Monday, September 25, 2023

Belfast International Arts Festival – some theatre, circus, dance, music, film and conversation highlights (12 October–5 November 2023) #BIAF23

Some highlights to look out for in the Belfast International Arts Festival, which runs for the 61st time from 12 October–5 November 2023.


Gary Mitchell’s new black comedy Burnt Out [reviewed] about a couple who move into a new home opposite a bonfire. That situation never ends well in any local plays! // Lyric Theatre // Wednesday 11 October–Saturday 4 November

Tinderbox Theatre’s Patrick J O’Reilly’s adaptation Rhino [reviewed]– which I last saw in a bi-lingual performance at Belfast Festival a decade ago – uses physical theatre and multimedia design in a performance that promises to add a Black Mirror vibe to Eugène Ionesco’s classic and problematic absurdist comedy. // Lyric Theatre // Wednesday 18–Sunday 29 October at 20:00

Welcome to the gig economy. The audience at work.txt [reviewed] will clock in, get short breaks, work in a team under their own initiative, and learn about financial instability in the absence of a performer. // The MAC // Tuesday 24–Wednesday 25 October at 19:45

Celebrated playwright, director and producer Jo Egan used community theatre to bring authentic voices and marginalised stories onto stages across Ireland. Along with Fionnuala Kennedy, Jo founded MACHA Productions, to ‘democratise cultural expression’. As part of a two-day Lay Up Your Ends at 40 celebrating the anniversary of Charabanc Theatre Company, The Linen Hall will be paying tribute to Jo Egan who died last Christmas with an evening of performances and reflections. // The Linen Hall // Thursday 26 October at 18:00

Pat Kinevane and Fishamble are regular collaborators at the festival. King explores prejudice, privilege and resistance through the eyes of an agoraphobic Elvis impersonator who lives in Cork and was named after the civil rights leader. // The MAC // Friday 27–Saturday 28 October at 19:45

Find out what happens to the minor characters at the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller Rear Window in Big Telly’s online performance. Based on digital and physical assets, music and scripts developed through public engagement workshops. Big Telly were world leaders discovering how theatre could stretch and adapt performances to best exploit online platforms like Zoom during the pandemic. Rear Windows [reviewed] builds on that and takes it further. // Saturday 4–Sunday 5 November


Expect a mix of parkour and circus comedy in Taroo & the Cabinet of Curatrocities as Said Mouhssine fuses acrobatics, pole work and urban street moves. // CS Lewis Square // Saturday 14 October 13:30 and 15:30 // Free

Group Acrobatique de Tanger are cart-wheeling onto the stage with Fiq! [reviewed], their colourful and magical acrobatic routines, breakdancing and freestyle football, all to the beats of DJ Dino. Also featuring Palestinian circus performer Esam Sultan. // Grand Opera House // Friday 20–Saturday 21 October

Craving gossip and fed by tabloid journalism where free speech, false news and integrity collide. GUTTER [reviewed] is a new dance piece created and choreographed by Eileen McCrory and brought to life by Kevin Coquelard exploring the reader’s role in the war for attention and ratings. Sound design by Garth McConaghie and dramaturgy by Hanna Slattne. // The MAC // Saturday 28–Sunday 29 October

Drop into Queen Street Studios and catch Maiden Voyage Dance’s new performance installation Good Times Never Seemed by Vasiliki Stasinaki and Sarah Gordon. Skate boarding. Jumping into puddles. Getting trapped inside bubble wrap. Experiments in collaboration. // Thursday 2 November (15:00–2000), Friday 3 and Saturday 4 (12:00–17:00)


An Evening with the Belfast Ensemble and Marc Almond begins with a concert version of Abomination: A DUP Opera, a verbatim work based on the words of politicians. After the interval, and ten years after his last performance of the work, Marc Almond reprises the intense song cycle Ten Plagues. // Grand Opera House // Tuesday 17 October at 19:30

Friend of the festival and this year’s featured artist Nicholas McCarthy is appearing at Glitter of Waves, playing two stunning piano works for left hand only (Britten’s Diversions and Ravel’s Concerto) along with the Ulster Orchestra. // Ulster Hall // Friday 20 October at 19:45

And Nicholas McCarthy is back a week later for a free performance with the Ulster Orchestra and Acoustronic on Friday 27 October and is in conversation about cultural leadership at Ulster University on Thursday 19 October.

During the festival there are also performances of Canadian country music (Saturday 14 October), Cara Dillon (Wednesday 18 October), Ex-Isles (Thursday 19 October), Squid (Tuesday 24 October) and The Waterboys (Saturday 28 October).


Films from the creative partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger will be showcased in the Cinema Unbound strand at Queen’s Film Theatre: Black Narcissus (Monday 16 October at 18:15), A Matter of Life and Death (Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19, Sunday 22), I Know Where I’m Going (Friday 20–Thursday 26), Suspiria (Saturday 21 at 20:15), A Canterbury Tale (Friday 27 and Sunday 29 October, Wednesday 1 November), and The Tales of Hoffmann (Saturday 28 at 15:00).

Irish film music and its role telling stories over the last 100 years will be celebrated at From the Quiet Man to the Quiet Girl, an evening of conversation and performance. // Strand Arts Centre // Thursday 16 October at 19:30

A screening of the classic 1922 (silent) film Häxan – a documentary about witches and more – will be accompanied by a commissioned score composed and performed live by Nick Carlisle. // Queen’s Film Theatre // Thursday 2 November at 18:45


Journalist and broadcaster Gary Younge will be talking about his new book Dispatches from the Diaspora: From Nelson Mandela to Black Lives Matter, a collection of his journalism covering four decades of reporting from Britain, the US, and South Africa. // Ulster University // Tuesday 17 October at 19:00

Mick Herron is author of the Slough House series of spy novels about a washed up team of spies. They have been adapted for by Apple TV+ as Slow Horses. // Crescent Arts Centre // Friday 20 October at 18:00

Technologist Dr Eleanor Dare, artist Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice, and Big Telly Theatre’s artistic director Zoe Seaton explore AI & Creativity. An illusion of novel thinking, or able to exhibit creative behaviour. // Ulster University // Saturday 28 October at 15:00

Lots more in the full festival programme.

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