Musical history lesson and a novel dose of Shakespeare at Belfast Arts Festival

Taylor Mac
Taylor Mac

Belfast International Arts Festival - what was formerly the Belfast Festival at Queen’s - enjoyed its inaugural line-up last October and has just announced details of the 2016 programme including major commissions from internationally acclaimed artists, New York performer Taylor Mac and Irish live art practitioner Amanda Coogan.

Obie Award-winning Mac will present The WW1 Years and More, a series of participative concerts staged as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary.

In the first two concerts Mac offers his astute take on the music and culture that spanned the years before, during and after WW1 from 1896 through to 1926, while the third concert will be a ten-decade spectacular from 1916, the year of the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising, through to the present day.

Accompanied by a live band and dressed in an array of colourful and quirkycostumes, Mac will reflect on notions of authority, empire, gender, patriotism and war as well as differing concepts of how history is made and viewed.

Run to the Rock will be a multi-faceted live art work designed and directed by Ireland’s Amanda Coogan and involving a team of deaf performers from Northern Ireland and South Africa.

The production is a meditation on Shakespeare’s continued political relevance inspired by Sonny Venkatrathnam’s Robben Island Bible and the choreographic potential of sign language.

It will weave a narrative of struggle for recognition, power balance and instability using multi-media messaging, projected images, sound and choreographed movements that spring from translations of Shakespeare’s texts into sign language.

This piece is part of the Shakespeare Lives project celebrating the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death with a selection of performances across the UK.

Making the announcement, festival director Richard Wakely said: “Taylor Mac has created a hugely entertaining cabaret for Belfast audiences called The WW1 Years and More which will no doubt challenge and engage by turn.

“Arising from her tenure as 2015 Festival Artist in Residence, Amanda Coogan, Ireland’s leading live art practitioner, has created a compelling new inter-disciplinary work created with deaf performers that is inspired by Shakespeare to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the death of the world’s best know dramatist.”

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