wed 19/06/2024

First Person: LIFT artistic director Kris Nelson on delivering the best of international theatre to the nation's capital | reviews, news & interviews

First Person: LIFT artistic director Kris Nelson on delivering the best of international theatre to the nation's capital

First Person: LIFT artistic director Kris Nelson on delivering the best of international theatre to the nation's capital

LIFT2024 promises a characteristically broad and bracing array of global performance

LIFT off: Bacchae is amongst the lineupLaurent Philippe

LIFT 2024 is nearly here. It’s a festival that will take you on deep and personal journeys. We’ve got shows that will catch your breath, spark your mind and rev up your imagination. There’s adrenaline too. It’s international theatre for your gut. 

With three world premieres and a host of London debuts, this year’s LIFT takes on two themes. The Personal is Epic explores deeply personal stories of justice, migration, and protest, amplifying them to mythic proportions. Meanwhile Play the Future, Play the Past is a strand of shows that reframe history and imagine the future. 

We start the festival with Cliff Cardinal’s The Land Acknowledgment or As You Like It. Cliff is a Lakota, Dene and Cree Indigenous Canadian – one of the country’s most daring cultural provocateurs. He’s an artist that can get you belly laughing one minute and give you a punch to the gut the next. Cliff brings us a searing commentary on reconciliation, colonialism and political correctness. It shows you another side of Canada – the country thought of as nice and polite here in England and around the world. It’s personal for me – I’m Canadian and some of the story is set in my hometown. And it will be personal to audiences here. If you’re engaged by the conversation here in the UK around national monuments being renamed or if the National Trust should or shouldn’t recognise the history of empire or ties to slavery, this show is for you.  (Pictured below: Kris Nelson, photo c. Tyler Kelly) 

The world premiere at Brixton House of The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women epitomises how the personal is epic. Brazilian taboo-breaking theatre makers Janaina Leite and Lara Duarte make the first-ever international collaboration with London’s lauded Clean Break, a company that’s been working to transform the lives of women with experience of the criminal justice system for more than 40 years. This brand new play delves into the lives of women who defy societal norms –everyone from Medusa to Joan of Arc to the five local women who make up our ensemble, transforming their personal experiences into  powerful storytelling and questioning the very nature of justice as a form of theatre in itself.

Meanwhile at the Royal Court and closing out the festival, Nassim Soleimanpour and Omar Elerian bring you the world premiere of ECHO (Every Cold-Hearted Oxygen). This one features a different actor every night (you won’t be disappointed by any of the names we’ve lined up!) From this cold read, ECHO plunges you into a stirring and funny story about migration, family and home with some theatre magic that will inspire.

Play the Future, Play the Past offers the sensual and confrontational L’Homme Rare (pictured below, photo c. Olivier Miche) from Ivorien / French choreographer Nadia Beugré at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. It’s a bold exploration of gender and "the gaze"; sinewy, sensual and sardonic.

Over at Sadler’s Wells we’re bringing you the explosive London debut of Marlene Montreiro Freitas. Hailing from Cape Verde, this Lisbon-based performance maker and choreographer is simply one of Europe’s most inventive and inspiring artists. She’s toured around the continent but somehow has never called into London. Marlene’s The Bacchae: Prelude to a Purge is like an ecstatic ritual. It fizzes. It pops. It’s got an incredible ensemble of dancers and musicians. You’ll get absurd and athletic choreography, big riffs of music (everything from a blistering brass section to Afro-Brazilian funk to Cape Verdean Carnival music to a never-ending Bolero that will knock your senses out). It’s electric.

And if that’s not out of the ordinary enough for you, would you like to step into a futuristic Taiwanese night market with us? Bat Night Market at Science Gallery, London, is a collaboration between Taiwanese artist Kuang-Yi Ku and British designer Robert Charles Johnson. You’ll get to explore the future of food and whet your appetite with ideas of delicacy and disgust. It’s a mix of speculative design, films, exhibition and games in a night market setting. Here, too, is one of those wonderful LIFT collaborations drawing together a cast of local performers, Kings College academics expert in biodiversity and bio-warfare, chefs from the acclaimed BAO Borough restaurant, students from the Guildhall school and you. 

Finally, for those LIFT audiences who love to explore unusual venues, this year we’re taking up residence in the City of London in LIFT the City, a two-year initiative designed to bring artistic innovation to iconic locations in the Square Mile.

Democracy From Where I Stand promises an evening crackling with discussion and connection at the iconic Dutch Church. Leading women from around our city and around the world speak out on the state of government, representation, rights and freedom. In a year where 62 countries vote in national elections - 49% of the world’s population – LIFT and the Financial Times are reflecting on what democracy means. No better place to do it than the City of London - the world’s longest-running municipal democracy.

Hosted by Brenda Emmanus, the evening will feature Nigerian poet and thinker Lola Shoneyin reflecting on the recent coups in West Africa, Indian performer Aditi Mittal on sport, politics and abuse of power, London comedian and influencer Rosie Holt and radical historian Dr Michelle Johanson on the history of the democracy of libraries. Young Mayor for Tower Hamlets, Fetuma Hassan, will discuss what democracy means to the next generation and there will be a new film from the iconic thinker Margaret Atwood, great music from Afro-Brazilian band Baque Luar and an interactive illustration from Osheen Siva.

We’re ready to electrify your summer with an incredible line up of theatre, dance and talks. Come and join us.

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