After a three-year hiatus, the Nottingham European Arts and Theatre Festival (neat14) is making a welcome return to the city this month. Taking place at a variety of artistic spaces, including Nottingham Playhouse, Nottingham Contemporary and Broadway, the 10-day festival showcases ground-breaking theatre, art, film and dance. This year’s event, which opens on 23rd May, draws inspiration from the centenary of the start of the First World War, a conflict which has shaped the landscape of Europe.
This idea is explored in Michael Pinchbeck’s Bolero, which opens at Nottingham Playhouse on 31st May. The play begins with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, which sparked the First World War, and takes the audience on a journey through to the Bosnian War of 1994 and the present day. One of the key events during this period was the Sarajevo Winter Olympics when Nottingham figure skaters Torvill and Dean beat the odds to win gold for their ‘perfect six’ Bolero routine. But there is no triumphant finale; we learn that eight years later the stadium in which they performed was destroyed during the Balkans conflict. Throughout the play, Bolero, the piece of music written by Ravel in 1928, acts as a leitmotif linking together these events.
The Litvinenko Project, which will be performed in various venues including Lee Rosy’s, Cast and Edin’s, is a piece of site-responsive theatre by Nottingham-based 2Magpies. It examines the fate of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian security agent who died after being poisoned in 2006, claiming on his deathbed that Vladimir Putin was behind it. This production starts with three facts about Litvinenko:
- He was a man.
- He was a man who died.
- He was a man who died of radiation poisoning.
It then invites the audience to speculate on his life – what he liked to drink, how he danced – because there are so few facts about the circumstances of his death. Indeed, his widow has campaigned for an inquest into his death – but this has been repeatedly delayed and she is now fighting for a public inquiry to be held. The Litvinenko Project promises to be a chilling piece of theatre, especially given the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine and the growing mistrust of Putin in the West.
Another highlight of the festival is Generation Jeans, a production by the critically-acclaimed Belarus Free Theatre which takes place at Nottingham Playhouse on 23rd and 24th May. Three years ago, the theatre group was prevented from attending neat11 because their passports and visas had been revoked by the Belarussian government (they eventually performed at the Playhouse a couple of months later). Belarus, despite bordering the EU, has been described as having ‘the last dictatorship in Europe’ and Generation Jeans, which is about jeans, rock music and freedom, highlights the similarity between the Soviet days and the current regime.
Elsewhere, Nottingham Contemporary is set to host Schrödinger, a performance piece about thought experiments, cats, René Magritte, love, time, mathematics, observations, truth, lies and alcohol while Broadway Cinema will pay tribute to French New Wave film-maker Alain Resnais, who died on 1st March this year, with a day-long course and a screening of Last Year at Marienbad.