Manchester International Festival was back this year with an even bigger programme and selection of great performances, productions and events for all to enjoy. I headed North earlier last week to catch just a glimpse of the action and it definitely was an impressive couple of days.
A huge highlight was watching the world premiere performance of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. An intense and spectacular biography of the godmother of performance art, Marina Abramovic, re-imagined by director Robert Wilson. The stage show really did have it all, from an interesting narrative, to special effects, insane costume designs and huge amounts of creativity thrown together with the intensity, strength and emotion you would expect from any Abramovic performance. A selection of beautiful music brought the show together, along with an amazing performance from Willem Defoe. Antony Hegarty’s (Antony and The Johnsons) slightly eerie and quivering voice was a perfect choice to suit the atmosphere of the play.
The Whitworth Gallery was also home to great performance in the format of video. Housing a selection of work from the Artangel collection, I watched 1395 Days without Red by Šejla Kamerić and Anri Sala which was mundanely gripping and quite beautiful. Tony Oursler’s work was also displayed in the gallery as well as his piece The Influence Machine projected in Whitworth Park in the evenings.
Award-winning theatre company Punchdrunk joined forces with the Doctor Who team, MIF and the BBC to create an unforgettable event especially for MIF 2011. In The Crash of the Elysium the audience become the stars of this exhilarating and astonishing new show live at MediaCity. The spectacular, live Doctor Who adventure was created for children aged 6-12 and their families but was truly frightening for any age. It was really interesting to be taken on a tour through the production to see behind the scenes of how it all came together.
Also over at Media City, new home of the BBC, specially created for children aged 6 months to 7 years, was the location of Music Boxes, a mini city of shipping containers and a light hearted musical experience. Each container was the home to the idea behind each commissioned artist. Some containers holding miniature performance spaces, some specially adapted recording and animation studios, while others kitted out as interactive installations allowing the very young to explore a fantasy world of sound and music.
Further highlights of the festival’s programme included MIF inviting audiences to experience a programme of virtuosic chamber music, given a very special staging in the last remaining medieval quarter of Manchester. With music from Alina Ibragimova and a beguiling new visual context by legendary filmmakers and stage designers the Quay Brothers.
Manchester International Festival is a biannual festival which ran from 30 June – 17 July 2011. The Festival launched in 2007 as an artist-led, commissioning festival presenting new works from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture. It brings together the local community as well as an array of people who travel from far and wide to join in the festivities of interacting and engaging in art and performance.
The visit was part of DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursary Scheme, with thanks to MIF, Jerwood and Gemma Connell for organising the trip.