Fierce Festival kicked off in style at mac Birmingham last Thursday 29th March, an exciting start to what promises to be a very interesting festival. Fierce is an annual international festival of live art that takes place across the whole of Birmingham. The work presented here often pushes boundaries and leaves its audiences asking questions and wanting more.
For anyone who has not had the pleasure of going to a PILOT night, the concept is this: artists submit applications to show new work for one night, normally about 15 minutes long, and an audience pay a small fee to come and see a real variety of performances. They are encouraged to give feedback to the artists and let them know where they think their pieces should head next. The audience tends to be really supportive and talkative, and PILOT nights are a great place to meet people who are interested in contemporary work across the region.
I am currently working for Fierce Festival as a festival volunteer, and so I was unfortunately unable to see everything that was performed at the PILOT night. However, I did see some really interesting performances and installations.
After the first three performances in the main theatre, Bone Ensemble showed their ‘Blah Blah Blah 2’ in the hexagon theatre, a space that, only seating 84 people, is much smaller and more personal than the main theatre space. We were introduced to Luce Irigaray (played by Jill Dowse) a philosopher and feminist who would be conducting a lecture for us. She took to a lectern with an unrealistic wig and matching French accent, and began to speak about philosophy and her ideas surrounding ‘the other’. I have to admit, a lot of what was said in the first five minutes went completely over my head, but I’m tempted to say that this was the point. Then, having spoken about silence being the way to discovering ‘the other’, she asked for Sophie to come up on stage. At this point, panic struck through me. My name is Sophie. Was she talking to me? Audience participation has never been my forte. But no. She was looking for an imaginary Sophie, and pulled up a girl from the front row. Then she was looking for a boy, Philip, and pulled up a very shy looking young man. Sophie and Philip stood opposite each other, trying to be silent, but instead kept bursting into fits of giggles, which, as an audience member safe in the back row, was very amusing to watch. Eventually Luce stormed out. And then back in, this time with an accordion. We all sang along to a song she had created about Sophie and Philip until the lights went down. Although I (and I think most of the audience) did not necessarily understand the intellectual content of the piece, it was a great example of audience participation really working and it was a genuinely enjoyable experience.
The great thing about this PILOT night was the various pieces that were happening around the space. Jessica Latowicki performed her new piece ‘A Fault Line’ in the café area of mac. I only caught the last couple of minutes of it but the audience seemed to have really enjoyed it. There was also an installation by Kate Spence called ‘Human Puppet’, in which Kate was suspended from the shed inside the mac by strings, and the audience were free to pull them and move her arms and legs. She was blindfolded throughout, and people were invited to take pictures with her whilst pulling her strings.
The final piece performed around the mac was ‘Man vs. Woman’ by Alex Wojtulewicz, which took place outside, and consisted of Alex being dressed as a woman and dragging a washing machine along the floor. He wore a dress and strapped his feet into a pair of heels, which all contrasted with his facial hair and manly build. I spoke to a lot of the audience members about what they thought the point was. The general consensus was that the piece questioned the strength of men and women, and the way in which we view them. Whatever the point of it was, it got people asking questions, which is essentially what PILOT aims to do.
Fierce festival continues until April 8th and details of all events can be found at www.wearefierce.org
All details for upcoming PILOT nights can be found at www.pilotnights.co.uk
Words by Sophie Collier