Culture: The Naked Truth of a Fierce! Culture; Terry Grimley Looks Forward to a Bigger and Fiercer Feast of Performance Art
Byline: Terry Grimley
What do these have in common: a Danish dance company performing on a glass stage with the audience lying underneath on mattresses, 20 topless women playing drumkits in Symphony Hall, and a Swiss artist lying in an anthill in a public space for three days?
The answer is that all are part of this year's Fierce! Festival, the West Midlands' spring bonanza of out-there performance art, which returns for its sixth year from May 16 to June 8. Fierce! is in a bullish mood, having had a significant increase in funding from Arts Council West Midlands and Birmingham City Council.
'It allows us to be more ambitious,' says director Mark Ball. 'The Arts Council West Midlands funding is for three years, which is good news. It's more than doubling the amount we had last year: we've gone from pounds 32,000 to pounds 65,000. From the city, who had put in pounds 2,500 a year, we're budgeting on pounds 15,000 this year.
'We have a range of commissions and international premieres - all new work that hasn't been seen in the region before - from a range of sources across Europe and the UK.
'We are moving away from tradition venues towards more unusual venues and trying to encourage a younger, nontraditional audience.
'We commissioned a major piece of research about our audiences and found they were young non-arts attenders who go to bars and clubs, and we've responded to that by going into those venues.'
A theme linking many of the performances in this year's festival is voyeurism, taking its cue from the rise of CCTV and 'Zoo TV'.
'There's quite a lot of work that looks at that theme,' says Ball. 'For example, we are presenting a new piece by an English company, Gob Squad, who are now based in Germany. There will be four performances taking place overnight in four adjacent hotel rooms in West Bromwich, which audiences can watch from the conference room.
'I saw the piece in Hamburg and as you get more and more tired the piece gets slightly more bizarre and surreal.'
Fierce! veteran Ron Atthey returns with Visions of Excess, a specially-commissioned 24-hour installation and stage show featuring more than 20 international performers and film-makers, including actor and performer Udo Kier, Los Angeles burlesque club Velvet Hammer and legendary Canadian director Bruce La Bruce. …