Spill experimental theatre festival

Time Out examines the experimental festival giving its esteemed creator a few sleepless nights…

  • It’s a common complaint of the performance/live art crowd that they have no home to call their own in London despite the best efforts of Chelsea Theatre. Robert Pacitti, a much-respected practitioner, was so frustrated by this deficiency that a year ago he took action and set about raising money for a festival. The result – Spill, a festival of experimental theatre that will take place in the Shunt Vaults, the Barbican, Purcell Room and Soho Theatre – starts this week and includes ‘six world premieres, five companies making their first visit to Britain, four installations, three feasts, two day-long symposiums and one exhibition’.

    Another complaint is that festivals don’t usually allow for much interplay between the visiting companies. To make matters more spicy, Pacitti aims to create a new piece of work ‘Grand Finale’ based on ‘Thérèse Raquin’ with the help of contributions from the participating artists, and in collaboration with the Swiss electronica band Velma. It’s a concept Pacitti first developed for festivals he was performing at abroad. Some of the work already exists but it’s his novel idea to stitch in contributions from local artists. The invitation goes out to actors, performance makers, dancers, visual artists, and even architects to take part in a two-week workshop. Then Pacitti and his company arrive with what he describes as a cookbook. ‘Every contribution that someone makes, whether that becomes public or not, is written down as a recipe which goes into a big plastic box that travels with us.’

    ‘Grand Finale’, which will be performed in the massive subterranean territory of Shunt Vaults, should make a startling contrast with the recent adaptation of Zola’s novel at the National Theatre. The story describes the bitter consequences when Therese and her lover murder her husband. ‘It’s considered,’ Pacitti says, ‘to be one of the pieces of literature that hails the end of romanticism and the start of naturalism. So the piece starts off with a bourgeois dinner party which becomes more and more deconstructed and it ends up being about the naked body in relation to a more brutal space.’

    A new production is a lot to take on when also dealing with all the administration that goes hand in hand with running a festival. Not surprisingly Pacitti is finding it hard to sleep. ‘I’m really excited, but it is a challenge. At 3am in the morning, after very stressful days, I sit with headphones on and imagine what’s going to happen.’

    ‘Grand Finale’ plays at Shunt on April 21, 22


    Penthesilea (UK Premiere)

    ‘I chose a bare, raw, open stage on which nothing is hidden and I bring onto it only very clear and symbolic elements: a bow and its arrows, and a volatile white fog. The theatrical form I have chosen follows from our intention to experiment with painted visual art suspended in the space, and intense live electronic music – we are exploring how the contemporary sound and visual materials may interfere/intervene in the brilliant romantic text of Heinrich Von Kleist (1808). Or is it the strength of the blessed Amazon word which still interferes/ intervenes with us today?’ Francoise Berlanger
    Penthesilea’ plays at the Barbican The Pit on April 11, 12.

    'The Last To See Them Alive'

    The Last To See Them Alive: Sex, Slaughter and the City (World Premiere)

    ‘We have chosen to work with, and reference, various forms in the making of “The Last To See Them Alive”. Taking the “set-up” of part press conference, part lecture, we infuse it/mix it up with public confessions, motivational speeches, cabaret-style song moments, witness statements, peeping-tom acts, warped fantasies, sexy dancing and self-made crime scene investigation “techniques”. We present four people, at a table, who intimately engage with the audience. Investigations include variations on the theme of what it means to be the victim or victor in the game of serial murder in the big city.’ Unreasonable Adults‘The Last To See Them Alive: Sex, Slaughter and the City’ plays at the Soho Theatre on April 13, 14.

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