Brighton Festival 2014: initial thoughts

An extraordinary new play! Works of minimalist power! A lively choreography of manifold and intricate avoidance strategies! I want to experience it ALL!

I always look forward to Brighton Festival, and 2014’s line-up, announced today, certainly hasn’t disappointed me at first glance. In this post, I’m going to whittle them down to my top five and tell you exactly why I want to secure tickets and hopefully even review some of these works. There is too much for me to cover succinctly, but let me assure you now that I could ramble on for reams about some of the exciting ideas revealed today. I highly recommend that you explore the restival of the festival for yourself. But for now, on with the reactions…

1. what happens to hope at the end of the evening

This play is exactly what I look for every year. It looks to be centred on the fragility of a dying friendship, and I hope it will be a hyper-realistic, painful and uncomfortable hour of viewing. Initially it feels like it could turn into Abigail’s Party without the irony – and there is nothing wrong with that at all. I think there will be a lot of tension and fractious conversation, and if there is I will be more than happy. I like the look of the pared-down set, as it will give the actors breathing space and give the audience nowhere to hide.

Read more about what happens to hope at the end of the evening.

2. Bonanza

There is something strangely, yet understandably romantic about a desolate landscape. The milieu can completely transform our notion of underinhabited space – we think very differently about a quaint English village than we would Bonanza, the subject of this cinematic exploration of a largely isolated mining town. Interviews with the remaining inhabitants reveal a distinct lack of trust and a surprising lack of community for what we might expect to be a tight-knit unit of solidarity. This excites me more and more every minute I spend mulling over the themes, and Bonanza could easily be one of my festival highlights.

Read more about Bonanza.

3. Tomorrow

I hate to use this phrase, which really means nothing, but Tomorrow truly does look thought-provoking. It explores the issue of age, ageing and the aged through the eyes of the young. I think the concept is incredible – a young man finds himself in a state presumably supposed to reflect old age, but it’s all so strange and confusing and he feels powerless and incapable. Having recently rewatched the beautiful Amour, which follows an elderly couple through illness, exhaustion and total adoration, I realise that old age just isn’t given enough gravity in the arts, and this looks set to be a very important work.

Read more about Tomorrow.

4. Information is Beautiful

I have been wanting to read David McCandless’ book ‘Information is Beautiful’ for some time now, and this session might give me the kick I need to get round to it. Large volumes of data can be terribly tedious and difficult to digest, so McCandless’ endeavour to make it more engaging is commendable. Putting data into a visual form is arguably one of the most effective ways to make it accessible and – unbelievably  – interesting. It’s ideal for life now when nobody has time to re-correct autocorrect, let alone trawl through pages and pages of dry information. Everything is at-a-glance and it’s no less valid for it, just more suitable for life in 2014.

Read more about Information is Beautiful.

5. Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2

I love conceptual, interactive art, and Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2 gives me everything I want from a piece of its kind. What I really like is that the active interaction is minimal yet the art is highly reactive – simply walking around the swinging pendulums influences their movement. To my mind, it’s a really interesting, tangible example of planned chaos, insofar as all the spontaneity of human motion is controlled in the automatic responses of the swinging objects.

Read more about Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time No. 2.

And one more for luck…

A special mention has to go to Bring the Happy. I am a born and bred Brightonian (apparently surprisingly difficult to come by these days) and I love this city. Brighton is hard not to love, and I can’t wait to see what people have to contribute in this collection of what makes people happy in Brighton. It will be great to locate the happiest parts of Brighton, and I’m really looking forward to what makes the people in this very alive, sparkly city tick.

PS: Don’t forget I wrote a couple of reviews for last year’s festival! You can find my review of pitch-black audio performance Ring and post-rock musician Apparat‘s haunting show on the Flux magazine website.

Photo by Katherine Leedale

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