Words by Helen Knott / Pics courtesy of BE FESTIVAL
Running from 2nd to 9th July, Birmingham’s annual BE FESTIVAL showcases theatre, dance and circus artists from across Europe – presenting a week-long programme of performances and workshops, hosted by the Birmingham REP.
And in a chance for the public attending to meet the artists performing, BE FESTIVAL invites patrons to join them for a special Interval Dinner, ‘served on the REP’s main stage after the first half of the evening performances’. To see the Interval Dinner’s changing menu from Marmalade, the REP’s onsite restaurant, click here.
A weekly pass to BE FESTIVAL will cost £100 with dinner, or £60 without dinner. Individual day tickets are also available, costing £24 with dinner and £16 without dinner. Tickets can be bought thorugh the Birmingham REP Box Office, or for online sales click here.
It’s hard to believe that 2018 is the ninth year of BE FESTIVAL – it still seems like a fresh, young pretender on the Birmingham theatre scene. Perhaps it’s because the line-up always presents interesting new talent and some of the latest movements in the arts, or maybe it’s down to the event’s open-minded sense of fun, but BE FESTIVAL is a decidedly cool place to spend a few hours.
For those of you who don’t know (where have you been for the past nine years?) each evening at BE FESTIVAL tends to follow roughly the same format – typically, there are four 30 minute performances from companies or artists from across Europe, with a communal Interval Dinner where you get the chance to rub shoulders with the performers. The REP’s backstage area is transformed into the festival HUB, where you can chill out, grab a drink, and debate just what on earth was going on in that piece of contemporary dance you just saw. The audience is then invited to party on into the night to the sounds of a live band or DJ set.
That’s where any sense of predictability ends, however; the performances take in a range of different genres – including dance, puppetry, physical theatre, circus – and typically cover a full gamut of emotions and themes.
BE FESTIVAL co-director, Miguel Oyarzun, says on this year’s line-up: “We invite audiences to reflect on the borders we unknowingly create as individuals and groups. Our 2018 programme features work that tests physical limitations, bodily boundaries, social preconceptions and draws on multiple disciplines.” A fitting theme indeed, for a time when the UK is in the midst of literally bordering itself off from the rest of Europe.
So, what’s on the 2018 programme at BE FESTIVAL? With a veritable smorgasbord on stage each night (and I’m not just talking about the Interval Dinner) you can check out the full programme by clicking here, but here is something from each day that got our mouths watering .
On Tuesday 3rd July, the Bulgaria/UK based Ivo Dimchev will be inviting audience members on stage to perform increasingly extreme acts for cash, in P-Project. The ‘internationally ‘renowned choreographer, performing artist and singer songwriter’ has based his solo performance ‘on several words beginning with ‘P’ such as Piano, Pray, Pussy, Poetry, Poppers’ and further invites the audience ‘to Play with the complex Pussy catalogue’ where they can ‘construct their own Pussy and Print it on a Postcard.’ Presented in collaboration with Fierce Festival, P-Project is for over 18’s only.
On Wednesday 4th July, Sister Sylvester’s Three Rooms (Syria/ UK/ Turkey) use Skype to present a digital performance that will take place simultaneously in Paris, Istanbul and Birmingham – in a play that ‘was conceived as a response to Europe’s continuing border crisis, which prevented the actors from traveling to either the rehearsals or performances of the original commission in 2016’ and seeks to ‘ to question the possibilities and limitations of technology to mediate absence.’
Then on Thursday 5th July, BE FESTIVAL opens with Someone Loves You Drive With Care from the UK’s self professed ‘performance artist and a liar.’ Tom Cassani’s circus sideshow-inspired piece will ‘challenge the borders of his own body using blunt and scary looking objects’ (yikes!) as the artist ‘questions our collective construction of truth and lies’ using cabaret trickery and slight-of-hand in an impressive sounding solo performance. There is no official age restriction for Someone Loves You Drive With Care, although the faint of heart (or under 16’s) might want to take a hand to hold or something to hide behind.
Friday 6th July presents Poliana Lima‘s Aqui Siempre (Here Always), as the award winning Brazilian choreographer combines styles ‘from Argentinian popular dance to the European ballet tradition’ in a narrative that explores ‘women from four different countries beaming with individual diversity, experiences and traditions’. Now a ‘long term resident of Madrid’, Poliana Lima‘s Aqui Siempre uses the individuality of each person’s physical expression, or ‘movement systems’, in a dance performance piece that explores the ‘ relationships between memory, the present and the future.’
Then as part of the final day at BE FESTIVAL, on Saturday 7th July, the Greece based ODC Ensemble present The Cave – ‘a digital recalibration of the symbolic potency of Plato’s Cave allegory’ that uses opera, cinema, digital and visual technology ‘to reflect on the walls and shadows we build around us.’ ODC Ensemble were the first prize award winners at BE FESTIVAL 2017, led by the Athens based Elli Papakonstantinou, and ‘their work embraces the bewilderment of the audience in the face of persistent dislocation.’
It can be off-putting to invest an entire evening (and ticket cost) into a programme that you’re not sure that you will like, but BE FESTIVAL takes that risk away – you may not enjoy all of the performances, but with up to four artists on show each evening there’s bound to be something that makes you think.
Above all, BE FESTIVAL, with its communal dining and feedback cafes, is an ego-free place of openness and playfulness. You may even find that you have some of your own boundaries and preconceptions challenged along the way.
BE FESTIVAL 2018 – official trailer
BE FESTIVAL runs at Birmingham REP from Tuesday 3rd to Saturday 7th July – with a special matinee programme on the final day. For more on BE FESTIVAL, including the full festival programme and links to online ticket sales, visit www.befestival.org/festival
For more from Birmingham REP, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.birmingham-rep.co.uk