Manchester International Festival’s programme for 2019 was officially launched last week in the perfect setting of Upper Campfield Market – with various bins dotted around to capture any small leaks from the monsoon rain outside, but a wonderful atmosphere of excitement and anticipation and some absolutely sensational food (excellent falafel, amazing hot chocolate!).
So, after two years of build up since our Practice signed up as official supporters in 2017, what are we excited on this year’s programme…? Everything. The end.
Circumstances suggest that I should probably elaborate, or this won’t be a very interesting read. But I’m only half joking. The joy of MIF (and I’ve been attending since 2009) is that often you have no idea what any given production is going to turn out like, even if it’s by a revered and reliable performer. MIF is about experimentation, about collaboration, about the freedom to try something new and bold (bonkers).
So, what are we excited about…?
Well, Invisible Cities sounds like the perfect amalgamation of different art forms in a spectacular setting. Taking place in Mayfield Depot (the cavernous volume of which always looks amazing) it will feature performance inspired by Italo Calvino’s text, the perennial favourite of architecture students everywhere, and sees a collaboration by 59 Productions (concept and design), Rambert (dance), Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (choreography), Leo Warner (director) and Lolita Chakrabarti (adaptation). At the launch, Chakrabarti talked of the challenge of adapting the seemingly unadaptable and much-loved book. We very much look forward to seeing how it comes to life.
In the past I have always enjoyed the children’s events at MIF, from running around in a live action Dr. Who adventure, to a mime performance of every fairy-tale you can imagine, to last festival’s amazing Welcoming Party where the cast told their own personal stories of immigration. This time it’s animals. Hard to know exactly what to expect from Animals of Manchester, but it’s free, in a park, and I’m sure there was mention at the launch of a film studio run by beetles, a university where the dogs are the teachers, and something involving a hundred rescued hedgehogs.
Yoko Ono’s opening night Bells For Peace seems like a lovely way to kick things off, and Idris Elba and Kwame Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree looks set to be the kind of immersive theatrical experience that, rather than sitting down observing, has you participating, and dancing… at the launch, Kwei-Armah suggested it would feel like walking into a South African nightclub.
We are also particularly excited about Tao of Glass – the incomparable Philip Glass joining forces with Phelim McDermott (Improbable) to perform a new work in the Royal Exchange Theatre (one of our projects), creating a storytelling tapestry, soundtracked by Glass’s mesmerising music and shot through with Improbable’s trademark theatricality.
I could go on and on (I haven’t even mentioned David Lynch, Nico/Maxine Peake or Laurie Anderson). The range of talented performers brought together for MIF is always inspiring and the work they produce often exhilarating. Roll on July – only 111 days to go (start wishing for sunshine).
Check out the full programme here.