As befits an outdoor festival, there’s a strong emphasis on movement and spectacle, much of it with an international flavour. Five of the productions are co-commissions with the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, the Palace Theatre, Watford, the Greenwich+Docklands international festival and Latitude. At the Imagine Watford launch, ACE East director Helen Lax and Warner Bros Studios (of <i>Harry Potter</i> fame) managing director Dan Dare were enthusiastic in their endorsement of the project.
The festival schedule was introduced by Watford’s mayor Dorothy Thornhill, who paid particular tribute to the work of the Cultural Leaders’ Forum and emphasised that the festival raises aspirations for the town’s public spaces, and the Palace Theatre’s artistic director Brigid Lamour, who concentrated on the importance of the collaborative and international initiatives, including the Palace Theatre’s associated companies and its outreach programme.
International companies are Spain’s Sarruga, with its giant creepy-crawlies appropriately titled Insectes. These mechanical beasties are on parade on 21 and 22 June – take shelter under them if you dare! Barcelona’s Osadia offer a fusion of hair sculpture and audience participation between 22 and 24 June, while Compagnie Gianni Joseph from France dances its way through water on 23 and 24 June.
The co-productions begin with a one-person-at-a-time sensory experience from Curious Directive (their Rainfall premieres at the Palace Theatre this autumn) called Olfactory on 21, 22 , 30 June and 1 July. Nabokov is one of the theatre’s new writing associated companies and offers a fusion of the talents of writers Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells with the music of Ed Gaughan – just three performances on 21 June for this show.
Set Fire to Everything!!! is RashDash’s solution to the dreaded to-do list (22 June) and also a co-production. So are Tangled Feet’s Inflation, attempting to make sense of the recession in (on?) a bouncy castle (30 June) and Anyone for Tea? in which Les Enfants Terribles play a variation on the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland (1 July). The sky’s the limit for Wired Aerial Theatre’s Straw Dogs and Rosa’s Bar (both 21 to 24 June).
Hertfordshire Music Service are organising a Big Sing with the participation of schoolchildren from across the county; there are two performances, both on 24 June. Slung Low by The Knowledge Emporium sound very like an event from last year’s Pulse Festival in Ipswich. The public is encouraged to offer gems of received or personal wisdom between 26 and 30 June, in return for sweets; these are then constructed into a performed reading on 1 July.
Tangled Feet have a second show in Imagine Watford. This is All That is Solid Melts into Air, a gravity-defying piece of physical theatre which explores urban decay and regeneration (29 June to 1 July). Cascade from Motionhouse (also 29 June to 1 July) has an aquatic theme for its blend of dance and acrobatics. Lets hope that the water stays in its proper place and doesn’t descend on Watford for these eleven days. But when all the events are free, will anyone really mind the rain?