Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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In photos: Week 2

Another amazing week of Brighton Festival 2017 has passed already! Check out these photos from some of the incredible events over the last week.

Photos by Vic Frankowski, Caitlin Mogridge and Lucy Brooks.

In photos: Week 1

The first week of Brighton Festival 2017 has come and gone! We've been really enjoying all the shows, events and happenings – here's a few pictures of what's been going on

Photos by Victor Frankowski and Adam Weatherley.

Andy Smith on writing and directing Summit

Andy Smith’s play Summit has its preview at Brighton Festival on 8 & 9 May. Here he gives an insight into the creative process.

Up to now, most of the theatre that I make has involved writing things for me to perform. I have always said that at some point I would like to write a work for other people, but I have never quite managed to find the opportunity to do it.

Then sometime in 2015 – influenced by a few things – an image appeared in my head of someone performing in sign, of someone just standing and performing a text in sign language. Someone doing something I don’t have the capacity to do.

In the same year someone wrote about how my work uses the space of the theatre as one of meeting. This chimed with conversations that I was having at the time about difference, difficulty, and diversity in the space of the theatre, as well as the wider world.

Soon enough these thoughts all started talking to each other, and they became the starting point for a new piece of work. Encouraged and supported by the team at Fuel, and after a week meeting and exploring how to work with in this way with a diverse group of people at HOME in Manchester (the most people I have ever worked with on an Andy Smith text), these ideas have become this play. With the help of Royal Conservatoire Scotland in Glasgow, some of the text is about to be translated from English into BSL and the piece will be performed integrating these different languages.

Summit is a new play that, in three different ways, tells the story of a meeting. A meeting that is held at a time of crisis. A meeting organised to deal with a potentially catastrophic event or set of events. It will preview on the 8th and 9th of May at The Brighton Festival and there will be three performers onstage – one signing, two speaking. The other delegates at this meeting are played or represented by the people who are sitting in the audience. For the first time ever for a piece of writing by me, this is where I will be.

Hope to see you there.

Summit will be at Brighton Festival on 8 and 9 May 2017. Andy Smith's The Preston Bill will also be at Brighton Festival on 10 May.

Festival Hot Seat...Endings

Australian artist Tamara Saulwick brings Endings to Brighton Festival for its UK premiere. Part soundscape, part theatre piece, she tells us more about the show


Can you tell us what your show is about?

In some ways it’s about the strangeness and ordinariness of life ending. But it’s also about the deep connection we share with loved ones and the desire to maintain that connection in some way, even after those loved ones are no longer with us.

How and where will the work be staged?

Endings is both a sound work and a theatre or performance work; an interplay between live voice and song, and prerecorded voices that crackle into life on old portable 1960s record players and reel-to-reel players. We work with lots of recorded interviews that have been cut up and are replayed on stage using vinyl records and magnetic tape. So it is kind of like a radio documentary that’s been wrenched from the airwaves, then reconstituted and refracted through old technology and live performance. It’s being performed at The Old Market

Why should someone come and see your show?

You could come for Paddy Mann’s songs alone! Paddy has the voice of an angel and writes unbelievably beautiful lyrics and melodies. He works with me onstage and has written songs specifically for the piece, which are threaded into the overall sound design.

Despite the subject matter, or perhaps because of it, people seem to find this work really very life-affirming. I’ve always been interested in the things that connect us to one another … what we share and how we can see ourselves in the experience of others. In the words of one reviewer, ‘Its subject matter is difficult by default and impossible to hear without grafting onto it your own fears and faces. But it is uplifting too, and comforting, offering a sense that death is an experience shared with the living, even if only momentarily.’

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

It’s always hard to pinpoint the beginning point of an idea. But I was interested in this theme of ‘endings’ and I had this sound and image in my mind of the needle turning around and around at the end of a vinyl record. That sound alone carries so many associations and resonances.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

One of the things I love about theatre is that we sit together in the dark to attend to what occurs onstage collectively. In that moment we are a community of sorts, connected through shared stories and experiences. Death is something that touches us all but is so rarely talked about with any candour. Endings creates a kind of collective holding place for this most inevitable of shared experiences—a place within which multiple stories and perspectives can be voiced and evoked and heard in the company of others.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

To be honest I don’t think there is a ‘type’ of person who will like or dislike the show. The content has the capacity to resonate with anyone, and in that sense is very accessible. The form of the work is relatively unconventional, I suppose. So people who are interested in contemporary performance, sound, and finding new ways to bring ideas to the stage should enjoy watching the way this work unfolds.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The way it is staged and how we work with light. It’s pretty special.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? Do you have a favourite Festival moment?

I’m coming from Australia to the Festival for the first time. So I’m looking forward to experiencing my favourite Festival moment …

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?

That’s a tough question. There is so much on! But I have to say that after seeing Kate Tempest perform in Australia, I’m really looking forward to checking out her work again. She’s an inspiring artist.

Endings is at The Old Market 9 to 13 May

Festival Hot Seat… No Dogs, No Indians

Writer Siddhartha Bose gives the low-down on his new play No Dogs, No Indians, which has its world premiere at Brighton Festival

How and where will the work be staged?

No Dogs, No Indians will be staged at The Spire, Eastern Road on 17-18 May. Four actors will play multiple characters across three time zones in India: the 1930s, the late 70s, and 2017.

Why should someone come and see your show?

No Dogs, No Indians explores the legacy of British colonialism in India, and will commemorate the 70th anniversary of independence. It tells the story of a forgotten female revolutionary, Pritilata Waddedar — I like to think of her as a sort of Malcolm X to Gandhi’s Martin Luther King. The play also examines the fictional story of Shyamal Chatterjee, who is a relic of the Raj era — a ‘brown sahib’ who loves, and models himself on, British culture. Finally, the play will also transport you to contemporary India, a nation that aspires to be a world power while simultaneously dealing with the ghosts of its past.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

This play has been gestating for a few years. For a while I've wanted to write a historical, Raj-era play. I was particularly interested in forgotten stories from the Anglo-Indian encounter. If you look at any film or TV series that looks at this period — from David Lean’s Passage to India to Channel 4’s Indian Summers — you will find symbols of exclusion, in particular, the sign, ‘No Dogs, No Indians’ or ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed’ outside any British club in colonial India. I wanted to respond to the power of these words, and to explore how Indians felt, and responded to, such a provocation. And then, almost by accident, I found Pritilata Waddedar’s story...

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?

2017 is the 70th anniversary of Indian independence (and the UK-India Year of Culture). Despite this, I think there is a certain level of historical amnesia about the realities and complexities of colonialism and its legacies. In No Dogs, No Indians I'm aiming to help us remember, explore and engage. I think it’s a timely play which tells an important story (or two!) in a poetic way.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

I hope No Dogs, No Indians will appeal to a broad audience, from theatre-goers to people interested in history. The play asks a lot of questions about cultural appropriation and power that are particularly current at the moment.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The play revolves around the premise of neglected stories and forgotten characters. In that sense alone, there will be much to surprise the audience. Stylistically, the play will be innovative and fresh as well.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? Do you have a favourite Festival moment?

Brighton Festival is one of the world’s leading and most daring arts festivals, and I am honoured that No Dogs, No Indians has been commissioned by, and will receive its world premiere, here. I can't wait to find out what audiences think of it.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?

There’s so much to choose from but Theo Clinkard’s This Bright Field looks amazing.

No Dogs, No Indians is at The Spire 17-18 May.

Interview: Richard Nelson on The Gabriels

Tony Award-winning playwright Richard Nelson spoke to Edwin Gilson, Entertainment Writer at Brighton’s Argus Guide about his highly-acclaimed trilogy of plays, The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family ahead of their UK premiere at Brighton Festival

When did the idea for The Gabriels first come about?

I wanted to write about an American family with three plays all around the same national event – the election. Unlike with The Apple Family Plays [the trilogy Nelson brought to Brighton in 2015], which were about people moving to the little village of Rhinebeck and finding a home, this is a family of people who feel pushed out. These people are feeling like they are losing a home.

The play was written in real time. Does the fact that you were reacting immediately to the unfolding election keep the script alive?

Yes, I think so. The goal of the play, in essence, was to try and see the world through these characters’ eyes. I was constantly reading the news and trying to figure out what they might be thinking. I wanted to make it as immediate to the time of the play as possible. The last play is set, and was performed, between five and seven at night which is why the characters never know the result of the election. Each play I would write up to the opening night. They act as three snapshots in a year.

Would it be fair to say the play is more about people and their relationships than the election per se?

It’s not about who is going to win or lose. There are little to no arguments in the play and as a writer I’m not trying to make a point in any way. I just want to show how the familial, the personal, the financial, the artistic and political are all intertwined. The ambition of the play is to present the complexity of people. In each of the plays the characters cook a meal. When you’re cooking, conversations happen in a certain way that is very different to any other time. Human beings are the only animals that cook, therefore cooking is one of the things that makes us human beings. The play is about the complexity of human beings who centre around this fundamentally human activity.

What kind of people are The Gabriels? Where would you place them in the American social scene?

They grew up in this very small village but they are very cultured and play musical instruments. These are educated people who feel the pressure of a world in which they are being forgotten – at least in terms of economics.

The blurb for Women of a Certain Age, the third play, includes the line “the game seems rigged”. Is there a sense of determinism at play?

There is a refrain in the play that is quite significant in that sense; “what about us.” That feeling goes all the way through the play and it suggests a certain futility.

In an interview you said your characters are marked by a certain sense of “exile”. Can you pinpoint where this theme comes from in your work?

I think that’s accurate. It’s that sense of home, whether that’s feeling at home, homeless or in the process of losing a home. That theme is related to that feeling of not quite fitting in or being forgotten or lost. I also think my characters are resilient and there is a strength to them in the face of some serious problems, though.

Why did you take the decision to stop the narrative before Donald Trump was announced as winner?

Well, the play is not about the election in a news-like way. I’m trying to write about how the politics relates to people in both human and complex terms. I think that’s what’s not conveyed often in the news or television. It’s much more about the horse race and who wins and loses. That’s something others do – it’s not what the play is about.

How did you go about merging the personal and the political in a subtle way, without overstating the election narrative?

I think if any of us look at our lives, politics is involved. If there’s any kind of political event it’s going to be talked about by you and your family. It might not come up as the number one thing you have to keep talking about, though – it’s more incidental than that.

What was the audience atmosphere like in the election night performance of Women of a Certain Age?

It was an extraordinary night because the audience had no idea what was happening in the voting while they were watching the play. Everybody lived in that moment, in the present. We left and there was a party with big television screens so we could see the results. Everyone in the audience and those involved with the show were very, very surprised.

This interview was originally published in the Argus Guide. Visit the website for the latest news, in-depth interviews, features and reviews on the best events in Brighton, Hove and Sussex

The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family takes place Sat 20 - Sat 27 May at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts. You can book here for the individual plays, or click here to get a bundle for all three, which you can see together in one glorious sitting on Sat 20, Sun 21 or Sat 27 May, or in any combination of the performances (including evening performances on Tue 23, Wed 24 and Thu 25 May).

Boys Don't - Interview with Rosemary Harris

What’s a boy to do? From the playground to the classroom, from home to the uncharted waters of online, boys learn that displaying their feelings is a no-no. But what happens to emotion that can’t be let out? Boys Don’t explores through spoken word what happens when boys show their feelings, written from real-life experiences of the diverse male cast.

Boys Don’t is the latest work from Papertale, following on from the Suitcase Trilogy of spoken word performances about migration for young audiences, directed by Rosemary Harris. We spoke to Rosemary to find out more about the show, its inspiration, working with performance poets and her thoughts on why boys don’t share their feelings.

Tell us a little about Boys Don’t. What’s the show about?

The show is a spoken word piece for young audiences, exploring cultural prohibitions on boys expressing their feelings, particularly around the act of crying. It also explores the mental and social cost to everyone (boys and girls alike) when boys feel they can’t fully express their feelings, and hopefully offers a different, more positive way of thinking about the issue.

What was the original inspiration for the story?

Working a lot with young people you become very aware of the gender structures that still persist, and how keenly they are felt by young people. Boys and girls really suffer because of this, and for boys a lot of the expression of distress goes into anger, which is a major problem for schools and for our culture as a whole. As a company committed to delivering issue-based work for young audiences, we identified a real need for further exploration of the subject.

Boys Don’t was written using the real-life experiences of the cast. How much of a cathartic experience was this for them?

Writing and performing together has been a rich opportunity for the male cast to engage with the bigger issues around this subject, drawing on the personal (which is so central to spoken word) and then moving into the bigger social and political discussions. Of course, the work is for young and family audiences, so the writing was also about trying to make the piece accessible, fun and above all real, to take the real-life experiences and make them speak to young people now.

The production features a diverse male cast. Did they find a common bond in their stories?

Definitely. One of the key points was for us all to examine how these ideas of what boys and men should be are often really central to cultural identity, which can be why they are so persistent and entrenched. And then although they may be culturally specific, there is also a great deal of common ground across cultures about notions of ‘manning up’ and what that entails. Finding common ground is key, not only to Boys Don’t, but to all of Papertale’s shows.

You’re working with some of the UK’s leading poets and performers. What’s that been like?

A total joy and privilege, because you are working with the full package when you work with artists who write and perform their own work. One of the real delights is in bringing a team of spoken word artists together who are open to collaboration, who are keen to collaborate, because spoken word is often a very solo activity. Casting people who are enthusiastic to share and engage with a team in developing their own work is a really thrilling process, because everybody’s work impacts on everyone else’s – and you end up with something so much greater than the sum of its parts! And of course all of these poets bring their own unique approach to language with all sorts of influences, including poetry, rap, stand up, dramatic monologue, and so you get a wonderful cornucopia of wordplay.

Why do you think boys have problems sharing their feelings?

That’s a huge question with a complex answer. We’ve been very clear that this is a feminist piece about boys and men, because one of the things people often fail to fully comprehend within our culture is that inequity damages everybody. In 2017 boys are still handed these antiquated, unhelpful, unwritten rules about what is permissible for them as human beings expressing emotion, and that has a serious effect on their mental health, with a knock-on effect to the wider community.

What do you think can be done to combat this and let them express their emotions?

The issue of boys’ (and young people’s) mental health is currently being spotlighted more within the media, and it is imperative to see government funding supporting initiatives to tackle these issues. It’s incredibly helpful to see more men especially, challenging the stereotypes within their own lives and work. Seeing people like Barack Obama, David Beckham, cry on TV, these are helpful role models – and Papertale’s aim with Boys Don’t is to offer role models of male performers closer to home, exploding some of the myths, and sharing their feelings. Cultural change happens slowly and we all have a part to play. We have a responsibility to young people to offer ways out of mental distress, through accessible stories and examples that entertain as well as inform.

What can audiences look forward to?

Something engaging, current, accessible and diverse, that has humour as well as meaning, that provokes discussion and speaks to young people’s lives now. Oh yeah, and great language, rapping and poetry.

Describe the show in three words.

Real, important, entertaining.

And finally, what would you like audiences to take with them after seeing the show?

An increased understanding of the issues involved, a sense that they’ve shared some great contemporary writing and performing – plus a greater sense of shared communication around the emotions we all feel, young, old, male, female, all of us!

See Boys Don't on Sun 21 May.

ACE funding success for Brighton Festival 2018 event

Arts Council England has announced our success in a recent application for funding, in collaboration with LIFT festival, to bring a piece of world-class Korean music theatre to English audiences in May and June 2018, as part of a £1.4 million in international collaboration and exchange with Arts Council Korea.

LIFT and Brighton Festival will collaborate to present a fascinating adaptation of Trojan Woman by the internationally-renowned director, Ong Ken Seng, with the National Changeuk Company and the National Theatre of Korea. The two festivals will each present this extraordinary piece of work that combines the musical storytelling and drumming tradition of Korean opera and pansori with the best of contemporary theatre.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “We are delighted that our joint funding bid was successful. I was lucky enough to go to Seoul for the premiere of the work in autumn 2016. It is an incredibly powerful piece of theatre which marries a familiar aesthetic with a completely different cultural form. I can’t wait to see it again at Brighton Festival in 2018.”

You can read about the other funded projects from this Arts Council England and Arts Council Korea funding pot here.

Spotlight: The Gabriels

Richard Nelson and actors discuss Nelson's landmark series of plays The Gabriels.

Richard Nelson’s The Apple Family Plays was the theatrical highlight of the 2015 Brighton Festival. Now the Tony Award-winning playwright and director follows up with The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family, a landmark series that follows in real time, tracking their lives throughout the turbulent election year of 2016. History, money, politics, art and culture are all on the table in this moving three play cycle about a family celebrating, remembering and waiting for the world to change. 

The UK Premiere of The Gabriels is at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) at the following times: Sat 20, Sun 21 & Sat 27 May, 1.30pm, 4.15pm and 7.30pm (all three plays). Tues 23 May, 8pm (Hungry), Wed 24 May, 8pm (What Did You Expect), Thurs 25 May, 8pm (Woman of a Certain Age).

See more Spotlight films where we cast a spotlight on some of our Brighton Festival 2017 events.

Audio courtesy of Radio WNYC

UK premiere of topical play cycle set during the US election year are first shows announced for Brighton Festival 2017

The UK premiere of The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family - an acclaimed trilogy of plays by Tony Award-winning playwright and director Richard Nelson set during the turbulent US Election year - are the first shows to be revealed as part of Brighton Festival 2017 (6-28 May) ahead of the full programme announcement next month.

Particularly topical with the inauguration of Donald Trump as the next US president taking place this week, The Gabriels is the acclaimed follow-up to Nelson’s The Apple Family Plays which was the theatrical highlight of the 2015 Brighton Festival. The landmark series from New York’s leading theatre company, The Public Theater, follows one American family in real time, tracking their lives throughout the election year of 2016. History, money, politics, art and culture are all on the table in this moving trilogy about a family celebrating, remembering and waiting for the world to change.

The first play Hungry places us in the kitchen of the Gabriel family of Rhinebeck, New York. The family discusses their lives and disappointments, as they fight the fear of being left behind and attempt to find resilience in the face of loss.

What Did You Expect? brings us back to the kitchen of the Gabriel family, with the country now in the midst of the general election for President. In the course of one evening in the house they grew up in, history (both theirs and America's), money, politics, family, art and culture are chopped up and mixed together, while a meal is made around the kitchen table.

The Gabriels gather once again in Woman of a Certain Age to await the result of the election. As they consider the future of their country, town and home, they compare notes on the search for empathy and authenticity at a time when the game seems rigged and the rules are forever changing.

On his intentions behind the piece, Richard Nelson has said: 'In troubled and troubling times, theater has not only an opportunity, but the responsibility, to portray this confusion, and articulate the ambiguities, doubts, and fears of its time. Of course, it is a great temptation, in troubled times, to try and use the theater as a weapon… but….as a playwright, I try not to be co-opted by arguments and agendas. In other words, my theater is not a place to shout in, or be lectured at, nor where we go to be incited; rather a place to come together, sit among strangers in the dark, and recognize the complexity of the world before us.'

One of the nation’s most prolific playwrights, Nelson wrote the book for the musical James Joyce’s The Dead, which earned him a Tony Award in 2000. Among his other works are Franny’s Way (Drama Desk Award nominee), Goodnight Children Everywhere (Olivier Award), Two Shakespearean Actors (Tony Award nominee), Some Americans Abroad (Olivier Award nominee) and Principia Scriptoriae (London Time Out Award). Nelson also won the 2008 PEN/Laura Pels Master Playwright Award and a 2008 Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, both for his career. He is an honorary artistic associate of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which has produced ten of his plays.

The Gabriels Marathons (all three plays): Sat 20, Sun 21 & Sat 27 May, 1.30pm, 4.15pm and 7.30pm. Hungry: Tues 23 May, 8pm, What Did You Expect: Wed 24 May, 8pm, Woman of a Certain Age: Thurs 25 May, 8pm

The full programme announcement is on 15 Feb 2017. Members' Priority Booking opens Thurs 16 Feb 2017. Public booking opens Fri 24 Feb 2017.

Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival international programme is kindly supported by Gatwick Airport and The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family by University of Sussex.