Out There Festival, Great Yarmouth – Hippodrome Youth Ambassadors Trip

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The second arts festival trip of the scheme saw the Hippodrome Plus Youth Ambassadors head out to Great Yarmouth for a performance-packed weekend at Sea Change Arts’ Out There Festival. Considerably bigger than Birmingham’s own Summer in Southside, Out There is a huge, international festival of street art with a focus on circus, that brings together some of the best new work from across Europe while providing a platform for emerging artists to try out in-development projects in front of live audiences.

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Arriving late on Friday evening, the first show we caught was Hallali by Compagnie Les Philébulistes. Set against an atmospheric, misty seaside backdrop, the piece showcased some amazing skills and set pieces, but seemed to end a little unexpectedly, without any obvious build-up or climax.

Saturday morning gave us the chance to meet up with some other outdoor arts ambassadors from across the country and learn about the things they’ve been working on. It was great to hear from them and have chance to share ideas: though still in its early stages, the ambassadors scheme seems a lot bigger and more comprehensive than we were previously aware, and so hopefully has the potential to become something really exciting.

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After this, we headed out to St. George’s Park, where 15ft6 presented their explosive show Dynamite and Poetry, a riveting, energetic blend of acrobatics, poetry and physical and spoken comedy that made for one of the weekend’s most fun, engaging and accessible performances.

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At 12.30, we moved on to experience the brilliantly bonkers Looking for Paradise, a two-part journey that encourages participants to unlock their own inner Paradise by travelling down either the path of Belief or the path of Desire. Part I: The Walk, began with Hawaiian lays and an audio introduction, followed by the discovery of some cryptic and weirdly distributed instructions that led us through the streets of Great Yarmouth. There we encountered a series of strange and unexpected street performances, before finally being led into a room to take part in a sort of meditation which happened to involve fruit yoghurt. We were then released into Part II: The Garden where a few of us were invited to paint our own pictures of Paradise and to enjoy some specially made snacks and drinks. Less a traditional show than an immersive, multi-sensory experience, this piece was one of the weekend’s major highlights (though one I’m reluctant to give away too much about!), giving “audiences” a chance to step outside their busy schedules and indulge in a few brief moments of bliss.

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Throughout the day, comedy troupe The Galloping Cuckoos took on the personae of wandering fisherwomen, hauling a fishing hut through St. George’s Park and sharing songs and stories with passers-by as part of their aptly named, roving show Driftwood.

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At 2.45, Dot Comedy staged Lost on Earth, the strange story of a runaway alien, stranded on Earth in a stolen spaceship. It was well received by an audience of enthusiastic kids and families. Meanwhile, in Wires, Dizzy O’Dare skilfully explored themes of friendship, bullying, sisterhood and childhood, transforming their tight wire set into a school playground rich in nostalgic memories and familiar images of growing up. While not as slick and polished as it might be, this work-in-development was full of great ideas with the potential to grow into something much more sophisticated.

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At 3.15, Les P’tits Bras performed their circus spectacular The Scent of Sawdust, a show featuring a stunning set and some amazing costumes. Though full of impressive stunts, this show did take a little too long to get off the ground, with an over-lengthy introduction and set-up describing each of its characters’ personalities.

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At 4.15, I was finally able to catch Wired Aerial Theatre‘s Straw Dog, a show raved about at this year’s Summer in Southside that I unfortunately missed at the time. This elegant, graceful piece conveyed a simple yet powerful conceit about inner conflict through beautiful, well-paced choreography. At just 15 minutes long, it flew by, making it easy for audiences to follow and enjoy.

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Immediately afterwards, Lost in Translation Circus commenced their hilarious Cirque Bordello, with larger-than-life characters and a B&B setting that made use of an actual local house as part of its set. At Mint Fest, we’d heard this idea being pitched, and so were excited to see the show in action. This innovative and entertaining piece is still in development, but was easily as polished and perfected as many of the bigger shows on the programme. Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay until the end, but would love the chance to see the rest at some point.

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The festival’s next big highlight came with Artonik‘s The Colour of Time, beginning with a bold, sensual street performance and parade that gave way to a Holi Festival-inspired explosion of colour. Viewers and passers-by were invited to join the actors in literally painting the town red (and orange, yellow, pink, blue and green) using packets of powdered colour distributed by designated helpers. The result was a glorious, magnificent mess that offered an opportunity to set free your inner child and delight in something silly.

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After washing away as much of the paint as we could manage, we rounded off the evening with Salon Clair de Lune, a long night of cabaret and dancing at STARS Showbar. Hosted by comedy trio Richard Garaghty, Goronwy Thom and Jon Hicks from Slightly Fat Features, the cabaret was an eclectic mix of snippets presented by the various performers present at the festival, giving attendees a chance to get a brief glimpse of things they might have missed throughout the day. Highlights included a surprisingly philosophical wheelie bin-bound comedy routine and a couple of English songs translated into French by Compagnie Kitschnette, including a version of Radiohead’s “Creep” that involved pancakes (I’ll leave you to work out the gag there). This short showcase was followed by some rousing live music from the dynamic Juke and the All Drunk Orchestra. Drinks, dancing and DJing then went on until 4am!

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On Sunday, GlassHouse‘s beautiful You, Me and Everybody Else took to a tucked-away location on the seaside pier, where passers-by little expected to find themselves becoming an audience to a pop-up performance. Tender and touching, this three-part show took viewers on a journey through relationships in different stages, beginning with a young couple in the throes of love. A middle-aged pair clearly undergoing difficulties then stepped in, expressing the difficulties of staying together when things start to get tough. Finally, a couple of elderly picnickers shared lunch on a bench, before breaking into song and dance routines. In a truly heart-wrenching sequence, one finally slips away, making for the most moving moment of the festival.

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Changing the tone completely, Garaghty and Thom delighted audiences in the park with a quickfire comedy show interspersed with some impressive juggling and tricks. Rather than simply following a rehearsed script, the talented double act reacted to things around them, creating comedy almost exclusively out of what their audience presented them with.

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Finally, acclaimed dance group Motionhouse depicted a family’s efforts to stay afloat as their house sank below rising flood waters in Cascade. Played out against a fantastic, visually striking set, this fast-paced show told a clear, easy-to-follow story that could work well in a range of locations, despite being particularly well-placed in a seaside town!

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At this point, it was time to head home and sleep it all off, with another 5 hour journey still ahead of us. For all that, it was certainly a trip well worth making!

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Summer in Southside – 24-25 August

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14Almost as soon as I headed out of New Street station towards the Hippodrome and the Southside area, I could feel rhythm pulsing through the streets. As I approached, music filled the air, laden with enough sunshine of its own to chase away the faintly autumnal chills that crept into this Saturday.

This was the second part of Summer in Southside, a double weekend of free live performance around the Birmingham Hippodrome, and the source of the sound was the African music accompanying the acrobatic displays of the Black Eagles dance group.

Immediately afterwards, the crowd shuffled into Inge Street, where a fairytale forest of leaves, poles and cling film was waiting to provide the backdrop for The Red Shoes, a magical fairy-tale performance by Upswing . Beautiful, atmospheric and thoroughly entertaining, this show perfectly captured the spirit of traditional tale-telling, carefully blending humour with the threat of hidden dangers. I’ve never enjoyed a dance performance so much: I loved that the movement and skill were clearly used to serve the story and setting, rather than the other way around.

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Next up were some spectacular circus skills by NoFit State Circus, including trampolining, dancing on roller skates and a record attempt at the largest number of people hula hooping on the streets of Birmingham. The display culminated in spectacular, rope-based acrobatics from a performer who seemed almost to swim through the air as if it were water, and was accompanied throughout by a brilliant live band who promised to make a song out of whatever their audience requested.

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A sign spinning showcase followed featuring Hollywood-based performers Max Durovic and Justin Brown, star of the Daft Signz video (below). Sign spinning is a strange mix of advertising and dance, with large signs incorporated into urban dance moves. Like the NoFit State’s Open House, this performance was particularly good at involving its audience, with the performers encouraging enthusiastic children to get involved.

A little tired and thirsty by this point, I headed for the sweet shop on the corner to grab myself a drink, but before I could reach the counter, a street band dressed in Sergeant Pepper-style outfits appeared outside the door. As they struck up the opening notes of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, and began to make their way down Hurst Street, I realised I’d have to put down the Dandelion & Burdock and come back for it later. The band was Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, a New Orleans-style six-piece playing 90s pop classics. Walking with the band, a group of people travelled towards Arcadian, serenaded with a bizarre version of Black Box’s “Ride on Time”. After this, we were treated to unique renditions of songs by Orbital, Happy Mondays, Michael Jackson and Daft Punk, with Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” as the finale. Without a doubt, listening to them was my favourite part of the weekend. Click here to hear some of their music on Soundcloud.

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Just a couple of shows were left to see: Graeae Theatre’s Iron Man and Captive by Motionhouse. The former was a fun, family friendly show that saw Ted Hughes’ Iron Giant brought to life to fight against the terrible Space Bat. The puppetry was incredible, and the show also taught its audience some sign language, offering positive representation through performers with a range of disabilities.

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The final show was an acrobatic dance piece in which four characters become trapped together in a cage. It explored the relationships between its characters and how these were affected by being forced together in a confined space, finally ending with the possibility of escape and freedom.

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Summer in Southside was a fantastic opportunity to experience a range of different kinds of performance. It was great to see so many people not only watching but interacting with shows, especially children and families.

If you missed Summer in Southside, or if you were there and enjoyed the weekend, you can catch more free outdoor theatre in a couple of weeks’ time at Birmingham’s Four Squares Weekender event. The Four Squares Weekender will take place across a range of Birmingham venues from Friday 6th to  Sunday 8th September to celebrate the opening of the Library of Birmingham. It will feature performances by the CBSO, NoFit State Circus and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, along with a range of street theatre, dance, live music, exhibitions and plenty of opportunities to get involved. Click here for more information.

Summer in Southside: Free Outdoor Performances This August

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Following its successful Six Summer Saturdays outdoor event programme, the Birmingham Hippodrome will this year be presenting Summer in Southside, two weekends of outdoor performance and entertainment in Birmingham’s Southside area.

Amongst a range of other things, the programme will include dance, physical theatre, puppetry, storytelling and circus acts, all taking place on Saturday 3rd August and Saturday 24th-Sunday 25th August – and all entirely free!

Said Paul Kaynes, Director of Creative Programmes at Birmingham Hippodrome,

“For the last three summers we have brought unusual outdoor performances across the city enjoyed by thousands of people. This year we are delighted to be producing two big weekends of free performances especially for visitors to Southside. Whether shopping, eating or theatre going people will not be able to miss some of the best outdoor theatre in the country.”

The artists taking over the city’s Hippodrome Square, Arcadian, Inge Street and Hurst Street will range from the local to the international, with performers from Warwickshire and across the UK, and further afield from Trinidad, Switzerland and Tanzania.

Full listings are shown below.

Saturday 3 Aug 12 noon – 7pm

NOCTURNE – Marc Brew Company

An intimate bedtime story about restless nights, draws viewers into the home lives of four exquisite dancers as they share their hidden dreams.

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FALLING UP – Mimbre

Bodies fly, fall, stack up and carry each other in this spectacular physical show featuring four strong women who refuse to conform to stereotypes.

CON TATTO – Da Motus

Follow eight Swiss dancers through the streets of Southside as they create dynamic shapes and interact with the architecture, weaving together elements of their surroundings to create an extraordinary display.

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DON’T DRINK AND DANCE – Joli Vyann

Girl meets boy. A playful, witty cocktail of dance and energetic acrobatics set in a bar.

CHUTNEY – Kuljit Bhamra

Get in the carnival spirit with this strolling street band from Trinidad’s Indian community. A spicy mix of guitars, horns and percussion, their music brings together influences from Asia and the Caribbean.

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TROLLEYS – C-12 Dance Theatre

Part street dance, part ballet, part supermarket sweep, this is a high-energy, acrobatic performance on wheels.

H2H – Joli Vyann

A dance performance about how we express ourselves and what our hands say about us. Hands hold on and keep us from falling. But what happens when we let go?

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Saturday 24 – Sunday 25 August 12 noon – 7pm – August Bank Holiday

Two days of outstanding live events in areas surrounding the Hippodrome, including astonishing stunts, dance, aerial performers, acrobatics and much more. Plus, participatory workshops for all the family to enjoy.

OPEN HOUSE – Nofit State Circus

Back by popular demand, Nofit State Circus explode from their caravans for a series of circus taster workshops, impromptu stunts and professional circus performances. All ages are invited to run away with the circus for a few hours and train alongside Nofit State’s professional performers or simply sit back and watch as the spectacle unfolds.

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THE IRON MAN – Graeae

A captivating show that kids and adults adore with puppetry, signing, storytelling and live music based on Ted Hughes’ lovely book. A fully animated 20 ft iron giant tells a compelling story against the backdrop of Southside’s urban skyline. It will be interesting to see if and how this performance will interact with Anthony Gormley’s Iron: Man.

1920’S MAGIC SHANGHAI TEA HOUSE – Rosa Parkin and the Chinese Jitterbug girls

Mixing ancient Chinese magic, the Charleston and a cup of tea, this is a pit stop to remember! 

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AMAZING ACROBATICS – The Black Eagles

Originally from Tanzania, East Africa, this dynamic acrobatic trio learnt their skills on the streets of Dar-es-Salaam.

RED SHOES – Upswing

Inspired by grim and glorious fairytales, using dance, Chinese pole and other circus techniques, dancers journey through a forest where strange people live and strange things happen!

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CAPTIVE – Motionhouse

Emotional and highly-physical dance and aerial work, inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem, The Panther. Four dancers are confined within a steel cage, their world is turned upside down as they fight for survival.

THE LION KING ARTS AND CRAFTS WORKSHOPS

A range of family-friendly arts and crafts activities will take place over the weekend, inspired by The Lion King Musical, now showing at Birmingham Hippodrome all summer.

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