MIF 2019: Yoko Ono, David Lynch, Maxine Peake, Philip Glass, Skepta, Ivo van Hove and more

Published: 8 March 2019
Reporter: David Chadderton

Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott Credit: Rod Morata
Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah Credit: David Sandison
Maxine Peake as Nico for The Nico Project Credit: Jon Shard
Trajal Harrell Credit: Trajal Harrell

The full programme for the 2019 Manchester International Festival includes new collaborations between Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott and between Idris Elba and Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, as well as Maxine Peake as iconic singer Nico directed by Sarah Frankcom and an adaptation of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities by Lolita Chakrabarti with Leo Warner of 59 Productions, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Rambert dance company.

John McGrath, MIF Artistic Director and Chief Executive, said, “at MIF19, we see a whole host of artists looking to the future—some with hope, some with imagination and some with concern. We never impose themes on the artists we work with, but it’s striking how this year’s programme reflects our complicated times in often surprisingly joyous and unexpected ways. Featuring artists from more than 20 countries, the Festival also has strong local roots, with several commissions featuring the people of Manchester as participants. MIF19 will be a feast of energy, which I hope will inspire debate and delight for the festival’s 18 days and far beyond.”

Composer Philip Glass and actor-director Phelim McDermott have previously collaborated on opera productions in London and New York, but Tao of Glass is said to be their most personal project yet, marrying meditations on life, death and wisdom through ten new pieces of music with an ensemble of musicians and puppeteers. For Invisible Cities, inspired by the 1972 novel, Leo Warner of 59 Productions, choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, writer Lolita Chakrabarti and Rambert dance company collaborate on a mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping created for former railway depot Mayfield alongside Manchester's Piccadilly Station.

Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree, inspired by South Africa, is the story of a young man on a journey of healing, told through dance, music and film directed by Kwei-Armah with music inspired by Elba’s album Mi Mandela. In The Nico Project at The Stoller Hall, Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and an all-female creative team pay tribute to the legendary musician, inspired by her 1968 album The Marble Index with text by playwright E V Crowe and music by composer Anna Clyne.

American choreographer Trajal Harrell places Maggie the Cat, a character from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, centre-stage in his new dance work with multiple influences ranging from ancient Greek theatre to the Harlem voguing underground and a soundtrack that crosses genres from electro and pop to classical music. Choreographer Claire Cunningham’s Thank You Very Much looks at identity through the prism of the Elvis tribute artist with her ensemble of leading disabled performers in a new dance work which aims to take apart the myth of how bodies should be and have been trained to be.

Irish company ANU returns to Manchester’s history (after Angel Meadow and On Corporation Street with HOME) with The Anvil: An Elegy for Peterloo, which marks the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre with a day-long series of immersive performances inspired by the stories of those who died at St Peter’s Field. Acclaimed director Ivo van Hove will bring his Internationaal Theater Amsterdam ensemble to Manchester to perform The Fountainhead, an adaptation of Ayn Rand’s "passionate hymn to individualism", presented alongside Van Hove's Re:Creating Europe, which considers the notion of Europe through some of the speeches and texts that have shaped, traced and defined its history.

Other contributors to the 18-day programme from 4 to 21 July include Yoko Ono, who opens the festival with her mass-participatory Bells For Peace, David Lynch, who will take over HOME Manchester with an exhibition of his art and films, grime star Skepta, whose Dystopia987 will take a futuristic look at the history of rave culture in a secret location, and BBC 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs, who will once again curate an eclectic music programme.