests are staging from Friday to Sunday. The framework is similar to an earlier work that saw audience-nominated love songs (with dedications) woven into a real-time piece about relationships. This time, the content is news-driven. Lewis Gibson, who has collaborated on Make Better Please, is curious about how the discussions will play at Tramway, given the political context – the 2014 referendum issue – that features so prominently in our media.
"What's impressive," he says "is how people really engage with the debate. It's so completely opposite to the proscenium arch theatre experience: they are part of the performance, they have a voice, they can contribute. They make the theatre, and that's what makes it exciting."
And if it all gets too much for Gibson, he can retreat to his shed where his own performance, Lost In Words, is an oasis of hospitality, an escape into books and one of the reasons Fuel garnered that 2011 Angel on the Fringe.
FuelFest runs at Tramway, Glasgow, from today until Sunday, www.fueltheatre.com and www.tramway.org/events/Pages/Fuelfest-at-Tramway.aspx
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