Our Arts work uses theatre and performing arts to tell stories.
Theatre and performance programs
Rapid Pulse Festival
Somewhere between visual art, theatre, music, and dance, works of performance art explore the body, objects, space and time. Rather than conveying a story or plot, performance artists aim to sculpt an experience that can happen anywhere and for any length of time.
In June 2014, we supported three innovative, risk-taking British artists at the Rapid Pulse Festival, an international performance art festival in Chicago. The artists, Kira O'Reilly, Alastair MacLennan, and Manuel Vason, performed provocative pieces at the Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago.
Forest Fringe began in 2007 as an independent, non-profit space for artists in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. Since then, the team has been invited to present Forest Fringe iterations at international festivals in Asia and Europe.
Forest Fringe is renowned for creating a space for experimentation and adventure that supports a varied community of writers, theatre-makers, musicians, dancers and live artists. Despite coming from different backgrounds and artistic contexts, the group shares a radical independent approach to performance-making. In most cases, the project involves artists working individually or in very small companies, often in unusual spaces, with an emphasis on the importance of both how their work is made and how it is experienced by audiences.
We supported Forest Fringe's work in the United States in 2013 (Fusebox Festival) and 2014 (Abrons Art Center).
Gob Squad's Western Society
September 17-21, 2014, at the Los Angeles Center Theatre Group
The British Council proudly supported the US premiere of Western Society, a new piece by Gob Squad. Returning to our fascination with technology, Gob Squad zoomed directly into the center of the western home to explore the internet's remote darkness.
Western Society is a portrait of civilization in the 21st century: a million years of human history condensed into ten minutes. It's a microcosm of the western world at a dinner table, the last supper of the self-obsessed us. The audience is invited to the banquet to watch and occasionally partake. Gob Squad's Western Society is a portrait of the world we live in, with the color and sound turned up to 11.
British Council USA was pleased to partner with The Colloquium for Unpopular Culture to support the first US tour of celebrated British artist Brian Catling in April 2014. Catling's live performance of 'Only the Lowly' and film screening of Vanished! were both free and open to the public.
Together with the Goethe-Institut Washington and the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC), we supported a project with the city of Baltimore on creative placemaking. It was supported by the EU Delegation Washington DC, the EUNIC Cluster Fund and Artplace America. We brought the Prodigal Theatre Company from the UK to interact with local artists and their respective neighborhoods in Baltimore. The goal was to promote collaboration among European and American artists.
The Urban Playground Team invited people living in Baltimore's Station North district to get involved with a new design for the Penn Station Plaza, which greets visitors to the city at the main train station. Working with local sculptural and architectural artists, they used performance-parkour - a fusion of contemporary and urban dance with free running - as the basis to explore our relationship with the urban environment. The UPG Team had a residency at Penn Station Plaza, inviting young people to take part in performance-parkour, street dance, street-based arts and sport.
The Urban Playground Team is the world's first performance-parkour company. They coined the phrase to describe the fusion of contemporary and urban dance with authentic French parkour. Since 2006, one of parkour's co-creators, Malik Diouf, has been a principal company member.
Tree of Codes
We supported the US premiere of this new work by British choreographer extraordinaire Wayne McGregor, founder of Random Dance, in Alex Poots’ final season as Artistic Director at Park Avenue Armory.
Award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor’s groundbreaking practice embraces dance, science, film, music and technology to generate intriguing, expansive works. For Tree of Codes, McGregor is collaborating with artist Olafur Eliasson and producer/composer Jamie xx to create a contemporary ballet. Eliasson’s large-scale projects, including The New York City Waterfalls and The Weather Project at the Tate Modern, have captured the attention of audiences worldwide. Mercury Prize-winning Jamie xx blurs the boundaries between artist and audience in sonic environments like the one he created with his band, The xx, at the Armory in 2014.
Triggered by Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes (an artwork in the form of a book which was in turn inspired by Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz), this new, evening-length work featured a company of soloists and dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor.
Michael Clark Company
We supported the first US tour of the Michael Clark Company's critically-acclaimed production 'come, been, and gone', which was made primarily using the music and videos of legendary singer-songwriter David Bowie, Iggy Pop and others. Clark's precise and strong choreography echoes Bowie's unique body language to create an evening of creative dance, music and images.
'come, been, and gone' also embraced the work of Lou Reed and Brian Eno, as well as some of Clark's other influences, such as the Velvet Underground.
Hailed as 'British dance's true iconoclast', Michael Clark emerged in the 1980s as a prodigy at London's Royal Ballet School. He has remained at the forefront of innovation in dance, collaborating with compelling artists such as Sarah Lucas, Leigh Bowery, Peter Doig and Charles Atlas. He has also worked with the musicians Mark E. Smith, Wire, Scritti Politti and Relaxed Muscle.
Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me
The British Council was proud to support British artist and drag fabulist Dickie Beau.
Dickie Beau performed his one-man show Re-Member Me, a piece which puts a modern twist on Shakespeare's Hamlet, at the Public Theater's 2018 Under the Radar Festival. See below for a description of the performance from Under the Radar.
When award-winning lip sync maestro and intrepid drag fabulist Dickie Beau realized that he might never play Shakespeare’s tragic prince, he decided to turn himself into a human Hamlet mix-tape. He would channel audio recordings of great historical performances of theater's most famous role to “re-member” the ghosts of Hamlet from the past.
Humorous and haunting, Re-Member Me is part documentary theatre, part 21st-century séance adventure through cultural landscapes and a contemporary ghost story. In an ode to the impermanence of personhood and posterity, Beau chronicles the remarkable story behind the greatest Hamlet almost never seen.