Belfast Telegraph

The Big Weekend of Arts

By Belfast International Arts Festival

Belfast International Arts Festival kicked off this week and runs until 3 November in various locations across Belfast. With over 200 events taking place throughout the festival across Belfast, this jam-packed programme has something for everyone. We’ve put together a guide for the biggest weekend of the festival, Fri 25 Oct- Sun 27 Oct. A vibrant mix of dance, theatre, music, talks, tours and art, whether you can spend the weekend, the day, an hour or just a minute (yes, really!) you’ll find your top pick in this guide - we’re sure of it!

If you’ve seen Christine and the Queens’ video for Girlfriend, you’ll already be familiar with the work of the festival’s French dance stars, (LA)HORDE, who will be performing their utterly captivating, high energy jumpstyle piece, To Da Bone, in the Grand Opera House Belfast, Fri 25 & Sat 26 Oct.  The cast of 11 dancers were crowd-sourced from across Europe through internet auditions, and the piece is a rebel call to the social media generation.

Four dancers inhabit radical artist Egon Schiele’s highly-charged world of colour, masterful lines and unusual perspectives that put the human body on visceral display in the Irish premiere of Staging Schiele at The MAC on Sat 26 Oct. Shobana Jeyasingh’s award-winning choreography matches the raw intensity of Schiele, and scrutinises the relationship between male artist and female model; the viewer and the subject.

For those who love dance, check out the special priced combination ticket on Saturday 26 to see Staging Schiele at 6pm in The MAC followed by To Da Bone at 8pm in the Grand Opera House.

The iconic Lyric Theatre holds home to some incredible Irish theatre throughout the festival.  Ireland's Call, Wed 23- Sat 26 Oct, sees award-winning RTE Love/Hate actor John Connors make his debut as a playwright with this one-man show about three Dublin teenagers being enticed into a life of crime whilst Irish Classic The Playboy of the Western World is reimagined by Oonagh Murphy and runs through to Sat 2 Nov.  Met with controversy when it was first staged at the Abbey Theatre in 1907, John Millington Synge’s brutally hilarious masterpiece is about life on the margins and the lengths we go to, to create a reality more exciting than the place we find ourselves.

Visitors to this part of Belfast should visit the Ulster Museum, home to the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts (RUA) 138th Annual Exhibition (Free).  A long-term partner of Festival and now in its 138th year, the exhibition provides a unique platform for acclaimed artists and emerging talent to showcase their artwork in the fabulous galleries at the Ulster Museum, Fri 18 Oct- Sun 5 Jan.

Back in Cathedral Quarter, Festival, in partnership with Ulster University and British Council, brings home the internationally renowned work of local architects Hall McKnight, following their recent appearance at the prestigious invitation-only 16th international Architectural Exhibition in Venice. Unique Instruments; Expectant Spaces (Free) cross-references a number of their projects including the re-imagining of new civic spaces from a variety of different perspectives, and is on display Fri 18 Oct- Fri 8 Nov at Ulster University, York St. 

For those who enjoy something a little lighter and mischievous, make your way to The Worst Cafe in the World in Cotton Court, opposite The Merchant Hotel.  If reality TV had a lovechild with theatre, this is it.  A Big Telly Theatre Company special for Festival, there is just one week to get a table, place your orders and experience the gloriously mad ‘Worst Café in the World’. Pure comedy and pathos, this chaotic foodless venue promises a large serving of entertainment for people who like their theatre fresh, from Wed 23- Sun 27 Oct, various showtimes. Make sure to book your dinner elsewhere!

The soul-searching Before, touchingly combines some of the best-loved songs from musical theatre with the story of an estranged father and daughter, set on the closing day of Clery’s department store in Dublin. Taking place on Thurs 24 and Fri 25 Oct in The MAC. Writer and performer Pat Kinevane received the Herald Archangel Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival.

Swing by the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre for a moment (just a minute!) to look in the window and see Minutes in Motion (Free) a programme of 12 one-minute dance films commissioned by Dance Ireland.  The 12 dance artists who have created the dance films span the breadth of the Irish dance community, from experienced choreographers and cinematographers to new dancers and those creating their first cinematic work. 

More than ever before, we live in a culture that denounces inactivity and demonizes idleness. A permanent busyness pervades even our quietest moments. Little wonder so many of us are burning out.  Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen explores the paradoxical pleasures, as well as human necessity of inactivity. Not Working, Sun 27 Oct, 2.30pm at The Black Box, asks how we might live a different and more fulfilled existence.

Also on Sun 27 Oct, Lucy Parham is joined by British acting royalty, Juliet Stevenson and Michael Maloney, to perform Beloved Clara, the love triangle story between composer Robert Schumann, his pianist wife Clara and a young Johannes Brahms.  Classical music fans lucky enough to secure tickets for the sold-out performance will not be disappointed.

For those who like to venture, Cultural Walking Tours of Belfast have various tours during festival. On Fri 25 Oct, check out Street Statues & Sculptures tour. Whether you are a resident of Northern Ireland who wants to know more or are visiting the city for the first time these tours are a must! 

In the East of the City, international poet Alice McCullough curates a new edition of first class contemporary poetry for this permanent installation of poems, drawn from a world-wide call for submissions, Songs for Myself - Poetry Jukebox (Free) will be available 24/7 in C.S. Lewis Square throughout the Festival and beyond!

Visit http:/www.belfastinternationalartsfestival.com for full details and booking links or book in person at the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre, Donegal Square North, Belfast or by telephone: 028 9024 6609.

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