Our Artistic Director, Aaron Wright gives their suggestions for this year’s festival
We’re so excited to be back for our first festival since 2019! We’ve got a bumper programme of carefully curated performances for you to see. Trying to pick out our ‘top tips’ would be a bit misleading as we care deeply for all the projects we’re presenting. Hopefully instead, these thoughts pull out some of the more curious projects in the programme and give you a bit more insight to help you make your minds up about what you’d like to see. For me they are all ‘must sees’.
Dog Rising – Clara Furey
Sperm Whales are the loudest animals on the planet. A sperm whale’s click is 200 decibels. To give you a sense of the scale, the loudest sound NASA has ever recorded was the first stage of the Saturn V rocket, which clocked in at 204 decibels. Researchers believe sperm whales can vibrate your body to death with their most intense vocalisations. This was the inspiration behind DOG RISING by Clara Furey – a huge star of the Canadian dance scene. In this show, through very simple repetitive movements the three dancers try to conduct energy to the audience – and it’s really quite astonishing. People who follow the Fierce programme regularly might have noticed that I’m a big fan of committed, embodied, repetitive dance. This year this is the show! If dance is your thing – see this.
Farm Fatale – Philippe Quesne/Vivarium Studio
Tentacular Spectacular – Oozing Gloop
We have mellowed since our 2019 festival, which we cheekily described as a festival for the end of the world (we didn’t know covid-19 was just around the corner, honestly). The scholar Donna Haraway says “the world is not finished and the sky has not fallen – yet”. Haraway has been a source of inspiration for many artists in this year’s festival, such as Oozing Gloop who uses Haraway’s writings as inspiration for her show Tentacular Spectacular. Haraway has encouraged us to drop our apocalyptic and admittedly very Western outlook and proposes we replace the idea of the Anthropocene with the Chthulucene. In her theory of the Chthulucene, “humans are not the only important figures in the world – they, along with other beings, are with and of the earth, and “the biotic and abiotic powers of this earth are the main story”. Many of the projects in this year’s festival decentre human perspectives and support ideas of what Haraway calls ‘multispecies ecojustice’ such as Wolf Safari and we are all made of stars.
In Philippe Quesne’s show Farm Fatale he fashions an ‘anti-heroic mode of performance – a kind of neo-absurdism – to produce ecological images.’ Masked, with a distorted voice and an unbending walk, as if they were zombies, the scarecrows in Farm Fatale use humour and irony in the search for a new beginning, in the utopia of a new and better world – a world without people. It’s a melancholic, funny and strange take on the biggest challenge the human race currently faces.
The Making of Pinocchio
I don’t say it lightly, I think this might be the British theatre show of the year. It takes the well-known story of Pinocchio and casts a trans lens on the take playing on the notion that Pinocchio wanted to be ‘a real boy’. It’s a visually stunning production that uses live filming on stage, and gives us a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of the camera. It’s thought provoking, funny and hugely inventive, touching on themes of truth, lies, fictions, transitions and making ourselves up. We’ve been following the art of Cade & MacAskill for a while. Some of you might have seen their last show ‘Moot Moot’ when we brought it to Midlands Arts Centre in 2018, or some of you might have even been at the opening night of Fierce Festival 2017 where they performed as the anti-genre-riot-grrl-on-grrl-on-boi-on-boi-concept band ‘Double Pussy Clit F*ck’ during which the police walked in mid performance. Classic! If you go to the theatre just once this year, I’d suggest it be to see this.
Lavagem (Washing) – Alice Ripoll & Cia REC
There has been an explosion of brilliant performing arts in Brazil in recent years from artists such as Lia Rodrigues, Gabriela Da Cunha, Renata Carvalho and Alice Ripoll and the Cia REC company who we are beyond thrilled to present in their UK debut performances. I’m interested that despite a deteriorating right wing political situation in Brazil artists are still finding ways to produce brilliant work. Alice herself says of the situation “The main challenge of currently producing art in Rio is the lack of public cultural policies. The few municipal and federal sponsorship programs that existed were extinguished, and they constituted the only investment in artwork not produced for profit. The situation is very bad. Mainstream media is not very regulated in Brazil, and it’s controlled by a few families and millionaire politicians with no commitment to promoting a program that will address the cultural diversity of the country. The programming of the media produces incalculable damage for Brazil. It’s racist, sexist, exhibits the worst American cinema, canonizes football, interweaves programming with advertisements that hurt women, exalts whites and the rich as a model to be copied, and portrays the poor as laughable. To make real art—in the streets, in theaters—is partly an attempt to heal the wounds caused by television.” It’s an honour to have this company, who all love on the favelas in Rio De Janeiro perform for us, and the offer us tangible hope for culture as we face the decline of our own political situation. The art of Alice Ripoll and Cia REC is profoundly urgent and incredibly beautiful.