outstretched arm

Situation with outstretched arm, the story of a salute

BE Festival – Wednesday

Birmingham Rep


AS the BE Festival continued in its second day, the audience were exposed to a plethora of art from across Europe with a platform to use the REP to come together to share experiences and creative values.

The Wednesday programme of the BE Festival gave a mix of the political as well as a humorous and light hearted approach to theatre and art.

In the day before the UK’s Referendum, the BE Festival Hub had a board entitled ‘Should I Stay or Should I go?’ where audience members were invited to write their opinions upon it. Wednesday’s programme saw four different pieces, with performances submitted from companies within the UK, Germany, Slovenia and Italy.

Stuff – Sean Kempton

The first performance of the night was Sean Kempton’s ‘Stuff’. He is a specialist mime and incorporated clowning into his 30-minute performance piece.

He was accompanied by a collage of music and voiceover to help tell his humorous story about love. Using mime and clowning as his main performance technique, Kempton asked what love is and showed the high and low emotions that came with it.

Kempton is a funny performer and his story shone through in every way. It was a heart-warming story and he naturally wanted the audience to feel a hope towards love. With the integration of voiceovers, Kempton almost demonstrated to us what he found from talking to a small girl, with a young experience of love and speaking with an older lady, with years’ worth of knowing the strong emotions that can be felt.

Even though Kempton did not speak during his performance, the seanaudience knew exactly what he was trying to say. He was completely visual and wonderfully physical and even incorporated the audience into his piece.

Kempton told us about the ‘stages’ of love that we are likely to face, first with lust and then desire. With this he singled out audience members and called them on stage to dance with him. In the rocky heartbreak stage, Kempton was unafraid to use the audience to his advantage, storming off and collecting things to walk away.

Sean Kempton

He even made a whole row of the audience leave their seats so he could take their chairs, leaving them with nothing. This high energy was incredibly funny and with the addition of miming, he became extremely physical.

In a unique and new way, Kempton captured all the emotions that are associated with love to create a story that was wonderfully relatable and extremely uplifting.

Situation with Outstretched Arm

The second piece of the night was by Oliver Zahn from Germany. In a new and direct way of exploring social history, Situation with Outstretched Arm was a theatrical essay talking about the history and the usage of the Olympic Salute, or as it has most commonly known to be, The Hitler Salute.

With a German voice and English surtitles, the audience were exposed to the company’s findings about why fascist groups came to adopt the strong sign and where it originally came from. Coming from its origins in Rome, Oliver Zahn shed light on how an ancient greeting became associated with the most heinous group in history.

The piece was predominately spoken with a German voiceover, recalling the essay to the audience. We could see English surtitles at the back and so that we could follow the timeline. The performance was visualised by a single performer who upheld the position of the salute for the entirety of the piece.

Within the political analysis, we first saw the lady walk into the audience in plain sight while the house lights were still present. Upon entering, the audience fell completely silent when she made the salute and the essay started.

We could see that as the essay went on, the position seemed to get heavier and heavier to the performer. The voice even asked her how she felt about taking this position and if she felt ‘fascist’ yet.

The simple visual concept of the lone performer upon the large stage was bold and brave. To look at the salute was uncomfortable and this was exactly the concept that Oliver Zahn wanted to achieve. In Germany, the salute is banned apart from within artefacts of art or science. The company itself was questioned about their use of the symbol and had to postpone their original performance from 2014 to the next year.

Situation with Outstretched Arm is political theatre at its finest. It is informative as well as hard hitting to make the audience think about the past and the future simultaneously.

Transnational Artist Heidi Blumenfeld – Andrej Tomse

Heidi Blumenfeld is a transnational artist and explores the idea of taking risks and making mistakes within art. She is a circus performer and used juggling as her main approach to give an explanation of what art meant to her.

In an impressive form of circus, Blumenfeld took on the persona of male and female characters. Her 20-minute performance was impressive to say the least.

She made statements that without making mistakes, an artist is not a risk taker. It was clear that within her practice and dedication to her art, Blumenfeld made no mistakes at all and gave the audience dazzling sequences while she juggled batons.

The most impressive part of the perforHeidimance was when juggling one handed, Blumenfeld took off her jacket and then stood up on a high chair from standing on the ground. Her work with batons was a great testament to skill and dedication. At some points, Blumenfeld used five batons and created a treat for the audience eyes.

In an explanation of what art is, Blumenfeld and Andrej Tomse created an exciting little piece that was thoroughly entertaining and exercised a wonderful approach to circus and the art of juggling.

Reload – Teatro Sotterraneo

Teatro Sotterraneo, right, are a theatre company from Italy made of four performers. Their approach to theatre and play is something unique and the outcome was a humorous account of the human condition and how our attention span is becoming smaller and smaller.

From start to finish, this company were truly delightful and it was a shame that this performance was only30-minutes long. The company loved being on stage and this was apparent to the audience in their reactions. Teatro Sotterraneo aimed to create a visual approach to the experiences within the human mind, to explore how we are constantly distracted by our inner monologue.

The piece can best be described as perhaps organised chaos. At first, they tried to introduce themselves as a company; however it was not helped with each person talking over another with facts totally unrelated to the last. During the 30-minute performance, we saw a cacophony of inner thoughts played out that made for a completely spontaneous and unknowing performance.

To describe the performance in detail would be incredibly difficult, as there were over a hundred scenes played out, constantly inferring us to how the human brain is conditioned to think. They were always playful and in a peculiar way, because each scene had an average of ten seconds, the audience were captured from beginning to end.

Teateo Sotterraneo were constantly funny, with scenes of a gospel choir to a character of a hybrid between man and fish. There was no story, yet we could follow their pattern with ease. The company created a raucous atmosphere of complete and utter fun.

The audience were also involved. Whenever an actor held a sign, we were required to stand up and sit back down, adding to the randomness of their concept. At one point, we were required to throw vegetables at the performers too.

They a wonderful company from Italy and they infected the audience with their comic playfulness and matter-of-fact approach. They gave us the best of both worlds, in that we were constantly delighted with their jovial energy, but also understood the science behind the human mind with an effective and highly memorable approach to theatre. To 25-06-16

Elizabeth Halpin


BE festival  


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