Review: Sprint Festival

There is a real sense of turning full circle and returning home when engaging with the work for the Sprint Festival at the Camden People’s Theatre. Performance artists and contemporary theatre makers are dug into the foundations of what both CPT and Sprint stand for. They deliver epic journeys on minimal budgets with innovative methods of storytelling. Whether it’s crossing the Channel, singing the fuck out of Doris Day or simply killing your loved one through animated projections, the Sprint Festival has a story to tell its audience.

I’ve never properly considered where CPT sits within the landscape of theatre performance, but experiencing Mamoru Iriguchi’s Projector/Conjector, Greg McClaren’s Doris Day Can Fuck Off and the audio contents of the Forest Fringe Travelling Sounds Library things become clearer. Having witnessed each of these in their early developments during the Forest Fringe Micro-Festival at BAC, CPT was rather like a homecoming for me, only the teenage anarchy had been replaced with a maturer, richer body of performance. Although let’s be clear, there is nothing remotely tiresome and ‘been there, done that’ to be had, not by a long shot. The Sprint Festival offers us an edge of newness where unexplored territory is waiting to be claimed. Matt Bull, Director of CPT, puts it wonderfully: “Come on in, try something new: you might just be blown away”.

Project/Conjector continues Iriguchi’s explorations with projection-based storytelling of animated odysseys. There is a boy called Projector, and a girl called Conjector, he has a projector attached to his head, while she has a screen. Between them, they project and display an animated story where swans are your alter ego on Planet Swanland, and the girl can’t help but to sleep with a Swan and produce swan babies. From scrolling words on the screen, to animated spaceships and rockets, Iriguchi lets his audience into the bemused world he inhabits inside his own mind.

Now Francesca Millican-Slater has a certain attraction to water, she calls it her “magnetic pull”. She has no intention of drowning herself, but inevitably she is going to end up in a pond, a swimming pool or the English Channel. In I Promise To Swim The Channel (or the story of how I might) Millican-Slater presents a series of channel-swimming facts interwoven with her personal water-obsessed journey which will lead her to swim the English Channel. It’s wonderfully engaging, thoughtfully honest and full of wit. If she doesn’t attempt the challenge I’ve got a contract that entitles me to £1, and I intend to chase Millican-Slater down for it. A must see.

Doris Day Can Fuck Off, and yes, I do enjoy writing and saying that aloud, but not nearly as much as Greg McClaren enjoys singing about it. Where everything has a rhythm and a tune, McClaren has a voice to use (or abuse) it. An all-singing, all audience participation McClaren gives us his sampled voiced recordings as a wholly presentable exploration into how an audience, and wider humanity, avoid a man who sings at us.

Have you ever seen a slightly balding, slightly round looking, thick rimmed-glasses-wearing man immerse himself into a rubber balloon? Oh you have? Then I need not to talk about Danny & his amazing ballons, a slapstick, clown showing, balloon bursting performance by Circo Ridiculoso. Whether born into a balloon factory, or just bored at work, Ridiculoso knows how to crack a smile on any glum audience by his balloon manipulating skills. It’s good to see something that doesn’t take a lot of brain cells to enjoy.

Lastly my Sprint Festival evening was filled with the rhythmic spoken word ‘mega-monologue’ by the punk front women of The Honourable Society of Faster Craftswomen in Patchwork. We’ve all had those escapist moments, where our mind leaves us for an instant and we find ourselves in a world that seems a lot more colourful than the one we were just in. The Honourable Society… offers a blend of animated drawings of wasps, scribbled characters suffering from allergies and the cutest zebra (named Plough) this side of Africa. Witty wordplay, and a sparky inclination for the sublime in life, Patchwork pulls at your creative needs and tells you to engage a little with the fabric of rock-star life.

Whilst Ball might suggest getting “blown away” by the Sprint Festival, I’ll say do that, but make sure you catch the next flight heading downwind and find yourself right back where you started. The Sprint Festival shows why Camden People’s Theatre has a deserved place at the heart of the experimental performance scene, and ultimately why platforms for new emerging work have to be kept in these troubling times.

The Sprint Festival is at the Camden Peoples Theatre until 27th March. This review doesn’t feature all the work, but offers a delightful highlight of some of them. It’s best to head over to the CPT website to find out more.