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Sick! festival explores medical and social challenges of life and death

By Bella Todd

What doesn’t kill us, makes us. That’s the premise of this taboo-busting four-day programme of shows, talks and debates, bookended by two of the most provocative forces in current live performance, which takes place March 9-12.

Sick! Festival is the first UK festival dedicated to exploring the medical, mental and social challenges of life and death. Born in Brighton, it’s now expanded to Manchester, and recently bagged a prestigious European EFFE festival award. Last year’s offerings included a piece of theatre staged as a self-help group for porn addicts, a dance duet between a man and a boy, and what we can only describe as a sort of medically-enhanced Ann Summer’s party titled ‘Sex, Cancer and Cocktails’.

You can look forward to the next full festival in 2017. Meanwhile, Sick! Lab is a chance to watch the creative seeds being planted, with individual tickets or a four-day pass.

Alongside the acclaimed shows by Bryony Kimmings and Kim Noble, there’s a scratch evening of embryonic work. A late-night philosophy bar titled ‘The Trigger’s Broom Paradox’ will mash ‘Only Fools & Horses’ with the latest in identity theory. And On The Couch is a day of discussions about the forces that shape us, from global trauma to the voices in our heads.

Sick! shines a light into the darkest corners of human identity, and coaxes our deepest secrets centre stage. Frankly, it’s starting to make other arts festivals look a bit gutless.

Highlights from the program are below, and for the full Sick! Lab programme visit their website.

Lab Test, March 11, 4-10pm
A chance to catch future Sick! comissions in their early stages. Scratch performances of shows about the physical, social and spiritual challenges of life and death, followed by some knotty debate.

On The Couch, March 10, 10am-5pm
Poet Lemn Sissay and visual artist Hetain Patel lead the speakers at this day of open conversations about identity and trauma. Pitch in with voices from the arts, media and academia to discuss questions such as ‘Why do we find it so hard to be alone in our minds?’

Kim Noble, ‘You’re Not Alone’, March 12, 8pm
A show about aloneness from the performer doing more to push the boundaries of comedy than any other. How far will he go this time in his search for human connection? Well, he’s no longer giving out pots of his own semen. But he might need to explain that hole in the adjoining wall to his neighbour’s bedroom.

Bryony Kimmings, ‘Fake It ‘til You Make It’, March 10, 8pm
Male depression is the subject of this unlikely two-hander from the current poster girl of both soul-bearing and culturally interrogative performance art. Unlikely because the other person on stage is her partner, Tim, who has severe clinical depression and no theatre experience whatsoever.

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