There’s no doubting that the pairing of innovative theatre maker, Dream Think Speak’s Tristan Sharp, with Syrian architect Mawra Al-Sabouni is just the kick in the arts that the city needs after two years of pandemic wilderness

Brighton Festival is back and back with the bang of rebuilding in a theme that celebrates the re-emergence of the arts and champions the city that we live in and enjoy.

Tristan Sharp is internationally acclaimed as an experimental artist who over the years has stretched the bounds of theatre as we might once have known it. And it’s been some time since we have enjoyed a new work here in his home city.

Famous for siting his pieces in unusual settings, behind the scenes in theatres, in dockside warehouses and vacated department stores, a Moscow paper factory and a Clerkenwell abattoir, he takes works that we might know, The Cherry Orchard, Hamlet and re-imagines them in works that are often provocative but always inspiring.


Unchain Me is inspired by Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Possessed, in which a provincial town descends into chaos as it becomes  the focal point of an attempted uprising orchestrated by a shadowy conspirator, who disappears as soon as the seeds of revolution are sown.

Don’t expect to be sitting down to take this in as the event will take you through the streets and buildings of the city where you will be absorbed into the whole, interacting with characters and places in a way that Dream Think Speak do so brilliantly.


Co-director of the festival is the inspirational Syrian Architect Mawra Al-Sabouni. When the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, she made the decision to stay in Homs, the city she had grown up in. She spent two years hiding inside, home-schooling her two young children and when the rebel forces left Syria in 2015 over 60% of the neighbourhood was left in rubble. During that difficult time she wrote her acclaimed book The Battle For Home. there is little doubt that when the theme is rebuilding here voice has earned its place in The Brighton Festival.

One of her most visible presences this May will be the design and build of a temporary new venue on Hove seafront. The edifice is called the Riwaq, Riwaq is the Arabic word for colonnade. Architecturally this will be a semi-open space which juxtaposes the building and frames the surrounding open space and will be home to many festival events.

Of course the festival is far more than the works and ideas of the directors and this year sees not only a return to a full on festival programme but also the return of some festival favourites.


The start sees the ever popular Children’s Parade back in full force, a joyous event to be sure. And staying with the young the festival once again champions and celebrates childrens books and the joy of reading. In addition the brilliant Michael Rosen is back with his new book Sticky McStickstick, a picture book charting his recovery from COVID.


There’s a much anticipated return from the Hofesh Shechter company with a double bill entitled Double Murder. Shecter put a bomb under contemporary dance when he first brought his explosive dance company to Brighton and his association with the festival remains in place and rightly so. Remaining with dance there is also an appearance of favourite dance company Rambert who never fail to impress and delight.

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The classical music programme is full of delights from Glyndebourne and Dome concerts to the brilliant and very affordable series of lunchtime concerts. And brace yourself for some less familiar sounds from Syria too.

Staying with affordable, the festival puts a great deal of time and effort into making sure that there is plenty to see for free and in recent years that tho events are not centred on the city’s cultural heart but are taken to our vibrant outlying communities this year as far as Crawley!

There’s so much more to cover and over the next ten weeks I will be taking a closer look at what’s on and when. For now though here are a few words from Mawra and Tristan…

“Rebuilding does not involve the actual act of building per se, it revolves around who we are, what we aspire for, how we come together, and how we connect with ourselves and our surroundings.”

Andrew Kay

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