fri 29/05/2020

Wunderbar Festival | reviews, news & interviews

Wunderbar Festival

Wunderbar Festival

With the launch of the Wunderbar Featival this week, Newcastle continues to demonstrate just what 2008’s European Capital of Culture judges missed when they anointed Liverpool. The 10-day celebration, which starts tomorrow, is international in content but thoroughly North-East in spirit: unpretentious, clever and surprising.  There are 28 free and ticketed events taking place throughout the city, from conventional cultural venues such as the Baltic, Northern Stage and Gallery North to people’s private living rooms and a plot of land in Byker. It is one of those rare festivals that makes it practically impossible for NewcastleGateshead’s citizens not to be involved.
Festival organisers claim that Wunderbar’s intention is “to capture and nurture a culture of curiosity”, which would explain Joshua Sofaer’s collaboration with volunteers to create performance art without leaving the house. On the one hand, Tours of People’s Homes appeals to voyeurs, while on the other it’s an astutely cost-effective way of creating a handful of different exhibitions within one night.

Many of the larger-scale public events are riddled with mischief. Take Shakespearean Public Announcements: a series of broadcasts written by members of the public, comedians and RSC playwrights in 16th-century style which will echo over Newcastle’s public spaces throughout the festival period. Or Rajni Shah’s Give What You Can, Take What You Need – a giant tea party-cum-debate in the city’s shopping centre this coming weekend.

Coil_to_MetWhile some of Wunderbar’s events go big on the wow factor – a Tarrant-esque gameshow which plays God with a grand, and Haircuts by Children, which is exactly as you’d imagine – it will also provide an impressive platform for international artwork. The Vane Gallery host Goh Ideta, the Japanese artist whose playful installation Reflections consists of a mirrored cushioned floor which yields original images for each participant. The Scottish live artist Alistair MacLennan returns to the home of some of his earliest performances with Coil to Met (picture right) In a warehouse snuck down behind Newcastle’s Central Station, MacLennan will be improvising for two 10-hour days in a bathroom showroom site in another experimental free event.

Wunderbar continues to reflect the area’s connection with performance art with Performance Now and Then at Gallery North. The exhibition promises to present an innovative look at the city’s changing landscape with performance and film both new and from archival. Newcastle’s independent cinemas are also creative partners with the festival. Star and Shadow cinema’s versatile warehouse space in Byker will host the Istanbul Newcastle Exchange (INX), in which five artists from Newcastle and five from Turkey will be jointly shown in a border-crossing celebration. But the must-see show will surely be the lo-fi recreation of Evel Knievel’s 1967 Caesar’s Palace motorcycle jump by Bristol artists Action Hero. The interior will be reshaped to accommodate a standing audience and a runway. It’s a very Wunderbar concept, as the entire North-East is also being reshaped to play host to a giant leap into the unknown.

The Wunderbar Festival runs from 6 to 15 November.Visit the festival website here.

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