Saturday, September 17, 2022

Previewing Belfast International Arts Festival 2022 (5 October to 6 November) #BIAF22

Belfast International Arts Festival is back from 5 October until 6 November. 60 years on from its inception in 1962, the programme combines the best of home grown international talent with international acts that often would normally be seen on these shores.

There’s a bounty of theatre shows in this year’s festival, a strand much disrupted by COVID. Frank McGuinness’ Dinner With Groucho (The MAC) opens the festival on Wednesday 5 October (running until Sunday 9). Groucho Marx and TS Elliott meet for dinner in an evening of wit and buffoonery, presided over by a controlling proprietor. [reviewed]

How To Fail As A Popstar (The MAC, Thursday 6 and Saturday 8 October) is a cabaret-style one-woman autobiographical show about Vivek Shraya’s journey to the margins of fame. [reviewed]

Three and a half years on from its thrilling concert reading, Conor Mitchell Propaganda: A New Musical will be stage in the Lyric Theatre (with Belfast Ensemble) from Saturday 8 October to Saturday 5 November. The impact of the fences going up in 1953 Berlin is seen through the eyes of Stanislav and Hanna, a photographer and his muse. Expect a live 14-piece orchestra, stellar cast and a great evening of musical theatre. [reviewed]

Cahoots are masters of walk-through theatre experiences packed with special effects, digital technology, magic and old-fashioned performance. They’re back in their Cityside Retail maze of corridors and rooms with a Halloween special from Friday 14 to Monday 31 October. The Ghost House reappears every century. Join the ghost hunter to discover the legend of Black Hearted Benjamin. [reviewed]

Big Telly Theatre Company take a fresh look at the myth of Frankenstein with a provocative black comedy that promises to be topical and warm your heart. Frankenstein’s Monster Is Drunk And The Sheep Have All Jumped The Fences is playing at the Brian Friel Theatre (that’s at the back of Queen’s Film Theatre) from Friday 14 to Saturday 22 October. [reviewed]

The Scorched Earth Trilogy (outside the Ulster Museum on Friday 14 October at 7pm/8pm/9pm) is a 30-minute blend of opera, contemporary orchestral music, street art and animation, presented via mapped video, a sound installation, silent-disco headphones, and including an unexpected new example of ‘trickle down economics’!

Ron Mueck’s amazingly sculptures are fascinating visitors in The MAC’s gallery. Stephen Beggs will perform a specially commissioned piece Ron’s World to imagine the stories that could lie behind the sculptures, some tiny, some monumental in scale. Suitable for festival goers aged six and above. Saturday 15, Sunday 16, Saturday 22, Sunday 23 October at The MAC.

The Queen in Me (The MAC, Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 October) finds out what happens when The Magic Flute’s iconic Queen of the Night refuses to keep singing, theatre and opera combine for a thrilling performance that sheds light on the restrictive notions of race and gender within the opera industry.

How do we understand romantic relationships? Another Lover’s Discourse (The MAC, Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 October) encourages audiences to shake off stereotypes and free themselves from traditions. A new inventive multimedia performance from Riham Isaac, one of Palestine’s most exciting contemporary artists. Part of the festival’s focus on artists from the Middle East and North Africa.

Festival regular Oona Doherty is back with the Irish premiere of Navy Blue (The MAC, Tuesday 25 and Wednesday 26 October) which uses dance, music and colour to reflect the pain, loneliness, struggles and exploitation of working-class people in a search for healing, redemption and societal change.

Conversations on Impermanence (Irish Secretariat, Thursday 27 October at 7pm) sees Maria McManus, Gail McConnell and Neil Hegarty in conversation about the new collection of essays by writers connected with Northern Ireland. Impermanence is published by No Alibis Press.

Paul McVeigh’s new one-handed play Big Man (Lyric Theatre, Thursday 27 October to Sunday 13 November) explores love at first sight and asks whether it ever truly works out. What if the very things that attract end up pulling us apart? Performed by Tony Flynn and directed by Patrick J O'Reilly.

Having closed the festival in 2018, the all-male New York-based ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo (generally known as “The Trocks”) are back in the Grand Opera House (Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October) with their immaculate technique, comic timing and sassy spoofs of classical ballet routines.

Playing his body like Polish-born musician Elisabeth Chojnacka played the harpsichord, Jan Martens returns to the festival with Elisabeth Gets Her Way (The MAC, Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October).

During the early days of the pandemic lockdown, Big Telly Theatre Company forged ahead of with digital productions, recognised internationally as pioneers. Their productions became ever more elaborate, weaving the technology into the audience experience and the ways stories could be told. Big Telly’s director Zoë Seaton is in conversation with Young at Art’s Eiblín de Barra in All the Screen’s a Stage on Tuesday 1 November at 4pm (available to watch online afterwards).

BIND is a sumptuous poetry and dance film set in the exquisite Robinson Library in Armagh. It’s a collaboration between dance choreographer Eileen McClory and poet Maria McManus that explores the binds between past and present, the tension between elevation, elites and access to knowledge, progress and change, the visibility and constraints on women, and how a visionary institution contributes to progress in the modern world. The film is available to watch online for free between Sunday 23 October and Sunday 6 November. A special screening (tickets £4) in the Queen’s Film Theatre on Saturday 22 October will be followed by a Q&A with Eileen McClory, Maria McManus, filmmaker Conan McIvor and composer Katie Richardson.

Critic and playwright Jane Coyle’s new work After Melissa (Brian Friel Theatre, Thursday 3 to Saturday 5 November) is inspired by and reimagines the storylines of Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet and the themes of homecoming, love and family through the eyes of a poet. Returning home to Donegal, bringing with him the orphaned daughter of a nightclub dancer, he’s writing a memoir of his years in the Egyptian port of Alexandria and his relationships with its exotic, cosmopolitan residents.

The 141st Royal Ulster Academy exhibition runs from Friday 14 October until Tuesday 3 January 2023. Work from acclaimed artists and emerging talent – painting, drawing, sculpture, photography and video – will be showcased in the galleries of the Ulster Museum.

Check out the full online programme for details of even more dance, theatre, music, visual arts, film, talks and walking tours.

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