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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!