Five Easy Pieces © Phile Deprez

SICK! Festival

Andrew Anderson, Theatre Editor

SICK! Festival makes just the kind of art we like: challenging, entertaining and always aimed at changing the world for the better. The 2017 edition looks at life, death and survival, with artworks, stories and performances that question the way the world works.

The whole programme is promising, but a few pieces jump out…or should we say float up in the case of Happy Cloud, which will see the city’s skies filled with smiling shapes. An outdoors installation work from Stuart Semple, it makes you ask yourself one of life’s most important questions: am I happy?

On the stage side of things we’ve got two great shows that deal with exploitation. The Game examines prostitution, but switches the perspective so that men – the consumers – are under the microscope. Meanwhile Michael Essien I Want to Play as You looks behind the scenes of the multi-million pound football industry and finds some unpleasant facts. There’s also a lecture from Thomas DeFrantz I Am Black.

If all that sounds a bit too, well, conventional, then how about Hetain Patel disguised as a white man in American Man, or Milo Rau making children re-enact a murder and the subsequent police investigation in Five Easy Pieces. Both shows have strange concepts and challenge our ideas of normality ­– something we all need to do every now and then.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Stuart Semple: Happy Cloud

    Stuart Semple: Happy Cloud, 11 March 2017, free entry - Visit now

    Are you happy? That’s the question Stuart Semple is asking in his art installation Happy Cloud, which floats thousands of smiley faces into the sky.

  • 2. Koen De Preter & Theater Stap: To Belong

    © Theater Stap

    Koen De Preter & Theater Stap: To Belong at The Lowry, Manchester, 18 March 2017, from £12.00 - Book now

    We all want to belong – whether to a team, band or a relationship – but what does belonging really mean? A group of performers from Belgian troupe Theater Stap aim to find out.

  • 3. Berlin: Zvizdal

    Berlin: Zvizdal at The Lowry, Manchester, 22–23 March 2017, from £12.00 - Book now

    Chernobyl, April 26th 1986. Due to the failure of a nuclear test and the explosion of a reactor, the life of the people living in and around Pripyat took a drastic turn.

  • 4. Thomas F. DeFrantz: I Am Black…

    © Thomas F DeFrantz

    Thomas F. Defrantz: I Am Black... at Contact Theatre, Manchester, 18 March 2017, from £5.00 - Book now

    Race and culture expert Thomas F DeFrantz discusses the problems that arise when Black artists perform for white audiences and comes up with some ideas for how we can all move forward.

  • 5. Five Easy Pieces at HOME

    © Phile Deprez

    Milo Rau: Five Easy Pieces at HOME, Manchester, 25 March 2017, from £10.00 - Book now

    Dark and deadly work from Milo Rau that sees kids re-enact the life and times of a child killer. Disturbing stuff indeed.

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