Buxton Fringe: New touring theatre dome is right at home in Buxton

The Rotunda has taken pride of place in the Pavilion Gardens.
The Rotunda has taken pride of place in the Pavilion Gardens.

Ross Ericson, co-founder of theatre company Grist to the Mill, is the man behind Buxton’s newest managed venue, a 120-seat pop-up studio theatre housed in a geodesic dome.

He explains his motivation simply: “We are losing many small and medium-sized venues across the UK. With the Rotunda we can now turn up with our own theatre and set up in the car park if needs be.

Ross Ericson

Ross Ericson

“We see this as a way of breathing new life into British touring theatre. We wanted to bring our current productions – The Unknown Soldier, Gratiano and The Empress and Me – to the Buxton Fringe and as The Rotunda was going to be built by then, we thought why not bring it with us and launch it there?”

Fringe-goers can expect some exciting theatre including Ross’s own play The Unknown Soldier: “We knew that it was a good piece but we didn’t expect it to take off as it did.

“It took a while for people to realise it was not just another First World War play, that it looked at that terrible conflict from a new viewpoint, but now that they have, we are regularly selling out venues country-wide. We even sold out at Edinburgh Fringe last year!”

He is equally enthusiastic about the rest of the Rotunda programme: “There is the fantastic I Found My Horn, Jonathan Guy-Lewis’ one-man tour-de-force, which is simply brilliant, and then we have the Wonderful Alison Skilbeck in Mrs Roosevelt Flies To London – she was on before us at the Assembly in Edinburgh and sold out too.

“Tayo Aluko was also with us in Edinburgh and we are so pleased we’ve managed to persuade him to bring his shows Call Mr Robeson and Just an Ordinary Lawyer to Buxton – he really is a seriously talented bloke.”

He is also looking forward to seeing James Hurn’s one-man Hancock’s Half Hour, children’s show Dogs Don’t Do Ballet and Harry Burton’s film, Working with Pinter.

He believes the Rotunda, as a managed venue, is “there to support our acts, not just to rent space to them” and he insists it is not in competition with the long-established Underground Venues.

“I know some consider there to be a finite audience, but if that is the case then the Fringe is doomed to failure,” Ross says.

“What we hope to do by throwing our hat into the ring is to help expand that audience, create a greater awareness of the Fringe and what it has to offer. We want to become a permanent fixture at Buxton.”

For the multi-talented actor and writer - who has been a soldier, a theme park designer and a teacher in his time - the Rotunda has proved to be one more irresistible challenge, and he is also ambitious for the festival: “We are extremely excited to be launching The Rotunda at the Buxton Fringe and are looking forward to being part of, what we expect soon will be, England’s biggest Fringe festival.”

Bookings for all Rotunda shows can be made via www.rotundatheatre.com.