Each year the top picks from BE (Birmingham European) Festival tours the UK, bringing brave contemporary theatre, circus, dance, comedy and more to the rest of the nation. Co-presented in Bristol by Tobacco Factory Theatres and Circomedia, this year the latter physically hosts The Best of BE Festival and it proves to be a very fitting venue for the three European acts of a drunk Daredevil, an Illusionist and erm, a very clever DJ/Programmer. Actually, it’s impossible to pigeonhole Marc Oosterhoff (Switzerland), Tom Cassini (UK) or Kulu Orr of Cia Kirkas (France) and that’s partly the beauty of the evening.
Take, for example, Oosterhoff in ‘Take Care of Yourself’, who plays his own solitary dangerous drinking game, his forfeits being shots of whiskey, which make his stunts all the more terrifying yet peculiarly funny. Expect tomfoolery with knives and an odd game of chicken with mouse traps. The audience yelps, peeks through their fingers and whoops, expressions such as ‘Please don’t’, ‘Oh my God’ and ‘Fuck!’ probably being the norm at any of Oosterhoff’s gigs, who fuses dance, circus and parkour as we hold our breath.
Tom Cassini is a Liar and he excels in the art of manipulation and deception, a trait which he expects we all possess. ‘Is there a criminal in the room?’ Creating his own special take on vintage US circus, Cassini’s ’Someone Loves you Drive with Care’ is chilling, playful and surreal, his dark humour keeping our brains alert and his risky messing around with objects that might be better suited to a torture chamber making us frown with disquiet. It’s his voice that really creeps me out though or maybe it’s what he says? Whatever, this is fine delivery. And what on earth is he doing with his hands? Did they just …?
The hardest to bracket here is Kulu Orr in ‘Control Freak’, who uses loop-pedals, lights, sound and a massive video screen in a hugely entertaining show. Everything on stage is controlled by Orr and particularly impressive is his computer suit that is a visual and sonic masterpiece. This man knows how to work the audience and his silly banter dovetails beautifully with his highly tuned mind and mega-impassive multimedia set. Nope, apart from computer whizz, I have no idea what Orr is but we thoroughly enjoyed watching him.
If this is typical of what BE Festival shows at Birmingham Repertory Theatre each year, then we should all leave our preconceptions at home and jump on a train to the Midlands this July.
(PS never has a WsMum review had so many categories and we probably missed a few)
Image by Alex Brenner, with thanks.