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Honour Bayes: This May it's raining festivals

Stepping out into the rain for what feels like the thousandth time this week I’ve found it impossible to shake the feeling I’m about to get flyered any second. Surely the only time it’s this wet is Edinburgh in August?

But while we’re all safe from having shiny pieces of A3 stuffed into our hands for another 3 months, we’re certainly not short on festival atmosphere with the season in full swing.

In London after the International Mime Festival, Sprint at Camden People’s Theatre and Forest Fringe’s season at the Gate Theatre, we’re currently drowning in metre and verse as the World Shakespeare Festival and Globe to Globe monopolise the capital.

For those fed up of the Bard of Avon, in June LIFT 2012 is "Shining a light on the stories of the world" with another thrilling line up including Gatz, an 8-hour version of The Great Gatsby by Elevator Repair Service. Meanwhile on the Southbank the big purple cow is making us chuckle with the Udderbelly Festival a taster to the treats provided at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

But before we get ahead of ourselves May seems particularly stuffed with theatre goodies. Running throughout the month the Brighton Festival has a strong theatrical showing this year with a tasty mix including performances from dreamthinkspeak, Spymonkey and Vanessa Redgrave.

Meanwhile three other fantastic festivals are popping up around the country beginning this weekend (5 & 6 May) with Sampled at The Junction in Cambridge. Forty minutes from London (perfect for a day trip with a picnic) it’s a festival of performance that lets you experience an impressive array of talent in one place.

Curated by Bryony Kimmings, Brian Lobel and Hunt and Darton and including Little Bulb Theatre, Action Hero, Andy Field, Hannah Nicklin, Ira Brand and Laura Mugridge Sampled does exactly what it says on the tin, enabling you to see a cross section of some of the most exciting companies and artists around.

In fact it's the kind of dream line up that will get enthusiasts as excited as Avengers Assemble does comic-book fans. But if you’re unsure about dipping your toe into the world of performance art, a day ticket (at £15 the same amount you’d pay for bad pub theatre) allows you to take a chance on a number of shows safe in the knowledge that you'll love at least one.

Meanwhile fans of new writing should head to Suffolk for HighTide. From 3 to 13 May theatregoers are being treated to 18 new works with pieces from an exciting array of voices including Ella Hickson and Laura Poliakoff (yep, daughter of Stephen).

Now in its seventh year HighTide has established an enviable track record in finding and nurturing new talent with productions transferring nationally and internationally. Projects and writers developed in the past include Tom Basden whose play Party was adapted for Radio 4, Adam Brace’s Stovepipe which was listed in The Sunday Times as one of The Ten Best Theatre Productions of the Decade and Nick Payne whose If There Is has pulled in Jake Gyllenhaal to star in it later this year.

In a sea of new writers, HighTide is a great way to discover the voices of the future and 2012 will prove particularly juicy with Mike Daisey performing his controversial monologue The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs a fictional piece of verbatim theatre that has caused serious ripples across the pond.

Finally taking us from Spring to Summer is the Ipswich Pulse Festival running from 25 May to 9 June. Pulse includes a truly varied line up from performance artists like Dan Canham and Hugh Hughes to BSL productions of Shakespeare, a modern adaptation of Under Milk Wood and new writing from playwrights such as Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm.

It also boasts one of the best sci-fi opening webpages I have ever seen, and if that’s not worth a look I don’t know what is.

Festivals are a great way to access a range of artists you might otherwise miss, enabling you to see all your favourites in one place and find new ones. With May positively dripping with them (I’m sure I’ve missed some, do shout if I have) it looks like I’m going to be sat in the theatre with a steaming umbrella for most of the month. I think you should join me.


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