The Brighton Festival may be marking its half-centenary, but it’s certainly not showing its age yet. Running from Sat 7 to Sun 29 May, and this year directed by Laurie Anderson, the festival will once again be filling Brighton’s venues, parks and peculiar places with an eclectic mix of cultural performances. With hundreds of happenings flooding the city there’s enough to overwhelm the uninitiated festivalgoer, so we’ve collected a few of our favourites to be getting on with.
This year’s line up features a number of brand new Brighton commissions, exploring Brightonian artists and the city itself. Immersive theatre piece Operation Black Antler explores the ethics of undercover British police work, inviting participants to become an undercover officer and infiltrate a protest group. The Last Resort continues on a similarly disconcerting note, reimagining Portslade beach as an abandoned seaside resort of the near future through high-tech binaural sound systems. On a less dystopian note, Stella provides a theatrical encounter with half of an infamous Victorian cross-dressing duo, whilst The Complete Deaths also steps back into history, racing through all 74 of the deaths in Shakespeare’s canon in a rollicking tribute to the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death.
Theatrical pursuits continue with the English premiere of Portraits in Motion. Volker Gerling documented his 3500km walk across Germany in a series of flipbooks and brings these to the stage in this innovative performance. But if it’s rebellious Catholic schoolgirls that are more your cup of tea, you’ll want to get a ticket for Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour from the National Theatre of Scotland, which enjoyed a sell-out run at last year’s Edinburgh Festival. And if that still isn’t raunchy enough for you head to Slap and Tickle, where performance artist Liz Aggiss will be commenting on our sexual taboos and cultural mores in ‘a feminist soup’ of words, movement and music.
The music selection is not to be ignored either. Double BRIT nominee Laura Mvula will be letting her voice soar at the Theatre Royal, showcasing her unique blend of classical training, orchestral soul and upbeat poetry. There’s a reason her new album is so eagerly anticipated and her performance at the Brighton Festival will let us all in on the secret. Alternatively, African Dance Party returns after its success in 2014, with its fusion of traditional South African style and modern Western forms that will be sure to heat up the May evening.
If the fun of the festival has got you feeling the love for Brighton, sit down and watch Brighton: Symphony of a City, a fusion of silent film and live music from Lizzie Thynne and Ed Hughes that presents a kaleidoscopic view of our seaside home in all its bohemian glory. Or if you prefer provocative political comment check out The Sprawl, a multimedia installation that explores the state’s propagandist use of the Internet. It’ll put you in just the mood for an evening with anti-austerity campaigner and possibly the coolest ex-finance minister on the planet, Yanis Varoufakis, as he chats to Channel 4 economics editor and Guardian columnist Paul Mason about the current crisis and present his case for economic reform.
The Brighton Festival always has a strong dance presence and this year is no exception. Two productions that merge dance and circus look promising; Smoke and Mirrors which explores the depths of the human mind and the French Clairière Urbaine that will bring breath-taking aerial choreography to the city’s streets in a free production. The comedy line up makes an impact too and, perhaps reflecting the rise of female comedians, the festival presents two of the country’s best comedians, regardless of gender. Bridget Christie brings her show A Book For Her to the festival, whilst Sara Pascoe tackles the confusing nature of human evolution in Animal. She’ll also be discussing How a Woman is Made in a talk with the Everyday Sexism Project founder Laura Bates.
With such a plethora of opportunities to indulge your artistic side, 2016 looks set to give the Brighton Festival a spectacular 50th birthday send-off.