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Greenwich and Docklands International Festival 2018: five shows to see

The annual festival returns to south east London

Clockwise from left: Beautiful Thing, This Is Not For You and Belly of the Whale

The Greenwich Docklands International Festival returns this month, bringing a raft of daring, novel and exciting work to south east London. While there are dozens of shows on offer (and do take a look to see what's on on the GDIF site!) we've rounded up five shows that have our interest piqued.

5. Fly By Night

21 - 23 June, East Thamesmead

Kicking off the festival this year is an avian spectacle unlike anything we've seen – 1500 pigeons, wearing special LED lights, soaring over the Thames in a glorious mix of animal choreography and aerial dance. Programmed alongside 14-18 NOW and LIFT, Duke Riley's show originally ran in Brooklyn but comes to the UK for the first time, commemorating the 100,000 messenger pigeons used during the First World War. Having seen the production "in rehearsals" (watch the video above), this is definitely a unique and mesmeric way to spend an evening.

Windrush: 492

4. Windrush: 492

22 June, Cutty Sark Gardens

In terms of pertinent programming, Windrush: 492 feels intensely relevant given the political events of the last few months. Created by playwright Roy Williams, Darren J Benjamin and Gijs van Bon, the show will see the names of the 492 individuals that arrived in the UK on the Empire Windrush from the Caribbean exactly 70 years ago transcribed onto the ground using photoluminescent powder, creating a lasting tribute to multi-culturalism in the UK. Less theatre as we know it and more art installation, access is free though will be time-limited.

Belly of the Whale
© Mark Dawson

3. Belly of the Whale

23 to 24 June, Cutty Sark Gardens

Circus troupe Ockham's Razor won the 2016 Total Theatre and Jacksons Lane Award for their previous show Tipping Point, transforming five metal poles into a complex physical analysis of human relationships. The company return this year to present new piece Belly of the Whale, set on a spectacular swinging see-saw (pictured above), which is used as a cradle, a slide, or a tunnel. We're fascinated already!

This Is Not For You
© Graeae Theatre Company

2. This Is Not For You

30 June to 1 July, Artillery Square Woolwich

Graeae and the National Centre for Circus Arts have cooked up something rather exciting for the GDIF this year – an epic tribute to wounded war veterans told both on the ground and off. Performed with audio description and BSL and as part of the 14-18 NOW arts programme, Graeae director Jenny Sealey has trained 25 disabled veterans to appear in the piece, which will have all manner of visually exciting stunts.

Beautiful Thing

1. Beautiful Thing

3 to 7 July, Thamesmead London

Jonathan Harvey's much-loved play is getting a special revival this year, being performed on and across the urban environment in which the original piece is set. A dance-theatre production supplemented by some huge projections and a giant community chorus, the show will (quite literally) run outdoors across the concrete utopian architecture of Thamesmead (the same location used for filming Misfits and Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange).