This year’s BE FESTIVAL opened to the sound of unraveling red tape. Not the kind brought about by current Brexit negotiations, but a physical red tape that stretched all the way from Ladywood, Birmingham to the Rep Theatre as MAMAZMA completed the journey of ASINGELINE; an art installation re-imagining red tape and using it to connect together art spaces and the local community.
A solo performance packed with multiple personalities the evening’s first show, INDOMADOR, examined human vanities and the identities we choose to portray. Through the hour long performance Animal Religion led us from rubber chicken comedy to a darker, more sinister, look at the way we view animals and ourselves via precision acrobatics and perfectly choreographed body mimicry.
The performance asked more questions than it answered and was the main topic of conversation as we took our seats for the interval meal on the main stage. Provided by Birmingham’s renowned Marmalade bistro there were options of Pesto Crumbed Pollock or Citrus Marinated Tofu, both served on generous helpings of vegetable couscous and accompanied by Mediterranean bread and Spanish salad. Gazing around I wondered how many famous faces had looked out to an audience packed theatre from the very spot where I was sat enjoying dinner.
The second performance of the night, PALMYRA, saw Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas exploring revenge and the politics of destruction through the Greek tradition of breaking plates. Although initially playful and comedic we soon discovered their relationship was harbouring hurt and resentment. Loud and provocative the show harnessed the sound of broken crockery to startle and shock but it ultimately provided a musical soundtrack to Bert and Nasi’s sad and dysfunctional friendship dance.
Choreographer Paula Rosolen’s goal, to make visible the inherent dance present in everyday life, is certainly evident in the evening’s final performance Aerobics! A Ballet in 3 Acts. Alternating grapevines with pliés Heptic Hide transformed our 1980’s keep fit obsession into a work of art. Precisely timed and synchronized, every move perfectly controlled, Paula’s choreography gave aerobics a fluidity and grace that, by the end of the show, even had an exercise-phobic like me wondering where I’d hidden my legwarmers.
The atmosphere at BE FESTIVAL is hard to put into words but it’s theme of Crossing Borders may go some way to explaining it. Borders are not only crossed at BE FESTIVAL, they’re broken down and discarded. Performers, staff, and audience mingle between performances in a way I’ve never seen at any other festival. The evening’s dinner started at a table with strangers and ended with a group of new friends. It is, truly, a festival like no other and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us at BE FESTIVAL 2018.