The UK’s leading biennial festival of live art, Fierce has announced the full programme for its 2019 festival, the second edition under Artistic Director Aaron Wright.
From 15-20 October, Birmingham will be bursting at the seams with performances, installations, experiences, cabaret, activism and parties, presented by an international line-up of artists featuring bold new voices and highly acclaimed international practitioners.
Exploring themes such as identity politics and the body, our current political and ecological crisis, the ethics of representation, participation (for those who don’t like to participate), altered states, queerness and club culture Fierce 2019 will feature; 27 different performances and more than 50 events – including 14 UK premieres and 2 world premieres – showcasing work from over 35 artists, some of whom will be making their long overdue UK debuts.
Artistic Director Aaron Wright commented “Brace yourselves! Fierce 2019 is coming, and we reckon we’ve put together the most disruptive and joyous programme of performing arts you’ll find in the UK this year. In 2019, more than ever, we need propositions not opposition. The Fierce Festival 2019 programme is full of artists living as if the revolution has happened, all of them making propositions… naughty, joyous, sexy ones at that. We’d love to see you in Birmingham this October.”
New York’s alternative opera and cabaret star Joseph Keckler, who counts Amy Schumer among his fans, will present In Concert his intimate evening of ecstatic art-pop songs and wild arias about daily life. Joseph performs in the UK for the first time, fresh from performances at the Lincoln Centre (New York) and Centre Pompidou (Paris) and before a run at London’s Soho Theatre. Choreographer Marco Berrettini, a student of Pina Bausch, and former German disco-dancing champion 1979 presents iFeel2, an elegant and repetitive dance in a tropical dream-world boasting floating plants inspired by the book ‘You Must Change Your Life’ by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Visual artist Miet Warlop makes her long overdue mainstage UK debut with Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break, an NTGent production, in which Miet works with a western take on the whirling dance, a form of physical meditation practiced by Sufi Dervishes, to explore how we can find balance between self-control and devotion. Bold physical theatre maker Davy Pieters (of Theatre Rotterdam) will invite audiences to experience How Did I Die, a murder mystery like they’ve never seen before performed with incredible physical capabilities and Begüm Erciyas brings her critically acclaimed installation Voicing Pieces to the festival where, in the intimacy of an isolated sound booth, you become both performer and audience member.
Alongside the more established artists at this year’s festival, Fierce is proud to be providing an international platform for a new generation making their UK debuts. Acclaimed club-performer Justin Shoulder will perform as Carrion, a striking spectre with the ability to shapeshift and speak in multiple tongues that asks what it means to be human in an era where our destructive influence is rapidly redefining the laws of nature, with striking costume and a giant inflatable intestine. Shoulder is a leading figure from the Sydney club scene, hosting the annual Monster Gras (alternative Sydney Mardi Gras event). Dance artist Mariana Valencia will present her solo performance ALBUM, a super-smart show that rips up the autobiographical rule book and wittily unites text, song and dance as part of a 6 date UK debut tour.
Building on the success of the festival’s 2017 commissions, all of which continue to tour internationally, Fierce is delighted to announce a new commission from UK performer Lucy McCormick. Following her celebrated show Triple Threat, Lucy is back with Life:Live! a pop concert written and performed by Lucy and her electro-trash GirlSquad with lo-fi special effects from artist Morvan Mulgrew – expect power tools! Also receiving its world premiere is Fierce commission Familiar, a new collaboration between dance artist Gillie Kleiman and theatre-maker Greg Wohead with quirky design by artist Tim Spooner.
Tania El Khoury returns to Fierce with the UK premiere of The Search for Power, following the overwhelming response to her 2014 commission Gardens Speak. Part lecture and part immersive installation, Tania’s new work is a meal-based-meditation on power and political corruption through the ‘Archive of Powercuts’ in Lebanon, and was commissioned with prize money she received after winning the Anti Festival International Prize for Live Art (the largest prize of its kind in the world) in 2018. Alexandra Bachzetsis, whose work has been performed everywhere from Tate Modern to MOMA, brings Private: Wear a mask when you talk to me to the festival. Combining Trisha Brown’s choreographic tradition with global pop culture, Alexandra’s new dance work explores the reproduction of gender behaviour and sexual identity. Other UK premieres include celebrated Australian performance maker Nicola Gunn’s Working with Children which looks at the problem of intimacy and exposure, and the curiosity of working with children in contemporary performance. Kate McIntosh returns to Fierce for the third time, with a production that has been a hit at theatre festivals around the world, that brings the audience into direct contact with a number of fascinating objects and materials in a participatory and secretive experiment.
Dedicated to supporting the new generation of UK artists, Fierce is delighted to bring Selina Bonelli to this year’s Festival. Selina’s (un)certain twitches promises to be a performance art highlight. Oozing Gloop, the UK’s ‘leading green autistic drag queen’ was first encountered by Fierce whilst they were working the door at Sink the Pink. Their alternative cabaret The Gloop Show will take audiences on a psycho-magical trip which re-stitches the fabric of our reality, charting sublime new political territories.
This year, Fierce is delighted to have Susannah Hewlett as their very first Artist in Residence. During the festival, Susannah, whose practice blends live art, comedy, theatre, sound and film, will present My Minor Spectrorective. This retrospective will consist of highlights from some of Susannah’s pervious pieces including audio interventions, televisual highlights and be-wigged characters which will intervene at points throughout the festival. Susannah will also preside over The Great British Cack Off, the ultimate poo-making battle where festival goers will compete to be crowned the UK’s Best Cack Master, using only peanut butter, chocolate spread and oats.
Further highlights include BINGE a new drop-in interactive installation curated by Brian Lobel (A Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer) where audiences encounter a series of one-on-one and intimate conversations based around their favourite box sets. Choreographer Doris Uhlich’sEvery Body Electric, is a powerful and poetic piece performed by dancers who identify as disabled, examining how they perceive their bodies and how they are in turn perceived, set to a techno soundtrack; Here-to-Here Notwithstanding from highly influential performance artist Sandra Johnson (who represented Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale, 2005) and a new work from Nigel Rolfe, who is considered one of the most important figures in performance art internationally and is celebrating his 50th year of artmaking. Swiss performance artist Yann Marussich finds himself submerged in a bath of broken glass, and only one way to get out, in Bain Brise.
Fierce is committed to programming work which tackles challenging issues prevalent in today’s political and cultural landscape. Andrew Tay and Stephen Thompson’s Make Banana Cry is a critical and destabilising dance show questioning Asian stereotypes via the format of a catwalk fashion show. Julia Bardsley’s elaborateinstallation AN APIAN PARADOX uses the decline of the bee to explore the human condition and our current ecological crisis. ‘Black trans femme punk goddess’ Keijaun Thomas also presents the UK premiere of her major new work My Last American Dollar.
To open the 2019 festival, Fierce will bring their free opening night extravaganza A Very Fierce Grand Opening to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on 16 October. This evening of drinks and DJs, hosted by drag performer Ginny Lemon, will feature performances from artists such as Keijaun Thomas, Sandra Johnston, Lester Arias, choreographers Zander Porter x James Batchelor, Whiskey Chow and Susannah Hewlett. The festival’s Club Fierce returns on 19 October an infamous late-night party featuring live music, international DJs, pop-up performance, and avant garde gogo dancers, and this year is presented in partnership with Birmingham house collective Hooker Club and features a headline DJ set from Corin.
Fierce 2019 will take place across Birmingham and the surrounding area from 15 – 20 October with events taking place at: Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centrala, Floodgate Street Warehouse, Midlands Arts Centre, Medicine Gallery, Quantum Events Centre, VIVID Projects, Warwick Arts Centre and Arena Theatre.