BE FESTIVAL was formed in 2010 and its Co-Directors, Isla Aguilar and Miguel Oyarzun have returned to Birmingham Repertory Theatre with yet another exciting array of European performances celebrating diversity, culture, and equality. The theme of this year’s festival is contemporary democracy and the changing dynamic from an evolving society that is becoming more proactive in the fight for safety and justice.
The format of the festival is simple but effective: days are filled with workshops, exhibitions, and debates whilst a performance schedule runs every evening with dinner on the main stage between acts. No events clash and the ticket price covers all performances (dinner £8 extra). Everyone shares the same experience. International DJs and live music can be enjoyed until late, providing a thrilling festival vibe – I can hardly believe I'm in Birmingham!
I am experiencing BE FESTIVAL on the evening of Wednesday 24 June. Upon my arrival I witness an elated crowd enjoying Collage by the Spanish Bot Project. The free event has huge appeal and easily captivates the masses with light-hearted humour and skills honed to perfection. Using trampolines the performers jump through the air as if gravity is no object and funky tunes fill Centenary Square. Full of fun the performance inspires many smiles from the fixated spectators.
The evening’s theatre programme, performed in The STUDIO, opens with Acrophobia performed by Liv Knoche and Tobias Willasch, two incredibly talented performers who began their careers in youth circus. Using only movement and audio they convincingly portray a sweet and tender story about one woman’s journey to overcome her fear. Momentum builds, focus is never lost, and expression is well maintained. The young performers prove themselves phenomenal gymnasts as well as superb actors as the fear turns to fun.
The evening’s second performance Translating Lola is by Dutch writer, theatre director, singer, and actress Margo van de Linde and is nothing like I have ever experienced before. Exploring sex, ethics, power, and womanhood the audience are treated to what appears to be a spontaneous conversation across 2 languages. The tale is one of intrigue as the audience gain insight into the encounter which brought Margo and Lola (a Spanish prostitute in Amsterdam) together. A Spanish translator provides humour as she stumbles over certain expressions but all performers play convincing parts, comfortably removing the fourth wall and inviting the audience in.
After dinner, dancers from Costa Rica, France, Brazil and Spain thrilled in Atávico by Cia Poliana Lima, exploring the memory and how violent experiences stay with us. A profound piece of physical theatre it stirs emotion; intense, uncomfortable, and thought provoking. Music builds and becomes loud, sharp, and uneasy on the ears. The human body is used as a climbing frame as a man attempts to break free from his demons, with time he challenges them but they embrace him all the more. Powerful and subjective the performance inspires so many questions.
Comedy concludes the evening’s performances in the form of Jamie Wood introducing O No!, a strange homage to Yoko Ono. The piece is insanely brilliant, engaging the audience and taking humour into the unknown. Bizarre, random, and somewhat surreal Jamie captures the audience with his creative writing and likeable personality. Receiving the biggest cheer of the evening it is clear to see how much all performances have been enjoyed.
Followed by the sounds of rumba, sebene, zouck jazz, and gospel mixes from Didier Kisala Band the evening’s entertainment continued until late concluding with the feel good beats of DJ Ginger Dread.
BE FESTIVAL continues at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until Saturday 27 June. To find out more about events and to book tickets visit www.befestival.org or call Box Office on 0121 236 4455.
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