PREVIEW: Brighton Festival back to its big, exciting self

Brian Butler February 21, 2022

Brighton Festival will excite, surprise and inform us like in the old days when it runs 150 events with full-capacity audiences throughout May.

For the first time it will have two Guest Directors – Syrian architect/author Marwa Al-Sabouni, and Brighton-based theatremaker Tristan Sharps, who runs the dreamthinkspeak company. The Festival’s theme is about Rebuilding.

Credit_ Mark Pringle

Among the events will be two world premieres and 3 UK ones, and there’s everything from spoken word, to music, street dancing and site-specific art and sound installations.

Among the world firsts is Unchain Me, a unique site-specific commission from Tristan’s theatre company. At multi-media venues across the city, it will present a work inspired by Dostoevsky’s The Possessed. And co-guest director Marwa has designed a new space for social and artistic exchanges on Hove seafront- The Riwaq.

Other commissions include: internationally-known choreographer Hafesh Shechter presenting Double Murder, and choreographer/performer Charlotte Spencer gives us a new dance piece Written In The Body, which explores how physical contact holds communities together and what happens when it disappears.

UK premieres include: Witness, an installation from Emma Critchley, using underwater dance, words and science to link the human body to disappearing glaciers. Acrobats from Australia’s Circa ensemble bring Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring to the circus stage in Sacre. Emma Rice’s Wild Children return with their acclaimed musical version of Wuthering Heights as part of a UK tour.

Witness Stand is a site-specific creation byAustralian artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, using community writers and sound artists who have a Brighton link to create emotive sound installations at outdoor sites across the region. Architect and artist Mohamad Hafez brings us Journeys from an Absent Present to a Lost Past – his extraordinary miniature streetscapes evoking the ongoing Syrian conflict, in a co-production with Brighton’s Fabrica gallery.

Musical highlights include concerts by The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, well-known for their work with Damon Albarn, Californian trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who combines funk, hip-hop and classical influences, and offerings from the London Symphony Orchestra, The Philharmonia, with Brighton Festival Chorus, and The New Regency Orchestra.

And the Festival goes out into the community with events in Hangleton, Moulsecombe and Bevendean. Opening the festivities it’s back to normal for the Childrens’ Parade, starting a month of reasons to be creative and joyful.

The Festival runs from 7-29 May. Full programme at

Look out for Scene reviews of events and happy Festival-going.