Marina Abramovic challenges the line up at Manchester Fesitval
One of the showpieces of this year’s Manchester International Festival is The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic at Salford’s Lowry Theatre.
The self-styled ‘godmother of performance art’ will be re-imagining her life so far and looking ahead to her death in an ambitious piece produced in collaboration with Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe, Mercury Music Prize-winning musician Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), and legendary theatre director Bob Wilson.
We filmed an early rehearsal so it would be unfair to judge the show on that basis. But one thing I can say is that it’s ambitious and uncompromising. And epic in both duration and scope.
It’s also bound to be one of the most challenging pieces in the programme for this year’s festival.
But it isn’t the only challenging piece. In fact, there’s a healthy streak of the avant garde running through most of the main programme.
Which is why it was something of a surprise to discover that a vibrant fringe festival has already sprung up around the main festival.
But with work from the likes of Marina Abramovic (pictured) in the main festival, what exactly is the function of the fringe?
Well, in this case it doesn’t so much serve as an outlet for the wacky and experimental – more as nursery slopes for emerging talent to practise their craft and hone their creative and performance skills.
So this year, it’s offering more than 150 events, from performance poetry to visual arts shows – many of them in pop-up venues such as warehouses, pubs, bars, hotels and libraries.
And the ethos is very much one of DIY, getting your hands dirty and not being scared to get stuck in and have a go.
Run by Manchester-based couple Gareth and Beth McCann, the Not Part Of festival is already establishing itself as a rival to the mother of all fringe festivals – Edinburgh.
But one festival which doesn’t have anything to fear from Not Part Of is, ironically, the Manchester International Festival itself.
Rather than working against it, Not Part Of can be seen as a sign that, after just three years, the MIF is taking root as a permanent presence in the city.
And the idea is that in the future, a more symbiotic relationship might develop between festival and fringe.