Brighton Festival is famous for its huge outdoor crowd pulling spectaculars. We met with Festival Producer Tanya Peters to find out how it’s all done.
What is your role at Brighton Festival?
I am the Festival Producer, I make what the programmers want to happen, happen, often turning their visions into reality. I also facilitate the artists and make happen what is in their head.
I joined five years ago as Production Manager for the outdoor programme and two years ago I became an Associate Producer. I’m just a natural facilitator. I love being able to scramble around in their heads and help them to communicate with the audience here in Brighton.
Does that involve the free outdoor events?
Yes, and some of the conversations started two years ago. Certainly with Générik Vapeur who have two pieces this year, Drôles d’Oiseaux and Bivouac, and next year they will return with a piece that we have commissioned. That period of incubation can be very long, and the stage can be very large and they can be almost anywhere.
Is it a hard balance to satisfy public demand with a company’s vision?
No, that is the job. It’s very satisfying to open up and inspire people and make creativity accessible to everyone. As a festival we find fabulous, world-class companies, the cream of the crop, and we attract thousands of people who come to join in that creative experience.
I never want the audience or the artists to feel that anything is a problem or too much trouble; it’s my job to make sure that happens.
What has been the biggest challenge this year?
The road closure for Générik Vapeur will be big – police, council, buses etc – but so worth it. But what’s not to like about taking over the streets? That is what that company is all about.
They are the enfants terrible of this kind of street theatre and performance. They are anarchic and there is an element of ‘anything can happen’. They will start at Victoria Gardens just up from the Lady Boys of Bangkok. We’re not revealing the route but the spectacle will be on display at The Level.
And what has been the easiest this year?
The day down at the old paddling pool site has four events with several performances of each, all free. Nothing is ever straightforward but that has been a pleasure to work on, and the public will love what Without Walls are doing.
What is your favorite?
I shouldn’t have a favourite but I love French company 2 Rien Merci; their show, Gramoulinophone (14-15 May), is so great. It’s Samuel Beckett meets Buster Keaton. It’s about an hour long but with only 46 seats and only six shows, all free and unticketed. It would be nice for passers by to be caught unaware. Street theatre needs to be as democratic as possible, something for everyone.
The one that people will be astounded by is the Wired Aerial Theatre’s As The World Tipped (28 May) in Wild Park. It’s a spectacular response to the Copenghagen climate conference, environmental disaster and politics. This is a British company from Liverpool and commissioned by Brighton and Norfolk and Norwich festivals as part of the Without Walls Consortium. Co-commissioning means that we can programme things that we couldn’t otherwise afford.
Last year Dreamthinkspeak was the massive hit of the Festival. Can you predict what this year’s hit will be?
No, but one company not to miss will be Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes’ El Gallo (28 May), a commission, and also their Monsters And Prodigies (24-26 May). They will be two of the most talked about productions.
For Alfonso (21 May) will be a chance to see a performer and director creating a theatrical moment in time; Bette Bourne is one of a kind and Neil Bartlett too.
We are also very excited about working with ZEPA. Générik Vapeur, who have two shows in this year’s Festival, have already taken their giant roaming camera to Newhaven and the images will form a backdrop for ‘Newhaven Cormorant’, a brand-new site-specific show by Generik Vapeur in Newhaven Harbour on 16 July.
Featuring a musical procession, aerial feats and pyrotechnics, it will transform the harbour with an explosion of sights, sounds and colour.
At the end of the day, my job is not about me, it is all about the performance, the performers and the audience. I want people to feel transported, to enter another world, to think ‘I didn’t know I could feel like this’. I also need to know that performers and audiences alike know that there is a safety net there, so that they can do what they really want to do but without worrying – and at the same time without the art being compromised.