Battersea Arts Centre (BAC) has to be one of our favourite arts venues in London. We have turned up on its rather grandiose steps several times now and had all our expectations blown away - in good and bad ways. Continuing its legacy of eternally forward-facing theatre, a new festival of experimental theatre and music is launching today. It's called Burst. And it didn't come about over night...
First, there was The British Festival of Visual Theatre... then it became Octoberfest... and alongside it came BAC Opera which spawned the now infamous Jerry Springer: The Opera... and now, in the spirit of all things experimental and sort of "let's just try it and see what happens", BAC launches Burst, opening tonight and running until 20 May. The programme is packed with scratch nights (works in progress), premieres and one-off performances from emerging and established artists. Two visitors from New York stand out in the jumble of things to see: Taylor Mac is a political drag artist who sings powerful songs with a ukele and a range of fabulous outfits. His new show The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac is on this Friday so move quickly for tickets. Peggy Shaw performs her solo show, the intriguingly named Menopausal Gentlemen for one night only - described as autobiographical monologue, blues lounge act and stand-up comedy in one, it's theatre but only just.
Scratch nights can be exhilarating or excruciating - take your pick and take your chances on offerings from companies like Ridiculusmus, Station House Opera, Uninvited Guests and The TEAM who are visiting from America and trying out new material in our fair city. Remember: Jerry Springer: The Opera started life as a scratch performance at BAC. There is a lot of mileage in being able to say you saw something first.
Other festival shenanigans abound and BAC is not the kind of venue that likes to segregate music from theatre, the bar from the performance space, the artists from the audience. For example, there is a climate change themed cabaret party that will take over every space in the building scheduled for this weekend and lord knows what else you'll find if you just get yourself there and join in the spirit of "just seeing what happens." You just have to get there and see.
Burst at BAC, from tonight until 20 May. Go to the BAC website here for the full programme. Image of Taylor Mac by Liz Ligouri