Mayfesto 2012: Get Engaged
"My understanding is that the festival not only offers ‘theatre with an edge’ but it appears to offer diversity," says Ramesh Meyyappan – who kicks off Mayfesto 2012 with his daring aerial performance Snails and Ketchup. "The programme does present a range of quite different performances – not only in terms of companies and individuals presenting work but also in the style of work – including readings and talks."
Mayfesto is one of Andy Arnold's most exciting innovations during his tenure as the Tron's artistic director. In its three years of existence, it has championed theatre that has explicitly political intentions, directly relates to current political events or reflects new approaches to drama. This year, the English riots of 2011, bombings in Ireland and the Arab Spring and the poetic realism of Italo Calvino all get referenced: following on from Behaviour at The Arches, it continues Glasgow's perpetual festivals of forward thinking theatre.
Collaborations run through the programme: the NTS has made the Tron its hub for the next installment of its Five Minute Theatre Programme – an innovative cross-over of live action and YouTube style documentation. Meyyappan teamed up with Iron Oxide, Edinburgh's powerhouse of site-specific performance and is supported by the Cultural Olympiad. Egyptian artists Laila Soliman and Mustafa Said have No Time for Art 0+1, part of National Theatre of Scotland's One Day in Spring Season. And Ankur lead a series of public debates while controversial former SSP MSP Rosie Kane takes a vaudeville trip through her personal journey.
Meyyappan observes that Snails and Ketchup shares characteristics with other pieces in the programme. "There are a couple of pieces that focus on very human stories – Minute and Midday, Fight Night, No Time for Art and Chalk Farm. They all seem to focus on the individual, the difficulties they face, their resilience and the impact of events and people in their lives," he comments. "Snails and Ketchup is just that – a boy who makes a decision that his life would be easier if he somehow separated himself from his family, then the consequences of this decision."
Beyond this, the programming follows many different strands. Irish work has always been part of Mayfesto –this year Minute After Midnight discusses the Omagh Bombing, Fight Night gets physical in a tale of a boxer's comeback trail. Yet the additional emphasis on new work this year sees Kieran Hurley – fresh from hitting the Beats as part of The platform 18 Awards – preview his collaboration with Julia Taudevin, and a series of readings of brand new and unseen works – include shorts from comedy superstar Alan Ackybourne and neo-brutalist Patrick Marber, who wrote Closer, an incisive satire on post-modern identity and false intimacy that found fame as a film.
If an overall theme does exist, it is succintly summed up by Meyyappan's description of his own style. "It is storytelling." Throughout Mayfesto, performers and writers who believe that theatre is a place for direct and meaningful communication – whether explicitly political like Rosie Kane, or more philosophical, like Meyyappan – and use it is to stimulate discussion. Mayfesto has slowly established itself from its roots in Andy Arnold's enthusiasm for political theatre, through an emphasis on work from the Celtic nations into its latest, most comprehensive identity, as a Festival of engaged, intelligent theatre.