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Insider tips from Kris Nelson, Artistic Director of LIFT 2024

Image: Kris Nelson, Artistic Director, LIFT. Photo by Tyler Kelley.

LIFT 2024 will take you on journeys that are deep and personal. It’s a festival that will take your breath away, spark your mind and rev your imagination. There’s adrenaline too. It’s international theatre for your gut.

In this year’s festival, The Personal is Epic. Personal accounts of justice, exile and protest take on mythic proportions through barrier-breaking storytelling. LIFT artists will show us Play Is Not a Distraction. They’ll reveal hidden depths beneath surface-level fun and humour, whilst offering feasts for the mind and plunging you into sensation.

It’s a festival full of divergent perspectives, difference and complex cultural conversations. That’s what LIFT is here to do. We invite you to come together in spaces where theatre will connect you to daring ideas and voices of our times and with each other in a place where you can share, disagree, experience together a festival rich in experiences and ideas.

We’re making this festival during a complex global moment; amidst a climate crisis, a cost of living crisis and war and turmoil in a number of global regions. LIFT’s aim is and always has been to champion international perspectives, to amplify lesser heard voices, and to be a place that can hold diverse experiences and points of view.

I have picked out a few highlights for you here:

Image: Aditi Mittal in 'Democracy'. Image courtesy of Financial Times.

In 2024, half of the world’s population will head to the polls in national elections. Democracy is being put to the test in an unprecedented way! LIFT is marking this with an enticing night of provocations, live music, speeches and poetry from women leaders from across London and around the world. In Democracy From Where I Stand you’ll hear from Nigerian poet Lola Shoneyin on the recent coups in West Africa, Indian performer Aditi Mittal on sport, politics and abuse of power, London comedian Rosie Holt (you know her from her parodies of Tory MPs all over social media), radical historian Dr Michelle Johansen on the history of democracy of libraries and the Young Mayor for Tower Hamlets Fetuma Hassan on what democracy means to our next generation. Plus a brand new film from the iconic thinker Margaret Atwood and pumping music from Afro-Brazilian band Baque Laur.

Image: Chiara Bersani in 'L’Animale'. Photo by Rebecca Lena.

L’Animale is a performance like you’ve never seen – meditative, wry and poetic movement from unclassifiable Italian choreographer Chiara Bersani at one of the country’s most iconic venues – the Great Hall of the Old Bailey Criminal Courts. In this atmospheric and historic environment, you’ll witness a contemplative, evocative performance–that’s different each time –and where Chiara transforms into a dying swan. Make sure you bring photo ID – attending the theatre at the Old Bailey comes with airport style security. It’ll be a weekend activity that will feed your soul and will certainly be a step out of the ordinary!

Cliff Cardinal is a Cree and Lakota, Indigenous Canadian provocateur, thinker, artist and writer. In Land Acknowledgement or As You Like It you’ll get a fiery take on political correctness, gestures of cultural reconciliation and the unvarnished truth of what’s really happening in multi-cultural Canada and its attempts to recognise the impact colonialism has had on Indigenous people. Expect belly laughs and more than a few punches to the gut.

At the heart of this year’s festival are projects that bring international artists in direct collaboration with Londoners. We’ve commissioned three brand new world premieres that make LIFT the bridge between artists and local people and that we’re making artistic projects that could only happen from the alchemy of all these amazing partners working together.

What happens when women transgress the powers that be? Barrier-breaking Brazilian directors Janaina Leite and Lara Duarte and an ensemble of women from London’s esteemed Clean Break Theatre Company show us in The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women. Bringing in the stories of mythic characters like Medusa to historic figures like Joan of Arc to personal accounts from here at home, this new play gives a distinctly Brazilian feel to the personal accounts of five London women with experience of the criminal justice system. Expect big ideas, home truths and touchingly funny and powerfully intimate moments.

Step into a Taiwanese night market of the future! Bat Night Market is an exhibition mixes design, food and performance in a sensory exploration of what the food of tomorrow might look like. Hint: it could be furry with wings. Leave it to LIFT to commission an event that merges Taiwanese and South East Asian food tradition with ideas of delicacy and disgust, science, new technologies and performance – you’ll get to taste new treats, test out some Taiwanese games and mingle in a market atmosphere. Created by Taiwanese designer Kuang-Yi Ku and London’s Robert Charles Johnson with plates by Borough Market faves BAO, this one has whetted our appetites and certainly piqued our curiosity.

We can’t wait to welcome you at LIFT 2024. It takes a city to make a festival and it takes the world to make LIFT. Come and be challenged, entertained, delighted and astonished!

LIFT 2024
5 June - 27 July

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