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FIERCE Announce The Full Festival Line Up For 2019’s Intensive 6 Day Programme Featuring The Very Best in Live Art From Across the World

18 June 2019





The UK’s leading biennial festival of live art, Fierce has announced the full programme for its 2019 festival, the second edition under Artistic Director Aaron Wright.

From 15-20 October, Birmingham will be bursting at the seams with performances, installations, experiences, cabaret, activism and parties, presented by an international line-up of artists featuring bold new voices and highly acclaimed international practitioners.

Exploring themes such as identity politics and the body, our current political and ecological crisis, the ethics of representation, participation (for those who don’t like to participate), altered states, queerness and club culture Fierce 2019 will feature; 27 different performances and more than 50 events – including 14 UK premieres and 2 world premieres - showcasing work from over 35 artists, some of whom will be making their long overdue UK debuts.



Artistic Director Aaron Wright commented “Brace yourselves! Fierce 2019 is coming, and we reckon we’ve put together the most disruptive and joyous programme of performing arts you’ll find in the UK this year. In 2019, more than ever, we need propositions not opposition. The Fierce Festival 2019 programme is full of artists living as if the revolution has happened, all of them making propositions… naughty, joyous, sexy ones at that. We’d love to see you in Birmingham this October.”



New York’s alternative opera and cabaret star Joseph Keckler, who counts Amy Schumer among his fans, will present In Concert his intimate evening of ecstatic art-pop songs and wild arias about daily life. Joseph performs in the UK for the first time, fresh from performances at the Lincoln Centre (New York) and Centre Pompidou (Paris) and before a run at London’s Soho Theatre. Choreographer Marco Berrettini, a student of Pina Bausch, and former German disco-dancing champion 1979 presents iFeel2, an elegant and repetitive dance in a tropical dream-world boasting floating plants inspired by the book ‘You Must Change Your Life’ by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Visual artist Miet Warlop makes her long overdue mainstage UK debut with Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break, an NTGent production, in which Miet works with a western take on the whirling dance, a form of physical meditation practiced by Sufi Dervishes, to explore how we can find balance between self-control and devotion. Bold physical theatre maker Davy Pieters (of Theatre Rotterdam) will invite audiences to experience How Did I Die, a murder mystery like they’ve never seen before performed with incredible physical capabilities and Begüm Erciyas brings her critically acclaimed installation Voicing Pieces to the festival where, in the intimacy of an isolated sound booth, you become both performer and audience member.



Alongside the more established artists at this year’s festival, Fierce is proud to be providing an international platform for a new generation making their UK debuts. Acclaimed club-performer Justin Shoulder will perform as Carrion, a striking spectre with the ability to shapeshift and speak in multiple tongues that asks what it means to be human in an era where our destructive influence is rapidly redefining the laws of nature, with striking costume and a giant inflatable intestine. Shoulder is a leading figure from the Sydney club scene, hosting the annual Monster Gras (alternative Sydney Mardi Gras event). Dance artist Mariana Valencia will present her solo performance ALBUM, a super-smart show that rips up the autobiographical rule book and wittily unites text, song and dance as part of a 6 date UK debut tour.

Building on the success of the festival’s 2017 commissions, all of which continue to tour internationally, Fierce is delighted to announce a new commission from UK performer Lucy McCormick. Following her celebrated show Triple Threat, Lucy is back with Life:Live! a pop concert written and performed by Lucy and her electro-trash GirlSquad with lo-fi special effects from artist Morvan Mulgrew – expect power tools! Also receiving its world premiere is Fierce commission Familiar, a new collaboration between dance artist Gillie Kleiman and theatre-maker Greg Wohead with quirky design by artist Tim Spooner.



Tania El Khoury returns to Fierce with the UK premiere of The Search for Power, following the overwhelming response to her 2014 commission Gardens Speak. Part lecture and part immersive installation, Tania’s new work is a meal-based-meditation on power and political corruption through the ‘Archive of Powercuts’ in Lebanon, and was commissioned with prize money she received after winning the Anti Festival International Prize for Live Art (the largest prize of its kind in the world) in 2018. Alexandra Bachzetsis, whose work has been performed everywhere from Tate Modern to MOMA, brings Private: Wear a mask when you talk to me to the festival. Combining Trisha Brown’s choreographic tradition with global pop culture, Alexandra’s new dance work explores the reproduction of gender behaviour and sexual identity. Other UK premieres include celebrated Australian performance maker Nicola Gunn’s Working with Children which looks at the problem of intimacy and exposure, and the curiosity of working with children in contemporary performance. Kate McIntosh returns to Fierce for the third time, with a production that has been a hit at theatre festivals around the world, that brings the audience into direct contact with a number of fascinating objects and materials in a participatory and secretive experiment.



Dedicated to supporting the new generation of UK artists, Fierce is delighted to bring Selina Bonelli to this year’s Festival. Selina’s (un)certain twitches promises to be a performance art highlight. Oozing Gloop, the UK’s ‘leading green autistic drag queen’ was first encountered by Fierce whilst they were working the door at Sink the Pink. Their alternative cabaret The Gloop Show will take audiences on a psycho-magical trip which re-stitches the fabric of our reality, charting sublime new political territories.

This year, Fierce is delighted to have Susannah Hewlett as their very first Artist in Residence. During the festival, Susannah, whose practice blends live art, comedy, theatre, sound and film, will present My Minor Spectrorective. This retrospective will consist of highlights from some of Susannah’s pervious pieces including audio interventions, televisual highlights and be-wigged characters which will intervene at points throughout the festival. Susannah will also preside over The Great British Cack Off, the ultimate poo-making battle where festival goers will compete to be crowned the UK’s Best Cack Master, using only peanut butter, chocolate spread and oats.



Further highlights include BINGE a new drop-in interactive installation curated by Brian Lobel (A Pacifists Guide to the War on Cancer) where audiences encounter a series of one-on-one and intimate conversations based around their favourite box sets. Choreographer Doris Uhlich’s Every Body Electric, is a powerful and poetic piece performed by dancers who identify as disabled, examining how they perceive their bodies and how they are in turn perceived, set to a techno soundtrack; Here-to-Here Notwithstanding from highly influential performance artist Sandra Johnson (who represented Northern Ireland at the Venice Biennale, 2005) and a new work from Nigel Rolfe, who is considered one of the most important figures in performance art internationally and is celebrating his 50th year of artmaking. Swiss performance artist Yann Marussich finds himself submerged in a bath of broken glass, and only one way to get out, in Bain Brise.



Fierce is committed to programming work which tackles challenging issues prevalent in today’s political and cultural landscape. Andrew Tay and Stephen Thompson’s Make Banana Cry is a critical and destabilising dance show questioning Asian stereotypes via the format of a catwalk fashion show. Julia Bardsley’s elaborate installation AN APIAN PARADOX uses the decline of the bee to explore the human condition and our current ecological crisis. ‘Black trans femme punk goddess’ Keijaun Thomas also presents the UK premiere of her major new work My Last American Dollar.

To open the 2019 festival, Fierce will bring their free opening night extravaganza A Very Fierce Grand Opening to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on 16 October. This evening of drinks and DJs, hosted by drag performer Ginny Lemon, will feature performances from artists such as Keijaun Thomas, Sandra Johnston, Lester Arias, choreographers Zander Porter x James Batchelor, Whiskey Chow and Susannah Hewlett. The festival’s Club Fierce returns on 19 October an infamous late-night party featuring live music, international DJs, pop-up performance, and avant garde gogo dancers, and this year is presented in partnership with Birmingham house collective Hooker Club and features a headline DJ set from Corin.



Fierce 2019 will take place across Birmingham and the surrounding area from 15 – 20 October with events taking place at: Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centrala, Floodgate Street Warehouse, Midlands Arts Centre, Medicine Gallery, Quantum Events Centre, VIVID Projects, Warwick Arts Centre and Arena Theatre.


Justin Shoulder - Australia
Tuesday, 15 October - 7.45pm

What does it mean to be human in an era when our destructive influence over the planet is rapidly redefining the laws of nature? This magnetic performance by Justin Shoulder introduces Carrion: a post-human spectre with the ability to shape shift into multiple forms and speak multiple languages. Drawing on queer and bicultural ancestral mythologies, Carrion transports us into a place where the distant past collides with the far future, alerting us to the changes that already lie within ourselves.

Davy Pieters - Netherlands
How Did I Die
Tuesday, 15 October - 9pm
Wednesday, 16 October – 7.45pm
Warwick Arts Centre Studio

In How Did I Die, time cannot be trusted: neither the period from the discovery of the body to a possible conclusion, nor the possible final hours of the deceased. Nothing is certain. Time and truth are manipulated, conspiracy theories revised. The truth is a complex puzzle in which our fantasies can be gruesomely real or unreal. Just one murder has taken place, but there are countless paths that could have led to it. Does the reconstruction bring us closer to the truth, or does it push us further away? How Did I Die is a realistically fictional, cinematic, physical production. Particularly suitable for those who love a good thriller.

Kate McIntosh - Belgium
In Many Hands
Tuesday, 15 October - 8.30pm
Wednesday, 16 October – 5pm & 8.30pm
Thursday, 17 October – 1.30pm & 5.00pm
Birmingham Repertory Theatre The STUDIO

In recent years, audiences to Kate McIntosh’s works have been involved in many different ways–they have been invited to take part as accomplices, craftsmen, orchestra-members and rain-makers. In her new work In Many Hands, McIntosh dives deeper into this creative co-operation with visitors



A Very Fierce Grand Opening
Wednesday, 16 October 7.00pm – 11pm
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Hosted by Ginny Lemon, with performance from: Keijaun Thomas, Sandra Johnston, Zander Porter x James Batchelor: Alien Intimacy, Whiskey Chow, Ariah Lestewr, Susannah Hewlett.

Tania El Khoury - Lebanon
In Search of Power
Wednesday 16 October – 8.30pm
Thursday 17 October – 8.30pm
Friday 18 October – 8.30pm
Saturday 18 October – 8.30pm
Secret Location

On a night with a sudden electricity outage in Beirut, the artist and her historian husband promised each other to research the history of power outages in Lebanon. The Search for Power is a lecture and installation performance inviting audience to look into archival documents, inaccessible knowledge, and a personal quest for revenge

Gillie Kleiman & Greg Wohead - UK
Thursday 17 October – 7pm
Friday 18 October – 7pm
Saturday 19 October – 5pm
Birmingham Rep, The DOOR

Familiar is a twinset of performances on significant otherness. One authored by Kleiman and performed by Wohead, the other authored by Wohead and performed by Kleiman, the two are twisted together with story, song and spit.

Spring boarding from a question of companionship, Kleiman and Wohead reach for something mysterious: a shaggy dog story danced by Twin Peaks’ legendary Log Lady, speaking from the beyond to enable the pair to become others of significance then and there in the theatre.



Ellen Furey & Malik Nashad Sharpe - Canada
Thursday 17 October – 9pm
DanceXchange, Patrick Studio

SOFTLAMP.autonomies is a dance co-created by Malik Nashad Sharpe (aka marikiscrycrycry) and Ellen Furey where their concurrent solo practices collide, creating new textures and embodiments built upon not-yet-here, not-yet-attainable--solidarities and autonomies in between their bodies. Pivoting towards a pluralist aesthetics, suggesting possibilities beyond authoritarian and coercive visions, SOFTLAMP.autonomies is a repurposed slogan on-top of the abandoned office with a flickering light, deep in the deep blue hegemonic push, trying to believe.

Oozing Gloop - UK
The Gloop Show
Thursday 17 October – 10.30pm (doors)
Friday 18 October – 11pm (doors)

THE GLOOP SHOW by Oozing Gloop- ‘Our leading green autistic drag queen' - Takes you on a psychomagical trip through the universal A E I O U.

On route we ramble through a dream scape of gigantic vowels, handmade patchwork, masks and wigs. Our guiding green vagabond wielding a 7ft mascara wand assures that squares make squares, triangles make triangles and doing things…does stuff.

THE GLOOP SHOW re-stitches the fabric of our reality and charts sublime new political territories. This is your survival guide to the 21st century!

Brian Lobel
Saturday 19 October – 12noon-6pm
Sunday 20 October – 12noon-6pm
Venue TBA

BINGE is an interactive installation curated by Brian Lobel which creates the space to slow down, disconnect from the noise of everyday life, reconnect with the comfort of a duvet and a listening ear. BINGE is a collection of one-to-one and intimate conversations based around your favourite box sets, where commissioned artists use their in-depth knowledge about a particular show to answer your questions, fulfil your fantasies or provide some quiet reflection.



Begüm Erciyas - Belgium
Voicing Pieces
Friday 18 October – 12noon-7pm
Saturday 19 October – 12noon-7pm
Sunday 20 October – 12noon-7pm
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, The Lab

In Voicing Pieces, one’s own voice is staged to become the protagonist. In the intimacy of an isolated sound booth, guided by a simple score, the audience becomes spectator of their own voice. Isn’t one's own voice always inauthentic and uncanny? Who is speaking, when one's own voice speaks? Rather than recognizing oneself in the stranger, Voicing Pieces is an invitation to recognize the stranger in oneself.

Mariana Valencia - US
Friday 18 October – 4pm
Saturday 19 October – 12noon
Midlands Arts Centre, Foyle Studio

ALBUM is a solo performance that unites text, song, and dance inside of the content of an album—a picture album, a song album, an autobiographical album, a herstorical album—finding ways to be an archive, or altar, for Valencia’s body. Through factual, humorous, and grave observations, a frame of self-identification is established and charged with the task to preserve and perform a self herstory as an album in image and song. Valencia’s relationship to urbanity, vampires, love, and marginality arise with equal importance as she orbits the primary curiosity: Who will write herstory? ALBUM starts this process—so the author of Valencia’s herstory can have good notes.

Doris Uhlich - Austria
Everybody Electric
Friday 18 October – 6.30pm
Midlands Arts Centre, Theatre

Every Body Electric is a simple, but radical invitation to explore potentials through dance, to make them visible, and to delve deep into an archaeology of energy. What other possibilities open up when machines – for example wheelchairs, prostheses, crutches – are regarded and staged as extensions to the body? Personal rhythms, dynamics, beats and bodily characteristics lead to unique dance styles. The explosive power, but also the gentle or forceful poetry of Every Body Electric ultimately rests in how the performers perceive their bodies and how they are perceived.



Miet Warlop - Belgium
Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break
Friday 18 October – 10pm
Saturday 19 October – 2pm
Birmingham Hippodrome, Patrick Studio

In Ghost Writer and the Broken Hand Break, Warlop works with the idea of a western version of the whirling dance known from Sufi dervishes. Three performers spin in a circle for 45 minutes – a movement that in Sufi ceremonies is meant to induce a state of religious ecstasy.

Keeping with Miet Warlop’s style, the whirling is enriched by making music. It becomes an experiment in perception, a dizzy feeling, a reflection on the spirit of our time. The mixture of whirling dance, recitation and concert moves on the thin line between self-control and loss of control. How can we find a balance between self-control and devotion? What shape are the spirits that write the story of our life?

Joseph Keckler - US
In Concert
Friday 18 October – 8.30pm
Saturday 19 October – 8.30pm
Birmingham, Hippodrome, Studio 5

After recent shows at Lincoln Center, New York and Centre Pompidou, Paris, Joseph Keckler makes his UK debut, performing an intimate evening of his work in concert form-- ecstatic art-pop songs and wild arias about daily life that spiral out towards the mythic.

His three-octave range puts him at the peaks of highbrow culture, but he moves to popular styles without missing a beat. Here is a renaissance man who wears his brilliance lightly; with a wink and a smile, he gently lifts the soul.

Nigel Rolfe - UK
New Performance
Saturday 19 October – 2pm
Arch 21

The central contention of Rolfe’s practice is that art making is a live and vital engagement.

His work engages socio-political concerns of have and have-not and fault lines in society.

Andrew Tay & Stephen Thomas - Canada
Make Banana Cry
Saturday 19 October – 3.30pm
Sunday 20 October – 12noon
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Waterhall

Make Banana Cry is a critical and destabilizing dance performance questioning Asian stereotypes and the transmission of cultural identity. The work confronts western perceptions of the “Asian Fantasy” in a durational parade drawing on the background of the diverse cast of Canadian artists.

As aesthetic embodiments of “Asian-ness” become more predominant in Western art and pop culture, the artists share a desire to reflect on these representations and explode the mechanisms that create these categorizations within today’s appropriative landscape.

Selina Bonelli - UK
(un)certain twitches
Saturday 19 October – 8.30pm
Vivid Projects

Selina Bonelli’s work is an attempt to develop a language beyond its capacities for direct communication. One outside syntax, of evolving, disparate parts, one that tries to touch through our violently inscribed bodies. It could be seen as an unfolding around the things we ‘forget’ or try to keep at a distance.

Nicola Gunn - Australia
Working with Children
Saturday 19 October – 7pm

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, THE STUDIO

Working with Children is a performance essay that looks at the problem of intimacy and exposure, and the curiosity of working with children in contemporary performance. It is an attempt to perform a kind of radical vulnerability. Through an accumulation of seemingly unconnected anecdotes, the audience is invited to wonder about the effect of language on the body, playing with the idea that we can find a different way of behaving by finding a different way of inquiring and of listening.

Lucy McCormick - UK
Life: Live!
Saturday 19 October – 10pm
Secret Location

Life: Live! is a subversive, immersive narrative concept album about a woman who gets overwhelmed in a supermarket.

Featuring shonky-spectacular, stadium-chic live visuals from Morven Mulgrew and original music written and performed by Lucy and her electrotrash Girl-Squad, Life:Live! Is the survival anthem for the folks who can’t decide which shampoo to buy.

Club Fierce X Hooker Club
Saturday 19 October – 11pm – 4am
Secret Location

A collaboration with local house collective Hooker Club. Hosted by Yshee Black, with performances from Ariah Lester, Justin Shoulder, Susannah Hewlett and DJs Corin and Michael Cheng.



Susannah Hewlett - UK
My Minor Spectrorective
Various times and locations

Cross breeding live art, comedy, theatre, sound and film for over 15 years Susannah Hewlett is delighted to present to you a buffet selection of her finest cold cuts. A platter of audio interventions, televisual highlights and be-wigged characters.

Fixated on popular culture, her work challenges the comfort of audiences by using comedy as a strategy to disarm - scratching through the shiny Saturday night TV dazzle or looking past the kindly smile to reveal unpalatable truths about the human condition.

Susannah Hewlett - UK
The Great British Cack-Off
Sunday 20 October – 12noon-4pm
Midland Arts Centre

The ultimate poo making battle using only peanut butter, chocolate spread and oats - where passionate amateurs compete to be crowned the UK’s Best Cack Master! The judges look for signature style, technical excellence and showstopping qualities!

Julia Bardsley - UK
An Apian Paradox
Sunday 20 October – 1pm-5pm
Midlands Arts Centre, Theatre

With just a couple of turntables two bees remix Belgian symbolist poet Maurice Maeterlinck’s classic natural history text The Life of the Bee, in its entirety, to a soundtrack of Earth’s drone music.

Escaped from the hive and under the influence of exotic substances secreting from their own bodies, anthropological questions rise to the surface when the vinyl grooves are scraped by venom styluses in this elaborate installation. Why are these workers planning to massacre the males? Are you OK Honey?

Sandra Johnston - Ireland
Hear-to-here not withstanding
Wednesday 16 October (at A Very Fierce Grand Opening)
Thursday 17 October - 7pm
Weds: Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Thurs: Arch 21

Johnston’s performances are experiential in nature, based on improvisational processes that explore physical states of responsiveness formed in relation to the actualities of specific situations and the moment of making. Actions are assembled using mainly found objects, each informing decision making through memory and haptic perception. The performances are intended as propositions, whereby the audience observes the emergence of latent relationships between the materials and gestures, offered as ‘provisional behaviours’ and existing as mutable encounters to be realised only within moments of close connection between artist and audience.

Alexandra Bachzetsis - Switzerland
Private: Wear a Mask when you talk to me
Sunday 20 October – 5.30pm
Midlands Arts Centre, Theatre

Alexandra Bachzetsis’s solo Private: Wear a Mask when you talk to me could be considered a sort of an “equipment piece,” where what it is to be explored is how everyday behaviors of gender and sexual identity are reproduced. Bringing Trisha Brown’s choreographic tradition into the highly techno-baroque world of global pop culture, PRIVATE is an unsolicited report, fifty-three minutes in duration, on how gender and sexual desire are fabricated through the ritualized repetition of bodily gestures within the neoliberal regime.

Marco Berrettini - Germany
Sunday 20 October – 7.45pm
DanceXchange, Patrick Studio

Marie-Caroline Hominal is Raymonda, Marco Berrettini is Taylor. A dance begins…

A young woman and a middle-aged man, half naked in a tropical dream world boasting floating plants. They are being watched. An erotic female voice sings strange associations with nature. The elegant trance they trace out is done so according to a minimalist and repetitive structure based on the residue of social dances, which are then mirrored.

Taking inspiration from the book “You Must Change Your Life” by German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, Berrettini revisits the age old question: why are we here, on this earth? A former student of Pina Bausch, Berrettini was the German disco-dancing champion at the age of 15!



About Fierce Festival
Fierce Festival is one of the UK’s most respected festivals of Live Art & the leading organisation for Live Art in the West Midlands. It has an international reputation for agenda setting curation & intelligent commissioning that has seen Fierce commissions tour worldwide. The festival embraces theatre, dance, music, installations, activism, digital practices and parties. Fierce fills the city with performances in theatres, galleries and other out-of-the-ordinary spaces and has a long history of presenting the UK debuts or UK premieres of important international artists and shows.

Fierce believes that live art is the ‘engine room’ of our culture. It is a space where new performative ideas find a form for their expression and create surprising, provocative and inspiring collective moments for audiences in the West Midlands and beyond.

Fierce is committed to supporting emerging, overlooked, unusual & difficult live art practices from around the world, and invites visionary artists interested in 'liveness', from a range of artistic disciplines to work in Birmingham. Beyond the festival frame, Fierce plays a pivotal role in the local arts ecology, developing the cultural offer of the city & supporting local artist communities with its Fierce FWD artist development programme & year-round initiatives including its popular Club Fierce late-night events series.

Fierce’s work is informed by an intersectional queer politic that seeks to challenge established understandings of art & give a platform to marginalized artists who have no choice but to embody their politics. These voices, stories & ideals, we believe, need to be told in order to reflect the ever changing, diversifying society in which we live.

Fierce Festival is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation with regular funding confirmed until 2022.

“With its interest in marginalised communities, subversive counter-culture and identity politics, Fierce has one of the most diverse and representative programmes in the UK.” The Stage on Fierce Festival 2017.

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