Updated: Thursday, 21st March 2019 @ 4:15pm

Preview: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe and The XX ‘to bring city alive’ at Manchester International Festival

Preview: Kenneth Branagh, Willem Dafoe and The XX ‘to bring city alive’ at Manchester International Festival

By Neil Robertson

Manchester International Festival, the world’s first festival of new work, will return to the city in just under two weeks bringing with it a huge wealth of talent.

The festival runs from July 4 – 21and will feature theatre giant Kenneth Branagh’s first Shakespeare performance in 10 years.

In previous years, the festival has attracted huge names including ex-Blur frontman Damon Albarn to American rapper Snoop Lion – and this year promises to be no different.

From Branagh’s Macbeth, to Massive Attack v Adam Curtis, and Willem Dafoe’s collaboration with legendary dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, this festival has got it all.

Macbeth, which takes place in a deconsecrated Manchester church, will be Branagh’s first Shakespeare performance for more than a decade.

Robert Del Naja and Adam Curtis’ creation Massive Attack v Adam Curtis, a meeting of music, film and illusion, promises to completely redefine the very idea of ‘the gig’.

Managing Director Christine Cort is excited ahead of the festival and said she cannot wait to bring the audience this once in a lifetime experience.

“I cannot wait, absolutely cannot wait,” she said.

“The fact that industries come from all over the world to here, to see what we’ve done, gives me an overriding feeling of immense pride.

“It will be extraordinarily staged, and I’m hoping that people will come in their drones and remember what they’ve seen, hopefully forever.”

A great show is nothing without great preparation and Ms Cort was keen to highlight the amazing work done by her team.

“Artists are the centre of everything we do. People from Manchester and all over come to see a unique experience,” she said.

“That makes me have a very sharp intake of breath.

“We’re firing on all cylinders – everyone is working like an absolute demon, and we’re very much looking forward to welcoming these wonderful artists to the city.”

Ms Cort, herself from the North West, said she is proud to be representing her neck of the woods.

“We can’t wait to bring the city alive,” she said.

“The fact that it’s in Manchester and in the North West, where I’m from, makes me remarkably proud.

“I think it would be really hard to create a festival atmosphere anywhere else.”

As you would expect from such a prestigious festival there is something for everyone.

For literary enthusiasts there is the performance of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy, widely regarded as Britain’s greatest political poem, in the atmospheric Albert Hall chapel.

For music lovers Mercury Prize-winning band The XX, whose album Coexist recently topped the UK charts, will be playing in a specially designed 60-capacity room.

But aside from famous faces this festival is an opportunity for new artists to establish themselves and for festival-goers to have a chance at being creative themselves.

MIF Creative, the Festival’s creative learning programme, is running The Biospheric Project, a ground-breaking urban farm experiment which aims to create a sustainable way of living in major cities.

This will include tours, talks, films, workshops and family sessions, on all things to do with science and the environment.

Jennifer Cleary, Director of Creative Learning for the festival, is involved in the project, and commended its impact in the Greater Manchester communities.

“I think music and art offer way of bringing people together in a way that dialogue doesn’t,” she said.

“It offers a unique way to share some of their experiences and in that respect it can be hugely powerful and have a dynamic and vibrant impact.”

“I think there are lots of brilliant things happening in the city and there are a lot of people with so much skill trying to drive Manchester forward.”

Whatever your reasons for going to the Manchester International Festival, you are unlikely to go away disappointed.

For more information visit http://www.mif.co.uk/

Image courtesy of So Television via YouTube, with thanks

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