I love BE festival; and I admire the different shows they put on, the community atmosphere, the European emphasis. I’ve praised them many times on social media and here I think also. But there are also moments like these:
‘I went to see some performance art at BE festival yesterday. I know. I had it coming. A Greek ensemble used synthesisers, and screens to dramatise the continued power of Plato’s allegory of the cave. They sang ‘operatically’ too. Every once in a while, some disaster would be hurled out of tune to puncture your eardrums and jangle your nerves whilst the performers writhed onstage. There were a lot of disasters; every bit of fake news, the ills of social networks. Each occasioned a spasm and screech; each slashed at your eardrums. We’re meant to reflect on the walls and shadows we build around us but a young woman one seat next to me turned on her phone ten minutes into the show and left it on, cooly ignoring what was happening on stage and oblivious to her phone’s effect on the rest of the audience.. I don’t know if it was the performance or the phone but after half an hour or so I couldn’t stand it any more: ‘Do you have to keep your fucking phone on all the time?’ The lady between us bristled, at least as upset by my language and tone as by the phone or the show. I also felt bad and tried to concentrate more fully on the show, a mistake: one really just wanted the world to end so the screeching would stop. Ugh.’
The final night was very badly programmed. The 7:00 performance was Be Festival attempt at community inclusion and was the culmination of a week’s workshopping with teens. They were marvellous: charismatic, energetic. But they’d only had a week to come up with what had taken professional ensembles months. It was a disservice to them to ask them to come up with half an hour’s worth of material in such a short time, and it was certainly an imposition on the audience. This, followed by the long ODC ensemble piece I mentioned above, plus then the dinner, made one go to Sotterraneo’s Overload, witty, intelligent, warm — surely one of the best pieces in the festival — tired, groggy, and not best placed to receive. Though actually Sotterraneo were so great that it made the audience rise to their feet at the end.