Flying Solo Festival 2015: Only on stage

Polly Checkland Harding

The solo performers in Contact theatre’s Flying Solo Festival come critically acclaimed, glitter-laden and even slightly unstable… Don’t miss it.

From moustache envy to life-size foam puppets, by way of live blood donation, this year’s Flying Solo Festival looks set to be as diverse and, well, as daring as ever. There are eight different shows on the programme, and though they range in subject and style, they all share one thing in common: each is presented by a lone performer. From Keisha Thompson’s comic exploration of body politics in I Wish I Had A Moustache (favourite bystander comment from the trailer: “where’ve the pubes gone? Someone should bring those back”), to an autobiographical performance from artist activist The Vacuum Cleaner using his own psychiatric records alongside police intelligence files (given four stars in The Scotsman), Flying Solo puts standalone performers in the spotlight.

From moustache envy to life-size foam puppets, by way of live blood donation

What they do with the stage space, though, is up to them: in Blood on the Streets, for example, performance artist Jamie Lewis Handley explores the history of bloodletting as a medical practice using live text, visuals and, yes, his own blood – all presented in the window of a barbershop. Dancer and puppeteer Ester Natzijl also displays a fascination for the physical in Watching, a nightmarish show where a woman battles with a demon-like creature, represented by a life-size foam puppet, that’s trying to overtake her. Equally dark looking is the critically acclaimed collage of spoken word and storytelling, THIS IS HOW WE DIE by Christopher Brett Bailey, lauded by both the Guardian (“an absurd road movie of the soul”) and The Scotsman (“blisteringly brilliant”).

Media plaudits aside, it’s performer Jackie Hagan who boasts the best quote for her show, Some People Have Too Many Legs, this time from Contact’s new artistic director, Matt Fenton, who describes her as a “unique and utterly compelling performer”. Hagan’s performance explores losing a leg without knowing why, falling in love, finding her dad and throwing glitter at one’s fears. Poetic performance Alaska by Cheryl Martin and Louise Orwin’s A Girl and A Gun (which asks what happens when women are used as a plot device) round out what looks set to be a compelling programme. After all, who doesn’t need more borderline weirdness – and glitter – in their lives?

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