Belfast International Arts Festival (6-28 October 2017) – austerity & asylum, Brexit, compassion and more #BelFest

Just three weeks until the start of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival, when the best of local arts and culture is showcased along with international acts which would not normally grace these shores. Amongst the 191 events in the programme from 14 countries over 23 days are 12 premières.

The opening event brings the fabulous Schaubühne theatre company back to Belfast with the UK and Irish première of Compassion – the History of the Machine Gun. The semi-documentary double-monologue takes audiences to some of the world’s hotspots and asks why one dead person at the gates of Europe outweighs a thousand dead people in the Congolese civil war zones? What are the limits of our compassion? What are the limits of European Humanism. Friday 6 and Saturday 7 October, Lyric Theatre.

Contrarian thinker and independent writer David Rieff challenges the conventional wisdom that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” using his accounts of reporting from bloody conflicts across Africa, the Balkans and Central Asia. He’ll draw on his book In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and its Ironies as he argues that things are no so simple. Thursday 26 October, Canada Room at Queen’s University.

Political comedian Matt Forde’s presents his show Eat. Sleep. Political Party. Repeat … now with added Trump. Sunday 15 October, The MAC.

Celui Qui Tombe (He Who Falls) is a circus influenced piece of physical theatre with six performers on a dramatic tilting stage. The podium spins, pivots, swings and elevates requiring the bodies to lean, climb, hang and fall in a perilous dance of survival. Thursday 19 and Friday 20 October, Grand Opera House. And after the Thrusday evening performance at 9pm there’s a free Brexit Stage Right discussion to discuss the political, economic and cultural rollercoaster.

Don McCamphill’s adaptation of Dario Fo’s comedy Can’t Pay Won’t Pay about consumer backlash against high prices sets the new piece present day west Belfast where austerity has driven two women to shoplifting. Black humour, farce and the unfairness of corporate tax evasion and families living below the poverty line. Ní thig linn íoc, ní íocfaidh muid is an Irish production from Aisling Ghéar in their 20th anniversary year with English translation. Wednesday 11 to Sunday 15 October, Lyric Theatre.

The world premiere of Owen McCaffrey’s Fire Below (A War of Worlds) sees two neighbouring couples gather on the decking with a glass of wine to wait for the bonfire to be lit in the estate below. They lived quietly through the Troubles. Yet the unspoken truth haunts their cautious conversations where what they actually think of each other is only an unguarded comment away. Thursday 12 until 29 October, Lyric Theatre.

Riddel’s Warehouse is hosting Replay Theatre Company’s Dancing at the Disco at the End of the World, a new brand new piece of promenade theatre set in a post-virus world in which “the survivors are young, but the rules are old”. Join in John McCann’s the dystopian melange of Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and rave. Friday 13 until Friday 27 October.

Lives in Translation celebrates the human survival instinct through the story on one woman who flees one conflict only to become trapped in another struggle. Rosemary Jenkinson’s new play, produced by Kabosh, is based on interviews with Somali refugees and explores how asylum seekers must navigate support systems through translation, disempowering and frustrating. Wednesday 25 until Saturday 28 October, S13 (the old Boucher Road B&Q).

Gardens Speak is an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people buried in Syrian gardens. While the domestic burial of activists and protesters from the early periods of uprising protected their families from further threat from the regime, telling their stories prevents their deaths from becoming instruments to the regime. Hourly slots can be booked from Wednesday 11 October until Sunday 22 October, Accidental Theatre’s new premises at 12-13 Shaftsbury Square under the ‘Scannervision’ screen.

Amnesty International’s annual festival lecture will be delivered by human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, accompanied by Guillaume de Chassy on piano. Based on his book East West Street: On the Origins of ‘Genocide’ and ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ Sands will speak about three men at the heart of the Nuremberg trial who had a shared passion for music: Cambridge academic Hersch Lauterpacht, Polish prosecutor Raphael Lemkin, and Hitler’s lawyer Hans Frank. Thursday 19 October, First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street.

The Poppies: Weeping Window sculpture will be installed at the Ulster Museum from Saturday 14 October until early December. The cascade of thousands of handmade ceramic poppies are accompanied by a series of talks and performances, exploring remembrance, symbols and the First World War. After the main festival closes, a morning of talks and discussions around Signs of The Times will take place in the Ulster Museum, including a keynote by Glenn Patterson to unpack how the symbols which represent belief, identity and ideology evoke emotional reactions that can both reassure and threaten, and can also change meaning over time. Friday 10 November, free.

Daniel Gordon’s BAFTA-winning film Hillsborough will be screened at Queen’s Film Theatre, followed by a Q&A with Prof Phil Scraton who was the primary author of Hillsborough Independent Panel report in 2012. Thursday 19 October.

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