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Top picks for summer theatre and performing arts

22:55 29/05/2015

In the theatre or open-air, in summer theatre abounds in Belgium. From classic theatre pieces to experimental performance arts, here’s a guide for the best of what’s on the Belgian stage this summer.

Make haste! You only have three days left to catch one of Belgium’s best arts festivals, the Kunstenfestivaldesarts. Called a “creation festival”, Kunstenfestivaldesarts brings together contemporary artists of all flavours from contemporary artists,

Though you’ve only got a few days left, there are still some fascinating performances see. For instance, see what Belgian visual artist Michel François does to the KVS’s grand stage as he takes a stab at theatre in a piece called “Take The Floor”. Musée de la danse’s Boris Charmatz examines our every day eating in a living sculpture at the Palace of Fine Arts. Su Wen-Chi from Taiwan takes us “Off The Map” in a piece that explores the interplay of tradition and modernity in the post-industrial world.  And a charming, witty work by Jérôme Bel, “Gala”, toys with the line between virtuoso and amateur as it lets you see what happens when amateur performers try to copy professional’s job.

Theatre at the Feesten

The Gentse Feesten (17 to 26 July) is another great time for performance art, especially street theatre. As in years past, this year during Ghent’s city-wide, 10-day bash will hold the MiramirO festival from the 17th to the 21st of July. A non-profit dedicated to bringing circus and performance arts to public spaces, the festival will include street and circus performances, dance, visual arts and installations, and any combination of the above. The programme won’t be available till 4 June, but you can already buy tickets from their website.

Also running for the length of the Feesten is the International Puppet Buskers Festival (18 to 26 July). Taking place at various locations all over the city, including at the foot of Ghent’s belfry and in the Monastery of the Black Friars, puppetmasters from around the world bring out their best material for your entertainment. Don’t miss “Puppets on the Red Carpet”, a collaborative work with the Flemish Women’s Forum.

From theatre on the water and theatre on the sea

For a tiny, but always delightful serving of creative and quirky street theatre, hop on the train to Boom on Saturday, 20 June, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Theatre aan Twater. It’s not quite on the scale of Tomorrowland, the world renown dance festival held in the same town, but you’ll get to see dozens of Belgian and international dancers, acrobats and performers twirl, dip, flip and twist their ways along Boom’s quay.

Meanwhile on the coast, Ostend’s is dusting sand from its stage to hold its annual Theater aan Zee (Theatre on the sea, 30 July to 8 August). TAZ, as it is called, is known for its willingness to lend its stage to new artists and performers and never before seen works, and to hand over curating duties to rising, inventive voices in the performing arts. This 10 day long theatre, dance and performance festival often holds some of the best performances you can see all summer – and all with a gorgeous view on the North Sea.

TAZ’s programme won’t be out till mid-June, but look out once again for Bato Congo, a segment of the festival that gives the stage to Congolese visual artists, writers, theatre makers and musicians. Part of TAZ since 2012, Bato Congo not only offers European audiences a glimpse of what creatively is coming out of the Congo today. It also collaborates with the development NGO 11.11.11 to emphasise importance of the arts in driving sustainable development.

Head to the hills

Finally, for the French-speaking theatre lovers, the Festival de theatre of Spa will be the place to be. From 7 to 17 August, the 56th annual theatre festival will take over the Ardennes town known for its thermal bathes.

Like TAZ, the Spa festival focuses on new and never before seen works from theatre makers and performers from all over the world, but this time all in French. The town plays host to over 40 performances in six locations throughout the city.

From some family theatre fun, make sure to catch “1914, Le grand carbaret”, a boisterous spectacle on a cinematic scale that tells the story of band of music hall performers in Belgium during the First World War. This show is reprise of an enormously popular tour from 2015 to 2012 brought back to the stage for the Spa festival in honour of the anniversary of the start of WWI. 

Written by Katy Faye Desmond