Physical Fest, Liverpool’s annual celebration of all things physical theatre opened last week with its regular showcase Fest Live and a stunning exhibition in the Unity theatre to mark ten years of the internationally recognised event.
Head upstairs to the Unity 2 space and you’ll find it overtaken by a collection of stylish prints, illustrations, props and footage from a decade of shows from festival founders Tmesis, including their shows like The Dreadful Hours and Wolf Red. If you are familiar with their work or just interested in the art of performance, it is well worth a look at the transformation of the black box space.
Fest Live featured five different pieces of physical theatre from local, national and international practitioners. The evening was hosted by the Eggmen (pictured above), a musical comedy collective featuring city actors Graham Geoffrey Hicks, Aiden Lee Brooks and Joe Shipman (who roped in long time mucker, Everyman panto dame Francis Tucker, to drum with them). Like last year’s Fest Live, the comedy comperes were a real complement to the rather avant-garde work on show.
Not to say that the pieces of Fest Live were without humour – this year’s first company, Ship of Fools, was testament to that. The Bristol-based troupe performed scenes from their full length piece From the Cradle to the Bin, a grotesque musical set in a care home examining, in its own unique way, the lack of respect afforded one of its residents in his final days (which entailed living in a wheely bin and getting covered in goopy porridge, as it happened).
Solo performer and choreographer Melanie Lomoff‘s Three Studies in Flesh was inspired by Francis Bacon paintings. An intense and beautiful three part piece, it was a work in progress that combined contemporary dance with en pointe ballet. North West-based Dough Theatre, winners of the Fest Live Bursary, created an Orwell-esque mega-corporate bakery set up that quickly grew out of control under the influence of a rogue employee – complete with free-flying dough.
For the first time, fest founders Tmesis had trained up a number of young people as its Graduate Company (pictured), to perform a new piece devised in a week. Bluebeard had plenty of the company’s trademarks, with a fairytale plotline turned on its head; a role-reversal story of a princess trapped by a giant that was absorbing and well executed. Finally T-d’U‘s All the Things You Said Before You Thought You Could Ever Say was an etherial yet slightly over-earnest examination of a relationship in its final throes.
For more on the remaining Physical Fest events, see the Unity’s website.