SPOTLIGHT ON: Brighton Festival – 120 events over 3 weeks

Brian Butler February 28, 2023

Gather Round is the the core theme of this year’s Brighton Festival, which runs from 6-28 May. Its guest director is musician, broadcaster and DJ Nabihah Iqbal.

Launching the programme of 120 events, Andrew Comben, Chief Executive of Brighton Dome and the Festival told me: “ Brighton Festival is a key part of the city’s recovery from the pandemic. Over 600 performances will be staged – 123 of them free”.

Nabihah will be closely involved in some of them – including her own new experimental musical work Suroor. Other highlights I picked out include: Groundswell-  where you will feel the earth move beneath your feet in a free large-scale installation. It’s a new work by Matthias Schack-Arnott, where you’re invited to move on a raised platform that sets in motion 1000’s of illuminated balls to create oceanic waves of sound and light. It will be at St Peter’s Square daily throughout the festival.

The world premiere of Galatea is based on a play written at the time of Shakespeare. It’s about a town that has been cursed and that’s forgotten how to love, and there’s a monster coming. It’s billed as an unapologetically Queer story, following characters lost in the woods, including two Trans people, a shipwrecked migrant, warring goddesses and a teenage Cupid who sets hearts on fire.

Galatea was written in the 1580’s by John Lyly, Shakespeare’s best-selling but long-forgotten contemporary. This version is put together by Queer theatre-maker Emma Frankland, Marlborough Productions and the Cornish landscape theatre company Wildworks. It will be performed outdoors in English and BSL at Adur Recreation Ground, Shoreham on various dates between 5-21 `May.

Invisible Flock presents The Sleeping Tree, where you will enter one of the last great rainforests of Indonesia. You follow a family of endangered gibbons as they wake, wander, and return to their sleeping tree. It’s an immersive sound installation that surrounds you with the captivating and microscopically accurate noises of the jungle. Catch it at Brighton Dome on 6 and 7 May.

WeTransfer presents Bloue Now- a film by Derek Jarman, performed live and directed by Queer playwright/actor/director Neil Bartlett. It’s performed by amongst others Russell Tovey and Joelle Taylor. Blue was Jarman’s last film, made in 1993, just months before he died. Voices deliver fragments from Jarman’s diary, describing the gradual onset of blindness as he battles with HIV. It’s at the Theatre Royal with new live score by Simon Fisher Turner, on 7 May.

Belfast Ensemble will present Abomination: A DUP Opera by Conor Mitchell. Mixing opera with drag, cabaret and political satire, it centres on the scandalous radio interview given by Northern Irish politician Iris Robinson, where she referred to homosexuality as “ an abomination”. It plays on 9 and 10 May at the Theatre Royal.

Jazz saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and multi-instrumentalist Otto Hashmi give us a recital on Japanese wind instruments, and other flutes from around the world on 9 May at All Saints Church. A Survivor’s Guide To Politics gives us award-winning political journalist Rafael Behr, discussing his new book about the toxic atmosphere of modern politics. It’s on 10 May at the Attenborough Centre For The Creative Arts.

Gravity and Other Myths present Out Of Chaos – a story of birth, death and primordial physics with hard-edge explosive acrobatics and intimate confessions. Described as circus with a big pounding heart, it plays at Brighton Dome 9-11 May.

Van Gogh Alive is an immersive eperience , using over 3000 images to explore the life and work of the great Dutch painter. It re-opens the refurbished Dome Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre and runs from 12 May to 6 August. A Capella singing group Tenebrae bring us choral representations of four important stages on the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela – 13 May, All Saints Church. Other highlights include comedian Zoe Lyons telling us about her mid-life crisis and hair loss, Kizlar is a dance work that celebrates what it is to be feminine, based on male Turkish dances with an all-female company. You can hear stories from the history of Brighton and East Sussex, given by historian David Olusoga, or marvel in the swashbuckling romantic tale of Kidnapped, from the National Theatre of Scotland.

Stuart Waters and South East Dance present A Queer Collision. It’s time-travelling cabaret, hosted by Ebony Rose Dark. It’s been co-created with LGBTQ+ communities and blind and partially sighted people. It’s at the Dance Space on 19 and 20 May.

Plexus Polaire present a highly original version of the classic novel Moby Dick. It features 7 actors, 50 puppets, video, smoke, a drowned orchestra and a whale-sized whale. It’s at the Theatre Royal on 25/6/7 May.  Munroe Bergdorf’s Transitional is a life-affirming journey showing that we all transition in some way during our lives. Bergdorf is an internationally renowned activist, model, writer and broadcaster. In 2019 Bergdorf was awarded an honorary doctorate for campaigning for Transgender rights by the University of Brighton.  The show is at the Attenborough Centre on 27 May.

And there’s so much more to excite, educate and entertain – go to BrightonFestival for full details.

Full Programe here