Saturday, October 19, 2019

Outburst Queer Arts Festival 2019 – previewing some of the operatic, theatrical and cinematic treats in this year’s programme (8-16 November) #outburst19

In my opinion, the Outburst Queer Arts Festival punches above its weight. Now in its 13th year, the week-long festival has matured into a teenager, yet not lost any of its youthful charm. Over the last couple of runs it has presented some of the most memorable, satisfying and often challenging performances of the year. No one who attended Damage could ever forget the third person in that relationship! Quartered: Belfast, A Love Story set the standard for theatrical audio tours in the city, while Tactics for Time Travel in a Toilet produced experimental work in an immersive set.

Running across Belfast between Friday 8 and Saturday 16 November, this year’s festival opens with the Belfast Ensemble’s Abomination: A DUP Opera on the Lyric Theatre’s main stage between Thursday 7 and Sunday 10 November. Staged last year in a concert form, the work has been expanded and now lasts a full hour with a quartet of singers, some drag, and a libretto composed entirely of verbatim historical comments by DUP members on gay rights, trans lives and marriage equality, challenging politicians about the power of their words and what sometimes becomes the legitimisation of hate speech under a banner of freedom of speech. [reviewed]

International perspectives often help understand local experiences. A double bill of performances from Lebanon and Egypt will take to the Brian Friel Theatre stage on Saturday 9 November at 11.30am: Dima Mikhayel Matta’s This is Not a Memorised Script, This is a Well-Rehearsed Story is a personal reflection on relationships, childhood and prejudice in Beirut while Ismail Fayed’s What the Nadim Knew: By Sunset, By the Nile, We Sat and Sang uses the music from a 1955 concert to tell the story of a singer and actress in a clashing and contested period of Arab history.

Last year’s festival included a series of rehearsed readings on the Sunday afternoon. Among those performances was Stacey Gregg’s Hatchet Jinny, a mixed-media memoir, exploring her own identity by starting with her no-nonsense grandmother who had a perchance for breaking apart furniture when her patience was tried. Experience the updated version in Ulster Sports Club on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 November.

That same Sunday afternoon, Amanda Verlaque’s showcased a draft of The Party. This year’s she back with a different play in development. This Sh*t Happens All the Time is an intimate one woman play performed by Nicky Harley about two women in love, a jealous and threatening ex-boyfriend, queer baiting and asks what still needs to change in society with incidents of hate crime on the rise. The Black Box Green Room on Monday 11 November.

A 1971 BBC documentary about love across the religious divide is the starting point for Trouble, a new film directed by Mariah Garnett which tells a story of a woman reuniting with her estranged father. The debut film comes straight from its premiere at London Film Festival and will show in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Tuesday 12 November.

GAA Maad by Vickey Curtis and Áine O’Hara fuses a passion for sport with queer politics and identity. Two big-hearted fans are searching for Sam in this play whose dramaturgical development has been supported by Fishamblke abnd Dublin Fringe Festival. The Black Box Green Room on Saturday 16 November.

Video installation Far From the Reach of the Sun runs from Friday 8 to Friday 29 November in the Ulster University Belfast campus. Set in a near future where a government-approved drug can alter your sexuality, Kevin Gaffney’s film reflects on the church and medical profession’s history of interfering with the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

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