If you are searching for a theatre experience that is non-traditional and showcases innovative and original performance, then Be Festival is a must-see when in Birmingham.
Be Festival celebrates original theatre from across Europe, as companies compete for a prize and in doing so celebrate the art of performance in a variety of ways. The festival has a unique atmosphere, which is heightened by its unusual setting. Located in A&E Factories in the jewellery quarter, the festival takes place in an abandoned factory, which still contains its original signs and interior. Whilst this setting only enhances the festivals non-commercial nature, it is also quickly forgotten come performance time. It is only when the plays end that you find yourself marvelling at how this unexpected space can be transformed and lend itself so successfully to the art of storytelling. The setting brings theatre back to its true roots and showcases its wonderful power: that vivid productions can occur with the most basic amount of props, and that true performance depends on the performers themselves and their talent.
The festival’s interactive nature also makes it an experience that isn’t to be missed. Actors, companies and audiences are encouraged to actively communicate. Actors eat breakfast and sip coffee on sofas in-between performances, allowing their performances to be dissected, and there are daily feedback sessions, in which performances are discussed and questions are asked in a relaxed café setting. During the day workshops are also offered, which encourages interaction and the opportunity to learn new skills. Both audiences and companies are served meals in a huge dining hall between plays, which only adds to the collaborative and relaxed nature of the event. Be Festival successfully eradicates barriers between theatre and its audience. It encourages interaction, communication and discussion – which allows for an event that impacts in several different ways. Be Festival offers anything but a traditional theatre experience and changes the way in which performance can be viewed and enjoyed.
Be Festival is returning to Birmingham this year, with The Best of Be Festival, which will arrive at the Warwick Arts Centre and The Public in the autumn. This will showcase three chosen plays from the festival itself, allowing audiences to experience the festival again.
If you are a lover of theatre then Be Festival is an event which successfully challenges and explores the mediums of performance with wild recklessness which results in a startling effect. Be Festival is a chance to see some of Europe’s best theatre condensed into one place, providing a unique and wonderful opportunity to experience different kinds of theatre in a local setting.
Words by Lottie Halstead