It’s been the first year since it’s arrival in Manchester that I’ve not been working on SICK! Festival, and although strange not to be caught up in the madness, it was great to go and support a festival I very much admire the themes and work of. It seems a little alien that a whole year has gone past since the last one, but with job changes, terrifying political turmoil and general “time seems to be rushing past at an alarming rate”, it was no wonder that it crept up on me. I tried to see as much as I could during the festival, and as always, it was full of discussion.
The opening of the festival featured Contact’s Young Company with There is A Light: Brightlight. I had only attended the dress rehearsal, but already I could see glimpses of pure wonderfulness, the quiet and contemplative moments being the most powerful. With the research study BRIGHTLIGHT behind them, a study of teenage cancer care, it was apparent that their work had carefully picked apart the results from it, both confusing, enlightening and frustrating to the young community. It was obvious from the study, that young people were tired of being talk down to, be-litted because of their age. Being the daughter of two parents of two cancer victims that died way too young, of course, the subject of cancer resonated with me even before I sat down in my seat, knowing I would find it particularly hard. But the show contained a great amount of light and shade, shroudind the “c” word in great respect for both patient and family members. A great start to the festival.
Next, I attended the double bill at Contact featuring THEATREclub’s The Game and Daniel Hellman’s Traumboy. The Game was a series of situations, played out by two actresses Gemma Collins, Lauren Larkin, and five volunteers, all male. Although briefed before hand, they reacted in real time, to the situations that were put in front of them. In a raw, very real account of the darker side of prostitution and sexual abuse, two actresses lead a group of participants through, The Game. Powerful in parts, it left me struck with more questions about the morality of theatre, and how we can push participants to certain limits on stage. Of course, THEATREclub had a rigorous risk assessment, read out to the audience that the participants were allowed to leave, opt out, or explain that they were not enjoying the experience but they would still participate, but where the boundaries lie were still left open to whatever happens each night on stage. Of course, as with most SICK! Festival shows, the conversation in the bar afterwards was quite fruitful.
As a welcome breather, Daniel Hellman’s Traumboy was a real life account of a male prostitute living mainland Europe. Very early on, making us aware of his privilege as a male prostitute, this felt like a very welcome counter opinion to the previous show. With humour and a relaxed, almost lecture style delivery, Hellman ran through his life history, inviting the audience to engage by sending questions via text. Sometimes a little self indulgent, but made up by his very casual and engaging delivery, Hellman was a wonderful insight into the light, more fun side of legal prostitution and his experiences, karaoke style singing included.
And lastly, was Theatre Stap’s, To Belong. The resounding success of the festival. I’ve already written a full review of this but to sum up -an uncompromising, non-condescending expression of movement, and exploration of belonging in minority groups.
I guess what draws me to SICK! every year is the ability to create conversation between audience members. Whatever the content, it provokes, offends, enlightens and brings people together in important discussions that we would not normally have. Whether it is about health, sex, gender, minority groups. Whatever. It ends up being discussed in depth in the pub, and for that I always look forward to it every year.