Best of BE Fest

21 Sep

Birmingham meets Salford. A hotpot dinner in the interval. Mime, dance and multi-lingual dialogue. Chatting to performers and newly-met audience members. And a fish. All in all, a highly unusual evening, full of the unexpected (except dinner, I knew that was coming).

Taking three favourite pieces from July’s Birmingham European Festival on tour is a really good idea. The performances from across Europe mix languages and genres.

Think Fish Part 1, cieLaroque/Helene Weinzierl (Austria)

Audience participation. Joining in. Following instructions. Any of those couplets is enough to turn my blood chilly. But actually, the cieLaroque chaps are so warm and funny that it actually goes ok. It seems rather brave to me to come into the audience and thankfully it seemed to go not too badly. The rest of the piece was delightfully absurd, and full of the misunderstandings that can arise from someone giving or following seemingly simple instructions. Physically this was very impressive with mirroring, reversal and  deconstructed dance. I felt a strong sense of the two characters working together and but also working against each other. A bonkers but very amusing and intricate work.

Dis-moi la vérité, Autour du Mime (France)

On to the perhaps more traditional mime performance from Autour du Mime, or that’s what I expected on learning  Sara Mangano and Pierre-Yves Massip trained under and worked with Marcel Marceau for eight years. The relationship the duo expressed came across effectively and with a number of recognisable elements. As well as excellent movement, the facial expressions of the two performers add to the piece, the sad bemusement of Mangano is very touching at times. This is a dysfunctional relationship laid bare with honesty and emotion. Throughout there was a feeling of a fluid relationship and conflicting obsession – possibly to the point of unrequited love at times; of love and of love lost. Although physically there is trust between the performers they also communicated how hard it is to let someone go, with a lot of repetition of a certain dance phrase or two I also got the repeated attempts you can make in a relationship to stop the inevitable failure  -and often these attempts are the same old mistakes. I didn’t expect the piece to turn out as it does, it started very traditionally – almost cinematic with its opening encounter reminiscent of the innocence of an old silent film. I was surprised at how moving I found the piece and that was at least in part due to the repetition of movements – whether made slower or smaller, bigger, faster or more frenzied – each movement tells a subtly different story.

Autour du Mime won the Best Performer Award at the BE Festival 2011.

El Desierto, by Move to Stand (UK)

Three people in a ‘foreign’ city; friendships and relationships are formed and you feel like you’re watching a real couple and their good friend. This piece looks at how relationships form and how important they can become, even with language as a barrier. In fact I felt the added interest of two performers speaking often in Spanish and French gives a constant reminder of the barriers they overcome to maintain their friendships, as well as showing how strong a relationship can be even with those barriers. In the case of this couple, the added significance of trying for a baby is incredibly powerful. Some simple choreography is stunningly effective – both for the couple and the beginning arm movements mimicking the falling of leaves. As their first piece, Move to Stand have set a really solid standard for themselves.


A really interesting and inventive evening of theatre and a definite encouragement to discuss and share ideas and thoughts on the performances, both with audience and with the companies themselves. Birmingham should be proud of BE Festival and I’m glad they toured in this, their second year. I hope there’s a third year and another tour in 2012…


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