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Brighton Festival bid to be the best so far
The programme of events for this year’s Brighton Festival has been released. Taking place between May 4 and 26, there will be 370 performances, including 28 premieres, across 33 venues. Reporter Ben James takes a look at what we’ve got to look forward to.
THIS year’s Festival will be the most accessible ever – with 22 free events and 120 performances with tickets for £10 of less.
With the economy still in the doldrums, organisers have put an emphasis on affordable art this year to ensure everyone can enjoy the three-week event in May.
There will be no shortage of events, and visitors can expect everything from symphony orchestras and world premiere theatre performances to interpretive dance and outdoor sculpture exhibitions.
Andrew Comben, Brighton Dome and Festivals chief executive, said: “We are really conscious about ticket prices and want to make the Festival accessible for everyone.
“There are 154 events at this year’s Festival, 120 of them have ticket prices of £10 or less and there are 22 free events.
“I believe in the arts and I think it is important that everyone should have the opportunity to be involved. Hopefully this year’s festival will provide just that.”
The three-week event will kick off as usual with the Children’s Parade on May 4.
Over 5,000 youngsters from 83 schools will make their way from Kensington Street to Madeira Drive, with many thousands more lining the streets.
The first week will see 82 performances with the likes of experimental theatre piece Table Manners at The Basement (May 6-8) vying for an Argus Angel.
The UK premiere explores the etiquette and rituals of dining while unearthing the darkness that can lurk beneath the casual veneer of a dinner party.
May 7-8 will see Montreal’s Cirque Eloise (pictured above) perform the UK premiere of their new show at the Dome’s Concert Hall.
The award-winning company’s daring acrobats and fast-paced action is sure to make it a fast seller.
The first Thursday (May 9) will see a specially commissioned piece to mark the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth.
Britten: The Canticles, which is another world premiere, will see musicians attempt to play one of the composer’s more challenging pieces.
This year’s event is based around three themes set by guest director Michael Rosen.
The first, Stories, Lies and Rhetoric, celebrates the author’s love of language with a number of special readings, poetry sessions and classic literature events.
The second, Forget Me Not, looks at lives both lived and lost with a number of moving theatre and dance pieces.
Finally, Emil’s World explores themes from one of Rosen’s favourite books and a City Big Read, Emil and the Detectives.
Emil and the Detectives
Mr Rosen said: “There are strands running through the festival. Emil and the Detectives represents for me something personal and political, conjuring up a time that is easily forgotten in the terrors of what followed in the era after its publication.
"So you will spot, I hope, connections with the ‘moment of Emil’ throughout the festival.
“The book expresses hope, invention, dissent, cooperation and originality set mostly in a great city and perhaps you’ll find these ideas running through the events too.
“Arts festivals are times when we can explore ways we talk about who we are and who we might be – even when it’s an art form that doesn’t talk.
“The arts marry ideas and feelings, intermingling them, making us care, making things matter, showing us possibilities. We are moved.
“This changes us. Sometimes this is a comfort. Sometimes it is a challenge.”
The second week kicks off with a packed weekend, including an ambitious dance piece, involving Turner-winning sculptor Antony Gormley and 17 Buddhist monks, called Sutra.
The Monday (May 13) will then see the Festival take over the Spiegeltent in the Old Steine for two nights with a modern take on Beowulf.
The second week will also see the return of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, magician Rob Drummond’s breathtaking Bullet Catch show and Brisbane’s Casus group performing their Knee Deep physical theatre piece.
The Festival will conclude with some of the most ambitious and spectacular events the city has ever staged.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will perform King Lear in St Nicholas Rest Gardens on May 23-26, with The Tiger Lillies group’s genre-defying interpretation of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner set to be a sell-out at the Dome.
There will also be the usual series of talks and morning-after events, with the likes of Michael Rosen, author Polly Dunbar and actor Gordon Winter appearing.
Mr Comben added: “It has been a lot of hard work but we are very excited to present this year’s event. We have selected a wide range of events to suit all tastes and hope this will be the best Festival to date.”
DRAWING IN THE BIG NAMES
The Festival always attracts its fair share of big names – and this year is no different.
Among the well-known faces appearing is Sinead O’Connor on May 8.
The Dome Concert Hall show is a rare live appearance with tickets expected to sell out fast.
The Irish singer will perform tracks from her new album, as well as delving into her 25-year back catalogue.
American band The Flaming Lips will play the same venue on May 22.
The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will host a talk on his experiences of learning Chopin’s Ballade No 1 on May 11, with the multi-Grammy winning singer Lucinda Williams performing on May 15.
Guest directors have been involved in The Festival to varying extents over |the years.
But 2013’s pick, children’s author and poet Michael Rosen, pictured above, appears to be the most hands-on to date.
In total he is involved in 10 events, including the panel debate How Do You Write Funny Books for Children? and his children’s orchestral piece The Great Enormo.
Written by Rosen especially for the Festival, the “wacky and wonderful” performance is billed as “a guide to the orchestra and a whirlwind tour of musical history”.
Even when not directly involved his influence can be felt with the likes of the screening of Emil and the Detectives at the Duke of York’s (May 12) and the complete Berlin Alexanderplatz Remastered at Duke’s @ Komedia.
In his Festival programme note, he writes: “It is massive privilege for me to be a guest director of Brighton Festival.
“I believe in the chemistry of it, the way it will get the whole city talking and wondering.
“Contributing to what the Festival will offer has drawn together my passions, interests and daily concerns.”
THE Festival is often remembered for its huge outdoor shows: 2009’s C-Curve, The Level’s washing line cars in 2011 and last year’s Waterlitz at Black Rock spring to mind.
This year looks to be no different, with a plethora of big events.
A newly commissioned sculpture of sorts will be on display, courtesy of Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen, at a yet unconfirmed outdoor site.
Elsewhere Flathampton, pictured above, looks to be one of the event’s more ‘out-there’ shows.
The life size playmat will see adults and children explore a huge fantasy town with the opportunity to go to cocktail bars, do shopping or present TV shows.
Towards the end of May, BHASVIC’s car park will be transformed for an epic production of Faust, while a huge theatrical tour of the city centre called Figures Libres is set to attract people in their thousands.
GET WITH THE PROGRAMME
This year’s cover is inspired by Herbert Bayer's 1932 photomontage The Lonely Metropolitan.
The main image for this year’s festival combines the eyes and hands of guest director Michael Rosen.
Michael Johnson, who helped design the programme, said: “We wanted the image to echo an open book and comment on the sensory experience of the Festival.”
The Festival brochure will be exclusively available as an insert in The Argus on Friday, March 1 – a week before being distributed publicly.
Tickets are available for Festival members from tomorrow.
The box office opens to members of the public eight days later on March 8.
Tickets can be bought by calling 01273 709709, buying online at brightonfestival.org or in person at Brighton Dome Ticket Office, 29 New Road, Brighton, BN1 1UG.
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