‘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.