Summer in Southside, Closing Weekend: Bank Holiday Jamboree

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A jamboree jam-packed with a huge range of amazing live acts, the closing weekend of this year’s Summer in Southside finished off the festival in spectacular style, with singing, dancing, clowning, acrobatics and a truly explosive finale!

The events kicked off on Saturday with Ida Barr’s Mash-Up, a hilariously bizarre blend of music hall, R&B and pantomime drag led by acclaimed theatre creative Christopher Green, while Inspector Sands‘ audio tour High Street Odyssey roamed Hurst Street and Arcadian, delving into the past, present and future of Southside with some surprising consequences.

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At 1.30, Wired Aerial Theatre presented a series of spectacular feats in Straw Dog, with two performers portraying internal conflict through a breathtaking physical struggle, inspired by a Native American saying. At the same time, Candoco Dance Company explored the themes of frustration and disappointment through two duets – Studies for C and Two for C – telling the story of a slowly stagnating relationship. Meanwhile, in Push, Tangled Feet offered a playful and touching take on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, perfectly capturing both the sheer joy and utter anguish of bearing and raising children.

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Showcasing circus skills and traditional clowning, Le Navet Bête‘s Extravaganza was a fun, family-friendly farce taking over Arcadian in between appearances by Ida Barr. In sharp contrast, the Helen Chadwick Song Theatre‘s poignant White Suit used music to tell the story of an aspiring footballer who becomes a landmine victim, highlighting people’s willingness to ignore the suffering of others rather than risk the consequences that helping out might have on their own lives.

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Throughout the day, popular arias were presented in a series of pop-up shows by Oyster Opera, while Icarus‘s beefy Rugby Player Duo wandered through the crowds on stilts, chatting to visitors, actors and volunteers alike.

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And of course, beneath the Arcadian Umbrella, the Hippodrome Plus Youth Ambassadors were on hand to chat about the shows at the Talkaoke table, hosting a series of interesting discussions with creatives and performers from Wired Aerial Theatre, La Navet Bête, Southpaw Dance Company and High Street Odyssey.

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On Sunday, High Street Odyssey, Straw Dog, White Suit and Extravaganza returned, while Talkaoke was shifted to prime position in front of the Hippodrome theatre.

DSCF1891In place of the Rugby Player Duo, Rannel‘s Stereomen pumped up the volume, encouraging party-loving passers-by to dance along with them.

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Taking over from Ida Barr, Circus Mash set up early in Arcadian, showing off some amazing circus skills and calling on audience members to participate in workshops in Float, with a great response from lots of enthusiastic kids and parents. At 2.30 and 5.30, Company Chameleon‘s Push examined the complexities of human interaction and power balances.

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At the end of the night, audiences were invited to grab themselves some gourmet hot dogs and dance to tunes chosen by Summer in Southside’s guest DJs, The Smoking Dogs, before settling down to watch Southpaw Dance Company‘s Faust. A lively reimagining of the harrowing tale of a man who sells his soul to the Devil, Faust saw the story’s arrogant scholar transported to 1920s Speakeasy, with drinking, gambling and illegitimate boxing all set to cool big band music. Members of the company moved fluidly and faultlessly across a blazing stage, performing complex stunts and energetic dance fusions all with apparent effortlessness.

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DSCF2034Finally Arcadian’s Le Truc played host to a late-night festival wrap party where the Summer in Southside team finally got to relax, enjoying a well-earned rest accompanied by more music. It was fun enough to make some of us miss the last train home….

If you attended any of the shows, please let @brumhippodrome know what you thought on Twitter using the hashtag #BHOutdoors.

Summer in Southside, Day 2: Euro Stars

 

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After a successful launch with Live and Local last Saturday, Summer in Southside 2014 got well underway this weekend. On Saturday 16th August, Euro Stars showcased some amazing live acts from across Britain and Europe.

From 1pm, The Museum of Everyday Life took over Hurst Street, offering passers-by the opportunity to “transform [them]selves into a work of art” as part of an interactive photography exhibition, designed to “make the ordinary extraordinary”. Meanwhile in Arcadian, the Hippodrome Plus Youth Ambassadors busily prepared for Talkaoke and Tea, ready to engage audiences in interesting conversations about the shows they’d seen or hoped to see throughout the day. Discussion kicked off with a family-friendly chat about birthday parties, in advance of Wet Picnic‘s “funny” yet “sad” show The Birthday Party, scheduled to start up nearby at 2pm.

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At 1.30, the first performances of the day began. Outside the Hippodrome theatre, Acrojou wowed audiences with their poignant, physical exploration of our unhealthy obsession with productivity in Frantic. The show scrutinized our determination to give up all our time and energy to jobs and other less important aspects of our lives that all too often leave us unfulfilled – a topic which would later emerge in conversation around the Talkaoke table. At the same time, in Arcadian, a trio of three acrobats showed off their skills in Mattress Circus‘s comic Heights, a fun, lighthearted performance that proved a favourite with family audiences.

 

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At 2, slapstick clowning gave way to moments of dark humour and brutal honesty in The Birthday Party, while in Inge Street, the De Fakto Company from France presented dance spectacular Le Petit Bal 2 Rue, blending inspiration from French films of the 50s and 60s with contemporary dance and hip hop to tell the story of two performers at a very important audition.

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Described as a “funny and funky” sound experiment, Radio Patio was performed by Spanish artist Pere Faura at the Hippodrome Dock at 2.30, combining movement with radio noise to create an entirely unique experience. From the Netherlands, Gijs Van Bon‘s sand-writing robot Skryf roamed the streets, leaving behind a long trail of words soon blown away by the breeze. At Summer in Southside, Skryf’s ephemeral tracks were made up of poetry written by Hippodrome Plus youth ambassadors Sipho Dube and Cassandra Wiggan.

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Following this, in Inge Street, Haywood Hix‘s comedy play Works told the tale of two would-be inventors, mixing ramshackle engineering with a dry sense of humour. Finally, a partially improvised version of Les GoulusThe Horsemen popped up late in the day, after an unfortunate loss of baggage at Paris airport! Three aspiring Olympic equestrians were spotted riding through the streets on broomsticks as part of their…er…training. Let’s hope they eventually retrieved their missing horses!

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As the day came to a close, Southside was once again invaded by strange, alien creatures – very different to last week’s curious tourists The Roswells. Close Act Theatre‘s eerie, one-eyed iPuppets seemed to float around above the crowds, peering into faces and investigating the performance spaces. There may be know way of knowing for sure what these serenely silent robots ultimately made of Birmingham, but we’re confident the festival will have made a good impression!

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Summer in Southside continues next weekend with the Bank Holiday Jamboree, featuring a diverse array of shows taking place across Saturday and Sunday. Visitors will be able to experience Southpaw Dance Company‘s amazing Faust, as well as take part in our late-night wrap party, so make sure you don’t miss it! For more information, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website, or check out the Summer in Southside tumblr.

Summer in Southside, Day 1: Live and Local

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The summer holidays are here at last, and what better way to spend the warm, sunny days (well, mostly…) than enjoying three weekends packed full of free theatre, music and dance? This Saturday (9th August), marked the first day of Summer in Southside 2014, an exciting outdoor performance festival put together by Hippodrome Plus and taking place in streets, squares and pubs around the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre.

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After the success of Summer in Southside 2013, the festival has this year been expanded from just two weekends to include a much broader range of performances. On Saturday, “Live and Local” kicked off at 1pm with A Haka Day Out in Arcadian and Talking Birds’ Cricketers in the Hippodrome Square. Cricketers is a short, interactive comedy show that sees viewers roped into an amateur game of cricket with some hilarious consequences, while A Haka Day Out allows audiences to learn the traditional Haka war dance in workshops with Maori (New Zealand native) performers. Related arts and crafts activities such as tribal face and body painting also took place alongside the show.

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Next up were 2Faced Dance Company’s Two Old Men, an extraordinary, acrobatic, dance fusion performance telling the story of two old friends over a little journey ending at the local pub, as well as Tin Box Theatre’s Pint Dreams, a blend of folk music, puppetry and traditional storytelling taking place at The Old Fox pub. Following these, Corey Baker’s light-hearted Headphones emerged in Hurst Street, showcasing a plethora of dance styles and musical genres, and at 3pm, Arcadia played host to an hour of hip hop and break-dancing by a series of talented local acts.

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Throughout the day, performances were repeated to ensure plenty of opportunities to catch each show. Every 10-15 minutes, Highly Sprung’s beautiful fairy tale Travelling Treasury was told inside a caravan in Inge Street that had been gorgeously decorated to give audiences the sense that they were walking into the pages of a book. Also by Highly Sprung, alien family The Roswells wandered around the Southside area, taking photos, having a picnic and enjoying their summer holiday on Earth. Meanwhile, Pod Projects and Eye Candy Festival presented an assortment of wares by regional artists, illustrators and designers at the Bicycle Basket Bazaar – a “kind of art fair meets car boot sale”.

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Those who wanted to share their thoughts on the performances – or anything else on their mind – were invited to come and chat to Hippodrome Plus Ambassadors over a cup of iced tea at the Talkaoke table situated in Hurst Street. Talkaoke is a relaxed, pop-up chat show that enables participants to lead a discussion on a topic of their choice. Set to reappear on every day of the festival, Talkaoke will be situated in Arcadian next Saturday.

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As the daytime performances wrapped up and the evening began, budding DJs were invited to bring along their own records and show off their skills in Come Vinyl With Me while enjoying a drink in Arcadian, before moving on to the Hippodrome Dock for a trippy clubbing experience inside a giant white balloon called The Pod.

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If you missed Summer in Southside this weekend, or if you enjoyed the shows, make sure you come along next Saturday (16th August), for “Euro Stars”, where you’ll be able to catch some amazing international acts, ranging from Acrojou’s spectacular Frantic to Gijs van Bon’s sand-writing robot, Skryf. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought on Twitter (@brumhippodrome) using the hashtag #bhoutdoors. For more information on the festival, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website, or check out the Summer in Southside tumblr.

Talkaoke photos by Matthew Kong.

Minimum Monument – Reimagining the Memorial

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Gathering outside the Hippodrome on Tuesday afternoon, the sun is shining gloriously. Yet despite the baking summer heat, inside a nearby, disused Birmingham warehouse, a congregation of miniature ice men is rapidly growing its ranks. This is the making of Minimum Monument, a stunning, frozen art installation to be displayed in Chamberlain Square on Saturday to coincide with the 2014 World War I centenary.

Over the past few days, a team of 20 dedicated volunteers have been tirelessly working alongside Brazilian “urban intervention” artist Néle Azevedo and her translator to complete an ambitious total of 5,000 ice figures. At 1pm tomorrow (Saturday 2nd August), members of the public will then be invited to set down the sculptures on the steps of Chamberlain Square and watch them slowly melt away in a powerful representation of human fragility and mortality.

DSCF1187Conceived as “a critical reading of the monument in contemporary cities”, the ephemerality of Minimum Monument contrasts sharply with the solidity and permanence of traditional stone memorials. There’s more to this than simply visual effect, however: through the transience of her work, Azevedo seems to acknowledge the importance of letting go as well as remembering.

One of the key aims of the piece is to celebrate the life of the common man, giving recognition to those whom history has tended to forget and challenging established notions of who is considered “worthy” of being remembered. We have all seen engraved in stone the names of “brave” soldiers who fought to defend their nations, but what of those who were brave in other ways – staying at home to raise a family, for example, or healing the wounded, or perhaps simply listening to their consciences and taking a moral stand in the face of unimaginable pressure to conform? And then there are those who fought, but who eventually found themselves no longer able to be brave, such as Birmingham-born John Osborn Walford, an army captain who, overwhelmed by the trauma of his experiences in combat, tragically took his own life soon after returning home. Because of the stigma surrounding suicide at the time, Walford was not only excluded from all war memorials, but was not so much as given the dignity of a marked grave: his surviving family will be amongst the first to display a sculpture in the square on Saturday. The faceless anonymity of each figure and the open invitation to anyone to take part in the creation of the installation make this a uniquely democratic venture that allows for quiet, beautiful moments of personal catharsis to take place alongside big, public spectacle, reminiscent of lighting candles in a church.

DSCF1199It is interesting that Minimum Monument should arrive in the UK at a time when the ways in which we commemorate war are already being called into question, with much debate focused on the wearing of poppies, for example. While for many these remain a potent symbol of how we should remember the past to ensure it is never repeated, for others, they are seen as a means of glorifying war by turning those who fight into heroes.

Nevertheless, Minimum Monument need not be exclusively about war. In fact, Birmingham is only the most recent destination for a much bigger project that initially began as Azevedo’s Masters thesis and has already been taken to various cities around the world, each of which has interpreted the installation in its own way. In Belfast, Minimum Monument remembered those who lost their lives on the ill-fated Titanic. In Berlin in 2009, it was timed to coincide with the G8 summit and understood as expressing concerns about the future of a world devastated by the effects of global warming. Asked whether any of these interpretations of had surprised her, Azevedo replied that she had turned down a lot of invitations, only accepting commissions which she felt offered compelling readings of her work. According to Néle herself, the examples from Birmingham and Belfast are closest to her own original conception.

DSCF1192Sarah Allen, Creative Programmes Manager for Hippodrome Plus (responsible for the theatre’s outdoor and outreach work), described herself as having been “blown away” when she discovered Azevedo’s “poignant and reflective” work. She also explained that this would be the largest Minimum Monument to date, with previous installations having featured  less than half the number of sculptures aimed for here. It’s a huge undertaking, but one that Néle and her team seem confident they can pull off – provided they don’t encounter any problems with their freezers, that is!

Minimum Monument will be taking place in Chamberlain Square from 1pm on Saturday 2nd August. Those interested in participating need only show up on the day.

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