Monday, October 07, 2019

Belfast International Arts Festival 2019 – a programme awash with toe-tapping and thought-provoking theatre, music, dance, talk, film from home and abroad (15 Oct–3 Nov) #BIAF19

While arts venues around Belfast are starting to push out marketing for their Christmas shows and events, there are a couple of major festivals to squeeze in before the bearded man in the red suit can be allowed to take over.

Belfast International Arts Festival runs from 15 October until 3 November. (It is quickly followed by the shorter Outburst Queer Arts Festival running 8-16 November whose programmes is always rich, thoughtful and provocative.)

Back of the 57th year, the grande dame of cultural festivals around Belfast with 14 premières and 200 events across the city over 20 days, showcasing the best of international art and culture alongside international-standard local performers. The full programme is available on the festival website and in paper format in libraries, arts venues and cafes around the city.

With some events already sold out, here’s my preview of performances to watch out for.

As part of Japan-UK Season of Culture, the festival opens with a double bill from Hiroaki Umeda. Media and Accumulated Layout fuse choreography, computer code and hypnotic sound to create stunning and immersive digital visuals behind the movement and dance. Tuesday 15-Wednesday 16 October at 7.45pm in The MAC.

Two Door Cinema Club are returning home to play in The Telegraph Building as part of festival. Wednesday 16 October at 7pm. [reviewed]

Stalwart of the Japanese experimental music scene, ASUNA, creates a genre-bending sonic experiment with 100 Keyboards (battery-operated piano keyboards) on Thursday 17–Saturday 19 October at 7.45pm in The MAC. Blurring the lines between art and music, the audience are encouraged to move around the space to listen to the complex sonic fields of interference and reverberation. [reviewed]

Having made quite an impression with her extended set at the festival launch, Cuban singer and flautist La Dame Blanche will deliver a roof-raising mix of hip-hop, cumbia, dancehall and reggae in The Empire Music Hall on Saturday 19 October from 9.30pm.

Botanic Gardens will host free performances of breath-taking aerial acrobatics La Spire on a steel spiral structure at 3pm on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October. Raw strength, tenacity and vulnerability combined with live music and suitable for all ages.

The Playboy of the Western World is a co-production of John Millington Synge’s play by the Lyric Theatre and Dublin Theatre Festival. It runs from Tuesday 8 October–Saturday 2 November at 7.30pm (and some matinees) in the Lyric Theatre. [reviewed]

In Choked, journalist and author Beth Gardiner will speak about air pollution and the lives shaped by this urgent health threat around the world. Monday 21 October at 7pm in The MAC.

Every year, festival director Richard Wakely manages to inject at least one absurdist show into the programme. They’ve often been some of the most memorable performances. who could forget the spinning-out-of-control Brexit allegory Celui Qui Tombe (He Who Falls) from October 2017. Real Magic promises to create a world of second-chances, second-guesses, distortions and transformations as three performers are thrown back again and again into an absurd gameshow of repetition, part illusion, part mind-reading, part nightmare. Tuesday 22-Wednesday 23 October at 7.45pm in The MAC. [reviewed earlier this month at Dublin Theatre Festival]

Written and performed by Love/Hate actor John Connors, Ireland’s Call follows the lives of three young men growing up on Dublin’s northside. An unflinching exploration of class, religion and identity. Wednesday 23-Saturday 26 October at 8pm in Lyric Theatre.

Well-known for creating over the top characters, Big Telly Theatre are bringing The Worst Café in the World to a unit on Hill Street in Cathedral Quarter. The signage will be cracked, the chef’s a mess, the food’s non-existent, the waiting staff are something else, and the customers are flies on the wall as the service melts down and plates of pure comedy are served up over an hour. Wednesday 23–Sunday 27 October at various times. [reviewed]

Before [reviewed]

To Da Bone explores the role of Facebook and YouTube in mobilising crowds and creating opposition movements through high energy dance and music. Part of the FranceDance UK festival of contemporary dance. Friday 25–Saturday 26 October at 8pm in Grand Opera House. [reviewed]

Staging Schiele [reviewed]

Spliced [reviewed]

On the eve of the – at time of writing – latest EU deadline – journalist, author and unsuccessful European election candidate Gavin Esler will talk about Brexit Without the Bullshit, based on his book which attempts to explain the Brexit that is arriving rather than the one that was promised. The former Belfast Telegraph journalist also reported for the BBC from Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Wednesday 30 October at 7pm in Ulster University Belfast campus in association with Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Historic Royal Palaces.

Every year, the Lyric’s New Playwrights Programme showcases the work of their talented group of writers. This year, readings of six new works will be presented, two at a time over three evenings. Thursday 31 October–Saturday 2 November at 7pm in Lyric Theatre. (Recent hit Crocodile Fever was developed through this programme.) [middle showcase reviewed]

Fans of Oona Doherty will be delighted that Lady Magma: The Birth of a Cult is playing for three nights between Thursday 31 October–Saturday 2 November at 7.45pm in The MAC. It’s described as an ode to femininity and a celebration of female strength.

What does it mean to be poor in the UK today? Author of Lowborn, Kerry Hudson, grew up in a working class environment, attending nine primary and five secondary schools as her single mother moved around. Scoring eight out of ten on the Adverse Childhood Experiences measure of childhood trauma, she asks if anything has changed in the towns in which she grew up. Sunday 3 November at 2pm in No Alibis Bookshop.

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