Sunday, September 16, 2018

Belfast International Arts Festival – previewing some of the theatre and talks on offer from 16 October – 3 November #BelFest2018

One month from today, Belfast International Arts Festival will be back for 2018 with 125 events from 12 countries, including 12 premières and running over 19 days from 16 October until 3 November.

I’ve picked out some of my speech and theatre highlights from the programme which is filled to the brim with quality music, theatre, dance, talks, tours and more from home and abroad.

Marie Jones’ new play Dear Arabella will open the festival with its world premiere in the Lyric Theatre on Tuesday 16 October, running until 10 November. It intertwines three women and their tales of love, regret and loss to create a poignant play with a simple act of kindness at its heart. [reviewed]

Originally performed by Field Day Theatre Company in 1986, Double Cross takes on a new relevance in this era of heightened nationalism and so-called fake news as two real-life Irishmen are pitched against each other in a WW2 propaganda battle (British Minister for Information Brendan Bracken and Nazi broadcaster Willian ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ Joyce). Lyric Theatre from Wednesday 10 until Saturday 27 October. [reviewed]

The artist behind VerseChorusVerse, Tony Wright, will perform excerpts from his new book Chapter & Verse(ChorusVerse) at The MAC on Wednesday 7 November. [reviewed] 

Dominic Grieve QC MP refuses to accept a hard Brexit and will deliver Amnesty International’s annual lecture to discuss the future of human rights post-Brexit. In Human Rights: Brexit, the Border and Beyond, he’ll explain why the UK should stay fully committed to its international human rights obligations and why this important for people in Northern Ireland. Journalist Steven McCafferty will host a Q&A after the lecture. Thursday 18 October Postponed until Thursday 8 November at the Ulster University Belfast campus.

Stroke Odysseys is a colourful, original, and perhaps cathartic, music and dance show that integrates the lives, experiences and performances of stroke survivors with a professional cast. The MAC on Thursday 18 October at 8pm.

For two nights only, Josette Bushell-Mingo will mix story and songs by Nina Simone as she draws out parallels from the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement in the US with persisting inequality in today’s society and questions how far we’ve really come. Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone features a live band and what promises to be a strong, searing and soulful piece of theatre. The MAC on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 October. [reviewed]

Former Irish President Mary Robinson will discuss her book Climate Justice with journalist Frank McDonald. Her foundation works to secure global justice for often-forgotten people who are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Monday 22 October at Ulster University Belfast campus.

Twenty years after the SAS shot dead three members of the IRA in Gibraltar, Hugh Stoddart’s new play Gibraltar Strait will be performed by Brassneck Theatre in the MAC from Tuesday 23 until Saturday 27 October. The powerful and balance verbatim account was written a year after the events using eyewitness testimonies and oral recordings, described by the Independent on Sunday as an example of theatre being able to “revitalise an event suspended between news and history”. [reviewed]

Also reviewed: Dyptik's Dans L'Engrenage (In the Gear) and Isabella Rossellini's Link Link.

CANCELLED - Complex identities are not unfamiliar to this part of the world. Facing the Sea, for Tears to Turn into Laughter uses movement, music and chanting to explore the pain of exile and the impossibility of return. Live piano and singing accompany choreographer Radhouane el Meddeb’s story of a man, both Tunisian and French, created in the aftermath of the revolution in Tunisia that kicked off the Arab Spring. The MAC on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October.

Big Telly Theatre Company are producing “a gloriously absurd expedition into the world of strange” with an darkly humoured evening of circus Freak Show written by Zoe Seaton and Nicky Harley. Marvel at the Portrush Giantess and the Brainless Brothers as the fairground attractions grind their axes in a rare roadshow of revenge. The MAC from Wednesday 31 October until Saturday 3 November. [reviewed]

The New Playwright’s Showcase returns to the Lyric again, this year with the performances split across three evenings of double-bills of rehearsed readings of new work showcasing the talents of new and upcoming writers. Thursday 1, Friday 2 and Saturday 3 November.

The award-winning Open Arts Community Choir will fill the Great Hall in Parliament Buildings, Stormont with vibrant song and testimony from choir members as they celebrate 18 years of music. The choir is made up of people with and without disabilities and were gold medallists at the European Choir Games. Expect to hear fresh interpretation s of classical standards as well as choral arrangements folk, pop and folk classics. Something Inside So Strong on Friday 2 November.

The festival closes with all-male comedy ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo who will mix tutus with testosterone, in an evening of fun and flawless dance feathered with false eyelashes and prima ballerina attitude as they perform a series of sassy spoofs and homages to classical ballet. Friday 2 and Saturday 3 November at Grand Opera House. [reviewed]

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