Manchester International Festival

Hollywood star Idris Elba partnered with Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah on Tree, a personal story to Elba about a young man trying to trace the story of his birth by travelling from the UK to South Africa. There were some interesting and uncomfortable political ideas debated in this piece, but it was a little disjointed and the attempts to involve the audience in the action, as is so often the case, were more distracting than immersive.

Invisible Cities was 59 Productions’ attempt to bring Italo Calvino’s challenging text to the stage with a script by Lolita Chakrabarti, which filled the huge space at Mayfield with some stunning visual imagery, but I can’t say I really managed to grasp much of what it was trying to say.

I could say the same about Trajal Harrell’s Maggie the Cat, only I’m not sure it was really trying to say anything at all in a piece that felt long, humourless and repetitive even though it was one of MIF’s shortest performances.

Director Sarah Frankcom and actor Maxine Peake continued their long association with The Nico Project, which took its inspiration from the singer named in its title and in particular from her 1968 album The Marble Index, but it didn’t really have a coherent story to tell about her. However it featured some good music from Nico and composer Anna Clyne performed impressively by students of the Royal Northern College of Music, particularly the two young vocalists who captured the essence of Nico’s sound.

But for me, the highlight of an MIF that had a lot that was interesting but little that was outstanding was Tao of Glass, a collaboration between Phelim McDermott and composer Philip Glass that featured storytelling, puppetry and music in a magical combination, and on press night even featured a performance from Glass himself.