Love and Loss at BE Festival

teaser – Vacuum from Philippe Saire on Vimeo.

What a piquancy of timing. BE Festival on 23rd June 2016. Theatre shows from Spain, Switzerland, UK and Italy. Nothing more can be done. The future is unknown. Us, swilling together in this heterotoic space, acting out in microcosm the broader drama.

To purchase drinks in this realm we have to change our money to Karma and the citizens must queue for the shows through extended turnaround times that leave you thinking “surely there are efficiencies to be made here”, “we could cut some red tape”, “we’re being patronised and led by the nose, set us free”. Yet look around you, the ambition is vaulting.

I have always loved this festival for its spirit and this ambition. Its commitment to giving new acts a chance is grand, it brings artists together who would otherwise never meet, it brings to Birmingham work we would otherwise never see. I have always loved the festival but in my experience its work has only ever ranged from the enjoyable, clever and well performed to the terrible. Of course one aspect of the festival’s beauty is that these terrible shows are almost always performed with such seductive conviction and framed so positively that they can be nothing but forgiven. This year however things changed, the pool for selection must have grown. This year, for the first time, I saw something in the festival that I genuinely loved.

Vacuum by Philippe Saire and his company is stunning. A fleeting, inexplicable, mythological, wonder, perfectly pitched and perfectly paced, gloriously simple and impeccably staged. I was enraptured, until close where the intrusion of a sung lyric onto the soundtrack suddenly earthed this ethereal hovering sculptural poetry and allowed the idea that it might be about something that can be spoken of. However the lyric stopped, the piece took off once more and it was stunning.

Suddenly BE Festival is mixing the terrible, the adequate and the engaging with the world class and this mix makes it even more valuable.

I was glad not to be at BE Festival tonight, that gathering is the living embodiment of a Europe wide ‘better together’ and that idea’s just been punched in the face.

No matter how sterling fares against the Karma we’ll see you again next year but today I was asked what I could do to make things better. The answer is “next to nothing” but next to nothing is Comfort Hour and this feels like the time to dust it off – the sun will always set and rise again…

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