Brighton Festival 2019Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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In conversation with: Director of Superhoe Jade Lewis

University of Sussex student Lola Awoderu, speaks to Director of Superhoe, Jade Lewis. Superhoe is the first collaboration between Talawa Theatre Company and the Royal Court Theatre and was first presented as part of Talawa Firsts in June 2018. Superhoe is Nicôle Lecky’s writing and performing debut and is directed by Jade Lewis . We spoke to Jade Lewis about her time at the University of Sussex and her involvement in Superhoe.


You studied History here at University of Sussex, how did your experience affect your journey to becoming a Director?

I was Vice President of ACAS, I wanted to bring ACAS arts to the university. Every Tuesday evening we’d all come together to make short plays; we did a showing in Falmer bar and that later transpired to Culture Fest. We used our platform to showcase all our talent ranging from theatre to dance.  Being a part of ACAS arts was a nice way to feel comfortable at university – I was bonding and making friends through it, which can be difficult at times at university. In terms of history, I loved stories and learning about the world so then in my third year I studied South African history, and my dissertation was based on how theatre was used as a protest movement. I was able to read plays and question how theatre was used as a medium as opposed to the government. Sussex had the space and the resources in order for me to explore those realms.

What made you want to get involved in Superhoe? Did you already know Nicôle Lecky beforehand?

Nicôle and I met working on the project; she wrote the play with support of Talawa theatre company. They do a festival every year called Talawa Firsts and featured Superhoe as part of this festival. We were introduced through a mutual friend, had a meeting and then jumped into a 3-day RND on this play, and off the back of that showing it then got picked up by the Royal Court. We worked really well together, at a really a good pace. The Royal Court and Talawa did a co-production which lead to Superhoe. It was very much a professional relationship but through that we've become very good friends and collaborators.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when directing?

A real challenge we faced was what the design was: it’s a one person show and it’s very dense and text heavy. We had to question how we can make this text breathe, and present to the audience. Sasha goes from location to location, we had to visually show what the text does not do, which led to us using the AV. We wanted the audience to feel empowered after this story, all we ever strive for as humans is to be loved and be accepted and she goes on this journey of constantly not being ‘good enough.’ Social media shows how we live our lives but ‘no one is really living it up like their profile,’ and again how can we then show that without it being on the low and very literal. Through constant negotiation and trial and error we, got there in the end.

What advice would you give to any other black and minority creatives who are trying to navigate their way through the industry?

I’d say self-belief, believe that you can, believe that you will, because the industry will sometimes tell you that you won’t or can’t. Surround yourself with positive people that are like minded, and when working with people like Nicôle we were on the same wavelength. I feel like we’re in a time and age where that is happening much more – now we want each other to win, because ‘if you win, I win.’ It’s a new growing mentally. Keep working at your craft and keep asking questions, don’t feel like you have to conform with what’s already there. Be willing to evolve and be opened minded to what comes your way.

What is next? Do you have any visions for what you want to work on in the future?

I’m working on a project with Central School of Speech of Drama students, making a play for under-fives. I’m a true believer of keeping theatre alive and how can we keep theatre alive if we only make shows for adults? As a creative you can do anything – I’m having loads of meetings and I’m very mindful about what I do next. Superhoe has opened up a lot of doors for me, especially in terms of networking and establishing long term relationships. I’m kind of in the lab of the moment, but I know it's important to rest… if you don't rest, you’re not going to be at your best.

Brighton Festival Live Streams: Incredible Events to Watch Wherever You Are

You can’t always make it to all the events you’d like to go to – but with Brighton Festival Live Stream we’ve got you covered.

In partnership with Greater Brighton Metropolitan College and their incredible staff and students, we stream some of our exciting events so you can watch them live from wherever you are, or later in your own time. Click on the ‘Get Notified’ button on the events you want to watch. Here’s a quick rundown…


Backbone
Wed 15 May 7.30pm
Backbone explores the limits of emotional and physical endurance. A stripped-back, raw showcase of human ability and connection. With a powerful live soundtrack and beautiful lighting design.


Flavour Migrations
Fri 17 May 8pm

Get some cooking inspiration from Masterchef winner Shelina Permalloo. She’ll be discussing how her culture, heritage and loved ones have shaped her cooking.


Dream Mandé: Bamanan Djourou
Sat 18 May 8pm

Once again Rokia Traoré will be performing at Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall. Prepare to hear adaptations of traditional Bambara songs, popular French and international tunes as you’ve never heard them before.



Malian Dance Night

Mon 20 May 7.30pm

This is an evening of dance you will not want to miss. Enjoy a special presentation of three new dance pieces by Mali’s next generation of extraordinary choreographers.


Ariwo and Resonators
Wed 22 May 8pm

Take your ears on a musical adventure. You’ll be listening to rural west African heritage with the energy of the vibrant city of Bamako with a mix of other genres such as jazz, electronic and Cuban rhythms.


Chineke!
Thu 23 May 7.30pm

Chineke! bring their extraordinary energy and enthusiasm to this evening’s performance, taking us on a journey through the 1920s from New York to Weill’s Vienna.


Varhung: Heart to Heart

Fri 24 May 8pm

Experience Ancient Taiwanese culture traditions brought up to date by one of the Pacific Island’s premier indigenous dance-theatre companies Tijmur.


BOYS

Sun 26 May 7.30pm

Celebrating male tenderness, silliness, vulnerability and community with a cast of young men of colour from England, BOYS is a joyful and tender dance that hopes to unravel preconceptions and uncover the endless possibilities that can make up a man.


Né So - Rokia Traoré

Malian musician and Brighton Festival Guest Director, Rokia Traoré shares her highly personal sixth album, Né So, an unmissable experience. 


In Rehearsal: A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Lord Chamberlain's Men will soon appear at Brighton Festival, with their interpretation of Shakespeare's magic-filled comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. 

Following weeks of rehearsals, this production is shaping up to be a highlight of this special celebratory year of both their 15th birthday and 425 years since The Lord Chamberlain's Men were first formed. 

We captured some of the magic in rehearsals, giving audiences a small insight into what to expect...

Performers stretching on the floor

Cast member reading a script

Cast members standing together reading scripts

Cast members smiling during rehearsal

Cast member rehearsing an emotional scene



A Midsummer Night's Dream
presented by The Lord Chamberlain's Men

Thu 23 - Sat 25 May | St. Nicholas' Rest Garden

Set to be a wonderful event for all the family, enjoy this open-air performance in the beautiful leafy surroundings of St Nicholas’ Rest Garden, located in the heart of Brighton’s city centre. Pitch up with a chair and bring a picnic if you like.

Review: 'Vox Motus have succeeded in turning an awful reality into a poetic tragedy, both poignant and heart wrenching'

As part of our long-standing partnership with University of Sussex, we’re collaborating with students to review Brighton Festival shows and report on events happening across the city.

Our first guest review is by Charlotte Gray, a first year student, BA (Hons) International Development and Anthropology. Here’s what she thought of Flight by Vox Motus.

Recently, I had the privilege of seeing Flight, an intricate moving diorama created and performed by Glasgow based company, Vox Motus. Upon arriving at King Alfred Leisure Centre, I had no idea what to expect. However, having only read outstanding reviews, I knew I was going to be immersed in something different from anything I had seen before. At the beginning, different groups were taken into a room to wait before each person was taken to their individual seat inside a dark cubicle. I was given headphones with soft music playing, and instructions to get close.

Immediately, the experience became incredibly personal. The story is based on playwright Oliver Emanuel’s adaptation of Caroline Brothers' novel Hinterland. It began by introducing Aryan and Kabir, two Afghan brothers at the start of their ambitious journey from Kabul to London. I was immediately drawn into a miniature world of carefully created wooden figures arranged into elaborate scenes. The figures of Aryan and Kabir were depicted travelling by boat, train, on foot, and in the backs of lorries as they battle storms, imprisonment, and various other extreme situations that many migrants face.

Each scene was crafted with the utmost intent. Simple images with purposeful lighting established each setting beautifully. Gripping sound effects accurately established the mood of each scene, whether dreamlike or eerie. Additionally, childlike voices truly made this experience both genuine and imaginative. In addition, sitting in a rotating chair made it more of an interactive experience, as I was able to move with the models as they drifted past.

 Vox Motus have succeeded in turning an awful reality into a poetic tragedy, both poignant and heart wrenching.

In just an hour, Flight emotively illustrates themes of economic migration, modern-day slavery, sexual abuse, capitalism, and hope. The exhaustion and hardship the boys face during their gruelling two-year journey attempting to cross borders into Europe is incredibly realistic.

One aspect that particularly stood out to me was the creative decision to depict border control guards as seagulls; their loud dissonant squawking in place of speech – entirely unintelligible to the poor protagonists in an allegory for the French-Afghan language barrier – profusely exemplified the fright and anxieties they felt losing their liberty. The sympathy this draws is heart-wrenching. The story is mercilessly immersive, forcing the viewer to involve themselves in the plight of young refugees in a way that media coverage can never do.

The craft and skill used to create such a simple yet graphic portrayal of Aryan and Kabir’s story is done to an exorbitant quality. Vox Motus have created a microscopic world to portray issues far bigger and provide an extremely confrontational experience. It becomes almost hard to believe that you are watching miniature models instead of real people. At the end of the performance I left in tears, wishing it wasn’t over. My expectations were exceeded, and I was left speechless. I would highly recommend seeing Flight, it was truly unforgettable.

For your chance to see this unique show during its run at Brighton Festival, visit the Flight event page.

Book now to see Flight at Brighton Festival

Five Minutes with Gravity & Other Myths: Backbone

We snatched five minutes with internationally renowned circus company, Gravity and Other Myths (GOM) to find out more about the folks that tumble, flip and literally walk across each other's heads in Backbone - their newest, most dazzling show ever. 

Firstly, can you introduce us to your show and tell us what it is about?

Backbone is GOM’s second international touring work. It premiered as part of the 2017 Adelaide Festival and since then, it has taken the world by storm! The work examines human connection and strength in all its forms; physical, emotional, collective and individual.

Why should someone come and see your show?

Not only is Backbone filled with dynamic, exciting, high level group acrobatics but it touches audiences, young and old in a deeper way. GOM’s work has always focused on group dynamic’s, trust and camaraderie and Backbone is no different. The connection the artists on stage hold is engaging and infectious.


Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

Strength, of all kinds, is inherent in acrobatics so we found it an interesting topic to deconstruct and explore using physicality and acrobatics.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

GOM creates work for everyone to enjoy so no matter how old you are, if you have seen countless circus shows or none at all, this show will be for you!

What will surprise people about this show?

The satisfying and beautiful amalgamation of ground-breaking acrobatics, detailed design and production and real humans performing onstage, being themselves.

Five Minutes with: Candice Edmunds - Flight

This May, Scottish theatre company Vox Motus bring critically-acclaimed production Flight to Brighton Festival.

Flight brings you up close and intimate to this heart-breaking story in a unique, deeply individual experience. Seated in your own personal booth, you will watch the action unfold on images and models slowly moving in front of you, with speech and music conveyed through your own individual headphones.

We chat to Artistic Director, Candice Edmunds to find out more… 

Firstly, can you introduce us to your show and tell us what it is about?

Flight is based on the novel Hinterland by Caroline Brothers. It tells the story of two young brothers travelling alone, on foot, from Afghanistan to London. Their journey is an odyssey: a tale of ever-changing fortunes that is in turns life affirming and horrifically brutal. It is a tale of love, brotherhood, the remarkable resilience of those fleeing turmoil, and the power of imagination.


Flight
is a unique audience experience. Audience members sit in individual booths as a series of 200 handmade diorama revolve before their eyes. The story and soundtrack unfold through a pair of headphones.

Why should someone come and see your show?

Flight is rewarding on so many levels. The story is current, relevant and heart-wrenching. The ‘staging’ and design are completely unique. The experience is individual and immersive. We have been delighted time and again by those who came to engage with the ‘form’ and lost themselves completely in the story, and those who came to hear the story and were blown away by the design and the audience experience.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

Initially we were inspired by Caroline’s novel ‘Hinterland’, and what (in 2011, when it was published) felt like the ‘under-the-radar’ story of unaccompanied refugee minors. Over the years that we developed Flight the narrative around refugees and asylum seekers in the UK became increasingly divisive and agenda-driven. We wanted to find a storytelling form that would bring this back to the truly personal: just you (the audience) and the brothers journeying together. Our world in miniature was born out of desire to create a one-to-one experience that played with form, challenged us as artists, and enriched the story and themes. We wanted to make something that was full of imagination that honoured the bravery and resilience of children who flee their homes in search of a safe haven.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Because of the mix of forms/disciplines, Flight appeals to both theatre audiences and those who would be more inclined to engage with visual art/digital art/cinema. The sound design and sound-track are also exceptional in their own right and open the experience up to music audiences. It is a brilliant show for teenagers, and we can provide some excellent resources for teachers to encourage class discussions around the subject matter.

What will surprise people about this show?

We have found that audiences have been completely floored by the emotional impact of the story. They come because they have heard of this wildly original carousel of diorama, and don’t expect a series of 3-D models to be so emotionally devastating.

Buy tickets to Flight or discover more theatre events happening this May 

Five Minutes with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko: Séancers

Performance artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko conjures themes of paranormal activity, loss and resurrection as he explores black identities through his work. In his new show Séancers, Kosoko draws on his own experiences, including the deaths of family members, as well as inspiration from other art forms in a piece that brings together movement, song, spoken word and a live score from Bessie award-winning composer Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste. We sat down with Jaamil to learn more...


Firstly, can you introduce us  to your show and tell us what  it is about? 
Séancers is a work that considers alternative ways in  which we hold space for loss. And essentially how we  fill the space of loss.

Why should someone come  and see your show?  
To learn how loss can possibly generate new pathways to understanding the self, others, and the  process of the world. Holding space for mourning and  grief while also creating space for celebration in the  presences of community feels important in this moment.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?  

My previous piece #negrophobia was described as a  kind of séance as I toured it throughout Europe over  the past couple years. It felt like a natural  progression to lean more into themes of paranormal  activity, loss, and resurrection as it relates to Black  identities. Black conceptual technologies such as  ‘fugivity’, ‘afro-pessimism’, and ‘intersectionality’  (Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw) have given me a deeper intellectual framework to ground the ideas and  metaphors that are situated inside my new work,  Séancers. Lastly, the work has literally become a way  for me to stay in close relationship to my dead family.  I’m the only living member of my immediate family.  Have a listen to an interview I recently did ​here​.

 What sort of person is going to love this show?

I am consistently surprised with the people who seem to really connect with the show. Queer/trans communities, older people, academics, students, black folks, poets, visual artists.

What will surprise people about this show?

Imagery and poetic metaphor, some fun costumes, kisses.

Find out more about Séancers and book your tickets today. 

What's on: Must-see children events at Brighton Festival

Calling all young folk! Make Brighton Festival part of your journey. Music, art, theatre, dance, spoken word – it’s all waiting for you, with voices from around the world or right next door. Here are some of our favourites…


Our Place – MHangleton
 Sat 25 May

In partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre, Due East, Hangleton and Knoll Project and the community steering committee to create a community takeover. This year the communities are bringing FREE family-friendly theatre, dance, music, games, activities and workshops to East Brighton. View the full programme here.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Thu 23 – Sat 25 May

Shakespeare’s magic-filled comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream is performed in the open air by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Bring a chair or a rug to enjoy a glorious May’s evening watching one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays. Experience this enchanting performance, overflowing with Elizabethan costumes, fairies, sprites, dukes, confused lovers and music and dance.


SESSION
Thu 23-26 May

Join us for a high-energy night of dance and live music. Led by an ensemble of young dancers who move across hip hop, contemporary folk and Afrobeat’s, celebrating community, youth and belonging. 

Another Star to Steer By
Sat 25 - Sun 26 May

Another Star to Steer By is a magical 45-minute play (for audiences of 6+) celebrating the special power of storytelling, using drama, humour, audience participation and singing.

Read our interview with writer Andrew McCaldon


A Jar of Pickles and a Pinch of Justice
Sat 25 May


Chitra Soundar has collected and retold some ancient trickster tales from India in which young Prince Veera and his friend Suku get into a pickle or two. The king is away, and they have the power to run his kingdom! What will they do? Come and listen to Chitra bring these stories alive in Brighton. 

Tomorrow: a story from Syria
Sat 25 May

Come and hear Nadine tell the story of a brave young boy called Yazan from her book Tomorrow, and join in some fun art activities too!

Discover all the Young Brighton Festival events. Look out for the Young Brighton Festival symbol to help you find that events that are for you. 

Note: For further information on Age Guidance recommendations - please check specific event page for more information

Who are The Storytelling Army?

Ahead of this year's intimate storytelling events in Queen's Park and Worthing Pavilion Cafe, Stef O’Driscoll from nabokov tells us more about these special events that join people from all walks of life in enjoying a simple meal together and hearing each others stories

Who are you and what is Storytelling Army?
I am Stef O’Driscoll a theatre director and the Artistic Director of nabokov. nabokov is a theatre company that celebrates the infinite array of lives and stories of our nation. nabokov locate and collaborate with a diverse range of exceptional voices across artforms including music, spoken word and theatre reinventing the theatrical experience so anyone can enjoy live performance and tell stories.

We believe that everyone has a story and everyone deserves a platform for theirs to be heard. The Storytelling Army is a community initiative, a collective of people from all walks of life who create and perform their own stories in the hope that by doing so we will cultivate more empathy and understanding for each other. The participants we are working with have come through the Cascade Creative Recovery and AudioActive.

Cascade Creative Recovery is a not-for-profit community centre and café for Brighton & Hove. Run by, and for, people with experience of active recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, the charity provides a supportive peer-led space, informal access to information, and a range of creative courses, workshops and social activities and AudioActive is a ground-breaking music organisation that works with young people at the meeting point of technology and contemporary urban culture. It sees music as a tool for social change, education and personal development.

Check out these organisations they are doing AMAZING things.


Where did the idea for Storytelling Army come from?
The Storytelling Army was created by nabokov in 2017 to fulfil Guest Director Kate Tempest’s vision of a more inclusive Brighton Festival. Myself and Kate bashed out some initial ideas over a cuppa and then nabokov evolved them into the Storytelling Army that stormed the streets of Brighton with pop up performances that took place all over town including at the train station, bus stops, pavilion gardens and on the pier. 

This year we were inspired by the Guest Director Rokia Traoré’s commitment to stripping storytelling back to its bare essentials which sees people gather in an intimate setting—outdoors around a fire in a Brighton park, or indoors in Worthing overlooking the beach—enjoying a simple meal together and hearing each others’ stories.

What work has been going on with Cascade Creative Recovery and AudioActive?
Through a series of workshops we have been working with incredible guest storytellers whether they are singer songwriters, MC’s, rappers, poets or playwrights to support the groups to create and tell their own stories.

Guest Storytellers include Deefa MC, Brodie McBride, Cecilia Knapp, Paul Cree, Sophie Ellerby, Simon Longman, Yomi Sode and Adam Kammerling.

The workshops consist of creative writing, storytelling and performance exercises. Some of the participants have never done anything like this before. Some have written but never performed and some are Brighton and Worthing based artists. It is a real diverse bunch of humans showing up and getting honest and speaking their truth. You are in for a treat.


What can audiences expect to experience at the Storytelling Army performances?
You can expect true stories being performed. You can expect to experience stories through spoken word, rap and songs, and to enjoy a meal that is cooked in front of you whilst all of this is happening. You can expect a community for one night whose foundations are built on sharing. Sharing food and sharing stories. You can expect to either be in an outdoors setting around a fire in Queens Park, Brighton on the 18th May or overlooking the sea at the Worthing Pavilion Cafe Bar on the 19th May.

And in return we expect a supportive kind audience.

Tell us a little about the theme of food and its link with the Storytelling Army event? What makes this event unique?
Chef and storyteller Omar Jowar helped nabokov realise this year’s food-themed event. Our relationship to food tells us so much about our roots and heritage, our health awareness, our politics and our relationships with people.

'When my parents came to Britain they brought very little with them, three children and a better life ambition. My mother carried the stories passed to her in a pink exercise book, with loose, turmeric stained pages, so that they slightly resembled those treasure maps we made at school. Tea stained, like the pages of the empire we read about the history books. In them she brought cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, allspice, turmeric, dried limes, she carried cinnamon in sticks and ground so we as children would never be ground, so we might remember the places we had never been old enough to live. A borrowed heritage. That would help bridge us being somewhere in between Palestinian and British. To then go on and share the story of how green our falafel is. This was our gift to tell this new world where we had been' Omar Jowar

We have partnered with Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and the Kitchen Academy who are incredible organisations who help people learn to cook, grow their own fruit and veg and connect over shared meals, and they tackle critical issues such as food waste and food poverty. The Food Partnership also run the new Community Kitchen, a cookery school on Queens Road. Classes cover everything from patisserie to fermentation, Indian street food to dim sum, including sessions with Jethro from Kitchen Academy who is cooking the events' delicious food. All profits from the Kitchen support cookery activities for vulnerable people in the community.


What's included in the ticket?
An experience of stories from people from all walks of life, a simple tasty meal and beautiful music.

Who should I bring along?
Your friends, partner and family members. Anyone who loves stories. Anyone who loves food. Apart from younger humans below 14+ as the content of the stories can be of an adult nature or may go over their heads.

Do you have to participate or can I sat back and watch others?
You can participate as you wish but I hope when the audience are given the opportunity to connect with someone they don’t know they take it and share a part of them, just as the storytellers have so generously shared with them. What if the worse thing that could happen? On the 18th we are outdoors so please bring a blanket to sit on. 

Tickets are still available for The Storytelling Army at Worthing Pavilion Café Bar on Sun 19 May, 4pm, with the £4 ticket proceeds go to AudioActive and Cascade Creative Recovery. 
Book now via Worthing Theatres Box Office



Co-presented with Worthing Theatres
Supported by Brighton and Hove Food Partnership, and Higgidy

Five Minutes with: Andrew McCaldon: Another Star to Steer By

Another Star to Steer By is a brand new live show celebrating the power of storytelling for children 6+ and their family.  Ahead of the premiere, we chat to writer Andrew McCaldon to find out more about the show... 

Firstly, can you introduce us to your show and tell us what it is about?

Another Star to Steer By is a magical 45-minute play (for audiences of 6+) celebrating the special power of storytelling, using drama, humour, audience participation and singing.

As 12-year-old Maya prepares to leave her home and travel to a new part of the country, she is looked after by her estranged and eccentric Auntie, known as ‘Oh-My’. Maya is angry and nervous about leaving her friends and the world she knows behind. Oh-My begins telling Maya stories from around the world about adventures at sea. At first Maya refuses to listen but she gradually gets drawn in to Oh-My’s wonderful folktales. She and Oh-My form a new friendship and Maya discovers that every journey is the start of a new adventure. What will happen in the next chapter of Maya’s story? That’s up to her to decide.  

Why should someone come and see your show?

Because it’s a piece of theatre that will transport you all around the world and deep under the sea on many different adventures. And because you’ll get to sing, let your imagination take flight, and become part in the adventures yourself.  

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

I wanted to write a piece of work about folktales from around the world and discover how they can help us in our lives. The two characters in the play live by the sea in Brighton and so I thought tales about the sea would be interesting to explore. 

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Any child (over the ages of 6) and accompanying adults who love hearing stories and want to discover where the very first stories came from, who the Blue Men of the Minch are, and how to escape Jormungand, the Norse sea serpent. 

Our exciting storytelling show for primary children (6+) and their adults can come to you! Our paper boat will sail into your School, Library, Community Centre or Church Hall and our actors will present a 45-minute show just for you and your community. Become a Brighton Festival promoter – just get in touch and tell us you would like the show at your place and we will help you make it happen! The show is available 20 – 24 May with performances in the morning and afternoon to suit your timetable. Please contact: paperboat@brightonfestival.org 

Discover more Young Brighton Festival events 

Five Minutes with Ultima Vez: TrapTown

TrapTown takes you to a parallel universe, free from defined time and space. Conflicts from the early days and curious strange catastrophes dominate the relationships between the people. The necessity and apparent possibility of emancipation rise to the surface. We discuss the inspiration behind the show with Ultima Vez.

Why should someone come and see your show?

Young, old, fan of dance, theatre or movies? TrapTown is a mixture of different arts melting together in a mythological history.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

From the old myths and the stories of today.

Wim Vandekeybus’ fascination for the universal nature of the age-old myths was already demonstrated in Blush (2002) and Oedipus/bêt noir (2011). For TrapTown, he returns to the limitless and obscure cosmos of the ancient souls, using dance, film, text and music to conceive a new mythology.


What will surprise people about this show?

Dance and film sequences create a seamless live experience. Pieter De Buysser writes the text. The soundtrack is composed by Trixie Whitley and Phoenician Drive and forms the background to an avalanche of images. The architect duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh signed for the design of the scenography. All together they take the audience to oracles, catharsis and euphoria.

Discover more about TrapTown and book tickets

Five Minutes with Sébastien Daucé: Ensemble Correspondances

Founded a decade ago in Lyon by the organist and harpsichordist Sébastien Daucé, this ensemble of specialist vocalists and instrumentalists is passionate about rediscovering musical forms and composers now almost forgotten.

Ensemble Correspondances are simply unrivalled in this repertoire and bring their spine-tingling talents to Brighton Festival for the first time, Sébastien had a chat with us to tell us more…

Firstly, can you introduce us to your show and tell us what it is about?

This concert recreates life in the salons of Louis XIII’s court with vocal music reflecting themes of night, love and poetry. The first gentleman of France, Louis XIII was a great dancer, musician and even composer; music certainly was one of his main interests – probably before politics!

The French court during his reign reflected his desire for a flourishing artistic life in the salons. He surrounded himself with the greatest artists of the time to compose and play music for his evenings. This programme reveals pieces about love, night and mysteries of passion: typical themes for the poetic airs de cour that we could have heard at the end of the winter at the Louvre court, or in the intimacy of the salons to create small and intimate ceremonies whose intensity and passion remained a blazing fire burning through the night…

Why would someone come and see your show?

This concert is a unique opportunity to dive into the musical life of the 17th century and the close circle of musicians around King Louis XIII. The audience will be able to discover what he liked to hear in the privacy of his Chamber; confidential music by Boësset, Moulinié, Couperin for polyphonic voices, delicate lute and languorous gambas.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The music featured in this programme has hardly been explored or played since its creation and it is absolutely full of musical treasures. When we talk about Louis XIII, we usually think of the Louvre and the court, but a lot of the music of this era is very mysterious to us, and that is what I wanted to explore here.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

This concert will be ravished by curious people who would like to hear music they have never been able to experience before, like some kind of ancient poetry magnified by a small-scale ensemble of musicians.

What will surprise people about this show?

I think that people will come to the show without knowing any of the pieces announced in the programme but this music is so powerful and intense that they will definitely leave the concert humming the airs that they have just discovered!

If you're as intrigued as we are to hear this once-in-a-lifetime performance, discover more about Ensemble Correspondances.

Producer Picks | Dance, Theatre and Spoken Word

Learn more about the contemporary performance events taking place this year, from our Theatre & Dance Producer, Philippa Barr.

Find out more about our Dance and Theatre programme 

Five Minutes with: Spymonkey

As Brighton’s Spymonkey celebrates its 20th anniversary, don’t miss the opportunity to catch the show which made them an international comedy sensation. 

Cooped, a deliciously demented take on the pulp gothic romance – think Hitchcock’s Rebecca meets The Pink Panther – is replete with brilliant characters, rip-roaring farce and virtuoso physical comedy. Beautiful, fawn-like Laura du Lay arrives in the heart of darkest Northumberlandshirehampton to work for the reclusive Forbes Murdston, but there are unsettling rumours that surround her new boss and his ominous manservant Klaus. A spooky mansion, a plucky young heroine and a handsome English aristocrat. Add a German butler and a Spanish soap star and you're...COOPED with Spymonkey! Directed by Cal McCrystal, the comedy genius behind One Man Two Guvnors. We have a quick chat with Artistic Directors: Aitor Basauri, Petra Massey & Toby Park...


Why should someone come and see your show?

In the best tradition of British Comedy, from Monty Python to Vic & Bob, Cooped overflows with Spymonkey’s signature clown-esque style: brilliant characters, visual humour, slapstick comedy, naughtiness and nudity. It also features some of the funniest song-and-dance routines you will ever see. The show was written with and directed by Cal McCrystal, the comedy genius behind National Theatre’s One Man Two Guvnors and some of the best-loved sequences of the Paddington films.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

Inspirations include Pink Panther, Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, pulp gothic romance in film and fiction, and director Cal McCrystal’s childhood obsession with the American TV Gothic Soap Opera - Dark Shadows

How will Cooped make someone feel?

Aitor: All shows of Spymonkey are really funny so at the end of any show people leave felling quite good. I like to think that there is a little bit of something for everybody.

Petra: It depends on the person. If they like this kind of thing then they may snort, wet themselves and at times be moved. If they don't then they will sit with a lemon face and say idiots under their breath a lot. And that would be right.

Toby: We hope it will be the funniest thing they have ever seen. At the end of Cooped they will be wrung out like a limp dish cloth with tears of joy streaming down their faces and sides that ache from laughing so much. Only later, in the death despair of night, when they wake from a fitful slumber, drenched in sweat and with their pulses racing, panic rising like nausea in their chests, will they realise how profoundly disturbed they are. And will remain. Life will never be the same again, once you’ve seen it, you cannot un-know the darkness that lives in every one of us: You will never again see Cooped by Spymonkey for the first time.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Fans of comedy, physical theatre, the circus, lovers of grown-up silliness, sophisticated fun-seekers, and anyone looking for an entertaining laugh out loud.

What will surprise people about this show?

Cooped notably contains the most hilariously ill-positioned fig-leaves since Adam and Eve danced a pas-de-deux!

From Your Place to Our Place

Back in 2017, Brighton Festival Guest Director Kate Tempest was inspired to initiate Your Place, a project with the aim of taking the Festival out to the communities of Brighton & Hove who might not be able to participate in cultural and artistic events. For Brighton Festival 2019, Your Place will transition to Our Place - a nation-funded initiative that provides free or subsidised tickets for residents to attend Festival events.


Over the last two years, a collaboration has formed between the Festival, Brighton People’s Theatre and a dedicated team of volunteers who formed steering groups across Hangleton and East Brighton. Helped along by community development charities Hangleton & Knoll Project and Due East, the passion and enthusiasm amongst the communities has motivated them to adopt the project and re-brand it as Our Place.

Rhianydd from Hangleton Our Place steering group spoke about how families can get involved:

'The best way I can describe the benefits is to talk about the experiences of two groups I’m involved with. The first is Pebbles, a group for parents and carers of children with severe disabilities. In 2017, we worked with the Festival to put on a show especially for the children – we’ve never had the chance to do that before and it was a massive success.

The other group, Hangleton Fun for Families - a support group for families on low income – were able to take a group of 50 to see the No Fit State circus thanks to the Pay It Forward ticket scheme. Everyone had the time of their lives and I was able to take my son who has severe autism and learning difficulties, he was completely relaxed throughout the show and for those who know him, that’s not often the case! It really energised the group and gave them a taste for doing so much more.'


Over in East Brighton, Chris described how the partnership has inspired Whitehawk residents to get involved:

'In the first year I remember Kate Tempest mentioned how much she was looking forward to coming out to perform in Whitehawk and Hangleton. That had an amazing effect on us, because we so rarely hear the names of our communities in such a positive way. Last year, through the Pay It Forward scheme, a group of us went to see Adam, the story of a young person transitioning in Egypt. It wasn’t the sort of show I would normally go to but it was the most moving thing I have ever seen.'

Nicole Monney, from the community development charity Hangleton & Knoll Project, gives a hint of what we can expect to see at Our Place this May:

'This year the steering groups have been working on even bigger programmes in each area. We’re working with more artists, with schools, community groups, GP practices, health centres, libraries, and so many others. The arts do so much for wellbeing and happiness and are giving a real sense of community in Hangleton and Whitehawk.'

Our Place is a free event and takes place over two weekends during the Festival: 

Saturday 18th May at Manor Gym, Whitehawk 

Saturday 25th May at Hangleton Community Centre

The full programme will be announced soon; in the meantime, look out for these exciting outdoor events as part of the line-up:

My House by Apocalyptic Circus is a circus theatre experience for young children and their families. Look through the doors and windows of this magical, quirky structure and explore the habits and routines of this unusual home. Supported by Without Walls and commissioned by Just So Festival.

Upswing’s Catch Me, a playful and dynamic pop-up style performance and installation, blending dance and acrobatics.

Supported by Without Walls and commissioned by Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

Thanks to Our Place supporters – University of Sussex, The Chalk Cliff Trust and Higgidy. 


Local performers join Gob Squad for unique intergenerational show

British/German arts collective Gob Squad have performed all over the world for 25 years. Now, they come to Brighton Festival with a brand-new show, Creation (Pictures for Dorian) where they will be joined onstage by six local Brighton-based performers. 


Gob Squad is a British-German collective based in Nottingham and Berlin. Having worked collaboratively since 1994 in the fields of performance, video installation and theatre, they create mid-scale work that combines audience interaction with real-time video editing. The company often use popular culture to explore the complexities of everyday life and have a history of involving members of the audience in its performances. Yet, for the first time ever, Gob Squad have recruited local Brighton performers to take part in Creation (Pictures for Dorian).

Long-standing Gob Squad core member Sean Patten says: “We want to really lift the lid and explore beauty, aging, morality, mortality from different perspectives. [We’ve found] people older than us, and people younger than us, and people who – like us – spend a life on stage, or who want to spend a life on stage so that we can connect to them and find out what it’s like, and what it means to be visible in visible, looked at and regarded as an object of beauty.”

The chosen participants - three under the age of 22, three over 60 – all have some experience of performing, or in the case of the younger bracket, aspire to be on stage, with two of the young performers in their last year of studying drama at The University of Sussex.

One of the participants, Dorothy Max Prior, explains that: “I first read A Picture of Dorian Gray 50 years ago. Then, a budding teenage dancer; now, well into my sixties and still dancing, just a little more creakily… Gob Squad’s Creation isn’t a version of Oscar Wilde’s iconic book, it’s a kind of homage to it; an exploration of its themes, especially the central fantastical idea of keeping a portrait of yourself in the attic that ages whilst you remain eternally young-looking.

“Gob Squad are in the middle phase of their lives, as performers and as human beings, and they decided that they wanted to investigate both the idea of framing, of portraiture; and the obsession with looks, image, and ageing, using a cast of older performers (60+) and younger (aged around 20) student performers, who appear alongside the core cast as the models and muses. The show has a tight structure, but with room for improvisation within that structure. The guest performers are led by the hand throughout, often literally – moulded, guided, instructed. We are invited to respond not as lifeless mannequins but as ourselves… It’s great to be involved, and an interesting learning process. You can teach an old dog new tricks!”

Gob Squad member Sharon Smith explains that Creation is partly inspired by the members of Gob Squad hitting middle age and contemplating youthful vitality and good looks slowly ebbing away. “We wondered what it would be like if we were presented with people that reminded us of ourselves in the past, or who we would like to be in the future,” says Sharon, referring to their volunteers.

“We’re all about 50, not really looking forward or back. It’s a kind of waiting place – neither here nor there. That’s why we were interested in this multi-generational meeting.”

The project is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s character, Dorian Gray, who meddles in the domain of the gods with the aid of a magical painting. He suspends the process of ageing and remains young and beautiful forever, at a terrible cost to his soul. 

Gob Squad is on from Wed 23 until Sun 27 May at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

Brighton Festival Live: Elephant and Castle

Elephant and Castle will be live streamed from Wed 23 May at 7.30pm


The first time my wife and I shared a bed I told her, ‘I want to get in a wardrobe and take you to Elephant and Castle.’ I was asleep. Do people tell the truth when they talk in their sleep? Could anyone be on the verge of admitting some dark desire, or telling the person beside them what they really think?

That’s the dangerous premise behind Elephant & Castle, the result of three years of Tom Adams’ recorded sleep-talk. With original songs performed live by Adams and Henley, this is a tender, funny and entirely unique gig theatre show about the joy and terror of talking in your sleep

Leading disabled dance artist brings multi-sensory new work for babies to Brighton Festival

Leading UK disabled dancer Caroline Bowditch’s colourful and immersive new production for babies under one and their respective adults, Snigel and Friends, comes to Brighton Festival next weekend. Co-created by Caroline Bowditch and designer Laura Hook, Snigel and Friends is a piece of dance theatre that aims to redress the under-representation of disability-inclusive work for young people.

Caroline Bowditch says: “Since 2008 I have been working annually with Skanes Dance Theatre in Malmo, Sweden. Each year when I’ve visited, their Programmer, Liselotte, has talked about how difficult it is to find good quality dance work for young audiences and how it’s virtually impossible to find work that includes any form of body diversity…I started to question ‘Why weren’t disabled artists making work for young audience?’ I took this question to Fiona Ferguson in Jan 2017 and the project grew out of this.”

Bowditch is one of the UK’s leading disabled dance artists. Audience’s may be familiar with her previous works Proband, Leaving Limbo Landing and Falling in love with Frida as well as collaborative works for Scottish Dance Theatre: NQR and The Long and the Short of It. There are very few companies making work for children with disabled performers. Caroline has long been working with Imaginate on the Weren’t You Expecting Me Project, taking a closer look at the impact, if any, that this may have on disabled and non-disabled children, particularly looking at the effect on aspirations, self-esteem and overall perceptions of disability.

Snigel the inquisitive snail - played by Caroline - dances, sings and makes music with their insect friends, brought to life by dancers, Welly O’Brien and performer and musician Zac Scott. Performed in the traverse and with the audience encouraged to sit on the floor, Snigel and Friends is an immersive and intimate performance allowing children to interact with the performers up close.

Designer and Production Manager Laura Hook says: “There are very few shows that made specifically for babies this young. We worked with our ‘baby board’ to make sure we created the best possible environment for little ones to engage in the colours and live music of the undergrowth while interacting with the characters and the props. I created a set that is built in proportion to Caroline, which also means all the action happens at perfect baby height. The leafy canopy creates a magical world that allows the audience to relax in the undergrowth...It’s an exercise in mindfulness and diversity that allows a positive theatre experience for parents and their wee ones.”

The show includes also live music by Zac Scott and will be performed at the Brighton Dome Founders Room from Friday 25 until Sunday 27 May. There are tickets still available! 

Festival Hot Seat: MEDEA, Written in Rage

We talked to Festival regular Neil Bartlett to find out more about his sensational one-man re-invention of the classic Greek legend, Medea. 

Written by Jean-René Lemoine, Directed by Festival regular Neil Bartlett and featuring extraordinary performer and vocalist François Testory, this powerful new vision of ancient myth features live music by Phil Von to create a searing statement about marginalisation and exile.  

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about? 
MEDEA, Written in Rage is a re-telling of the story of the most notorious heroine in world literature. She is the ultimate outsider – a barbarian, a sorceress – a woman who abandons everything for the man of her dreams – and then murders her own children. There have been many versions of her story, but this time, she is telling it herself.

How and where will the work be staged? 
MEDEA, Written in Rage is a solo performance created by award-winning director Neil Bartlett. It is performed on a bare stage – but with incredible costume (Medea's gown is created by the legendary Mr Pearl), swirling lights and a live, improvised operatic/electronic soundscape created by Berlin-based DJ and composer Phil Von Magnet. The solo performer is the extraordinary Francois Testory – dancer and singer with Lindsay Kemp, DV8 and Gecko. The show is on at the Theatre Royal, and for one night only: the last Saturday night of the Festival.

Why should someone come and see your show?
Because it's a mesmerising piece of gender-bending solo performance; because it has so much of my trademark theatricality; because it's a roller-coaster re-telling of a powerful, primeval story .

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The script is an English translation of a brand new text by French playwright Jean-Renee Lemoine. As soon as I read it, I thought that Francois and Medea would be the perfect combination of performer and role. Francois has an incredible power as a performer – and he has both the look and the voice that this role needs.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Medea is the ultimate outsider. In this telling of her story, there is a powerful contemporary sense of her as a foreigner, an alien, someone forever being judged because she comes from elsewhere, from outside of Europe. That story has very powerful resonance right now. I was also very attracted to working on this particular story with a performer who works way beyond gender. I think that gives a very particular twist to the idea of the outsider, of she-who-must-be-punished.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
If you like your theatre theatrical, beautiful, transgressive and hard–hitting – if you like  DV8 or Gecko or Schecter – or if you've enjoyed some of my own previous work at the Theatre Royal in past Festivals, such as my sell-out staging of Benjamin Britten's Canticles with Ian Bostridge, or my own one-man show of queer monologues – then I think you'll like this.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Maybe just how much power one person can have on stage – just how much one body and one voice can conjure .

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? 
I love presenting my work at the Theatre Royal – there's always such a great connection between the audience and the stage. I love its weird, shabby glamour – that really hits my spot as a director. And the best thing about the Festival is always the audience – diverse, adventurous, up for anything. Especially by the last Saturday night ! I think this is my ninth Festival, and it's the audience that keeps on bringing me back.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Well, I have to say seeing Francois make his entrance as Medea. It's quite something.

Find out more about Medea ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: Adam

Adam is National Theatre of Scotland’s remarkable production about one trans man’s powerful true story - and the winner of a clutch of awards. We caught up with Director Cora Bissett to find out more about the incredible true story behind the show. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Adam is the real-life story of a young man named Adam, who was born biologically female in Egypt but who, from a young age, knew himself to be male. In a society that is deeply conservative, he knew that it wouldn’t be safe to live as himself there, so he escaped.  

The play charts his journey from Egypt to Glasgow, the struggles he goes through to be accepted as the man he knows himself to be. Adam himself stars in the show, alongside the excellent Rehanna MacDonald, each portraying the two sides to Adam’s psyche.. It also features a 120 strong digital choir made up of trans and non binary people from all over the world, singing a beautiful score by the world-renowned composer Jocelyn Pook.

How and where will the work be staged?
The show is playing at the Brighton Theatre Royal from the 9th to the 12th of May.

Why should someone come and see your show?
I think people are genuinely becoming more curious about trans experiences; they may not necessarily understand the difference between transvestite and transgender, non-binary, 3rd sex, androgyny and the myriad of ways in which people are formed, and are really eager to learn about these things. I hope Adam's story really helps in the evolution of understanding

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
I first met Adam after seeing him perform a very short monologue about his life back in 2013, as part of a Scottish Refugee Council event called Here We Stay at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. I was incredibly moved by his story, his honesty and his strength, so I approached him straight afterwards and asked if he would like to meet me to tell me more, as I had a strong sense that I would like to turn his story into a full production. We began working with the brilliant writer Frances Poet to spend time understanding Adam's story, and then adapting it in a fittingly exciting way. Five years later here we are!

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Despite great progress being made on gay rights, it seems as though we are still eons away from really understanding and granting the same level of understanding to trans and non-binary individuals. I think a lot of people feel they can't ask the questions, they don't want to appear ignorant, but actually opening up dialogue is urgently necessary. Gender clinics around the world have seen a marked rise in young people presenting as trans individuals.

I think the groundswell of documentary coverage is helping to open that up, but this is just the beginning. Theatre can speak directly, you can actually see that human being on stage; not an oddity, not some exoticised character in a reality TV sensation. A normal human being, who was just born with a different brain and soul from the gender they were assigned at birth. Even that idea is a little mind blowing if no one has presented it to you before.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Anyone with a love of exciting theatre! When the show opened at the Edinburgh Fringe last year we were all overwhelmed by the responses we had from our audiences. All kinds of different people, young and old, from all over the world, came along and found something beautiful in Adam’s story, because it’s one that is both personal and universal. 

I had aunts and uncles in their 80's whom I wasn't sure would connect with it, but they were blown away. They said they had really learnt something new. Adam received emails from people who had come from Spain, Germany, all over and would gush 'this is MY story too!' I was delighted to see a huge turn out of young people, who told me they really identified with the feelings of isolation Adam experienced, and also a large amount of trans and non binary individuals came to the show. I hope that trans and non-binary people watching if feel that it is their story too, since it is not a documentary style expose of Adam's life. We were all very clear it is Adam’s journey, but it is also reflective of thousands of trans people's struggles in the world. I hope they can watch it and feel strengthened and represented.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Hopefully all sorts of things, the fact that Adam on whom the story is based, does actually play himself alongside another actress. Despite this being said in marketing material last Fringe, I was amazed how many people came out and only then discovered 'Oh wow, that was THE ACTUAL GUY!!' also one to highlight is our designer Emily James’s beautiful set, which may look straightforward on the surface but is full of ingenious little secrets!

The choral music, which is sung by 120 trans and non binary people from around the world, is created by the wonderful composer Jocelyn Pook, who has created film scores for the likes of Stanley Kubrik's Eyes Wide Shut. All the people you see singing recorded their own parts in various countries of the world, through their laptops, and so have never actually met any of the other choir members in the flesh. A truly virtual choir.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
I love Brighton. I performed here about 7 years ago in David Grieg's romcom Midsummer. We had a ball, I remember loving the whole vibe, the openness, the relaxed nature of the place. I remember meeting a particularly butch looking Rottweiler in a bar who came up and placed a paw on my lap... only to reveal his fabulous pink neon painted nails. It was very Brighton!

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
The line up is fantastic, but I am particularly interested in catching Palmyra, Joan, The Enormous Room and The Journeys.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Spymonkey joins cast for David Shrigley’s new alt/pop pantomime Problem in Brighton

Spymonkey’s Stephan Kreiss will join Scottish actor Pauline Knowles in the world premiere of Problem in Brighton, a brand new alt-rock/pop pantomime written and directed by Brighton Festival 2018 Guest Director David Shrigley which will be performed at The Old Market (10-12 May 2018).

A member of the anarchic Brighton-based troupe since 2000, described as ‘four seriously, outrageously, cleverly funny clowns' (Time Magazine), Kreiss has performed in all of Spymonkey’s productions to date including Stiff, Cooped (Brighton Festival 2006), Zumanity, Bless, Moby Dick, Oedipussy (Brighton Festival 2008) and hit Brighton Festival 2016 commission The Complete Deaths.

On being cast in the show, Stephan Kreiss says: ‘When David Shrigley and Brighton Festival asked me to come and play a one-stringed electric guitar in Mr Shrigley’s show ‘Problem in Brighton’ I thought, ah excellent, hopefully it will be a G-string. After laughing a lot at my pretty funny joke I then informed Herr Shrigley that despite my abilities as an air-guitarist, I am not the most musical of all the Spymonkeys and he would be much better to employ Toby Park, who can do all that poncey music stuff. But Herr Shrigley insisted on using me. I am here in Brighton today to meet him, he is probably already regretting his decision. But it will be too late. My G-string awaits the caress of my artful fingers.

This will be the second time that Pauline Knowles has worked with Shrigley, having previously appeared in his 2011 opera Pass the Spoon, featuring TV chefs June Spoon and Philip Fork, a manic-depressive egg and a host of other surreal characters.

A follow-on from previous incarnations of the work - Problem in Toulouse and Problem in New York - Problem in Brighton promises to be a brash mix of live music, theatre, storytelling and visual art. Kreiss and Knowles will be accompanied by the Problem Band, led by Brighton musician Lee Baker, using instruments created from Shrigley’s illustrations - all of which have one string and the frets in the wrong place.

Of the content of the show, David Shrigley says: “The music will be very interesting. The performers will perform very well (it is part of their contract). The venue will be clean and tidy. Beer will be available to purchase. Latecomers will be admitted (unless the show has already finished).

See the Problem in Brighton event page for more information.

Programmer Picks: Brighton Festival Theatre, Circus and Dance

Sally Cowling, Associate Producer of the Brighton Festival, shares a couple of her top performance picks.

The pieces I’ve picked out of our enormous programme of performances are all works that I think are phenomenal, virtuosic and unlike almost anything else out there in the world, either because of their subject matter or because of their form. I’m not sure you would find any other festival that could encompass such a variety of beautiful, challenging and extraordinary work and I really hope that the Brighton audience enjoys each of these pieces as much as I did.

Fauna at Brighton Festival

“Attenborough in Leotards” A.K.A Fauna
My dark secret as a programmer is that I’m not always entirely besotted with circus; I might admire the incredible skills on display but not feel much of an emotional connection. But when skill and narrative come together I think circus can be extraordinary.

I saw Fauna (the name of both company and show) in Edinburgh last year and fell in love with it. It sits somewhere between circus-these are performers who’ve worked with some of the best companies in the world (Sept Doigts, Gravity and Other Myths, No Fit State etc)-and contemporary dance, with a brilliant live guitar soundtrack. The performers explore and play with the similarities between humans and animals, conjuring up apes and lizards, peacocks and spiders in courtship rituals, playful competition and fights.

Attenborough-accurate, we watch animal behaviours that are also very recognisably human and, as a result, very funny. It’s also sexy in an entirely family-friendly way, fast-paced and, let’s not forget, extremely skilled, including some particularly lovely trapeze work. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it.


Adam
To my mind, the best of theatre feels absolutely of the moment- talking about, and inviting empathy with, a set of experiences that feel entirely contemporary and urgent. Adam is one such piece of theatre, a story about a transgender man that is by turns moving, disturbing and positively inspirational. It is also performed by the person whose story is being told, Adam Kashmiry, appearing for the first-time on a professional stage. We are witnesses to the brave choices he has made and (spoiler alert!) we are part of the happy ending.

It's an eye-opening journey through the trials of his Egyptian childhood to the frankly horrific experiences with petty bureaucracy and casual bigotry on his arrival in Glasgow. As an exercise in raising awareness amongst the cis-gendered of the commonplace indignities that the trans-gendered have to endure, it's very effective, made all the more powerful by the striking lack of self-pity in evidence. It’s very cleverly staged with a second, female, actor playing Adam's alter ego (as well as mother, friend, wife etc), illuminating the competing push-and-pull of his gender identity and forcibly bringing home his isolating sense of dislocation.

Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, this is shot full of humour and humanity throughout and one comes away feeling inspired and uplifted. There is a gorgeous end moment - which I won’t spoil for you - where I for one was resorting to my hankie whilst also giving a standing ovation. Tissues at the ready…


XFRMR
The Tesla coil is an extraordinary thing to behold-huge and more than slightly scary, with crackling arcs of electricity exploding from it, exuding the smell of ozone and making the hairs on the back of your neck quite literally stand up. It’s a mechanical embodiment of the forces of nature, a creator of raw electricity, a reminder of danger, a transmitter of lightening, and it’s entirely hypnotic. When I watched this performance, the whole audience was transfixed.

This is both installation and live concert with composer Robbie Thomson creating a score by manipulating the voltage coming from the Tesla coil and adding it to his own soundscape, which is part techno, part industrial, part the sound of space weather! This is so odd and special and primal and exhilarating, I think it’s unmissable.


Attractor
This is an absolutely brilliant contemporary dance experience, created by two Australian choreographers at the peak of their powers. Watching it, I loved the spiky angularity of some of the choreography and the ritualistic, folkloric quality of other sections. I suspect that if you are a fan of Wayne McGregor or of Hofesh Shechter, you will be similarly entranced, while recognising Attractor’s uniqueness. The company of (fantastic) dancers are involved in the choreographic equivalent of call-and-response with the Indonesian duo, Senyawa, whose clubby, trance-y, mesmeric music powers the piece.

It’s like watching the most exciting, ecstatic religious ritual and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of work where more energy and intensity is coming off the stage! It’s joyful abandonment and raw physicality in dance form and the last 15 minutes bring the professional company and volunteer audience members together in a completely wonderful blurring of the lines between dancers and non-dancers. I am practically allergic to the notion of audience participation but even I felt envious of the sheer glee and beauty in evidence up there on the stage. So, if you have the chance, join up to join in!

For more information on the many other amazing performances including The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Creation (Pictures for Dorian) KAYAsee our full programme.

Festival Hot Seat: Blaas

We caught up with the Artistic Director of Blaas, Boukje Schweigman, to find out more about her collaboration with installation artist Cocky Eek. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
It is not a story that you need to understand, it is an immersive happening. You have to surrender to the experience. In a way, it is a kind of abstract, non-figurative puppetry in which material and space come to life. In the Dutch language Blaas has a double meaning. It means blow/breath but also means bubble. This performance is as much about breathing and life as it is about a temporary space that can be created in which we can come together.

How and where will the work be staged?
We are performing at Moulsecoomb Leisure Centre in one of the sports halls! It doesn’t sound like the most obvious place for a theatre performance but that’s part of the fun of it. Experiencing the unexpected where you least expect it to happen.

Why should someone come and see your show?
You’ll come to Blaas in order to have a unique, unusual experience. You’ll enter a kind of space you will never have been in before. It is a kind of theatre that many will have never experienced before.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
I knew about the work of visual artist Cocky Eek and really really loved it. The work is very sensual. Many of her inflatable installations are reminiscent of bodily organs. When we met, we go on so well that we decide to collaborate. We decided to make a theatrical performance out of her inflatables. Blaas crosses the borders between visual arts and theatre and puppetry.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
It’s a piece for anyone who wants an extraordinary experience. For someone with an open mind and for someone who wants to explore new forms of theatre.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Everything!

What does Brighton Festival mean to you? 
This is the first time we are visiting the festival so we’re looking forward to creating new favourite moments.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
The breadth and diversity of the programme is great, particularly the performances in unusual sites and venues of course.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Actors Marc Antolin and Daisy Maywood give us an insight into The Flying Lovers of Vitebska new show from Kneehigh Theatre that traces the extraordinary lives of Marc and Bella Chagall. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Daisy
: The show is called The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. Fundamentally, it's a love story between Marc Chagall and his first wife Bella, their extraordinary lives and achievements and the turbulent period of history that they lived through.

Marc: The background to the love story are some of the most incredible moments of European history. I think this play is also about what it is to be an artist

Why should someone come and see your show?
Daisy:
It's a playful world of art, music and love that audiences can escape to for ninety minutes.

Marc: It’s also quite unique in the way that it marries music, drama and dance seamlessly.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
Daisy: 
Emma (our director) and her then partner Daniel (our writer) saw one of Chagall's paintings and Daniel noticed that Emma looked like Bella. They then looked into their lives and love story and Daniel wrote the play for Emma.
 

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Marc: 
It’s always important to keep telling stories, this one is about two artists falling in love and the sacrifices one of them has to make in the relationship. The themes discussed also are so relevant today and I think there’s so much in this story that people can reflect and learn from.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Marc:
We’ve had so many people of different ages and cultures watch this show when we’ve performed it before and I’m always constantly surprised from what people take from it.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
Marc:
I think people will come away from this show wanting to learn so much more about Marc Chagall and his work and will be surprised about how incredibly creative Bella was, but how she took a step back in order to let Marc pursue his work.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Daisy: I’m so thrilled to bring this show to Brighton festival because I love this place and knowing that I like Brighton and I like festivals, so I'm very excited to be a part of Brighton Festival.

Marc: I’m so thrilled to bring this show to Brighton festival because I love this place and knowing that Kneehigh have such a big following here, I’m excited for them to see this show.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Marc: Taking Flying Lovers of Vitebsk to Edinburgh last year was incredible, it was my first festival and I had the most amazing time. I can’t wait to see lots of different theatre, music, comedy and be inspired by people telling stories in their own unique way.

Daisy: I'm really hoping to catch Kaya from Ceyda Tanc's all-female dance company which puts a modern spin on traditional Turkish folk dance.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: The Humours of Bandon

Margaret McAuliffe, writer and performer of The Humours of Bandon, talks to us about Riverdance, childhood hobbies and the competitive world of Irish Dance. 

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The Humours of Bandon is a one-person coming of age comedy drama centered around the world of competitive Irish Dance.

How and where will the work be staged?
It’s on in the Brighthelm Centre at 7:30pm from 16th – 20th May. 

Why should someone come and see your show?
People should enjoy this show if they ever had a childhood passion that came to an end as adulthood beckoned, and they fancy a trip down memory lane. It will also *infotain* its audience on the competitive world of Irish Dance!

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The inspiration came from my personal experience of competitive Irish Dancing. The idea formulated once I applied for the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2016 and realized the scene was prime for a dramatic telling of a coming-of-age story.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
The moment you give up something you’ve dedicated many hours to, you feel a sort of void. I’ve heard from audiences the length and breadth of the country that this play resonates with them owing to their previous exploits in swimming, football, ballet, athletics and even junior paramedics! I think it’s important to remember the skills you might have pursued in your teenage years and the impact they had on your personal development, it’s nice to reflect on your journey.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
This play is for anyone that had a childhood/teenage passion. It’s also loved by the parents or teachers of said teenagers who recognize the role they played in that teenager’s life. It’s funny to look back on those moments that were fraught with tension and great drama with the benefit of hindsight, makes for a lot of laughs.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
People are going to be surprised by how interested they become in the competitive world of Irish Dancing (no, seriously) an arena that can showcase Olympic-level athleticism mixed with art, pageantry, stock characters, common tropes and niche knowledge.

Riverdance brought Irish Dancing to the world stage in 1994 but audiences have yet to see where this talent is honed, Irish Dancers develop their skill through competitions or ‘feiseanna’ and this play brings you behind the scenes at the most important event in the feis calendar.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
This will be my first year at the Brighton festival so am very excited to see what’s on offer. I played the Dublin Fringe Festival ‘16 and last year the four weeks of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Brighton is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and the fact that I get to perform there for the festival is very fortunate indeed.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Game Of Thrones and Band of Gold actors announced for The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety

The tempestuous relationship between sex, anxiety and music comes to a head in a remarkable new production from one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors, Calixto Bieito.

Arguably the most sought-after European opera and theatre director of his generation, Calixto Bieito will direct a quartet of actors: Cathy Tyson, Mairead McKinley, Miltos Yerolemou and Nick Harris, alongside the award-winning The Heath Quartet. Together the eight artists will blend to recreate the melody of melancholy.

Miltos Yerolemou’s credits span film, television and stage. Film credits include Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm/Disney), The Danish Girl (Working Title Films). Recent stage credits include The Fool in King Lear (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Talawa Theatre and Royal Exchange Manchester); A Midsummer Night’s Dream international tour (Bristol Old Vic & Handspring Theatre), Great Expectations (Bristol Old Vic), he is also known for his role as Syrio Forel in Game Of Thrones (HBO).

BAFTA and Golden Globe-nominated actress Cathy Tyson is best known for her role in the multi-award winning film Mona Lisa and classic ITV drama series Band of Gold. On stage, Cathy has played many leading ladies from Cleopatra to Lady Bracknell with other credits including Golden Girls (RSC), Talking Heads (Bolton Octagon) and The Taming Of The Shrew (Regents Park Open Air Theatre).

Mairead McKinley’s theatre credits include Filthy Business (Hampstead Theatre) and The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, Translations and Cyrano De Bergerac (National Theatre). Nick Harris was recently in North by Northwest - a new production of the Hitchcock classic by Australian director Simon Phillips which opened at Theatre Royal Bath before transferring to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.

Known for his radical reinterpretations of classic operas and plays, Calixto Bieito turns to two maverick philosophers for inspiration for his latest work: The Burnout Society (2015) by the Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han and The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), an essay by Robert Burton, one of the first to write about psychological disorders as a symptom of modern times. Music performed by The Heath Quartet will include Beethoven String Quartet No.15 in A Minor, Op. 95 and Ligeti String Quartet No. 2.

Calixto Bieito said: “The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety is like a symphonic poem for a quartet of musicians, and a quartet of voices. It will consider the human condition today, and where anxiety and depression stem from. The show will be about how the current times are affecting the quality of our lives as well as our fears, and I hope it will be both entertaining and enlightening.”

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability

Please note: This article originally listed one of the featured pieces of music as Beethoven’s Opus 132, but this has been changed to Beethoven’s Opus 95.

Festival Hot Seat: A House Repeated

A House Repeated is an interactive performance-game that combines the simplicity of bare-bones storytelling with the limitless possibilities of contemporary open-world computer games. We caught up with creator and performer Seth Kriebel to find out more.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
A House Repeated is part-show, part-game. The performers describe a place and the
audience tell us what they want to do next — go North, open the door, that sort of thing —
and then we describe the consequence of their choices… and the show unfolds from
there. In this show we’ll be exploring the Brighton Dome, as it undergoes its restoration…the audience gets to poke into the dark corners of its past, present and possible future —without leaving their seats!

How and where will the work be staged?
We’ll be in Brighton Dome during the first week of the Festival. As the show is all about the building, it’s great to be right there, in between the history and the construction as we explore and play with the fabric of the building and time.

Why should someone come and see your show?
We open the door to a world waiting to be explored. It’s not improv — it’s all there ready to be found — but it’s up to you to navigate. It’s very gentle and fun… it’s not a scary, put people-on-the-spot experience. We work together with the audience to uncover a Brighton Dome as it was, is and might become.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
It’s basically a live version of the old interactive-fiction computer games I played as a kid
in the early 80s, back before computer graphics, when it was just a glowing green line of text against a black background… so everything happens in your imagination. It’s somewhere between old fashioned storytelling and the most recent open-world computer games that give you the freedom to go anywhere and do anything you like.

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I think we get too wrapped up in the mundane bricks and mortar of the world, we forget
the possibility of the unexpected, the slightly out of the ordinary. Not the through-the-back-of-the-wardrobe fantasy of a children’s story, but the excitement of finding a spiralstaircase that leads down into the dark… and the ability to go have a look at what’s down there.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
Anyone who likes storytelling, games, immersive theatre, the history of Brighton and the Dome… and the possibilities of finding out just what might be hiding behind that door…

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
How exciting it is to explore - and maybe even build - a world that exists only in the minds of you and your fellow audience members.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
I love the buzz of the city in May! It’s great to see the mix of international companies and local artists — Brighton has such a vibrant creative community. And as a local parent myself, I think I’ve walked in the children’s parade every year since 2009…

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
I’m really looking forward to Elephant & Castle… And I loved Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult last year, so I can’t wait for The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk. Also, everyone in our house is a big fan of John Finnemore, so we’ll be front row centre for his show!

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Festival Hot Seat: Rear View

David Wheeler, artistic director of Halifax-based IOU theatre tells us about Rear View and working on the show with performance poets Jemima Foxtrot and Cecilia Knapp.

Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The central idea is that the audience is lead around the town by a young woman visiting special places in her future life. We begin in an art class when she is in her sixties and we hear her thoughts as they are gradually taken over by her younger self. She then takes us out of the art class and onto IOU’s specially made open-top bus and we are taken on her journey. Everything in a sense is in the future, there is ambiguity about whether we are looking back or looking forward. An important part of the concept is that it is imagined and written from the perspective of a young women at the beginning of her adult life.

How and where will the work be staged?
Rear View starts on The Barge at Brighton Marina where the art class scene takes place and then the audience boards the Rear View bus for a journey around Brighton. Cecilia and Jemima have each written their own version of the show and the performances alternate between them, so as one group of audience board the bus, the next group begins the art class. The locations visited on the journey remain the same each time, but Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words were written independently by them and their performances are very different and personal to them.

Why should someone come and see your show?
The show presents an unusual and affecting premise for audiences to experience. The drawing class gently starts the process of looking and observing so that when the audience begins the bus journey around the town they are in a slightly altered state and more intimately connected to the woman’s character.  

Travelling through the real world listening to the words and soundscape through headphones, cocooned in a heightened sound world, creates a very immersive feeling. The small details of everyday life of people in the real world going about their daily business magically become integrated into the poetry of the words. The combination is quite moving and contemplative and at the same time it is an exhilarating experience travelling around on the very conspicuous backward-facing bus.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The words and poetry come from Cecilia’s and Jemima’s own experiences and imagination set in the context that we have created for them. IOU has always tried to make the experience for an audience surprising and unusual, putting on work in places where people don’t normally see theatre and often moving them around on mass between scenes. The bus is an obvious solution to all those years of complex logistics and risk assessments. But most of all, it is a vehicle that everyone wants to ride on!

Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Because it is a story I think many of us are constantly having with ourselves already. We have an inner dialogue going on that tries to place us in time and place, thinking about what has just happened and what might happen next, planning and abandoning plans, being diverted and thinking, “is it that time already?” 

The show takes us along streets and roads that may have been here for hundreds of years, past buildings that have had generation after generation take possession. The show heightens our sense of how fleetingly we occupy these spaces and places, but the experience is life affirming and people often say how much it meant to them and how well it described their own life in the town.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
What surprises me each time I see the show is how beautifully the real world mixes with the imagined world that Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words create.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Brighton has always been a favourite festival for us and the first of many shows we performed here was TOWERS in 1977. Does anyone still have any photos?! Perhaps my favourite moment was in a night time show seeing Steve Gumbley walking out to sea wearing very large inflatable trousers, bobbing out to sea standing bolt upright like a fishing cork and disappearing into the darkness.

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Gob Squad, Creation (Pictures for Dorian). I love their calm audacity; long may they reign!  

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.

Interview: Jonathon Baker from The Arms of Sleep

In one of its most ambitious and magical productions to date, The Voice Project has created an epic 10-hour choral work to be performed overnight in the grounds of historic Firle Place. We talk to Jonathan Baker, co-director of The Voice Project with Sian Croose.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the amazing Arms of Sleep?
It's a 10-hour durational piece. The audience gets to experience an entire night in the company of singers, including a large choir, some soloists and instrumentalists. There will be lots of vignettes - individual film events and visual things - which happen through the night.

Where did the idea and inspiration for the show come from?
Well, we’ve had this idea over a long period of time really. I think The Arms of Sleep stemmed from the way in which sleep just seems very fascinating and mysterious. What we wanted to try and develop was an overnight piece that would allow the audience to go to bed, but at the same time, for them to experience extraordinary things.

We wanted to develop a piece about dreams which most people seem to be interested in to a certain extent. Most people are interested in the mystery of sleep, why we sleep– how we sleep– all those things. We hooked up with a real expert, who’s from Brighton actually – professor Annul Seth – at the University of Sussex. He’s the head of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness. We’ve been having quite a lot of conversations with him about various sleep cycles and how to in-train Alpha states and Betas states and things like that.

We’ve been concentrating on those elements. And there was one more element that became very important to us as we were developing the show. This was the idea of the ‘second sleep’: the segmented sleep pattern, which is what people used to do much more than they do now, and still do in lots of agrarian regions in the worlds.

They would wake up in the middle of the night and go around each other’s houses for food or beer or a chat – any kind of activity in the middle of the night. We thought that was quite fascinating. The history of that has largely been lost because it wasn’t a particularly urban act, it was quite a rural activity.

What was it that interested you about creating an overnight experience?
I think there’s something very beautiful about watching people sleep, I think that’s quite amazing. I think there is something very beautiful about watching people watching people sleep as well. So, the idea that the choir are amongst the audience in some ways or get to see the audience sleeping is really quite special, and very restful.

I think this goes back centuries and centuries when we used to sleep in large groups of people for safety. I think there’s something we’ve forgotten, I really think we have, we’ve become a lot more atomised and fragmented within our society.

Why did you decide to form a new community choir? What are the benefits of this approach?
Sian and I have been working together for a long, long time and I think we have a very particular approach. We want to work with un-auditioned choirs, we want to work with people who think they can sing, and people who think they possibly can’t. People with experience and people with no experience at all. That has always been very important to us.

What does it mean to you to be commissioned to be part of Brighton Festival?
It’s really exciting. Brighton Festival is amazing. It’s a cutting-edge festival in the world of Arts and culture worldwide. Its renowned. It’s extremely exciting to be a part of that, so we’re really pleased. Actually, it’s lovely to do a co-commission together with the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It’s so brilliant to see Artistic Organizations working together across the country, sharing things out and becoming more expansive, which I think is really important. 

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability.
To find out more, watch our Spotlight film on the Arms of Sleep. 

Spotlight: Calixto Bieito: The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety

In a co-commission with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Holland Festival, the Brighton Festival presents The String Quartet’s Guide to Sex and Anxiety.

In this exciting production, the tempestuous relationship between sex, anxiety and music is explored and examined by one of Europe’s most exciting theatre directors, Calixto Bieito.

Music and drama collide as the award-winning string powerhouse The Heath Quartet perform alongside an equally stunning quartet of actors to deliver an unmissable montage of melody and madness. These eight artists will take you on a journey through time to explore how our innermost thoughts battle with our artistic impulses.

Head to our event page to find out more about ticket availability
Video edited by echovideo.co.uk

Spotlight: Your Place

Your Place returns for a second year with another exciting programme of free theatre, dance, music, art, outdoor games and workshops. For the past year, the community steering committees of East Brighton & Hangleton have been working together to conjure up a weekend of adventure for the people of their local areas.

Now, Brighton Festival, Brighton People’s Theatre and the community steering groups are proud to bring back Your Place following its wonderful success in 2017.This year will feature lots more exciting additions including bouncy castles, delicious food and more activities for people of all ages.

Artists joining us this year include David Shrigley, The Ragroof Players, The Future is Unwritten Theatre Company, Herringbone Arts, Joanna Neary, Kate McCoy, Culture Clash, Touched Theatre, Dundu and Worldbeaters, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts and many more.

Video produced by echovideo.co.uk

Your Place returns for Brighton Festival 2018

Brighton Festival’s Your Place - two weekends of free entertainment in Hangleton and East Brighton, delivered in partnership with Brighton People’s Theatre - is set to return for 2018 following last year’s inaugural programme.

Hosted by local community centres, and programmed in collaboration with local residents and artists, Your Place brought a diverse line-up of free performances, workshops and activities to the Hangleton and East Brighton communities. A resounding success, over 2000 people took part in Your Place across the two weekends, with participants describing the experience as 'inspiring' and 'energising'.

Brighton Festival 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest said of the thinking behind the initiative: “We thought it was important that as well as having this very exciting, cosmopolitan festival happening in the city centre, with all this buzz and hype and all this energy that gets built up from people seeing something, spilling out on to the street, it also represented the wider population of Brighton who maybe can’t afford to get in to the city centre. We wanted to bring a bit of what was happening in the Brighton Festival out to a bit more of Brighton.”

2017 highlights included workshops and performances from Kate Tempest, acclaimed photographer Eddie Otchere, award-winning poetry slam champion Tommy Sissons, Appalachian folk artists Anna and Elizabeth and a new Brighton Festival commission from Three Score Dance and Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance company. Discover more about this year's Your Place:



Valerie Foucher, Hangleton Community Centre Manager and a member of the Steering Group said: “When we were told our premises had been chosen for Your Place it was fantastic news yet we were so far from imagining that it would be such a collaborative process. Bringing an entire weekend of workshops and performances with so many talented artists and a technical and front house back up of such high standard, not to mention having Kate Tempest perform her Let Them Eat Chaos album was so amazing we still haven’t fully recovered from it. Most importantly it has inspired us. Your Place has opened a door that we do not want to close again.”

Brighton Festival and Brighton People’s Theatre are currently looking for small-scale performances, workshops or exhibitions by local community groups, schools, youth groups and local artists living in Hangleton or East Brighton, as well as professional artists to be a part of Your Place 2018.

Naomi Alexander, Artistic Director of Brighton People’s Theatre said: “Having amazing artists like Kate Tempest performing in community centres in the city created a fantastic buzz. We'll be building on what worked so well and are also introducing two new elements to Your Place in 2018. One is a co-commission between Brighton Festival and Brighton People's Theatre to put an artist in residence into community centres in East Brighton and Hangleton who will collaborate with local people to create a new performance for Your Place. The second is programming art made by the local community. We know there is a lot of creativity in Hangleton and East Brighton and we hope to hear from local choirs, school shows, youth music groups, knitting or crafting groups who would like to be part of the Your Place programme."

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “Bringing Brighton Festival together each year is a great privilege, but it is vital to us that the Festival continues to reflect and involve the whole city. One of the key things about Your Place is that the communities have been really engaged in the overall planning and management of the project and it felt really important to be able to build on this work and the relationships we have developed again this year. Our hope is that this project will continue to expand and grow and become something that everyone looks forward to as part of Brighton Festival each year.”

Your Place 2018 will take place in Hangleton Community Centre and Hangleton Park (19-20 May 2018) and Manor Gym, basketball court and playing fields in East Brighton (26-27 May). 

If you would like to find out more about how to get involved in Your Place 2018 please visit our webpage

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 ... Zvizdal

We catch up with Yves Degryse, Artistic Director of Berlin, who are bringing their ‘filmic portrait’ Zvizdal (Chernobyl – so far so close) to Brighton Festival


Can you tell us what your show is about?

Over four years we have been filming near Chernobyl in the forbidden zone. Each time we went it was to meet two people, Petro and Nadia, a couple in their 80s, living in Zvizdal and who refused to be evacuated following the nuclear disaster. They have been living with no water or electricity and no means of communication with the outside world. Every time we went we took a plane and hoped they were still there. We spent time filming them in their everyday lives.

How and where will it be staged?

The audience will be seated in two tiers in front of a big screen, and underneath the screen will be three scale models of the couple’s house and grounds, depicting three seasons. There will be two cameras filming the models and these images will be interspersed in the film.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The French journalist Cathy Blisson, formerly a critic, but who moved into reportage, came into contact with Petro and Nadia and asked if we would be interested to collaborate with her, and we quickly decided to start the project.

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

The moment you enter the forbidden zone, you are entering a microcosm of human experience. It is a very extreme situation, but there are layers that you recognise, and as you spend time there the layers become more visible.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Our work can be complex but at the same time it appeals to a very broad audience.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

There will be surprises, relating to the concept of the piece, but the surprises you should not know beforehand.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?

We have brought work to Brighton Festival before including Perhaps All The Dragons in 2014, and Lands End in 2012. What I really like about Brighton Festival is that I have the impression that the audiences are very eager to discover things. I think it’s connected with the way the Festival approaches the audience, not underestimating the audience.

This year marks 50 years of Brighton Festival. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival in this milestone year?

I’m very happy that we will be part of that moment.

Book now for Zvizdal.


Interview: Lola Arias on Minefield

Ahead of the world premiere of Minefield, Argentinian artist Lola Arias tells us about working with veterans, the legacy of the Falklands war 33 years on, and the impact she hopes her work will have. 

For someone who knows nothing about the project, can you give us some context around Minefield - what the piece is about and how it developed and why you chose to explore the conflict?

In 2013 I did a project called After the War, and that’s when I started to work with veterans. I did a video installation in which Argentinian veterans reconstructed moments from the war in the places they work today. In the Falklands-Malvinas war there were a lot of conscripts, and these people are now completely different from the soldiers they used to be. For example, one was an opera-singer and another a sportsman, like a swimmer.

The gap between the men they used to be and the men they are now started to interest me a lot and I thought about continuing the project with British veterans. So, Minefield will be the first time a group of British veterans and a group of Argentinian veterans are reconstructing together their memories of the war and this will be rehearsed in Argentina and in England so we will be creating together a whole picture of what happened to them at that time and who they are now.

This project is all about memories, how they are still important for them today even if it’s 33 years later. How even if it was a war that lasted only two months, it’s still present every day for them.

You must have been six years old during the Falklands War - what were your personal memories of the conflict?

During the Falklands-Malvinas war, I was in my first year of primary school and we were asked to write a letter to the soldiers. I remember everyone was writing letters to the soldiers. They all started the same way: ‘to the unknown soldier’, then it was ‘I’m a student of such-and-such school and I’m wishing you the best for the war’, and so on.

When I started to work with the Argentinian veterans, they had kept these letters from the unknown students from all over the country. Some even contacted the people who wrote them. One guy told me that he met his wife, because she was a secondary school student who wrote him a letter saying ‘I wish you the best’ and after the war he got in contact with this woman. They met and they fell in love and have been married for 10 years.

So you never know what can come out from a letter from an unknown student to an unknown soldier.

You work often draws on many different genres and disciplines - what form will Minefield take and what can audiences expect to happen?

We’re still developing it, but it will be a project where people are telling their own stories in an informative way, but there will still probably be media and music. We are even thinking about having a band, with British and Argentinian veterans because some of them play instruments – one plays the drums and two of them play guitar. We thought that it could be really interesting to have them play together, so we’ll see what language they play in – English, Spanish or Spanglish.

What have you discovered about the various characteristics of the veterans so far? What are the similarities/differences?

It was surprising to see that English veterans were as affected as Argentinian veterans by the war. I had the impression that because most of the Argentinian veterans were conscripts – so they were only 18 and not really prepared to go to war, they only had a few months’ training – for them it was a totally traumatic experience.

But I thought that people who were well-trained and inside the military before going to war – it’s just one more mission in their life – but I realised that for British veterans this was also a traumatic experience and they all went through very hard moments and all of them have a story to tell.

Why is Minefield an important and relevant work for today's audiences? What do you hope the legacy of the work to be?

For Argentinians it’s a very present topic, it’s not something forgotten or lost in history, but for the British people it’s just one more war. I think it’s not so much about the relevance of this war in terms of in terms of the history. But it is in a way very interesting to reflect on how these people who were there even for two months are still affected today, 33 years later: they go through fear and pain and they were very marked by this experience. If you think about this happening to people that were only there for two months, you cannot imagine the consequences that are facing British soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and so on.

All of them are looking forward to this encounter. For people who were in a war 33 years ago, they don’t have the feeling that the other one is the enemy anymore, they just have the feeling that they’re just other veterans of the same war. They fell very connected, emotionally. I think it will be very moving to see them interacting and telling each other their stories.

Minefield blurs the lines between truth and fiction, what do you think about the meaning of 'truth' in the processes of truth and reconciliation, and what possibilities does theatre open up in addressing post conflict reconciliation?

I’m not doing this because of reconciliation. I don’t think they need that. For me it’s more about how people can build up a history together using their personal stories. I think that through their personal stories you will get a kind of whole picture of the war and what the consequences were for everyone. You’ll be able to reflect on the history of both countries and how politicians from both sides used the war for their own purposes.

Minefield will premiere at Brighton Festival as it celebrates its 50th year of commissioning and producing innovative arts and culture. What does it mean for you to be part of Brighton Festival in this milestone year?

I’m very happy to be part of the celebration of a festival which is doing very challenging, wonderful work.

I remember being at Brighton Festival with My Life After in 2013 and people were emotional about it and very grateful afterwards. A lot of people came after the plays to talk to the performers and to me about the play and that was really beautiful.

I’m very proud to be a part of it. 

Book tickets for Minefield now. 

Stella: An Encounter with a Truly Remarkable Person.

'Most of all, I hope people are going to realise that even though she's dead 100 years, and even though she lived this unimaginable life in a very different culture, in fact Stella is asking herself the same questions that we are all asking ourselves' Neil Bartlett


Award-winning director, writer and performer Neil Bartlett OBE talks to Kathy Caton about his new show Stella, co-commissioned by and premiering at Brighton Festival.

The show is inspired by Ernest Boulton – one half of the infamous Victorian cross-dressing duo Fanny and Stella - and intimately examines his strange life and lonely death.

In this interview, Neil discusses how he first discovered Stella, her extraordinary history, and how his work both past and current examines her life and character.

This new teaser trailer features the actors Oscar Battingham and Richard Cant as the enigmatic flipsides of Stella, and gives a glimpse into their tumultuous lives. 


From our Spotlight video series, Neil discusses bringing Stella to the 50th Brighton Festival and what he hopes audiences are going to get out of the show. 


Stella is on at the Theatre Royal, Fri 27 & Sat 28 May. Book now.

Festival Hot Seat... Portraits in Motion

Volker Gerling spent over a decade touring Germany by foot, capturing the people that he met in his distinctive flipbook portraits. We caught up with him to find out about the development of his craft and his extraordinary show Portraits in Motion

Can you tell us what your show is about?

In the summer of 2002 I took an old wooden kitchen tray and made it into a simple hawker’s tray. It had room for six photographic flipbooks, which showed portraits of my friends, and I hung a sign on it saying “Please visit my traveling exhibition”.

I walked through Berlin, showing people my flipbook ‘movies’. I screwed an empty honey jar underneath the hawker’s tray so that visitors could pay a symbolic entrance fee.

For nearly a year I showed people my flipbook movies in Berlin. Then, I decided to become a journeyman – I wanted to find out how people all over the country would react to my flipbooks.

And I wanted to make some new flipbooks.

I was afraid that I would miss something if I travelled too quickly, so I decided to walk. In the summer of 2003 I walked from Berlin to Basel – a walk of 1,200 kilometres – and it was a great experience. So I decided to do it again.

Since then I have walked nearly every summer and in total I have walked some 3,500 kilometres, nearly all in Germany. On all of these walks my only source of money came from showing my flipbooks. Portraits in Motion is based on my long summer walks and the people I met on them.

Volker with his tray of flipbooks

How and where will it be staged?

I leaf through the flipbooks under a video camera that projects them onto a large screen, and I tell the stories about the people that are portrayed. The show is a reflection on the passing of time and what it means when people meet each other.

Why should someone come and see your show?

To see my protagonists come to life on screen in a way that you’ve probably never experienced before.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes from my fascination for human beings, faces, portrait photography, walking and storytelling.

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

Because every story that is told from the heart is important.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Everybody who is able to see great things emerge from small things.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Nothing will prepare you for the intimacy of the flip books. There's something magical about these miniature glimpses into human souls.

This year marks 50 years of Brighton Festival. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival in this milestone year?

It feels like a big honour for me to be part of the festival this year.

Book now for Portraits in Motion

Festival Hot Seat... Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal

Chilean company Silencio Blanco tells us more about the UK Premiere of their show Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal at Brighton Festival. 

Can you tell us what your show is about?

Chiflón, The Silence of the Coal is the story of the mines, from the perspective of the people who worked them. A young miner is expelled from the coal pit where he works, and to keep working he has to accept a job in ‘El Chiflón del Diablo’, an infamously sinister mine. Silencio Blanco portrays the miners’ world through everyday situations and anonymous characters - also focusing on the role of women in these mining communities. 

How and where will it be staged?

Chiflón is going to be presented at the Brighton Dome Studio Theatre, and it’s a simple collaboration between the puppets and their manipulators, who give life to the marionettes in a manner almost like a little dance between them. This is supplemented with simple scenery made with recycled materials like old wood, to show the simplicity of the work and the lifelike detail of every movement.

Why should someone come and see your show?

This play is unmissable, primarily for the visual language that’s used: marionettes constructed of newspaper and chopsticks, which, together with other day-to-day elements that have been recycled and re-purposed, give life to these bodies and to a fascinating and moving story.

Furthermore, despite us coming from far-away Chile - at the edge of Latin America - this language allows us to tell a completely universal story, focusing on the depths of these people, touching the very fibres of their being through everyday situations, just using movement and gesture.

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

This play emerged from our intention to portray a particular job, a lost job, anonymous and lonely. That’s why we chose miners, inspired by Baldomero Lillo’s tale, Chiflón Del Diablo. Lillo is a brilliant Chilean author, naturalist, and witness of the world that he observes. He is considered to be the Chilean Emile Zola.

To develop the idea and the inspiration, we traveled to the town of Lota, in southern Chile, where we met mining families and ex-miners that today have no jobs. They told us their stories and experiences, their sadness, pains and dreams, and we realised that the miners’ history is a living treasure that we want to tell with our work.

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

Mainly because it’s a universal story.

It’s inspired by a town in Chile, but it cuts across all of humanity, because it talks about the human emotions of the workers faced with these conditions, and the role of the women and their uncertainty of not knowing if their men will come back from the mine or not.

Also because it talks about history - from the little stories of anonymous characters and the daily situations they face. It tells history from the perspective of the defeated, not the winners.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Anyone aged 6 to 99.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The magic of the marionettes – how delicate and natural they are.

The illusion that can be produced through the marionettes is able to stir even the deepest emotion in the heart.

Have you visited Brighton before? What were/are your impressions of the city?

No we haven’t visited Brighton before, but we’re really excited to get to know the city and enjoy the festival. We don’t have any expectations – we just want have fun and enjoy it – but we hope people there will love and enjoy our work, which was prepared with a lot of love, care, attention to detail and, of course, hard work.

This year marks 50 years of Brighton Festival. What does it mean for you to be part of the festival in this milestone year?

We’re excited to be part of this huge festival and celebrate together the 50th anniversary. To us, it’s very important be part of this, because this is the first time that a Chilean company has participated in Brighton Festival, so it’s an honour to represent our country there – particularly with a very Chilean story, the story of the miners. It’s a privilege to present this work, and we are sure that everyone is going to enjoy it. We are bringing you a little piece of our history. 

Book now for Chiflón: The Silence of the Coal

Festival Hot Seat... The Last Resort

In the first of a new blog series we caught up with artists Tristan Shorr and Rachel Champion aka Art Of Disappearing to find out more about upcoming Brighton Festival commission The Last Resort

Can you tell us what your show is about?

The Last Resort takes a wry look at a rather bleak future. It throws out questions and ideas and possibilities. It’s an experience that should challenge imagination and thought.

How and where will it be staged?

Two participants at a time embark on a fictional tour of a forgotten resort. They move along the barren stretch of beach, imagining what might or might not have been, led by an immersive score.. The site is near the dock at Portslade which we chose for its bleakness and solitary position, the perfect environment for the imagination to be set loose!

Why should someone come and see your show?

If you enjoy dystopian ideas, beautiful barren landscapes and sci-fi whilst spending time in an imaginative experience then this is the show for you. With an original score, the chance to spend quality time with friend, family or stranger, and a shop to buy The Last Resort goodies...what more could you want!

Where did the idea and inspiration come from?

The outdoor site in Portslade was a perfect fit for certain ideas we have been mulling over for a while. The opportunity to create a work for Brighton Festival gave us the chance to bring the idea to life in a very real and raw way.

How we make the work and what the work is about are intrinsically linked for us. Within the creation of imaginary realities and reinterpreted landscapes the work looks to inspire, challenge and feed the participants imagination and create a space for action rather than passivity.

The context is of a future where our imaginations and our ability to think for ourselves as individuals is placed in doubt. Our inspiration is in the making of a work that encourages both active listening and active participation from our audiences.

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

Its both exciting and depressing to think about the future...what will happen, what are we doing and what choices will be made….this work looks at one extreme possibility all wrapped up in the nicest possible experience. It’s important to think ahead…

The Last Resort is a work that hopefully you leave asking a few questions.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

The nudist beach along the route might be an eye opener!

The show is unusual, in that it uses sound along with the participants imaginations to create an immersive world.

What sort of person is going to love this show?

Anyone who holds a fascination with the future, enjoys being outdoors, loves listening to music in headphones, enjoys the challenge of spending time with a friend, a stranger or a family member and definitely anyone who wants to broaden and challenge their imagination.

What does Brighton Festival mean to you?

Rachel:

I was born locally and have lived near Brighton for the majority of my life. Brighton has always been a place of positive escapism for me, the live music, the great coffee shops and the Brighton Festival. I actually performed in Brighton Fringe with my school 27 years ago! Ouch! It’s always been there...long may it continue!

Tristan:

I think at a time where funding for the arts is dwindling and when challenging audiences and social passivity to the world around us is also taking a step back, it's hugely important that arts and cultural festivals like Brighton Festival exist. It is also important that places that support work and artists pushing the boundaries of the arts exist too and this is what the festival means to us both.

This isn't to say that we view ourselves as particularly radical in our approach, but we definitely appreciate the importance of Brighton Festival giving a place for us artists to call home!

Do you have a favourite festival moment?

It hasn’t happened yet!! The festival is always great, the city wakes up! Can’t ask for more than that! We’re going to be pretty busy this year with the show so it will be a very different experience… we might have to hear about it rather than join in!

Book now for the last remaining slots of The Last Resort.

The Brighton Commissions

For our milestone 50th Festival, we have commissioned more new works than ever before, including many by Brighton artists or about Brighton itself. Wildly different and each fascinating, the 'Brighton Commissions' below are presented as a tribute to our home and the talent within it.

Brighton: Symphony of a City
One of the Brighton Festival events people still talk about is the screening of Battleship Potemkin (2005) with Ed Hughes’s new score in the Hove Engineerium. When Ed and Brighton based filmmaker Lizzie Thynne proposed a Brighton homage to Walther Ruttmann’s 1927 silent classic Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, we grabbed the opportunity to celebrate Brighton in all its festive, bohemian, campaigning, fun-filled glory.

Charles Linehan Company
Loved by dancers and dance audiences, Brighton-based choreographer Charles Linehan (The Fault Index/ The Clearing, 2011), brings us a contrasting double bill of new works including one with William Trevitt and Michael Nunn (BalletBoyz). Described by The Guardian as ’one of our classiest choreographers’ Charles’s return to Brighton Festival in our 50th year feels especially appropriate. 

The Complete Deaths
Another match made in Brighton. Leading physical comedy company Spymonkey (Oedipussy, 2012 and Cooped, 2006) and award winning playwright and performer Tim Crouch (I, Caliban, 2003, I, Peaseblossom, 2004, I, Banquo, 2005, An Oak Tree 2006, I, Malvolio, 2010 and what happens to the hope at the end of the evening, 2014) come together to re-enact every onstage death from the works of William Shakespeare in a sublimely funny tribute to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. We’re holding onto our hats. 

Digging for Shakespeare
Marc Rees studied in Brighton with Liz Aggiss and has gone on to make wonderful work with communities and for specific sites, most notably with National Theatre Wales. He brought us the captivating story of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps who was a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar in the 19th Century and an eccentric recluse. When Marc suggested making this piece on the Roedale allotments where Halliwell-Phillipps lived it was too beguiling an idea to pass up. 

Dr Blighty
One of the most affecting and complex stories of the Royal Pavilion Estate is its use as a military hospital for wounded Indian soldiers in World War I. As we work towards reunifying the Royal Pavilion Estate to bring collections, heritage and the arts together to create compelling new work for the Estate, the opportunity was ripe for Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove and ourselves to work with British Asian performance company Nutkhut and with 14-18 NOW to commemorate this special chapter in Brighton’s history.

The Last Resort
Using binaural technology to create a shifting world of sound, Brighton-based artists Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr (who worked with Charlotte Spencer on Walking Stories, 2013), working as Art Of Disappearing, have created an immersive work set on Portslade beach that takes a wry look at science fiction traditions and dystopian societies. 

Operation Black Antler
Two Brighton Festival Associate Companies come together in an exciting new collaboration. Blast Theory (Rider Spoke, 2008; Fixing Point 2013) are celebrated for their inventive use of technology and their thought-provoking subject matter. Hydrocracker have delighted and terrified audiences with Shakespeare á la Carte (2008), the uproarious The Erpingham Camp (2009), and the chilling production of Pinter plays The New World Order (2007 & 2011). Having these two companies working together has been on all our wish lists for a number of years. 

Stella
Veteran Brighton artist Neil Bartlett (Oliver Twist, 2004, The Maids, 2007; For Alfonso, 2011; What Can You Do?, 2012; Britten: The Canticles, 2013) is one of Britain’s most individual theatre makers and a generous friend of Brighton Festival. We’re honoured that Neil’s wonderful, intense and distilled new play, inspired by the life and death of Ernest Boulton, can open in Theatre Royal Brighton before going on to performances at London International Festival of Theatre and Holland Festival. 

Spotlight: Operation Black Antler

Learn more from Jem Wall and Matt Adams about Operation Black Antler

Two Brighton Festival Associate Companies come together in an exciting new collaboration. Blast Theory (Rider Spoke, 2008; Fixing Point 2013) are celebrated for their inventive use of technology and their thought-provoking subject matter. Hydrocracker have delighted and terrified audiences with Shakespeare á la Carte (2008), the uproarious The Erpingham Camp (2009), and the chilling production of Pinter plays The New World Order (2007 & 2011). Having these two companies working together has been on all our wish lists for a number of years

See more Spotlight films, where we cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival.

Video by Echo Video

Spotlight: Digging for Shakespeare

Find out more from Marc Rees on Digging for Shakespeare in our Spotlight film. Marc Rees studied in Brighton with Liz Aggiss and has gone on to make wonderful work with communities and for specific sites, most notably with National Theatre Wales. He brought us the captivating story of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps who was a world-renowned Shakespearean scholar in the 19th Century and an eccentric recluse. When Marc suggested making this piece on the Roedale allotments where Halliwell-Phillipps lived it was too beguiling an idea to pass up.

See more Spotlight films, where we cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival.

Film by Echo Video

Spotlight: Minefield

Learn more from Lola Arias on her latest work Minefield

Argentinian writer and director Lola Arias brought her acclaimed show My Life After to Brighton Festival 2013. Now she returns with the world premiere of her new work about the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas, developed with and performed by Argentinian and British veterans of the 1982 conflict.

See more Spotlight films, where we cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival

Video by Echo Video

Spotlight: Stella

Hear more from veteran Brighton artist Neil Bartlett, one of Britain’s most individual theatre makers. We’re honoured that Neil’s wonderful, intense and distilled new play Stella, inspired by the life and death of Ernest Boulton, can open in Theatre Royal Brighton before going on to performances at London International Festival of Theatre and Holland Festival.

See more Spotlight films, where we cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival.

Video by Echo Video

Spotlight: The Complete Deaths

We cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival. Tim Crouch and Toby Parks discuss their work The Complete Deaths

Another match made in Brighton. Leading physical comedy company Spymonkey (Oedipussy, 2012 and Cooped, 2006) and award winning playwright and performer Tim Crouch (I, Caliban, 2003, I, Peaseblossom, 2004, I, Banquo, 2005, An Oak Tree 2006, I, Malvolio, 2010 and what happens to the hope at the end of the evening, 2014) come together to re-enact every onstage death from the works of William Shakespeare in a sublimely funny tribute to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. We’re holding onto our hats.


Video by Echo Video

Call out for artists to participate in caravan marketplace 2016

caravan is a three-day showcase of site specific, interactive and incidental performance presented as part of Brighton Festival that aims to strengthen the international networks and expand the range of opportunities for performing artists and companies in England to work abroad. 

The curated programme features England’s most exciting artists from established international names to the brightest new talent. The 2016 programme includes performances from: Lost Dog’s Edinburgh Festival hit Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me), new work from Spymonkey and Greg Wohead, Of Riders and Running Horses by Still House, alongside work from Eric MacLennan, Andy Field, Christopher Brett Bailey, Dickie Beau, Jo Bannon, Emma Frankland, Selina Thompson and Sue MacLaine.

Paradise Lost at Brighton Dome


caravan marketplace

caravan is a convivial event designed to encourage artists, commissioners, programmers and potential collaborators to explore new ways of working together, to share ambitions and to reach new audiences. 

The caravan marketplace takes place on Tuesday 17 May from 10am-12pm, and is an opportunity for artists and companies to host a stand in Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, and to share information about current or future projects with approximately 50 national and international delegates.

For more information or to apply to be part of marketplace, please complete the application form and submit by email to Monica at monica.bakir@farnhammaltings.com by 12pm on Friday, 05 February. A small subsidy is available to support travel and/or access costs.

The Complete Deaths at Brighton Festival

Your first glimpse at Brighton Festival 2016

Key commission revealed as 50th Brighton Festival takes shape

The Complete Deaths – performed by physical comedy company Spymonkey and directed by Tim Crouch – is the first show revealed as part of the 50th Brighton Festival programme.

A Brighton Festival commission, the world premiere is a partnership between two Brighton-based artistic powerhouses to re-enact every onstage death from the works of William Shakespeare in a sublimely funny tribute to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

There are 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare - 75 if you count the black ill-favoured fly killed in Titus Andronicus. They range from the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony & Cleopatra; from Pyramus and Thisbe to young Macduff. There are countless stabbings, plenty of severed heads, some poisonings, two mobbings and a smothering. Enorbarbus just sits in a ditch and dies from grief. And then there’s the pie that Titus serves the Queen of the Goths.

Spymonkey will perform them all - sometimes lingeringly, sometimes messily, sometimes movingly, sometimes musically, always hysterically. The four ‘seriously, outrageously, cleverly funny clowns' (Time Magazine) will scale the peaks of sublime poetry, and plumb the depths of darkest depravity. It may even be the death of them.

The Complete Deaths is directed by Tim Crouch (I, Malvolio, An Oak Tree, Adler & Gibb), designed by Spymonkey regular Lucy Bradridge and presented by Spymonkey in co-production with Brighton Festival and Royal & Derngate. The Brighton Festival performances are supported by ZSTa.

The 50th Brighton Festival takes place from 7-29 May 2016 – a full programme of events will be announced mid-February 2016 when tickets will go on sale. Click here to become a Member and be first in line to book.

More news about the 50th Brighton Festival programme will be announced shortly.

Brighton Festival 2015 soars to a close

Brighton Festival 2015 - with award-wining author Ali Smith at the helm as Guest Director - came to a soaring conclusion this weekend.

Over the three-week Festival - the biggest and most established in England - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions were explored in a thrilling selection of events which spanned music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate featuring artists and performers the world over from Ukrainian ‘ethnic chaos’ band DakhaBrakha to the newly Palme d’Or honoured filmmaker Agnès Varda.

Three central themes - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - provided a fascinating jumping off point to explore some of the key ideas and issues of the moment as well as a memorable visual image of a swift in flight which proved a fitting and popular emblem for the 2015 Festival.

The opening weekend asked audiences to ‘take flight’ for the annual children’s parade, the largest of its kind in Europe. Supported by regional businesses Class of their Own, Gatwick Airport and Riverford, the annual parade traditionally marks the start of Brighton Festival and was attended by almost 5,000 children from 83 schools and community groups from across the region; each dressed in costumes they had specifically designed and made for the event. Taking inspiration from Brighton Festival 2015 Guest Director Ali Smith’s deep fascination with birds and other migratory patterns, costumes included bird life in all its forms as well as flying machines, creatures from fantasy and fable, bugs, bees and butterflies.


The Children's Parade. Photo by Jordan Hughes

During the ensuing 23 days it wasn’t just the kids who took flight – with more reviews praising the artistic excellence of this year’s programme than ever. One of the Festival’s biggest hits was the European premiere of Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson’s highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York which was lavished with 5 stars across the board. Glowing reviews in The Guardian, The Stage and the artsdesk amongst others described them as “exemplary”, “extraordinary”, “profound” and “faultlessly directed”. This was swiftly followed by the top accolade going to violinist Isabelle Faust’s amazing feat of solo virtuosity, Paine’s Plough’s poignant exploration of love and relationships in Lungs and Nina Conti’s extraordinary tour de force of improvised comedy amongst others.


Fleeting on Brighton Beach. Photo by Chris Bethall

At just under 400 performances across 150 events, including 34 that were entirely free to the public, Brighton Festival 2015 featured the highest number of exclusives, premieres and commissions to date including a sizeable proportion of events that cannot - and could not - be experienced anywhere else outside of Brighton Festival, from Sam Lee’s intimate Nightingale Walks on the Downs to Laurie Anderson’s one-off concert All the Animals and Festival finale Fleeting, the spectacular installation over the West Pier by And Now in which hundreds of individual points of fire created shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.

In a continuation of the Festival’s dedication to making the arts accessible for all, 2015 saw a plethora of shows - including high profile events such as physical theatre show The Spalding Suite which takes as its subject the UK's basketball sub-culture and Jess Thom’s inspiring and uplifting exploration of her experience of living with Tourette’s, Backstage in Biscuit Land - live-streamed to audiences around the world, for free. Brighton Festival also reached out beyond the centre more than ever before, working with Without Walls to present a number of family-friendly performances in Saltdean and Woodingdean for the first time as well as the enthralling 451 at Preston Barracks and playful Ear Trumpet in Queen’s Park. This was complemented by a fantastic response to community driven events such as a new children’s birdwatching trail which was generously embraced by the business community, and the return of the Guest Director’s Guests, the Peacock Poetry Prize and the Young City Reads schemes.


Backstage in Biscuit Land. Photo by Victor Frankowski

Other Festival highlights included a one off live screening of Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; and the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene.

Brighton Festival 2015 featured 396 performances across 150 events including 45 exclusives, premieres and commissions and 34 free events.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “From the 5 stars across-the-board success of Richard Nelson’s extraordinary Apple Family Plays to the headline-grabbing performance of Kate Tempest and a very special personal appearance by newly Palme D’Or honoured Agnes Varda - this year really has been a Festival to remember. Ali Smith, as Guest Director, has been an absolute pleasure to work with and a wonderful inspiration to us all. Her remarkable sense of possibility, wonder, imagination and excitement at anything that she encounters has been evident every step of the way, from her invaluable input during the programming process to her lively and engaging presence throughout the month. The Festival’s continued ability to not only bring such an eclectic range of artists onto one bill but to make it a resounding success, is testament to the extraordinary support we have from funders, sponsors and from audiences themselves. It’s an exciting time for Brighton Festival as we look towards our 50th birthday next year. I cannot wait to lift the lid on what surprises we have in store for the city and beyond.”

Guest Blog: Montefiore Meets Biscuitland

What to make of a show that asks you to view a neurological disorder/disability, as a 'superpower'? Well Jess Thom wants you to know that Tourette's is what makes her special and she's changing the world 'one tic at a time' and has turned her tics into some riotous entertainment.

The show, Backstage in Biscuit Land, is a mini-guide into the life of Jess who lives with the tics and outbursts caused by the syndrome. The lazy language of writing about disease wanted me to instantly nominate Jess as a Tourette's 'sufferer' but there was not much suffering on display during an anarchic show in which Jess and her co-performer Jess Mabel-Jones (known throughout as 'Chopin') told us about Jess's life.

Her Tourette's required no description. Her vocal tic of 'biscuit' and repetitive chest beating were on clear display throughout and cleverly incorporated into the show. At times it was difficult to tell whether what we were hearing was an inventive script or a new tic. As a show it more resembled Vic Reeves at his most absurd than a medical documentary.Tourette's is a neurological disorder that has become a lazy comic shorthand for scatological and offensive behaviour. Backstage in Biscuit Land trod a fine line in both debunking and reinforcing that view. Whilst we laughed at Jess's disinhibited and furiously inventive swearing, we were also educated as she explained that only 10% of those with the syndrome will swear in this way. We also sympathised as she explained that the same behaviour which had brought her to the theatre as performer had also seen her turned away from theatres as an audience member.

The context was important but dislocating. Her behaviours were exhibited prominently and for comic effect; seeing Jess massacre a plate of strawberries on a stage in a show was hilarious but seeing the same thing unprepared in a communal dining experience might be terrifying. The medic in me wanted to know what short circuit in neurological wiring led to this, whether she hurt her chest and why she was getting worse (a fact that was signified by a comedic love letter to her wheelchair).

In the middle of all the hilarious insanity of free biscuits, songs about bestiality and hedgehog finger puppets, we were pulled up short when an audience member was asked to read Jess's care plan in the event of her tics culminating in a full-blown seizure (a common event). As the seizure was superbly enacted by Chopin's puppetry the volunteer struggled to read the banal medical algorithm (with its' litany of safety and diazepam) without shedding a tear. The theatre was silent but for Jess's own unavoidable interruptions. In that moment we saw that in sharing her superpower with us Jess was also allowing us the privilege of seeing her vulnerability.

As 'Touretteshero” Jess has positively incorporated her disease into her reality in a way that many of us could never do. Her resilience and humour in the face of being different is a lesson for us all.

By Richard Simcock, Consultant Oncologist, Montefiore Hospital.
The Montefiore Hospital working in partnership with Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, supporting community wellbeing via the arts.


In Photos: Brighton Festival Week One

Our 49th Festival with Ali Smith at the helm has been a joy so far. We've had heaps of fun and with a plethora of great theatre, circus, dance, music, classical, outdoor, family, books and debates and visual art and film events still  to come the fun is nowhere near over yet!

Take a look back over our first week of Brighton Festival 2015 right here...

The past week has flown by and lots of exciting events have happened so far at Brighton Festival 2015 and there's still so much more to come! Check out what’s up next at: https://brightonfestival.org/whats_on/

Posted by Brighton Festival on Friday, 8 May 2015

Behind the scenes... on GLOW

With the highly anticipated children’s show GLOW opening today, Professor Anna Franklin from the Sussex Baby Lab discusses how their studies on infant vision, colour perception and what babies find most stimulating helped theatre company Flying Eye create the show

What have you found out so far in the Baby Lab?

The Rainbow Project, which is investigating how babies see colours, is still ongoing but we’ve just analysed the data from the first phase.

So far, we’ve found that babies can categorise colours and our analysis of recent data shows that they use the basic channels of colour vision to divide up the colour spectrum. So it suggests that when we group colours into categories such as green and blue that there is some kind of biological underpinning for how we do that; it’s not just random. And that’s been debated for a long time. People have argued that colour categories are random because there are different terms in different languages but it turns out that babies actually use the biology of their colour vision to do it, which provides some constraint on how languages can then divide up colours into different terms.

Babies have got some colour vision when they are born but it’s limited. It develops quite rapidly over the first couple of months of life and they’re trichromatic by the time they’re three months old, so three types of photo receptors are functioning. We work with babies at four months old upwards, once we are sure that they have got colour vision.

Colour perception gets a lot better as the baby develops. It actually gets better up until adolescence and then it actually starts to get worse. In toddlers we are looking at how they learn the words for colour but also how they keep colours constant in their mind when the lighting changes – something called colour constancy, which means that if you look at a banana under any colour light, you still see it and think of it as yellow. It’s basically because our brain factors out the illuminant so it can keep the surfaces constant so we’ve got a more constant world. We’re looking at that in toddlers and seeing how it develops.

Why is it important to understand these things?

It’s important for several reasons. First of all, from a scientific viewpoint, it’s important to know how the brain develops and how the brain learns to process the information in the world around it. And colour is a good way of testing questions around that - it’s a good testing ground for looking at the effect of environment on brain development and processing of stimuli. So, basic, fundamental questions about our cognition can be addressed using colour.

And there are practical implications. For example, we’ve done consultancies with toy companies on products related to infants, talking about what infants can see and what they prefer to look at and what will grab their attention.

Also, potentially there are implications down the line for how you educate children and what kinds of educational materials they respond well to. For example, if you’ve got colour vision deficiency, how would that impact on your learning in the classroom and your use of coloured education materials?

As a group, we’re most interested in the scientific questions - the goal of understanding the human brain and how we learn. But there is also practical, commercial application as well.

A huge guiding principle is that to understand how adults do something, or how the adult brain works, you need to understand how that process develops. So, for example, if you want to understand memory, then, by researching how memory develops, you can understand a lot about it in its adult form. And so the same goes with vision and with colour. Seeing things develop and seeing that development in action, you can actually understand the mechanisms much more.

How do you find your baby subjects?

We have a research assistant in the lab, Gemma, who advertises the Baby Lab studies on Facebook, and Alice keeps Baby Lab followers updated about our latest studies on Twitter. And then basically anywhere where there’s a baby in Brighton or Lewes or Eastbourne we try to get our postcards, which advertise what we’re about. A lot of people we get coming in have been told about the Baby Lab by friends who have also bought their babies in. It’s something fun that parents can do, something interesting, and they learn something about their baby in doing it.

Has anything you’ve found particularly surprised you (eg. gender differences)?

We’ve not found any gender differences before. There’s some evidence in the literature that male babies might be less good at one of the subsystems of colour vision; the red/green one. But we’ve not found any evidence of that ourselves.

The most surprising thing to me has been that infants tend to look longer at the colours that adults like. You tend to think of colour preference as being something fairly idiosyncratic – it’s just a personal choice – but actually the fact that adults’ colour preferences map on to infants looking suggests that there’s some kind of early origins of something about those colours that make us like them but also make infants look longer.

Colour is an interesting stimulus because it’s always there in everything that we look at and it can have quite subtle effects on us and our behaviour, how we process things and our emotional response. But we’re rarely really aware of that happening – it’s almost like an invisible vapour or something that you don’t really know is there but it does affect you. So it’s quite interesting from that viewpoint.

How did the Brighton Festival show come about?

Sachi and Kristina, who are the directors, just contacted me; they found the Baby Lab on the web. They wanted a play that was going to resonate with babies and that would fit with babies’ abilities in understanding and seeing. They came to the lab and we showed them some babies taking part in our research. We talked about infant vision and cognition, gave them some things to read and we just had ongoing discussion really about that so they could feed it into their play.

It was really interesting to see how science could be drawn upon in art. They’re such creative women and it was really interesting to see how they took the scientific findings and used them. I went to a couple of the shows where they were developing the different components of the play - to see how you get from the scientific work to putting it in action was really interesting for me.

Was the process quite different to how you approach things as a researcher?

Absolutely, yes. There is definitely creativity in research but their creativity has got a different goal.

I was surprised when I watched the test show how engaged babies were and how much enjoyment they got from it and also how it led to this bond between the baby and the parent. It seemed quite a rich experience for the parent to have their baby engage with something so much. When we were having conversations talking about the science and talking about their ideas, I didn’t realise that it was all going to knit together so effectively.

There’s certainly a need for more things that are directed towards infants. The GLOW show sold out on the first day that it was released and that really shows that we should be producing more things for babies. Especially because early experience is really important for shaping visual development and cognitive development, so we want to give young minds a rich experience.

Glow plays on Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 May. For tickets, click here.

To find out more about the Sussex Baby Lab and how babies can take part in Baby Lab research, click here.

Exploring a Beautiful Cosmos - who was Ivor Cutler?

The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, coming to Brighton Festival this May, tells Cutler’s fascinating life story, interwoven with his songs, stories and poetry, but you’re out of luck if you are looking for a traditional tribute musical. Director Matthew Lenton tells The Observer it is, “an anti-Mamma Mia”, and it is only fitting that a play based on the life of a maverick defies convention. Mark Fisher from the Guardian calls it “a big grin of a show, as funny and idiosyncratic as Cutler and every bit as embraceable.” while The Telegraph describes it as “Funny, evocative and celebratory”.

Ivor Cutler was a poet, performer and certified eccentric. Born in Glasgow in the 1920s, he began writing songs and poems in the 1950s while teaching by day (a profession he took up after being dismissed from the RAF for ‘dreaminess’). Cutler began appearing on BBC Radio and after an appearance on Late Night Line-up in the 1960s, he was noticed by Paul McCartney. Cutler was subsequently championed by John Peel and released numerous albums to critical acclaim, but he remained ambivalent about his popularity and famous following, and was renowned for telling fans attempting to take his picture, “don’t you ever do that again”. He continued to ride his bike, hand out sticky labels covered with cryptic messages, and tell stories through song accompanied by his harmonium, such as I believe in bugs, Egg Meat and Mary is a cow, until his death in 2006. Cutler lived life by his own rules, his whimsical outlook and refusal to conform continues to capture the imagination and is set to enchant audiences of The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler. Read on to discover more about this wonderful man.


Ivor performing Beautiful Cosmos in 2004

As a young man, Cutler joined the RAF as a trainee navigator, but was promptly dismissed for being 'too dreamy and absent-minded' after being caught sketching clouds in mid-air.

He had an unorthodox approach to teaching and rebelled against the use of corporal punishment in his school. He cut the leather belt he had been given to discipline children with into 50 pieces, and handed them out to his students when he quit. He subsequently joined a progressive independent school ‘with no rules’ where he would challenge his pupils to improvise songs.

Cutler appeared in the Beatles psychedelic 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour as Buster Bloodvessel - the conductor of their multicoloured bus, accompanying them on their magical adventure. He was subsequently invited to teach the Beatles children but declined on socialist principles, saying, "What made their kids more special than other kids?"

He often communicated by handing out stickers with cryptic messages on them, both to people he knew and people he didn't: he would randomly distribute stickers bearing messages like, Funny smell, Let me out and To remove this label take it off.

Enjoy this short video of Ivor Cutler performing I’m Happy in 1986

His famous fans include: The Beatles, John Peel, Billy Connolly, philosopher Bertrand Russell and Johnny Rotten

He was in a relationship with English poet Phyllis King for over 40 years and the pair often collaborated. Despite their close relationship, they lived in separate houses to maintain their independence and Cutler lived in the same small second-floor flat surrounded by his collection of masks, paintings and sculptures until his death.

From the 1990s he was largely retired, but continued to ride around Central London on his bicycle, wearing pink flamingo shorts and a selection of curious hats and loud ties, accosting complete strangers in the street and asking them if they wrote poetry.

Book your spot now to see The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler.


Photos: Brighton Festival 2015 Opening Weekend

This weekend Brighton Festival began and we had smashing time! Here are some photos that showcase the festivities and it's nowhere near over yet, as there are lots more exciting events to come - see our What’s On page for full details

Brighton Festival 2015 kicked off with a bang this weekend, with an exciting programme of events .

Posted by Brighton Festival on Monday, 4 May 2015

Brighton Festival 2015 announces full programme of events

Clear your diaries in May as England’s largest mixed arts festival returns with award-winning author Ali Smith as its Guest Director

Brighton Festival – under the watchful eye of award-winning author Ali Smith as this year’s Guest Director – has announced its full programme of events.

Over the three-week Festival - which runs from 2-24 May 2015 - many of Ali Smith’s ideas, interests and passions will be explored in a programme which spans music, theatre, dance, visual art, film, literature and debate from a wide range of national and international companies and artists; from a rare UK visit by 86-year-old legendary film maker and artist Agnès Varda to rising stars Kate Tempest, George the Poet and Hollie McNish.

With three central themes at its heart - Art and Nature, the Crossing Places between art forms, and Taking Liberty - this year’s Brighton Festival challenges visitors to look again, featuring an eye-opening array of artists and performers with the power to deliver the world we think we know to us re-seen, renewed, with a visionary twist in the tale.

Ali Smith says: “It's tremendously exciting to have been asked to help programme the 2015 Brighton Festival. I'm delighted and honoured – what a gift, to be asked to do this, imagine – the biggest international multi-arts spectacular in England. I've always loved Brighton's sense of fun and friendliness, its vibrant open-mindedness, the way it opens to sky, the way the rest of Europe is so close it's almost visible. It's a city that's always known how to live on the edge, a place full of endless energy, argument, possibilities, light. No matter the wildness or mildness of the weather, no matter the zigzag of zeitgeist elsewhere north or south of it, Brighton is always itself, and always uniquely welcoming.”

Posing questions about whether life imitates art or art imitates life, Art and Nature is explored in a host of events including an exclusive nightingale walk, with Mercury-nominated folk singer Sam Lee; an immersive multi-screen film installation of Marcus Coates’ entitled Dawn Chorus, featuring singers who uncannily recreate birdsong and bird movement; a discussion of the urgent conservation issues that face us today with celebrated author and bird enthusiast Margaret Atwood and her partner and fellow writer Graeme Gibson; and Fleeting, an outdoor spectacular over the West Pier by And Now, in which hundreds of individual points of fire create shapes and swathes of glowing light and shade.

Central to the programme is the notion of Crossing Places - where poetry meets music meets theatre meets dance – from works that defy categorisation such as The Measure of All Things, a new live cinema performance by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green to Claudia Molitor’s part installation part performance Vast White Stillness in the maze of tunnels beneath the Old Ship Hotel. In Being Both, acclaimed mezzo soprano Alice Coote, English Concert’s Harry Bicket and Susannah Waters stage a theatrical journey into the heart of Handel’s sublime vocal music, which, in a nod to Smith’s own prize-winning work How to Be Both, explores and challenges the experience and perception of gender.

Set against the backdrop of the General Election, Liberty, equality and freedom is celebrated in all its shapes in an astonishing cutting-edge line-up of artists, performers, thinkers and commentators - all contemporary game changers in their chosen forms. These include Liberty Director and author Shami Chakrabati who hosts an evening in celebration of the Human Rights Act featuring a dazzling collection of writers and performers such as Billy Bragg, Neil Bartlett, Rachel Holmes and Jackie Kay; Tony award-winning playwright Richard Nelson who brings the European premiere of his highly acclaimed four play cycle The Apple Family Plays from The Public Theater, New York; award-winning Pakistani/British author Kamila Shamsie; celebrated Russian-American journalist, author and activist Masha Gessen, Turkish writer Elif Shafak and Turner Prize nominated artist Nathan Coley, whose new commission Portraits of Dissension explore ideas of unrest, edge and shift, space and occupation.

Other highlights include Peter Strickland’s daring masterpiece The Duke of Burgundy accompanied by a one-off live performance of its seductive score by Cat’s Eyes - the collaborative project of The Horrors’ frontman Faris Badwan and Italian-Canadian singer and composer Rachel Zeffira; a series of screenings and accompanying talks by prominent female directors including Joanna Hogg, Carol Morley and the legendary Agnès Varda who will also create a special installation at Brighton University Gallery for the duration of the Festival; the English premiere of Vanishing Point & National Theatre of Scotland’s The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, a homage to one of Scotland's most likeable, most individual and most unexpected 20th century figures; a new lecture specially commissioned for Brighton Festival by acclaimed author Jeanette Winterson OBE on the practices and craft of writing; the UK premiere of Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, a theatrical ode to the life - and afterlife – of Lucia Joyce, the adored daughter of James Joyce created by legendary New York theatre ensemble Mabou Mines; the UK premiere of The Forgotten / L’Oublié(e), the directorial debut of Raphaëlle Boitel, one of the most remarkable performers on the European visual and physical theatre scene; and Laurie Anderson: All the Animals, a specially curated performance by one of America’s most daring creative pioneers.

Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival says: “Ali Smith, as Guest Director this year, has been a wonderful inspiration to us all in programming the festival. In her writing, Ali is renowned for pushing form and working with her has taught us to think differently about how we programme and the work that we bring. She has also brought an incredible range of artists to the festival who are responding to the world in a particular way, both people she knows well, and also people she has loved for many years and perhaps longed for an opportunity to work with - from Agnès Varda to Elif Shafak, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood and Mabou Mines - the list is long and extensive and I think thrilling. I look forward to welcoming audiences to experience another exciting and innovative month of events in May.”

The annual celebration of music, theatre, dance, circus, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and family events will take place in venues across the city and beyond from 2 to 24 May 2015. Brighton Festival 2015 features 396 performances taking place across 150 events including 42 exclusives, premieres and commissions.

‘Visionary’ Brighton Festival 2014 comes to a close

Brighton Festival 2014 - with critically acclaimed choreographer, dancer, musician, composer and performer Hofesh Shechter at the helm as Guest Director - came to a close this week. Described as ‘visionary’ by the Daily Telegraph, the wide-ranging programme of quality performance, visual arts, literature and debate from international, national and home-grown companies and artists has been acclaimed by audiences, artists and critics alike, with attendance across the Festival exceeding 81% of capacity.

With Hofesh Shechter as Guest Director, this year’s Brighton Festival programme was truly genre defying; and featured the highest number of premieres and commissions to date, including the world premieres of Vanishing Point’s Tomorrow and Lost Dog & Lucy Kirkwood’s dance piece Like Rabbits, alongside UK premieres of international theatre company Berlin’s multi-media work Perhaps All the Dragons and contemporary circus from Feria Musica in Sinué

Opus No.7 by acclaimed Russian theatre director Dmitry Krymov - which also had its UK premiere at the Festival - received 4 stars across the board from all the major broadsheet critics. Matt Trueman, writing in the Daily Telegraph, described the work as ‘visionary stuff, utterly singular’; Lyn Gardner in the Guardian said it was ‘unbearably poignant’, ‘visually stunning’ and ‘more like alchemy than theatre’; Dominic Maxwell in The Times praised the work for being ‘merry and macabre in a memorable mix’; while Maxie Szalwinski, in the Sunday Times referred to the piece’s ‘almost paranormal intensity’ and William McEvoy in The Stage described it as ‘unforgettable’.

One of the Festival’s biggest hits was William Forsythe’s interactive choreographic installation Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same time, no.2 in Circus Street Market with more than 12 500 visitors dancing in the piece during the three week period. Visitors described it as ‘amazing’, ‘hypnotic’ and ‘better than brilliant’, popular social networking site Instagram spread word about the installation to 32million international followers via its weekly ‘ArtThursday’ blog and a video documenting its installation attracted 60 000 views.

The 80th birthday of legendary composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle was celebrated with a series of events, headlined by a revival of his 1969 Brighton Festival commission Down by the Greenwood Side. Set in a disused brewery depot in Lewes, this unique production continued the Festival’s tradition of pioneering site-specific and immersive performances in unusual locations.

Other Brighton Festival 2014 exclusives included a new visual arts co-commission by Yinka Shonibare MBE titled The British Library, which has now been extended until 22 June due to popular demand, Tangled Feet’s immersive, free outdoor performance One Million and much more.

Brighton Festival also played host to an eclectic mix of names across contemporary music; from iconic country music singer Emmylou Harris to a rare live performance from Cat Power and a tour de force performance from Peaches in her one woman rendition of Peaches Christ Superstar – of which Caroline Sullivan in the Guardian wrote simply ‘what a woman. What a show.’

The books and debate strand of the programme boasted a number of high-profile events included a sell-out lecture by best-selling author and designer David McCandless, conversations with Irvine Welsh, Jeremy Deller, Viv Albertine alongside discussions and talks about maths, migration and dementia.

Events for all the family this year included a UK premieres of Tanzfuchs Produktion’s dance extravaganza Munch! for the under 4s and Enhanced Dance to Disguised Music; Belgian choreographer Thomas Hauert’s first piece for young people accompanied by a prepared piano soundtrack by John Cage. Meanwhile, on film the Cinema of Childhood (throughout May) - curated by Mark Cousins - looked at the depiction of children in cinema.

In a continuation of the Festival’s dedication to making the arts accessible for all, 2014 saw 13 shows - including six Brighton Festival exclusives like Wim Vandekeybus in conversation with Hofesh Shechter and a debate on immigration chaired by Simon Fanshawe - live-streamed to audiences around the world, for free. Brighton Festival 2014 also saw the launch of a new initiative Collidescope. Designed for artists and creators to intensively engage with the Brighton Festival programme, the scheme offered seven artists who have been making work for at least five years the opportunity for peer-to-peer creative development, with the goal of potentially creating new marriages of minds for future explorations.

As Guest Director, Hofesh Shechter followed in the footsteps of visual artist Anish Kapoor (2009), musician Brian Eno (2010), Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (2011), actress and human rights campaigner Vanessa Redgrave (2012) and poet, author and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (2013) in shaping the Brighton Festival programme. Resident in Brighton throughout the month, Hofesh was actively engaged in the programme – attending countless events and appearing in many, including leading in-conversations with Williiam Forsythe, Wim Vandekeybus and Yinka Shinbare. He also challenged audiences to respond to the world’s ugly injustices in the Brighton Festival co-commission Sun which “came home” to Brighton after touring globally.

This year’s Brighton Festival featured 448 performances and 147 events in 34 venues across the city. In total there were 37 premieres, exclusives and co-commissions and 26 free events. 

An interview with Dmitry Krymov

Featuring larger-than-life puppets, duelling pianos, living walls and blizzards of newsprint, Dmitry Krymov’s Opus No. 7 (3 - 8 May) is theatre on an epic scale.

On the eve of their arrival in Brighton, The Argus newspaper’s Duncan Hall spoke to Dmitry about the show and what audiences can expect

What made you want to link the experiences of the Jews of Eastern Europe with the life and career of Shostakovich in Opus No 7? When did you first make that link?

I had two absolutely separate ideas a long time ago. One was about the Bible (for some reason there men always bore men). The second one was about Shostakovich, his ingenious martyrdom under the government's oppression. I had them written on different pieces of paper that were placed in different places. Once, when I cleaned up my apartment, I saw both these papers in front of me, and I thought ‘it's interesting to do a two act performance. One about the great people, that feels bad, and the other one about the great man, who also feels bad’. So, the idea to comprise the big and the small - one human being and a People, one man and his past, artist and music, man and death, man and his motherland, mum and so on - was the main idea for this work… the stepping stone for it.

How did the work develop? Did you originally envisage Opus No 7 as a whole piece, or did it come together separately?

Yes, I envisioned one piece made of two parts. The work on the two parts was parallel; there were two different set-designers and two composers working separately on each act. They were not really interested in anything outside their parts. And the idea of it as a whole was only in my head, only during the last period of our work we had started to combine these two parts into one piece.

 Why did you pick those two pieces of music by Shostakovich - the Piano Trio no 2 and the Seventh Symphony? Are they two works which have a particular significance for you?

No, nothing personal or of particular significance. Both these pieces are simply works of genius, and both are very theatrical… and in the Trio there is also an evident Jewish theme, which helps combine the two parts.


Opus 7 was developed with former student designers from your course at the Russian Academy Of Theatre Arts (GITIS) - are they still involved in this touring version? How much has the piece changed since it was first performed in 2008?

The set-designers of the performance are two of my former students, they were on the 3rd year at the Academy at the moment, and this work was their diploma work in GITIS. The actors are the same throughout the years… and I hope, that the performance is too. There is one exception, though: Shostakovich's part together with Anya Sinyakina will be played by one more actress, Maria Smolnikova. Both are spectacular.

Your work has been described as "genre-blending" - is it important to you that your work doesn't get compartmentalised?

Yes, I like it a lot.

How much has your early career as a set designer influenced your stage work as a director? Do you see design and direction as being part of the same job?

What you are in the present directly comes out of what you have been in the past. A man is a unity. He consists of his past at 85% and of his present at the remaining 25%, but it is hard for me to take a look at myself from the side. I think, that it naturally looks as a kind of large compote.


What made you return to the stage after 12 years working as a visual artist?

It was a pure chance… like when you are walking a wide street and suddenly you come across a friend of yours, who asks you to look into a small sideway. You walk in there out of curiosity, and it turns out that it's so interesting there that you don't ever return to your broad street any more. The initial cause of everything is curiosity.

 What was your experience of working with the Royal Shakespeare Company like on A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It) in 2012? Were they supportive of such a dramatically different reading?

The people there are wonderful. When I said to Michael Boyd - their artistic director at the time - that I am a bit afraid of doing my piece on the same stage where Peter Brook staged his ingenious version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he put my hand on my shoulder, smiled and said 'don't worry, do whatever you want'. It was a gesture of an experienced psychotherapist.

Are you looking forward to bringing your work to Brighton? Where has Opus 7 been performed before? What challenges do you face taking in to different venues?

Opus 7 was performed in New York, Lyon, also in Germany, Poland, Finland and Estonia. We were worried because of the new audiences; whether they will understand the performance, one that we did not intend to tour and that we did for ourselves and for our own pleasure… but so far, everything has been well, fingers crossed!

What do you have planned for the future?

Oh, I am afraid to talk about it...

Dmitry Krymov was speaking to Duncan Hall, Features writer at The Argus. For more Brighton Festival interviews and news stories, visit The Argus.

An interview with Lola Arias

Brighton Festival will present the UK premiere of My Life After from Fri 24 - Sun 26 May. We spoke to Buenos Aires-based writer / director Lola Arias about the genesis of this uniquely personal response to the Argentina of her parents' generation.

My Life After reconstructs the lives of the parents of the actors in the play. How much input did the cast have?

When I started the research for the play, I had only the concept: a group of young people born during the Argentinean dictatorship reconstruct the life of their parents. With this idea, I started interviewing people. I chose these 6 performers - not all of them are professional actors - because of their stories. I wanted to have people with different backgrounds: Carla is a daughter of a soldier of the ERP (Revolutionary Army of the People) who was killed in combat, Vanina is the daughter of a policeman who worked under covered and participated in torture… All of the performers participated in the investigations of their own family story but the concept and the text is mine.

Do the personal stories change if a cast member is replaced? Or do actors inherit the story in the script?

No actor was ever replaced in this piece. If an actor can’t be part of a tour, the story is cut from the play. The concept is very important: everybody is telling his or her own story.

Is this documentary theatre, a historical investigation or a mixture of fact and fiction?

You can call it documentary theatre because the play is based in documents, facts from the past. But I call it theatre. The performers reconstruct the life of their parents through their own family photo album, letters, tapes... But there is also a lot of fiction in it. They do re-enactments of scenes from the past, based on what someone told them or blurry memories… The past is also a fiction that changes every time we transform it into a story to tell to others.

What are your memories of growing up in Buenos Aires?

I grew up in small house in the very centre of the city. My mother is a literature teacher, my father an architect. The brother of my mother was part of the guerrilla and went into exile in Brazil; the son of my father’s partner disappeared but we never spoke about it at home. So what I remember is this kind of unspoken fear.

Are the clothes, photographs, letters and other props used the genuine articles owned by the actors' parents?

Most of them are original objects. We travelled already to 22 festivals all over the world with a small box with photos, mini cars and some other small objects from the performers. There are also 400 items of clothes on stage. But this is too heavy to put on the plane!

My Life After will be performed in Spanish with English surtitles, why is it important to present the work in your native tongue?

It is the story of these people in Argentina and we speak Spanish! The fact that English became the global language of communication doesn’t mean every piece of art should be done in English… Would you make this question to an Argentinean film director? I guess no. Well, it’s the same. We speak our language and you can read the subtitles or… learn to speak Spanish!

What do you want British audiences to take away from the show?

I don’t have any kind of particular expectation about British audiences. I always expect that the piece creates some kind of reflection about how our private lives are also determined by politics. This is a very personal portrait of six young people from Argentina but it’s also a portrait about how is life under a dictatorship.

My Life After performs at Brighton Dome Corn Exchange from Fri 24 - Sun 26 May

Brighton Festival Live: The Cult of Water

The Cult of Water will be live streamed on Sun 27 May at 9pm. 

Join ‘masterful storyteller’ (Radio Times) Dr. David Bramwell for a candle-lit journey in search of the supernatural secrets of our waterways.

Aided by a witch, Jarvis Cocker, and magician-author Alan Moore, David Bramwell battles his own thalassophobia (the fear of ‘what lurks beneath’) to unearth little-known stories and myths that surround our rivers.

The River Don is the focal point for this psycho-geographical journey that blends music, animation and film with captivating monologue. You’ll also learn about Brighton’s lost River Wellsbourne in a post-show Q&A.