VOILA! Europe Theatre Festival Nov 6th - 18th 2018
Logo Link - VoilaFestival.co - info/tickets
Sharlit Deyzac and Amy Clare Tasker (pic below) are probably two of the busiest bees in London right now. They are the Director and Deputy Director of the two-week extravaganza that is Voila! Europe Theatre festival, which kicks off this week over four venues across London. It’s a multilingual, multicultural, multidisciplinary lineup of fringe theatre from around Europe and the UK, plus for thespians and theatre fans alike, this weekend there’s the European Theatre Forum – two days of workshops, panels and performances focussing on how theatre can transcend political, cultural and linguistic borders...
Now in its seventh year, Voila! Europe has something for everyone who enjoys theatre that’s a bit more intimate and inventive than your cookie-cutter, West End jukebox musical – there’s revolution-tinged flamenco, robots and new technology, European vs village identities, Europe-wide LGBTQ stories, witchcraft and mysticism, coming of age and leaving your homeland stories. Styles run from animation to masks, comedy to circus, dance, cabaret and drama. Voila! describes itself in the programme as multilingual, and that includes French, Polish, Italian, Norwegian, German, Swahili, Nigerian, Alexandrins, Lithuanian, Dutch and even a bit of Esperanto! After a productive ten minutes looking up swearwords in Esperanto (gotta love Google Translate), Phacemag caught up with Sharlit and Amy to find out more about their ‘Bollokoj to Brexit’, border-busting event…
Fran talks to the organisers of this lovely creative theatre extravaganza!
Photograph by Laura Hill @Actin
Putting together a festival with over 30 shows over for venues must be a ton of work, I would’ve thought – when did you start putting it together and what were you looking for/were your criteria for the shows you chose to feature?
We accepted applications for six weeks in April and May 2018, and we had the programme confirmed by the end of June. Voila is a multilingual, multicultural, multidisciplinary theatre festival, so we look for shows that are bringing together artists with different cultural and aesthetic backgrounds. We pride ourselves on being ‘border-busting’ which applies to including artists and audiences from outside of the UK as well as finding new forms of theatre that combine dance, music, or visual art. There are a few shows in this year’s festival that we programmed in order to find out what they are! For example, ON MISSING (6-8 November at the Cockpit Theatre) combines traditional theatre forms from Poland and Nigeria (the UK’s largest diaspora communities) to create a new genre of performance that we’ve never seen before. We’re passionate about the rich possibilities of cultural exchange, and we look for projects that are bold, eclectic and unusual. Where did you find the companies and performers?
We programme Voila! Europe from an open call for applications. As a fringe festival, we want to make Voila as accessible as possible for artists as well as audiences. So anyone can apply for Voila, and we spend a lot of time reading applications and sleuthing out companies on social media. Of course, we also want to cultivate relationships with artists over the long term, and there are several companies in the 2018 festival who are veterans of Voila, bringing new shows or developing new versions of shows that have been at the festival as works-in-progress in the past. This year, we’re delighted to welcome back HOAX, Monamas Theatre Company, French British Improvisation (FBI), and Ekata Theatre, and Theatre Numerique. For anyone wanting to hear about our future application callouts, we recommend getting on our mailing list and following our social media accounts @VoilaEurope. And year-round, you can invite us to see shows you might be working on. If we’ve seen your work, this really helps us to imagine whether it might be a good fit for the festival. How does this year’s programme differ from other years? In 2017, Voila expanded from a French & English festival to encompass work from all over Europe. With that thematic expansion, the festival also grew from presenting performances at just one venue to three: Voila shows are now at The Cockpit (our flagship venue and producer of Voila), the Etcetera Theatre Camden, and Applecart Arts. Each venue offers something a little different. The Cockpit is home to some spectacular, large-cast shows, and this year for the first time we are presenting several shows in the round, with audience on all sides. Etcetera Theatre is a classic British pub theatre, with intimate performances for an audience of just 40 people. Applecart Arts offers artist residencies to companies developing brand new work, giving them an artistic home during the festival and offering audiences the chance to see a show that’s hot off the press. New this year, we’re running a series of events at our Crossroads Festival Hub, Theatre Deli. Their cafe space in Broadgate will host some pop-up performances throughout the festival, and a weekend-long European Theatre Forum with panels, workshops, and Open Space discussions. With the performance venues spread out across London, we’re really excited that the Hub will provide a central place for audiences and artists to connect. Are any shows going to deal with the current British Europe-facing obsession – Brexit? Well, how could we have a European Theatre Festival in 2018 and not acknowledge Brexit? We like to say that Voila is a ‘non-Brexit-fearing festival’ which means that we will continue to reach out across borders whatever happens with our political situation next year. We do feel that it’s more important than ever that the festival creates and maintains strong connections with artists in Europe - and continues to be a home for European artists who are based in the UK. As for shows in the festival that overtly mention Brexit, there’s Foreign Affairs (14-17 November at the Etcetera Theatre) which tells the story of Nathan Evans’ parents divorce against the backdrop of Brexit, drawing parallels between the breakdowns of those two unions. And Margot Przymierska is in residence at Applecart Arts with Wesele/Wedding (7-10 November). Margot is a real-life wedding officiant and solo performer, welcoming the audience to the last Polish-English wedding before Brexit, in which everyone is invited to take part in games and a Polish disco singalong!
Pic Link - Full Programme
How many shows are new productions/debuting at Voila!? It would be quicker to say what’s NOT premiering at Voila! Six companies are in residence at Applecart Arts developing brand new shows - and across the festival, twenty-three shows are having their very first performances or debuting the first full-length productions of projects that have had early work-in-progress showings elsewhere. Several European companies are bringing their work to London for the first time. Collectif Les Particules are presenting Robolution (6-8 November at the Cockpit Theatre). With their home-made robot, they’ll be performing in French with newly-translated English surtitles, supported by Institut Français du Royaume Uni. Also at the Cockpit Theatre this week, Woman’s Move (Belgium/Switzerland) is premiering the first full-length performance of The Sensemaker (7 November), an absurd solo dance-theatre piece about waiting on hold and resisting an unjust authority. Later in the festival, Haugen Productions (Norway) are performing Sisters - 11 Years Later in the UK for the first time, 16-17 November at the Cockpit Theatre. The performers are real-life sisters creating a deeply personal dance-theatre-documentary performance about family and overcoming loss. The programme talks about the festival being multi-lingual, rather than international. What are the companies doing to help English speaking audiences get around the language barriers? Most of the shows at Voila are actually in English, or mostly in English with other languages used in such a way that no translation is required. A few shows are performed in other languages with surtitles, like Republica (13-17 November at the Cockpit Theatre), a punk-flamenco lament for the untold story of the Spanish Revolution, performed in Spanish and English with English captioning throughout. We’re proud to say that this year’s festival includes about a dozen languages being spoken on stage, as well unspoken languages. There are a few shows using very little language, like Hamlet...with no words (16-18 November at Etcetera Theatre) and Sisyphus Distressing, a sonic theatre project incorporating live music, video, text, movement, a unique water instrument, and British Sign Language (that’s on 15 November at the Cockpit Theatre). As Voila began as a French and English festival, we do have a couple of shows this year that are only in French, with no surtitling: Ruptures and Crac Dedans, both at the Cockpit Theatre. How does Voila! Work ‘as’ a festival? How are you encouraging people to try more than one show? The easiest way to see more than one show is to catch a double bill - that’s two shows back to back at the same venue. We have a multi-buy deal when you buy tickets online in advance, which means the tickets get cheaper the more shows you see (or the more friends you bring). There’s more details about that on the ‘Your Visit’ page of our website. This feels like a very 2018 question, but how are you defining ‘European’? The short answer is: we’re not defining it. This question of what it means to be European is deeply complex and constantly changing. As a border-busting festival, we’re keen to discover what ‘European’ means, in collaboration with the artists who are part of the festival. We talked a lot in the programming phase about what kind of shows we wanted to present, and how we could programme a European festival in a way that resists narrow, nationalistic stereotypes. This year’s shows are a mix of work by UK and European artists based in London, European artists visiting from abroad, and work that engages with the very idea of what it means to be European. For example, You Really Got Me Now (8 and 11 November, Etcetera Theatre) is the story of a real-life couple’s encounter the UK Home Office; Himali is from India and David is from Germany. The show is a percussion-poetry lecture-performance about having to prove to a bureaucracy that they are in love. Many companies in the festival represent more than one country, with artists collaborating across cultural and linguistic barriers. Perhaps more than anything, this mixing is what it truly means to be European in 2018. How did you two meet and start working together? Sharlit has been directing the Voila! Festival since its very beginnings, and Amy joined the team earlier this year. We met in 2014 and collaborated on a cross-cultural verbatim theatre project Home Is Where produced by Amy’s company Pinecone Performance Lab. We’ve become good friends in the meantime, and now we’re so happy to be working together artistically again. Are you going to be able to catch all the shows? It’s a pretty full dance card… Yes! One of the joys of programming the Voila! Festival is finally getting to see all these shows that we’ve mainly encountered on application forms and email conversations. It’s impossible for one person to get to every show, but we’ll see about 30 shows each and between us, we’ll see everything at the festival. Double-bills all round! We’re very much looking forward to a big old November Fringe Binge. We’ll see you down the front – full programme above behind Collage!