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Minefield LIFT Festival 2016 | © Manuel Abramovich
Minefield LIFT Festival 2016 | © Manuel Abramovich
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10 Shows To Look Out For At LIFT Festival 2016

Picture of Georgia McKay
Updated: 13 December 2016
This June and July, LIFT Festival returns under the artistic direction of Mark Ball with an ambitious programme, featuring new forms of theatre that re-shape the city into a stage. The renowned festival, which has been produced biennially since 1981, showcases exciting new work all over London, from the Barbican and The Royal Court to East End graveyards and historic music halls.

Taylor Mac

Searing performance artist and social critic, Taylor Mac opens the 2016 LIFT Festival. For the uninitiated, Taylor Mac carves an image of a diva from another planet, with elaborate headwear and generously applied kabuki-white makeup, sprinkled with sequins. This glamorous artifice belies a serious theatre artist with an exquisite voice, heard as far afield as The Lincoln Centre, New York and the Sydney Opera House. The gender and genre-defying performer has been hailed ‘a critical darling of the New York scene’ (NY Magazine), and ‘one of the most exciting theater artists of our time’ (TimeOut NY).

1 June 2016

Hackney Empire, 291 Mare St, London, 020 8985 2424

Taylor Mac | © Ves Pitts
Taylor Mac | © Ves Pitts

On the Move

Responding to one of the greatest humanitarian issues of our time, this collection of new works at The Royal Court, Britain’s leading national company dedicated to new work, features various artists from Germany, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Syria and the UK as they uncover the stories of people forced to leave their homes. Performances (many of which are free) include a durational piece by Chris Thorpe, which delves into the British public’s attitude towards migrants and refugees. Short plays explore the impact of the migration crisis in Greece and Italy; a one-on-one experience in conversation with a refugee through a wall; a continually growing installation outside the building; a miniature museum of migrations; a Syrian filmmaker exploring loss; and an installation and a promenade audio-tour created between London, Berlin, Beirut and Damascus mapping ideas of exile and belonging in the city.

9 – 11 June 2016

Royal Court Theatre, London, 020 7565 5000

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Phaedra(s), After Sarah Kane, Wajdi Mouawad and J M Coetzee

French star of the stage and screen, Isabelle Huppert (twice awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Violette Nozière, 1978 and The Piano Teacher, 2001) turns her hand to Greek Tragedy. After appearing alongside Cate Blanchett in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Maids at the Lincoln Centre Festival in New York, Huppert stars in PHAEDRA(S), directed by Polish iconoclast, Krzysztof Warlikowski, who draws from his lifelong passion for the Greeks to scrutinise and evoke the mysterious queen who falls in love with her stepson. His new production is based on the complete text of Sarah Kane’s provocative Phaedra’s Love. Other content includes original material developed in collaboration with Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad and extracts from J M Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello.

9 – 18 June 2016

Barbican (Theatre) Silk St, London, 020 7638 4141

Phaedras | © Peter Lindbergh

Phaedras | © Peter Lindbergh

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Youarenowhere, by Andrew Schneider

The premiere of Andrew Schneider’s Youarenowhere at Coil Festival, NYC was met with critical acclaim, including five star reviews from the New York Times (‘coup de theatre’) and Time Out New York (‘tour de force’). OBIE award-winning creator and performer Andrew Schneider is a former artist in residence at Wooster Group, designing many of their videos. Youarenowhere is part confessional, part tutorial — a frenetic existential meditation on subjects ranging from quantum mechanics and parallel universes to missed connections and AA recovery steps.

14 – 18 June 2016

Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old St, London, 020 7739 6176

YOUARENOWHERE 2 LIFT 2016 Credit Maria Baranova.jpg

Youarenowhere | © Maria-Baranova

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Late Night, by Blitz Theatre Group

In a dilapidated ballroom, six performers endlessly dance the waltz as they wait for the end. There’s music, singing, a drink, some tricks to pass the time, and always the same Beckettian sense of waiting. Late Night is devised by Blitz — a contemporary Greek collective who write, direct and act collaboratively, always experimenting with traditional theatre structures. With a nostalgic soundtrack and an otherworldly feel reminiscent of a David Lynch film, Greece’s most innovative theatre collective have created a poetic theatrical experience that speaks of being on the edge of Europe in ruins. This performance is in Greek with English subtitles.

15 – 18 June 2016

Barbican (The Pit) Silk St, London, 020 7638 4141

Late Night 2 LIFT 2016 Credit Vassilis Makris.jpg

Late Night | © Vassilis Makris

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Depart, A Circa Production

Since 2004, Australian performance collective Circa has been at the frontier of new circus, seen in over 34 countries. For this very special theatrical event, they partner with English electronic musician/producer Lapalux and choral singers to present an ethereal collaboration in an East London cemetery. Expect haunting sights, sounds and unexpected encounters in one of London’s oldest Victorian Cemeteries.

16 – 26 June 2016

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, Southern Grove, London, 020 8983 1277

© John Angerson Them design - LIFT Depart photo shoot - Mile End London Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park Licence to use expires December 2018

Depart | © John Angerson

Stella, Written and Directed by Neil Bartlett

Former Artistic Director of Lyric Hammersmith, Neil Bartlett has been one of most idiosyncratic voices in British theatre for over thirty years, making new work for the National, the Manchester International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. This work is inspired by the true story of the strange life and lonely death of Mr. Ernest Boulton — one half of the infamous Victorian cross-dressing duo Fanny and Stella. Stella is performed amidst the newly restored splendours of one of London’s oldest surviving music-hall interiors.

1 – 18 June 2016

Hoxton Hall, 130 Hoxton St, London, 020 7684 0060

STELLA LIFT 2016 Credit Fred Spalding, reproduced courtesy of Essex Record Office.jpg
Stella | © Fred Spalding, reproduced courtesy of Essex Record Office

Minefield, by Lola Arias

Leading voice in Argentinean theatre, Lola Arias brings together British and Argentine veterans of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas war to share their first-hand experience of the conflict and life since. This collaboratively created new work merges theatre and film to blur the lines between truth and fiction, on a stage 8,000 miles from their remembered battlefield. This work builds on Arias’ reputation for playing with the overlap between reality and fiction, as seen through previous work with actors, non-actors, musicians, dancers, children, babies and even animals.

2 – 11 June 2016

Royal Court Theatre, London, 020 7565 5000

MINEFIELD LIFT 2016 Credit Manuel Abramovich.jpg
Minefield | © Manuel Abramovich

East Wall Warm-Up

Few choreographers can lay claim to a month-long festival bearing their name, complete with a hashtag (#HOFEST), as was the case for Israeli-born, London-based Hofesh Shechter in October 2015. For LIFT, he curates a group of East London’s talented, up-and-coming choreographers and dancers in pop-up performances high above the rooftops of London. This scratch event is a prelude to a new project for 2018, and will get the party going for the closing night of LIFT 2016.

2 July 2016

Roof East, Stratford Centre Car Park Hitchcock Ln, London

LIFT Festival Talks at the British Library

The British Library will host a talk with fabled New York based experimental theatre company, the Wooster Group (including founding member Elizabeth LeCompte), following a screening of the Wooster Group‘s Hamlet. Also look out for Legendary British Director Peter Brook, who will discuss his seminal production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1970) along with original company members Frances de la Tour and Ben Kingsley, plus Shakespeare scholar Peter Holland.

British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London, 0330 333 1144