Mayfest 2014: A round up of one of the most exciting festivals in the UK

Mayfest is one of the best UK festivals of international contemporary theatre, and it takes place in Bristol from 15th – 25th May 2014.

Steph, from the Mayfest team has given us a run-down of the quite delicious programme.

May is about morris dancing, maypoles and Mayfest. And just as we say every year, Mayfest is bigger and more exciting than ever before. This year the festival explodes into being with Scottee’s Camp (Thu 15 May) at Bristol Old Vic, a cabaret extravaganza featuring the likes of fabulist Dickie Beau, tap-dancer extraordinaire Josephine Shaker and the hilarious Baghdad’s Got Talent. All of this takes place in Bristol Old Vic’s beautiful theatre auditorium (book your tickets here) and is followed by a glorious after party in the bar.


Showcase imagesFRIDAY features the opening of four of the forty one shows at this year’s Mayfest. At Bristol Old Vic is Peggy Shaw’s hilarious and poignant solo show Ruff (Fri 16-Sun 18 May), and Aakesh Odedra performs a series of dance solos which mix contemporary dance with traditional Kathak and Bharatanatyam dance in Rising (Fri 16 May). At the Cube Cinema Scottee performs The Worst of Scottee (Fri 16-Sat 17 May) where he’ll lay his psyche bare for us to peruse his regrets. Meanwhile in Leigh Woods the sold out Nightwalk will be taking a group of brave adventurers into a museum of sounds. The Blind Tiger opens for cocktails from 9:30pm every day from today, and you’ll find it in the Bristol Old Vic where it’ll full of people willing and eager to share info, insights and reflections on shows they’ve seen. Plus there’s the open mic cabaret, so if you fancy a turn, come on down.

SATURDAY staggers under the weight of ten Mayfest shows in eight different venues with the sold out Mental (Sat 17-Sun 18 May), some verbal sparring in Action Hero’s durational Slaptalk (Sat 17 May) at the Arnolfini, Greg McClaren’s Atomkraft (Sat 17-Sun 18 May), and a walking tour of the old city in Tom Marshman’s Move Over Darling (Sat 17-Sun 18) where you’ll hear the stories of lgbt locals. In Bristol Old Vic’s auditorium the stunning dance solo Dance of the Magnetic Ballerina is another one-night only performance in which a peacock-like dancer flutters and shimmers in the darkness. Plus our first offerings to families appears in the forms of the Blind Tiger Cub, an open mic cabaret for and by children (Sat 17, Sun 18 & Sat 24 May) and an adventure disco at Bristol Museum with artist and composer Ergo Phizmiz. It’s called Magickowpoodisko (Sat 17 May) and it’s going to be wild.

Showcase imagesSlaptalk

For two weeks, SUNDAY will no longer be your day of rest. You’ve got lots more chances to catch some of the shows already mentioned, plus Peter McMaster’s Wuthering Heights (Sun 18-Tue 20) opens at the Trinity Centre with an all-male cast and a Kate Bush dance number. While Kaleider presents The Money (Sun 18, Tue 20, & Fri 23) at Mshed, there’s still tickets available to join as silent witness or a benefactor.

MONDAY’S shows are already selling like the hottest of hotcakes, the Tigerlilies’ Lulu: A Murder Ballad  (Mon 19 May) at Bristol Old Vic has just a few tickets left, as does Feel About Your Body (Mon 19 & Tue 20 May) at the Tobacco Factory. It’s a evening of tough decisions, and if you are close to tears, why not take our helpful Monday Mayfest Matchmaker quiz:

Is your glass…
A.    Full to the brim with laughter and hilarity?
B.    Half empty but with a drunk, cabaret dancing spider floating about in it?
C.    Full of Irn Bru?

Do you like…
A.    Puerile humour?
B.    Seductive dark opera?
C.    Kate Bush?

Does your Monday lack…
A.    Naked bums?
B.    Corsets?
C.    Full-throated singing?

if you received mostly A’s then you should go see Feel About Your Body, if you received mostly B’s then you should see The Tigerlilies’ Lulu, and if you received mostly C’s then Wuthering Heights at the Trinity Centre is for you. Don’t you find that everything in life can be solved by a quiz? Last but not least Bella Fortune opens Mayfest at the Wardrobe with a work-in-progress performance of her solo show What Elsie Knows (Mon 19-Tue 20 May).

The Money

Showcase images

In the words of Chris Martin, “Nobody said it was easy” and we can assume he was talking about planning your Mayfest schedule. TUESDAY sees another one-off with Gandini Juggling’s Smashed (again, tickets like hotcakes) at Bristol Old Vic (Tue 20 May), and the return of the now fully-formed Gym Party (Wed 21 May). In fact it is all about Bristol Old Vic that night, with shows on in practically every conceivable space. Thankfully you can catch at least two of them in one night as the fantastic Greg Wohead’s The Ted Bundy Project (Tue 20-Wed 21) is on at 9:30pm. There’s also another chance to catch The Money over at Mshed.

WEDNESDAY sees a quartet of beautiful and thoughtful shows open (turn to page 14/15 of your Mayfest brochure if you will) including Molly Naylor and Iain Ross’ If Destroyed Still True  (Wed 21-Thu 22 May) which is about relationships with your teenage self (not in a Time Traveller’s Wife way). Molly’s a firm fixture of the Bristol storytelling and poetry scene, and has sold out more than her fair share of shows, so we’d advice booking soon if you want to see this. Melanie Wilson’s Landscape II (Wed 21-Thu 22 May) traverses time to weave together the stories of three women and allow them to converse. Whilst Deborah Pearson takes you from the end of the show into the future, a place where the unknown and known are constantly in battle in The Future Show (Wed 21-Thu 22 May). Plus Verity Standen’s Mmm Hmm (Wed 21-Thu 22 May) at the Wardrobe (try booking that over the phone), a glorious, touching and funny work-in-progress show with three fantastic singers. It’s quite strange, like three-women-jumping-about-and-singing-in-the-strangest-dresses-you’ve-ever-seen strange, but its rather wonderful.

Showcase imagesLandscape II

THURSDAY sees the opening of The Roof (Thu 22-Sun 25 may), our biggest show yet with a purpose built set in Millennium Square, projectors, free-runners and hair-trigger sound. Thursday’s show is already jam-packed but you’ve got until Sunday to catch this one. This is the big one. The one not to miss if you cannot attend anything else. Tell your aunts, nephews, cousins, sons and daughters. There’s also La Merda (Thu 22-Fri 23 May) at Bristol Old Vic, a critically acclaimed angry play performed by Silvia Gallerano. Plus local artist Hannah Sullivan opens Echo Beach (Thu 22-Fri 23 May) about her dance collection, and another local Alice Tatton-Brown begins her performances of Ariel (Thu 22-Sun 25 May) at Bristol Central Library. Ariel is already sold out and Echo Beach is close behind.

No DescriptionHardy Animal

FRIDAY opens Butterfly Man at The Tobacco Factory and Freeze! (Fri 23-Sun 25 May) at Circomedia. One is a work in progress about the extinction of butterflies and the profound effect on us, and the other is an utterly gripping show where Nick Steur balances rocks on top of each other. He’s the best rock balancer we’ve ever seen. Finally there’s also a one-off improvised performance Kate and Rach which is the final instalment in Mayfest at the Wardrobe.

SATURDAY is the peak of the festival with thirteen different productions on. Laura Dannequin’s Hardy Animal (Sat 24-Sun 25 May) returns to Bristol as a full production; a beautiful and raw show about a dancer’s experience of chronic pain. Search Party return to Mayfest with My Son and Heir (Sat 24 May) a playful examination of those ever media-present, taking-Australia-by-storm new royals, William, Kate and George. New royals not your thing? Prefer giant balls of wool? Well, we had giant crochet last year and this year we’ve got Aracaladanza’s Constellations (Sat 24 May) which is for all the family and is beautiful dance theatre inspired by Joan Miro’s paintings. No, you hate wool and dancing? What about tiny, beautiful science? Yes? Then perhaps The Assembly of Animals (Sat 24-Sun 25 May) is for you. Let Tim Spooner thrill you with his tiny puppets and their magical chemistry. Too busy with your smartphone addiction to attend anything at Mayfest? Then Chris Thorpe and Hannah Jane Walker’s I Wish I Was Lonely (Sat 24-Sun 25 May) could be for you. These Fringe-First award winners turn their attention to the gods in our pockets in an interactive show about contactability.


No DescriptionSUNDAY is your final chance to catch The Roof, there’s two performances, one at 5:30pm and one at 9:00pm. Plus we’ll be closing the festival in angry-style at Spike Island with TORYCORE (Sun 25 May). Three artists will turn Tory economic policy into death metal in a part gig, part metal-recital, part exorcism of a performance.


We’ll be announcing the Mayfest Radio schedule soon, but get ready for interviews, live streams, and more.

This year the Mayfest Cafe can be found on the good ship Under the Stars (opposite Harbourside no.1) each and every afternoon throughout the festival.
 We look forward to seeing you there!                                                                             
The Mayfest Team

Check out the Theatre Bristol Writers website for regular Mayfest reviews