People often tell me that they have not reacted quickly enough to Festival publicity to either book tickets or to make space in their diary for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival whereas other people who have cottoned on, plan virtually the whole month of May around the Festival and Norfolk Open Studios. There are lots of free events as well as ticketed events but it useful to plan them all in or it is easy to forget or miss out on tickets that sell out quickly. But even if you have left it late, there are lots of interesting events to explore and book mark.
The Festival kicks off with a big free outdoor event at the Norwich Cathedral Close called Rêve d'Herbert by French Compagnie de Quidam. It starts at 9.30pm and depends on darkness for its drama. It lasts about an hour but you will need to arrive early to get a good spot, and because capacity at the Cathedral Close is limited.
There are lots of other free events during the Festival - a quick check on the website will give you a complete list.
There are also lots of big names and well-established successes such as the Philharmonia Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia, Aurora Orchestra, Will Self and Ali Smith, Tiger Lillies and Bonanafana Social Club (which sold out instantly), the Voice Project and Mariza. Personally I am interested in the slightly offbeat and obscure events where you don't really know what you are going to get and are sometimes overlooked because it is not so clear. Trying new things seems to be the real opportunity of a big festival like this being held in Norwich.
So what am I going to try out ? The first weekend there is the Dance Marathon. It first it sounds a bit daunting - non-stop partner dancing until everyone else has dropped out - but in fact you don't need a partner and you don't have to dance non-stop. In fact you can just sit and watch, dress up a bit, absorb the atmosphere and meet your friends BUT if you do happen to be a hot-shot on the dance floor, here's your chance to shine and compete against some real showcase dancers. I think it will be fun and as much a spectator sport as a challenge for hard core dancers, and if you are in between so much the better as you will get the best off both worlds. But certainly don't let the word 'endurance' in the programme put you off - it's a chance to partner dance for fun. And best of all you can get two tickets for the price of one to encourage you to find someone to go with - anyone! Here's how to get two-for-one - go to https://secure.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk/OnlineNNF/default.asp and enter the Promo Code “241 Offer” into the box to book or call the Theatre Royal box office on 01603
And you can read what the EDP had to say about the show here (link to http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/put_on_your_dancing_shoes_for_norfolk_and_norwich_festival_marathon_1_1976236
Another thing that intrigues me is the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. It's quite hard to get your head around but also fascinates me. It's about a life story but it takes several hours to tell, in fact, 12 hours. You can either see it over 4 evenings or all in one go in a 12 hour marathon. This is a bold piece of programming in my opinion - who can or is willing to devote 12 hours to one show? And would it be worth it? In my experience, these unlikely possibilities turn out to be amazing, just because they are so unlikely. And it originates in New York where they have a strong tradition of challenging and innovative theatre. So I am still working out how I can do this amongst all the other festival events. But I guess that even catching one of the episodes might be a good start. Also I gather that they are casting for volunteers to act in the show so if that appeals to you, then contact firstname.lastname@example.org though I think you do have to have some acting experience to take part. Get in touch quickly though as auditions are happening now I believe.
Penguin Cafe Orchestra are old favourites of mine and so Sundog (Arthur Jeffes) is a definite on my list. When I booked my tickets there were lots left so I can only assume that people haven't noticed this concert which I think will be great. Arthur is the son of Simon Jeffes who started Penguin Cafe Orchestra but sadly died an early death in the 1980s. Arthur had been at his father's gigs from a very early age and is now leading the new and rebooted Penguin Cafe. He is a great entertainer as well as an excellent musician and his combination of classical and folk is brilliant, I think so anyway. So that is a cert for me.
At Norwich Arts Centre is Electric Voice Phenomena, on 25 May - again another event that defies easy description but it is touring Britain and is backed by - it's described as hauntology. technology and poetics and who knows what really to expect - part seance, part glitch cabaret - how can I resist that? Who is going to come with me then?
Another two things that are at EPIC Studios - an interesting new Festival venue - are City and Sven Warners Tales of Magical Realism. Both are installation-based, experimental, interactive and change with audience involvement. City is free and Tales of Magic Realism is a fiver so both are well worth trying out. I am told that Tales of Magical Realism is going to be beautiful – there's a sneak peak here http://vimeo.com/63403957.
For visual arts fans there's lots on too. There's a Brian Griffiths installation which will transform the Keep and a lot of sculpture at Norwich Castle,
and on Saturday 11 May 12pm - a special treat for readers
Stephen Brandes, the NNF visual arts curator, is going to be doing a curator's guide to Caroline McCarthy’s Visual arts tour – It will take around an hour and a half to complete the tour, starting the courtyard outside the west door of the Anglican Cathedral and will follow the map around all the sites and pieces. If you would like one of the limited places for this one-off in-the-know special email email@example.com to book but there are only twenty places so act quickly and dont be disappointed if you don't get one - it's the luck of the draw
There's still lots of visual art to see and you can follow the trail yourself. Caroline McCarthy’s Visual Art Trails Maps are available on the NNF website and at the festival booth in the Forum (where you can find lots of information about what's on). It’s a really amazing trail and the maps pretty nice too.
Another little-known venue is the Undercroft under the Memorial Gardens between City Hall and the Market. Rhona Byrnes ‘Its All up in the Air’ is in the Undercroft.
This is an exciting installation which runs throughout the Festival from 11-26 May. The artist Rhona Byrnes is inviting groups to come and hold different happenings, discussions, social encounters and events under large black 'clouds' that people are invited to wander between and sit on carpet islands. The clouds are made from black modelling balloons
These events are going to be great fun but are not listed in the original brochure – so I have attached a full list as a Word doc but highlights are:
Saturday 11 May 4 - 6pm
Speed Moaning What is bothering the people of Norfolk? Based on the structure of speed dating, this is your opportunity to moan, complain, lament and most importantly laugh about a variety of personal and social topics.
Friday May 24 1-3pm, 4-6pm Cloud Play, A Social Game by Lara A'Court.
Take part in an interactive game designed for all to play. Become a silver lining hunter when faced with a black cloud where things are not always what they seem.
Saturday 25 May 3-4pm
Laughter Yoga with Lotte Mikkelsen They say laughter is the best medicine, and this session invites people to explore and feel the benefits and contagions of laughter by taking part in some alternative yoga exercises under the black clouds.
This is still really only scratching the surface of what amounts to a really wide and varied programme which we are lucky to have on our doorstep. This is only a small selection - there is a whole literature programme directed by the Writers' Centre Norwich, children's events, many of them free, circus, outdoor theatre and performance, so get hold of a programme or look online and I will also send you updates and special offers if I hear about them - but hopefully this will provoke you to go and look at your own selection - and thank you for reading this far!
All best and see you at the Festival!
ps if you don't want to battle with the crowds for the opening street event in the Cathedral Close, head for Kier Hardy Hall in St Gregory's alley for The Norwich Light Entertainment Sunshine Comedy Spectacular Festival of Laughter! a night of comedy programmed by our own Peter Beck and lots of local talent from 8pm - 1am
Tickets £6 in advance from SEVENWOLVES on Exchange Street, Norwich.
£7 on the door (Tickets limited so advance purchase advised)