Ten acts not to miss at this year’s Norfolk and Norwich Festival
- Credit: JMA Photography
With just one week to go until the curtain goes up on this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival, artistic director William Galinsky talks to arts correspondent EMMA KNIGHTS about his top 10 cultural highlights that await audiences and how Norfolk was the inspiration for much of this year's line-up.
From an ambitious aquatic production of Shakespeare's The Tempest to a live re-creation of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and everything else in between, this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival is once again bringing a vibrant mix of all things cultural to the city and county.
One thing artistic director William Galinsky is especially proud of this year is the amount of new original shows the festival has commissioned.
And, just as last year's twilight outdoor spectacle Wolf's Child was created especially for the grounds of Felbrigg Hall near Cromer, many of these new works have Norfolk at their heart.
'I think this year what's really exciting is it's the most original commissions we have ever done,' Mr Galinsky said.
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'We have been working towards - as well as being a festival that welcomes to Norwich and Norfolk great acts from around the world - commissioning lots of work from Norfolk.
'We were really excited last year with Wolf's Child that so many people had an appetite to see original events responding to Norfolk and Norwich.
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'We are going back to Felbrigg this year for Walk With Me, a walkscape which you experience with an iPad and headphones. That's going to be an amazing experience - very intimate, something you experience one person at a time.'
And this year Mr Galinsky is also directing one of the shows – an ambitious production of The Tempest complete with a stage flooded with water.
'The Tempest responds to the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome. When I started coming to the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 2011, I just thought I would love to do a production of The Tempest here,' he said.
'So much of the original commissions are responding to Norfolk landscapes and Norwich stories in the same way Wolf's Child responded to Felbrigg Hall.
'It's the kind of work we could only do at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, you would not be able to see it at the National Theatre. It is uniquely about our places, our communities, our stories, and that's very much the way of the festival this year. That's what you can see in a lot of my top 10.'
Young Norfolk singer-songwriters will be taking centre stage at Norwich Playhouse for Wild Life – a show audiences were given a sneak preview of at last year's festival.
'Wild Life is very exciting. When I first came here we had a young person's focus group. It became clear to me if you are 15 your cultural life is mainly about the music you listen to. It was about the time of High School Musical and Glee and I thought wouldn't it be good to do the opposite of this? It's sort of a musical but not a musical like any other,' Mr Galinsky said.
'We have sort of been warming up to do more and more commissions and home grown work. Last year we had Circa's show What Will Have Been, which was a co-commission, and Wolf's Child. This time we have nothing quite as big as Wolf's Child, but we are offering a lot that speaks to a unique sense of Norfolk and Norwich and that's what excites me about my top 10 this year.'
Free outdoor performances, the return of revelry and fun in the Adnams Spiegeltent, a music programme ranging from the quirky to the classical, and everything else the NNF has become famous for over the years is also packed into this year's programme.
And alongside all of this, there is one extra show Mr Galinksy cannot wait to see - the audience.
'I just love to see the audiences responses to some of these crazy acts we bring here,' he said.
'It's really exciting to be doing another Norfolk and Norwich Festival. We hope that lots of people come out to enjoy the festival, that the sun shines and that we have a wonderful 17 days of exciting shows and events, and really enjoy what Norfolk and Norwich has to offer culturally.'
The festival runs from May 13 to 29, with some events starting slightly earlier.
For more details about festival performances, visit www.nnfestival.org.uk or call the box office on 01603 766400.
WILLIAM GALINSKY'S TOP 10
May 19 to 29, Norwich Playhouse.
'This really is one of the projects I am most excited about this year. I previously collaborated with director Pol Heyvaert when we made a show with Irish teenagers in which the performers got to speak openly and honestly about their feelings and their sense of the future. Pol is working with young people again, this time a group of 14-24 year old singer-songwriters from across Norfolk and performer Kim Noble. The songs they have written, after recording themselves having conversations with their parents, leaving answer machine messages for each other and writing diary records about anything at all, tell us what the teenage brain is really like.'
Max Richter Ensemble.
May 19, Norwich Theatre Royal.
'Electro-acoustic artist Max Richter might be the most brilliant composer of his generation. SLEEP is inspired by Bach, punk rock and ambient electronica and mixes his formal classical training with modern technology. Alongside his ensemble, Max Richter will perform selections from SLEEP, his landmark work scored for piano, strings, electronics and voice, investigating the power of the human brain. It's bound to be an absolutely outstanding night.'
The Festival Commission
May 15, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich
'Cain, The Festival Commission, will be a world premiere from one of the UK's foremost young composers, Kemal Yusuf. It's set to be a highly ambitious choral work recounting the Biblical story of the first-born human in music and we're absolutely thrilled that Kemal is making his first major piece of work for us; he is undoubtedly one to watch.'
It's Happening in Norwich
May 19 to 29, Elm Hill, Norwich
'It's Happening in Norwich is a world premiere from Polish artists Janek Turkowski and Iwona Nowacka, who we are thrilled to have back with us after the beautiful video portrait Margarete at the festival in 2015. It's Happening in Norwich will be a video-storytelling performance presented at a medieval merchant's house on Elm Hill. It will explore the amazing collection of amateur films made by Charles Scott from the 1930s to the 1970s. For over 40 years Scott chronicled the city with the two film reels he could afford a year. In the merchants house the stories will be recounted alongside Janek and Iwona's own experiences.'
The Story Machine
May 15, Writers' Centre Norwich
'The Story Machine is going to be an immersive literary event telling great stories. Through the halls, corridors, gardens and cellars of Dragon Hall, the use of theatre, illustration, drawings, sculptures, soundtracks and audio recordings will lift the stories off the page. Audiences will be able to create their own journeys. There will be live literature from Jon McGregor, Kevin Barry, Sarah Hall and Anna Metcalfe, work from writers including Claudia Rankine, Etgar Keret, Katherine Mansfield, as well as street food pop-ups and a bar!'
Walk with Me
May 13 to October 30, Felbrigg Hall, near Cromer
'After last year's Wolf's Child, we return to the beautiful setting of Felbrigg Hall with a completely new type of event. Strijbos and Van Rijswijk's walkscapes are present across the world, in locations including Paris, Istanbul, New York and Glasgow. They use GPS technology to superimpose site-specific compositions, natural sounds and narrative onto the surroundings. In Walk With Me, audiences will be able to wander through the woods and fields at Felbrigg Hall, creating their own cinematic experience with landscape as a screen and headphones providing a soundtrack of music, words and sound effects. Novelist Megan Bradbury has specially created a story where the past of Felbrigg Hall unfolds and reframes the estate as a place of wonder.'
Magical Mystery Tour
May 20, Norwich Theatre Royal
'We are really excited to be presenting The Analogues' UK premiere performance. Equal parts a musical showpiece and a creative sonic experiment, The Analogues take their name from their dedication to re-creating the complex and layered sound of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour, playing the same instruments that the Fab Four used to record the album at Abbey Road Studios.'
The Voice Project's Vocal Invention
May 20 to 22, Norwich Arts Centre and various places around the city centre
'Poets, singers, improvisers, composers, talkers and thinkers are coming together over one weekend for Vocal Invention. There will be a range of activity popping up across the city. The Voice Project's Vocal Invention is a completely unique and adventurous way to take part in all sorts of vocal events!'
City of Literature Weekend
May 21 and 22, Dragon Hall, Norwich
'We are delighted that Writers' Centre Norwich has once again programmed a spectacular weekend of literature events as part of its City of Literature programme.
'There are a huge array of writers, activists and thinkers taking part in the weekend - from award-winning author Kate Summerscale to former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King to Second World War veteran Harry Leslie Smith.'
May 9 to 21, Great Yarmouth Hippodrome
'And the Tempest of course! I'll be directing the production at Great Yarmouth Hippodrome. We've been working alongside local circus group Lost in Translation as well as a Kung Fu artist so expect The Tempest as never seen before. We'll also be flooding the whole space, using under water stage entrances and walkways...! You will have to come along to find out more!'