In the circumstances it isn’t perhaps surprising but it is nevertheless disappointing that this year’s Manchester International Festival features just two shows that drop into the category of live theatre.
The Global Playground (Great Northern Warehouse, July 2 – 18) is billed as a family-friendly mix of dance, music, theatre and puppetry, “which considers how we connect and sometimes disconnect and how we make the most of the time we spend together”. It’s from London-based Theatre-Rites, an award-winning creator in the field of experimental theatre for children, currently celebrating 25 years of success.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the Nigerian author of acclaimed novel Half of a Yellow Sun, last year published her essay Notes On Grief, a tribute to her beloved father, and now director Rae McKen turns this into a performance piece, at Manchester Central (July 7 – 18).
Opening night of MIF21 features Sea Change, a new outdoor dance work by French choreographer Boris Charmatz, which has a chain of professional and non-professional dancers, including 150 local residents, each “performing and repeating a dance movement on the spot in a joyous celebration of togetherness in a post-Covid world.”
In Piccadilly Gardens, Argentinian art pioneer Marta Minujin is staging Big Ben Lying Down With Political Books, a 42-metre sculpture made from 20,000 copies of books that have shaped British politics.
The site of The Factory – MIF's eventual new home – will play host to a special installation, Arcadia, from theatre veteran Deborah Warner. Visitors will walk in a field of specially-lit tents to a soundtrack of poetry about the natural world from a wide range of writers including Simon Armitage and William Blake, with the recorded voices of actors and musicians such as Simon Russell Beale, David Thewlis and Jane Horrocks.
Throughout the festival there are poetry and film events, art exhibitions, wide-ranging music performances and more. The Festival Square, now in Manchester's Cathedral Gardens, will offer food, drink and free entertainment.
Artistic director and Chief Executive John McGrath says: “A truly international programme of work made in the heat of the past year and a vibrant response to our times. Created with safety and well-being at the heart of everything, it is flexible to ever-changing circumstances and boldly explores both real and digital spaces.”
Get the details on all that MIF21 has to offer here.