Brighton Festival 2016
Laura Cartledge takes a closer look at Brighton Festival’s 50th outing.
Brighton Festival’s 50th year looks set to be as intriguing and eclectic as the city it entertains.
So it seems fitting that the 2016 offering will see it come home, at least in terms of theme.
Speaking at the launch event, which gave an insight into what to expect between May 7 and 29, chief executive Andrew Comben revealed: “It is a rich opportunity to celebrate the city’s sense of occasion.”
As well as promoting home grown talent, there will be cultural offerings from the world over, which combines to create a programme that looks set to continue in the ‘trailblazing tradition’ it has become renowned for.
There’s no doubt then that experimental artist and musician Laurie Anderson makes a fitting guest director.
“Laurie is well-known and well-loved by the city,” says Andrew, “and has been experimenting, creating and challenging audiences all over the world for almost as long as Brighton Festival has existed.”
Laurie, speaking via video, was clearly looking forward to it all.
“Brighton Festival is so big and sprawling and exciting and there’s so many different things going on – it really has a kind of celebratory, crazy, art party feel to it,” she enthuses. “It’s a free for all.”
Laurie’s own events include the screening of her acclaimed new film Heart of a Dog and the UK premiere of her Music for Dogs, a concert specially designed for the canine ear, of the latter, she admits: “I’m intrigued who is going to turn up.”
With 150 events in 40 venues across the city, there’s certainly something for everyone.
The festival’s exclusive performances include ‘folktronica’ pioneer Beth Orton, choreographer and dancer Akram Khan’s new full-length production Until The Lions; and the world premiere of a global collaborative work by Turner Prize-winning British artist Gillian Wearing.
On the list are 20 commissions by the festival, which Andrew confesses he is ‘particularly proud of’.
Many of the new works pay tribute to the seaside city and showcase the talents of locals, such as Brighton: Symphony of a City by Ed Hughes and filmmaker Lizzie Thynne.
Charles Linehan, described by The Guardian as ‘one of our classiest choreographers’ will be presenting a double bill of performances, while comedy company Spymonkey and award-winning playwright/performer Tim Crouch are teaming up to mark 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death by re-enacting every onstage death he penned.
Elsewhere the music offering ranges from Laura Mvula, ‘one of the most distinctive musical talents to come out of the UK’, performing at the Theatre Royal, to DJs Graeme Park and Mike Pikering giving club and house classics an orchestral twist at Brighton Dome.
As ever community participation is also a key focus of the events with plenty of opportunities for people to get involved.
A Weekend Without Walls is a great example as it presents ‘two jam-packed days of free family entertainment’ at Easthill and East Brighton parks.
Here there will be a chance to blast off with the Urban Astronaut, help a lost horse find its missing carousel and dust off those leg-warmers for Miss High Leg Kick’s Audition Project.
Of course the proceedings all begin with the Children’s Parade which sees 5,000 participants from more than 80 schools and community organisations turn the streets into a party.
The theme will be ‘Brighton Celebrates’ and takes inspiration from the people, places, ideas and innovations that shape the city’s unique character – which seems an apt place for them to start and this to end.
Laura’s pick of the programme
Neil Bartlett, whose play Stella has its world premiere at the festival, believes a good festival ‘should be frustrating because you can’t see everything’.
His work, which will take to the Theatre Royal on the last weekend, is one I don’t want to miss.
Stella takes a topical look at the home theme by sharing the story of Ernest, an infamous Victorian cross-dresser.
Neil explains the concept behind it is that ‘the only real home that any of us have is our body’ and that his play focuses on ‘what it really means to be able to say your body is your home’.
May 27 and 28, Theatre Royal Brighton, 8pm.
Tribute to the Bard
Marc Rees will be marking the anniversary for the Bard’s death with Digging for Shakespeare.
The piece is inspired by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps – a 19th century joker and world renowned scholar – who lived in a series of conjoining sheds with a hoard of Shakespearean rarities.
Taking place through Roedale Allotments, close to the site of this eccentric’s former home, the piece is described as a trail and quest.
The audience will explore the allotments and visit 12 sheds, each representing a month of the year, where they’ll meet knitted characters.
“It will end with a surreal procession, a cup of tea because that is important, and a seed swap,” reveals Marc.
Meeting point: Old Steine bus stop S. May 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 10.30am and 2.30pm.
Letterpress by the Sea, combines a lot of things I am passionate about. The first, as the name suggests, is the printed word and the second is the great outdoors.
A pop-up press is going to take to Hove Lawns packed with artists, designers and printers, to give visitors a chance to watch, learn and play.
As well as being able to have a go on one of the presses you can select an artist’s print to take home and treasure.
Hove Lawns, May 28 and 29
For the full Brighton Festival programme, visit brightonfestival.org
April 1, 2016 Culture and Events