Festival: Manchester International Festival, The City, Opens Thursday 4 July
And so it arrives, the fourth instalment of the world’s first festival of entirely original work touches down for its eighteen day stint in the city. With around 50 separate performances, exhibitions, dances, gigs, discussions, concerts, films and frolics staged in venues from chapels to dilapidated depots, from the mighty Town Hall to the grassy banks of the River Irwell.
Highlights this year include serial thespian Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth and soundscapers Massive Attack in partnership with veteran documentary maker Adam Curtis. Thursday also saw the first night of Robert Wilson’s The Old Woman with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe.
This opening weekend will also see weirdo darkly subversive alt-indie-electro-popsters The xx in residence somewhere in the city centre (it’s a secret, how underground) while BBC Radio 1 DJ Rob da Bank will be attempting to define Mancunian musical decades in but 26 songs inside the Pavillion Theatre at Albert Square – there better be some Take That.
All tickets and information for the Manchester International Festival can be found here.
Film: A Field in England, Cornerhouse, Opens Friday 5 July
I’ll give director Ben Wheatley his dues; combining the C17 English civil war with magic mushrooms is ballsy. It’s a bit like placing Oliver Cromwell in amongst Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People as Lord Protector of all ‘the gear’ - what’s stranger still is that Wheatley makes it work.
As four deserters including Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen) and Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh) leave the battlefield behind and stumble off in search of a pint (civil war and ale – so very British), a nasty Irish bully-thief turns up, overwhelms the rabble and makes them dig for treasure, in a field, while they’re high (told you it was strange). It’s a gruffly poetic, hallucinatory, mystical, hazy, at times verbose, visually impressive and uneasy drama that shouldn’t really work – but does.
£7.50 Full Price. Tickets for A Field in England at Cornerhouse available here.
Opera: Wagner’s Siegfried, The Lowry, Saturday 6 July, 4.30pm
German composer Richard Wagner considered himself to be the ‘most German of Germans’, an ardent anti-semitic and a pre-Nazi Nazi, thus, quite understandably, the Führer's favourite composer. German art critic and Wagner-fan Maria Ossowski said, “Yes, he (Wagner) was a terrible person, but his music was grandiose.” Anyone that has listened to his Ride of the Valkyries can certainly testify to that, one of the most rousing piece of classical music ever written.
In this, the third part of Wagner’s epic Der Ring des Nibelungen, swords are forged in dwarf mines, someone’s after a ring and dragons are slayed - so it’s essentially like Lord Of The Rings… but in opera. Tolkien you bloody plagiariser you.
Much like the LOTR film trilogy, the opera is only about six hours long.
£17-£42. Tickets here. There’s a pre-show talk 3.30pm – 4pm which is free to ticket holders. (the performance is sung in German, with English titles).
Art: Street Talk: The Mancunian Way, Artzu Gallery and Albert Square Chop House, Until 23 July
This exhibition showcases two Manchester artists, in two city centre locations, exploring two contrasting viewpoints of Manchester’s urban environment. Running alongside MIF (especially in the case of Albert’s Chop House which is a hop, skip and jump over from the MIF hub in Albert Square) this showcase seems particularly pertinent as it celebrates the hustle-bustle, growth and thriving nature of modern Manchester set against the disappearing and outdated elements of the city consumed by contemporary architecture.
Tim Garner’s landscapes capture the urban decay of the city while Matt Wilde’s sharp streetscapes force the viewer to take a humorous yet sometimes critical inward glance at our fast-paced consumer driven lives.
Begin at Artzu Gallery on Quay Street, head on over to Albert’s Chop House for the rest of the exhibition and possibly a bite to eat, then mosey on over to the MIF Festival Square to discuss over a drink or two – An evening more cultural than Culture Secretary Maria Miller discussing cultural things on BBC Two’s The Culture Show.
Music: MIF: The xx, Secret Location (somewhere near Victoria Station), City Centre, Sunday 7 July, 7pm and 10pm
Holding an exclusive eight day residency at this year’s MIF, it seems odd to take an immediate step from headlining at Glastonbury to performing a series of incredibly intimate 60-capacity shows in some secret out-of-the-way (and more than likely dark and dingy) venue somewhere near Victoria train station. – But then again, The xx are quite the odd band.
Perpetually sad-eyed and donned in black, the band possess a monochromatically ethereal and eerily intense presence, bolstered by minimalistic riffs and flawlessly whimsical vocals. Did it translate successfully onto the sprawling Glastonbury stage? Possibly not. But there is no doubt that in a room built for 60 (63 including the band), the Mercury-prize winning London trio will surely stand out as a highlight of this year’s festivities – Pass the kleenex.
£35, £30 concs. Currently sold out, the whispers however suggest that a few remaining tickets may be released soon. Keep an eye out here.
Festival: Nowt Part Of Festival, John Cooper Clarke theatre, Black Lion, Salford, Monday 8 July – Sunday 14 July
As part of the Festival fringe, Nowt Part of Festival, not to be confused with the similar Not Part Of Festival held in recent years (sorry what - surely pick a different name?) is a biennial week long drama festival held in Salford pub, The Black Lion.
Specialising in original small cast drama (strictly no more than four actors), six North West companies will be performing a variety of plays on a rolling programme basis during the week. Shows include Squaring The Circle, a training seminar with a difference – because it’s actually a murder mystery, and Confessions of a Waitress, where theatre is created out of the everyday experiences and a few confessions here and there – I wouldn’t eat the soup.
Tickets for all shows £6. Get them here.
Music: Mark Kermode, The Bridgewater Hall, Monday 8 July, 7.30pm
Film buff, bloke on the radio and serial small screen face (and quiff) Mark Kermode is possibly the UK’s most recognised broadcast film critic, Kermode studied at Manchester University and actually began his career writing for Manchester magazine City Life. Not that that really has anything to do with this show in any way, but it kind of makes you more inclined to listen to him, doesn’t it?
Mark will be joined by movie maestro Robert Ziegler and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to present a personal choice of film music including Taxi Driver, Mary Poppins, The Exorcist and Planet of the Apes. Also joining Mark on stage will be composer David Arnold (Independence Day and Quantum of Solace), Actor Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum and Dead Man’s Shoes) and Nick Hemming, lead singer of The Leisure Society who will be performing We Were Wasted from the soundtrack of Considine’s film Tyrannosaur.
£15-£35 (plus booking fee). Tickets for Mark Kermode: Film Music Live available here.
Food: Unfinished Business: Only Wolves and Lions, Unique Manchester, Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield, Wednesday 10 Jul – Thursday 11 July, 6.30pm
Greek philosopher Epicurus once stated, ‘Only wolves and lions eat alone, you should not eat, not even a snack, on your own.’
This meal, conversation and performance is not your usual dinner party. Hosted by Leo and Unai, you are invited to this intimate feast with a handful of other strangers for a three and a half hour immersive banquet of food, story-telling and all-round jovial merriments.
Instruction: Bring one raw ingredient to add to the pot. Not fugu, that's not funny.
£15. At the time of writing there were only a few tickets left so be quick.
Film: Regal Cinema: The Goonies, The Dancehouse Theatre, Thursday 11 July, 7pm
No film quite epitomises the need for 80s American cult movie nostalgia quite like The Goonies, except for Top Gun, or The Warriors, or Stand By Me, or Animal house, or Back to the Future, or The Breakfast Club, or E.T., or Indiana Jones, or Blade Runner, or Star Wars, or Terminator, or Die Hard, or Scarface, or This is Spinal Tap, or Ghostbusters, or Caddyshack, or Airplane, … ok so the 80s was a pretty good decade for film, but it also produced Surf Nazis Must Die so it wasn’t perfect.
So regain a slice of your youth, when reciting the entire Fresh Prince theme tune would make you the dogs, when the most raucous birthday parties were held at McDonalds and before Wacko Jacko started lacing Macaulay Culkin’s Pepsi with wine, and join the gang as they try to hunt down One-Eyed Willy’s treasure through a series of caverns and boobie traps pursued by the repugnant Mama Fratelli and her boys.
Cinema like it used to be (there’s beer), before you had to squeeze in with every other bastard at Orange Wednesdays because someone, at some point, decided cinema tickets should be nearly a tenner. When did that happen?
£4.50. Get tickets for The Goonies at The Dancehouse Theatre here.
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