On Wednesday Brighton Dome became a hive of activity for the launch of what promises to be another inspired Brighton festival. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the largest and most established curated annual multi-arts festival in England.
Under the auspices of renowned experimental artist Laurie Anderson as Guest Director, this year’s festival pledges to be as avant-garde and unique as Brighton deserves. Anderson is one of America’s driving forces in the Arts. Her innovative style has propelled her as a trailblazer in composing, film making, photography, poetry and music.
The wide eclectic mix of art made locally and globally amalgamates to showcase a host of very special works. From “Dr Blighty”, a Nutkhut Production which regales a deeper understanding of the 1.5 million soldiers drafted from the sub-continent during WWI and the 4,000 Indian soldiers who found a temporary home in Victorian Brighton, to “The Complete Deaths” where the magic of playwright and performer Tim Crouch meets comedy company Spymonkey to re-enact every onstage death from the works of Shakespeare to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
The theme of “home” permeates the vast sensory festival which encompasses commissions, co-commissions, exclusives and premiers in music, dance theatre, visual art, film, literature and debate. Neill Bartlett’s “Stella” poses the idea that ‘the only real home any of us have is our bodies.’ This theme weaves through many of the performances and it is beautifully highlighted in “Heart of a Dog” by Guest Director Laurie Anderson where she celebrates the life of her pet terrier Lolabelle. This playful yet heartfelt tribute to her dog, often seen as the heart of the home, illuminates the ability of this festival to celebrate the extraordinary alongside ordinary relatable works.
The first Festival Director Sir Ian Hunter put it most aptly when he illustrated that the Brighton Festival gives an opportunity to assess ‘a field of culture where the serious and apparently flippant ride side by side.’ This is obvious throughout the festival line-up. The poignant “Zvizdal” showcases the moving story of Pétro and Nadia, a couple who refuse to leave their village after Chernobyl and instead cling on to a life of solitude in their home. This is juxtaposed to “Our Lady of Perpetual Succour” adapted by Billy Elliot author Lee Hall which pays tribute to youth whilst showcasing the escapades of a rather naughty bunch of Catholic schoolgirls.
This festival encapsulates quintessential Brighton and as the festival CEO Andrew Comben states, ‘it has managed to remain true to its original cutting edge intentions.’ The festival, which runs from May 7 to 29 is not to be missed. There truly is something for everyone.
Anderson said: “Brighton Festival is so big and sprawling and exciting and there’s so many different things going on – it really has a kind of celebratory, crazy, art party feel to it.”
Brighton is not only geographically blessed but immensely artistically rich and we are very lucky to have this wonderful festival on our doorstep. Get yourself down to a show or a performance. You will not be disappointed.