Performance art isn’t always serious and hideous lefty arty stuff. And the closing party of Flare Festival at Z-arts last night was proof of that. Pole dancers, Wheatus covers, drag, it was all in there and it was hilarious fun. We walk in after a few glasses of champagne and free pizza (already a great night in my eyes) and we’re confronted by a box full of smoke and a man in a morph suit. I’d seen this in the opening night so wasn’t surprised but it was nice to come full circle after a week of mayhem. Comedian Jana Kennedy then compared the night, staging a very competitive couple of rounds of musical statues and less successful conga line. I’ve never really been to a cabaret style show so it was all very exciting and new and would definitely go back to something similar.
Irreverent Sideshow brings a bit of sexy, socio political performance to the night. And although mildly irritated that tanning oil was thrown all over my white top, it was a pleasure to watch the short sharp bursts of highly stimulating and obviously politically charged work from an all female company. Both performances are like angry collages made up of top shelf porn and Time magazine, mesmerising the audience with gaudy images that get straight to the point in what seems like performances that last barely 10 minutes long.
Joyce Division then charms us with, in case you may have missed it in the name, a medley of Joy Division songs, complete with a brilliant Love With Tear Us Apart singalong. I had heard of Joyce through a friend and was intrigued by a Queen who sings the Manchester classics, and although I haven’t seen much drag (does RuPaul count…?) I thought it was on point with the right amount of banter and glitter to beard ratio.
We end with gyrating rock band Organ Freeman that did some crowd pleasing covers and brilliantly funny original songs which perfectly ended off the night. A large circle forms around the two singers who run around like mad, creating an electric atmosphere for the ending party.
There’s a lot of stuff happening in Manchester at the moment, and it is fair to say that the choice is overwhelming, but I was genuinely disappointed that the room was not full for such a talented and vibrant line up. Mostly full of the visiting artists, volunteers and a few non-Flare stragglers, there was hardly an outsider in sight. It leads me to the question; how do we make these types of events more accessible? I hope to see the festival grow and become as main stream as MIF which saturates the cultural landscape in the Mancunion summer. Flare has been full of difficult and challenging work but it has also been beautiful and thought-provoking.