Do you remember the euphoria that bubbles up within you as you unlock a new level of your favourite game?
Do you remember the wonder that zips up and down, left and right in your very person as you discover something new about something old?
Both those sensations swelled within me last week when I attended Flare Festival. It all began Tuesday night at their opening evening. Sat in a corner of the ground floor café at HOME with a cool-to-the-touch glass of white wine after having had a scrumptious dinner upstairs, I listened to head-bopping-good live music being gifted to us by the rock band, PINS followed by Tony Walsh's highly energetic delivery of his poem 'This is the Place'. Primed for watching the festival's first two shows with an open mind, I made my way to see the first one of the evening which was aptly named ONE.
Invited to ponder all things - time, space, sound, light, organisms, objects, people, thoughts and feelings - alongside a lone woman (Lisa Verbelen) on a stage who sings a uniquely beautiful, spirited solo that is rife with energy, awe and humour meant to be sung by 4 voices, ONE is a show that I hope many get to see as it is utterly brilliant. In its simplicity, I begun to examine the genesis of a life; how our experiences inform our next move; how dwelling on the past does not stop time from moving forward; how working on balance and timing affects your chosen path; and how engaging with others and your environment can amplify your effect on your world.
Created by the award-winning new Dutch theatre collective BOG (Anne Vanderbruggen, Judith de Joode, Benjamin Moen & Lisa Verbelen), ONE gently held onto my attention as time, space, sound, light, organisms, objects, people, thoughts and feelings worked together and resulted in a lovely performance. It was fascinating to watch a woman and the world around her get progressively more complex as time went on; even basic lines morphed into curves with a pulse. But then, much too soon, it was time for the second and last show of the night...
Leopard Murders, a rather eye-opening educational presentation by the Swiss theatre group K.U.R.S.K (Timo Krstin, Liliane Kock and Lukas Sander), had a completely different tone to ONE. It began in a way I imagine recently developed radical groups do when they hold their first meeting: a group of people anxiously waiting to hear what a chosen few have to say amidst some early technical difficulties. And it was actually quite fitting seeing as Leopard Murders (literally) sheds light on the tumultuous life story of a young man who saw himself as a "white African" with a dream to share his adventures via carefully chosen words etched in the pages of bound-to-be-popular books until time threw him on a stage that required his words, as a Nazi SS officer, to be harsh and incite a darker kind of wonder. K.U.R.S.K also used this story to delve into the idea of a 'right wing populist': a politician who gives their all to challenge the elite using either left or right wing philosophies to achieve their goals.
Hearing about hopeful writer turned "master" turned draconian politician turned peace activist, George Ebrecht - who happened to be Timo Krstin's grandfather - made me think of the saying 'a leopard can't change its spots' and question the chances or permission we give ourselves - our ways, ideals, perception, dreams, opinions - to evolve whilst learning from our past and present. Especially now as the world seems to have absorbed a sort of frenzied energy, forcing everyone to constantly critically evaluate what kind of future they actually desire and believe in... to be brave enough to fight for it if and when it comes to it with both carefully chosen words and actions.
The exploration of the kind of lives we lead did not end there as on Saturday I made my way to The Royal Exchange to catch 'Actresses Always Lie' by El Pollo Campero Comidas Para Llevar (read: Country Chicken, Food To Take Away) - a theatre performance with a promise of cabaret tendencies. It was the perfect way to end my dalliance with Flare17. It began with the Spanish actresses Cris and Gloria breaking the ice by casually introducing themselves to us, the audience, as we stood in a room with an elephant (obviously not a real one but how many times in your lifetime will you be able to stand alongside the elephant in a room? Exactly! Hence why it is worth mentioning). They then invited us to join them in their dressing room to give us an opportunity to get to know them better and give Cris the chance to get dressed for the show. Sat on their dressing room floor (yup! I immediately felt like a child again which was a very unexpected but welcomed feeling), we listened to them both share a bit about their backstory as Cris changed into her outfit for the performance in front of us. There is something so private about the act of stripping and putting on your clothes that watching her do it like it was nothing tore down any barriers I had unconsciously put up leaving me feeling both vulnerable and free. From then on, the usual distance between an actor and the audience disappeared in an instant leaving room for us all to engage with piece in a more active way.
Once Cris was dressed we headed back down to the studio space where we first met them, grabbed our seats and delved into the lives of these two actresses as they chase their dream of telling stories. The two of them had us laughing and sympathising co-currently as they discussed horrendous auditions, semi-embarrassing jobs, the difficulty that ensues when your pay is crap and lying to your parents about your current job description. Watching them rehearse an action scene they are to be in and dramatise patience-testing situations they've found themselves in, I found myself in awe of these girls who are fighting hard to do the job they love despite the many obstacles they face as actors and as women. They definitely gave me a kick up the bum in terms of enduring the arduous times in life with a smile.
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I would love to hear about the performances you managed to see at Flare this year. Based on the thought-provoking shows I was able to attend, I cannot wait to see what the next Flare Festival programme has in store for us. But until then, there are still a handful of upcoming theatre productions across the city that are calling my name - will be sharing a few more in the next post. Hope you've all had a lovely week so far!