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6 Shows That Will Surprise You At Mayfest 2018

Tim Lo talks about the biggest theatre event in Bristol this month and picks some of the most exciting shows you should definitely go and see

Mayfest is back! After a year’s break in 2017, Mayfest is back in full swing for the coming two weeks. Bristol’s unique international festival of intriguing and challenging live performances is starting tonight, and Rife couldn’t be more excited.

If you’re not sure if the festival is for you, have a read of Sham’s experience in 2015, then check out my top show picks below – you’ll definitely find something up your street. If you’re already geared up and ready to go – same here.

Here are my top picks that are current, fun and fresh (and not sold out – yet)!

1) The Nature of Why – The British Paraorchestra

10th-12th May @ Bristol Old Vic

How would you explain our world to a visiting alien?

Mayfest kicks off with the world premiere of an epic dance and live music show by The British Paraorchestra, the world’s only large-scale ensemble for disabled musicians. Inspired by Nobel-prize-winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman and his unconventional curiosity, the performance looks to be a wonderful demonstration of the way science and art come from the same roots and influence each other.

2) Now Is The Time To Say Nothing – Caroline Williams & Reem Karssli

11th-20th May @ Arnolfini

This stunning interactive video installation follows the real-life experience of Syrian artist Reem Karssli, who recorded her daily life on camera over the span of four years as she lived through the Syrian conflict. She then shared it with a group of teenagers who contacted her in an attempt to see beyond the limited exposure of the conflict they’d seen on TV. This is the international collaboration that emerged. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to reflect on the destruction of war and the need for survival, while celebrating the power of human connection through modern technology.

3) Contact Gonzo VS Bristol – Contact Gonzo

12th-13th May @ Jacob’s Wells Bath

This is the UK debut by Contact Gonzo, a collective based in Osaka, Japan who made their name on YouTube. For this performance, the collective will be working with Bristol performers to create a dance with a jaw-dropping physical style that is like a martial art, but also a bit like a a slapstick film. Described as being both “violent and tender, very funny and very serious,” I’m sure this performance will be full of unique surprises.

4) Palmyra – Bertrand Lesca & Nasi Voutsas

16th-20th May @ Arnolfini Auditorium

At once comedic and darkly intense, this production explores actions of revenge and destruction and what we consider to be barbaric. The show is named after Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city that has changed hands many times during the war. This show is sure to affect you in new ways – as Lyn Gardner writes, “You start by laughing and by the end you watch appalled and fascinated by our capacity to inflict cruelty and violence on each other.”

5) Velvet Petal – Scottish Dance Theatre

16th-18th May @ Trinity Fyfe Hall

“Tough girls and pretty boys living life in the margins, dreaming about being at the centre.”

If you’ve ever felt like life is making you change in ways you do not want, or you want to change into something bigger and better but life is holding you back, this is the show for you. Velvet Petal is inspired by the lifecycle of the monarch butterfly and Robert Mapplethorpe’s Polaroids, and celebrates the power of metamorphosis. I’m certain this show will make you dream on and work towards transforming yourself despite the tough times.

6) Let’s Not Beat Each Other to Death – The Accidental Mechanics Group

18th-19th May @ The Loco Klub

Catch this show at the end of the festival – part concert, part monologue, the performance is inspired in part by the brutal killing of a Halifax queer activist and an attack against an outspoken gay musician. It is both a genre-defying memorial and electro-pop dance party – the perfect tribute to and celebration of the LGBTQ+ experience through live performance. Come join me at this powerful and cathartic event to remember and celebrate, and to send Mayfest off in style.

Extra exciting things:

  • Free Mayfest launch party tonight (Thursday, 10 May) from 9pm till late, at Trinity – with sick beats by Ghanaian DJ and producer Katapila
  • The Mayfest team will in at the Arnolfini’s brand new Front Room for the entire festival, so head over with any questions or if you just want to have a chat with them to find out more about what they do
  • Head over to the Mayfest website to check out more shows and their awesome 4-for-3 deal

I’ll be ushering at a bunch of shows at the festival, so do come say hi. It’d be wonderful to know what you think of the show, and to chat all things theatre and more with you!

Tell us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter what shows you’ll be seeing at Mayfest, or if you’re on a cultural adventure elsewhere. We’d love to hear from you.