[Images courtesy of Northern Art Festival]
The second Northern Art Festival took place on Saturday 7th March, at the former Woolworths building on the Moor in Sheffield. The place has been given a new lease of life as The Delicatessen Theatre (open from Wednesday to Saturday in the afternoon for tea and snacks). I was warmly welcomed with the offer of a drink, and settled down to wait for the main event.
With the General Election drawing near, what better time is there to ask artists to respond to the current political landscape? A real variety of acts were on offer, beginning with stand-up comedian Erin More who explored the topic of politics in an honest and amusing way by sharing her research on the subject. This included fascinating facts such as how New Zealand appoints a national wizard, and that Margaret Thatcher had been a chemist (before she was a politician) who helped invent soft scoop ice cream. Erin then went on to document the extensive research she had carried out with members of the public by exploring their often amusing and insightful views on politics.
The second event was in the building’s basement, and was a performance of Fatherland by Katharina Arnold. Thoughtfully, blankets were provided as the temperature was so low in the basement. Katharina spoke of her father, and as she did she cut up liver and then hammered nails into a wooden board. While she worked, a man in a white shirt and black trousers was seated throughout. She then fought with this man, and he left. Then dramatically she hurled liver at the white wooden figure with protruding nails. A few audience members sniggered inappropriately, but I was moved by the performance which also included dancing and a film of a father and son, exploring the contradictory relationships between them involving love and hate.
The next offering was I Clodia by Susie Casson, performed by The Dilys Guite Players. As the audience we were seated in another chilly part of the building, a warehouse-like space, where a toga clad woman lay on a chaise longue with a man standing behind her and another beside her. The woman was totally believable as the rich Roman noblewoman, and her politician husband did a great performance as a man keeping up appearances at all cost. Their luxurious lifestyle is shattered when Clodia becomes captivated by young poet Catullus, who became her lover. The lover gave a good performance but I struggled to believe this poised woman would have been drawn to the dishevelled man playing as him. But as it was theatre I accepted the premise and went with the flow, which was fluid and totally absorbing as the life changing love triangle becomes ever more fraught and dangerous.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the final two offerings: Lilith by Kate Radford dealing with Female Genital Mutilation and Just Saying How It Is, a spoken word performance by Carol Robson.
The evening was full of ambition and emotion; exciting work by inspirational artists who clearly found an enthusiastic Sheffield audience who appreciate their original and ground-breaking work.
The Northern Art Festival is part of The Festival of Debate, a larger festival which continues throughout March and April. See their website for more details: www.festivalofdebate.com