Angel Field FestivalHope University Campus
Deserted public spaces simulating the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse have unfortunately been no foreign sight in Merseyside since the pandemic began, and Liverpool Hope University’s Creative Campus hasn’t been an exception. No students leisurely strolling through the leafy grounds with notepads in hand, or busy lecturers pacing to give their next seminar. At least that was until the annual ANGEL FIELD FESTIVAL rocked up and blew any sense of creative vacancy out of the water. From musical performances and film screenings to sound installations and a comedy show, the 10-day arts festival has everything you could possibly want.
Angel Field is beloved for weaving together artistic talent from across the globe while commemorating local Liverpudlian culture, and musician John Lowndes has nailed the brief to a tee with his community-based sound installation, About Us – For Us. Using a juxtaposing combination of field recordings from West Everton, voices of three community members and phone calls from people in the area during the pandemic, Lowndes’ participatory piece attempts to capture the experiences of local residents over the last 15 months. The audience is invited into a gloomy studio where five solitary speakers stand uniformly apart; their intimidating glare is enough to draw you to the chairs sitting sheepishly facing them so that you’re unavoidably eye-to-eye and preparing to be confronted. An array of overwhelming and aleatory noises fills every last space of the four walls, from conversational voices and birds chirping to the startling alarm of sirens. The setting is minimal, leaving relatively no visual experience which streamlines the auditory senses, making this soundscape even more impactful.
Keeping with the regional theme, Liverpool-based feminist performance company, Bite! Theatre grace the festival with their politically humorous yet emotive presence as with their debut comedy show, Pucker Up. Witty depictions of gender inequality, internalised misogyny and oppressive stereotypes are on the menu for spectators to lap up, and oh, how they do. This two-woman show is continuously immersive and interactive, encouraging individuals in the audience to participate and question their own role in upholding the patriarchal systems we live in. It’s a rare occurrence to find a comedy performance that successfully has you both laughing at your own deep-rooted oppression to tearing up about the exact same subject in minutes, and Bite! Theatre does it with flawless ease.
Continuing to satiate our hunger for female empowerment, Michelle Yim showcases her powerful acting abilities as she brings the legendary Chinese warrior, Hua Mulan, to life in solo theatre piece The Ballad of Mulan. Performing an iconic Chinese legend by oneself would undoubtedly be a challenging task for any actor, but Michelle Yim effortlessly brings vigour, animation and passion to this unique tale through an intensive monologue, reminiscing on some of the more electrifying parts of Mulan’s story from gruesome battle scenes to childhood memoirs. Positioned centre-stage and ready for war, Yim takes the audience alongside her to re-enact one of Mulan’s more heinous fights: gripping furiously at her spear, the actress begins an increasingly fast stream of consciousness where she spills out her monstrous views of corpses, the smells of smoke and perspiration, and the sounds of whimpering from her fallen soldiers, occasionally interrupted by a deafening war cry. It’s tense. It’s uncomfortable. It feels slightly claustrophobic. But it most definitely leaves you feeling more enlightened by Mulan’s courage, bravery and loyalty than the Disney classic.
Liverpool Hope University has the award-winning theatre company, Teatro Pomodoro to thank for drawing in one of the biggest audiences to the Capstone Theatre since the pandemic began. With their sell-out show, Sirens, Men and Crabs, spectators could be certain they were in for a treat, and they weren’t wrong. Making the audience cripple with laughter every 30 seconds, performers Carmen Arquelladas, Miwa Nagai and Simone Tani execute a lively display that plays on blunt satire, surrealism and Greek tragedy. Breaking the fourth wall is certainly a common tactic demonstrated throughout the show, emphasising how much both actors and audiences have missed those nostalgic, cordial interactions. For a solid hour-and-a-half, the trio are able to keep a crowd blissfully amused with their clowning brilliance and performative zeal.
The Creative Campus may have appeared soulless and lonesome for the first half of 2021, but Angel Field Festival has unapologetically burst through the doors with colour and vibrancy to ensure that the second half doesn’t receive the same fate. Showcasing an array of talent across a multitude of disciplines with pride and commitment, this year’s rendition of the annual arts festival provides yet another example of how creativity and culture in the city of Liverpool can revitalise any sombre setting.