Mayfest, Bristol’s festival of international theatre has announced its 2018 programme featuring over 20 shows from the very best theatre makers in Bristol and beyond. From 10 – 20 May, Mayfest is back, celebrating its 15th year of adventurous thought provoking theatre.

Set to spill out across the city, Mayfest champions extraordinary new work from artists with distinct voices for audiences. Come together, play along and take a moment to reflect. Artists from Canada, Japan and Australia offer opportunities for participation and exchange: Town Choir, Contact Gonzo and WE ARE LIGHTNING! will all collaborate with talented performers and musicians from Bristol.

A few festival highlights will include the world premiere of The British Paraorchestra’s new work The Nature of Why, commissioned by Unlimited who celebrate and support the work of disabled artists. Taking inspiration from the unconventional curiosity of Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, and his search for meaning in the world around us, The Nature of Why brings together dance and live music into an epic and beautiful performance. Featuring a cinematic live-score from Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, an ensemble of musicians from the acclaimed British Paraorchestra and four extraordinary dancers, The Nature of Why promises to be an up-close-and-personal dance experience like no other.

With an explosion of work from around the world, some of the highlights from overseas this year include the UK debut of Japanese company Contact Gonzo whose jaw-dropping physical style will thrill audiences at Jacob’s Wells Baths on 12 and 13 May, after a week’s residency. It’s violent and tender, very funny and very serious.

Bristol’s rich artistic landscape plays out in rude health: Sabrina Shirazi’s Choral Cuisine is a sonorous dining experience in a coffee roastery where a two course meal becomes an opportunity to create music while you dine; Draw to Look by Hannah Sullivan invites you to join her in the simple and deliberate act of looking and noticing through drawing, and the world premiere of a major new work by Verity Standen, Undersong. Now Is The Time To Say Nothing by Caroline Williams is an interactive video installation made with Syrian film-maker Reem Karssli and young people from London.

Ridiculusmus make a welcome return to Mayfest, with a rare opportunity to see the full trilogy of its work focusing on mental health, Give Me Your Love, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland and Complicated Grief, taking place at The Tobacco Factory Theatres and the Southville Centre between 16–19 May.

Also returning to the festival is Scottee, with Bravado, his blistering memoir of working class masculinity, performed at Jack of Diamonds on Old Market.

For younger audiences, there’s Snigel and Friends by Caroline Bowditch and Bristol’s very own Drag Queen Story Time.

The festival also ventures out of the city for the first time with Richard Allen’s The Killers, at The Regent restaurant on the sea front in Weston-super-Mare. Inspired by the Ernest Hemingway short story of the same name, The Killers is a binaural sound work where the audience listen as two assassins arrive at the restaurant thirty minutes before a killing.

Other shows include the smash-hit Edinburgh show Velvet Petal by Scottish Dance Theatre, PALMYRA by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, Live Before You Die by Byron Vincent and Dave McGinn, and How (not) to Live In Suburbia by Annie Siddons.

Mayfest is curated and directed by MAYK, the producing organisation based in Bristol led by Kate Yedigaroff and Matthew Austin. They said: “We are living in a particularly big political, cultural and social moment. The work in this year’s festival speaks loudly and subtly about where and who we are, right now. It’s so good to be back after a year away, and we can’t wait to share this year’s programme with audiences from all over the UK.”

Visit: mayfestbristol.co.uk / mayk.org.uk 

Featured image: We Are Lightning by Pia Johnson