The next interview in our stagey chat series is with Kris Nelson, who's the artistic director and CEO of LIFT Festival. LIFT Festival runs from 5th June - 27 July. This year's theme is challenging the way we view and interact with the world. You can book tickets to this year's LIFT festival, here.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Hi Kris, how are you? Thanks so much for chatting to Stage to Page today! Would you mind introducing yourself and telling us how you first got into the theatre industry?

Hi, I’m well thanks! I’m Canadian and have been living in London for 6 years. I’ve worked in festivals and experimental, international theatre my whole life. My first jobs in the arts were producing an outdoor cinema and live music series in a park in East Vancouver and being the Associate Producer AKA ‘kid with the van’ on the first three PuSh International Performing Arts Festivals – an amazing festival in Vancouver. I’ve loved festivals my whole life – working on PuSh and other festivals across Canada, and starting my own agency called Antonym in 2008 to help Canadian artists tour around the world. I did that for 5 years and then moved to Dublin to direct the Dublin Fringe 2013-2017 and then came here to London in 2018.

You're currently the artistic director/CEO of LIFT. Can you tell us more about the programme this year and your role within the festival?

I’m biased, but I think LIFT 2024 is our most exciting programme yet! We’ve got three world premieres and four amazing presentations, from eleven countries – all of them in London for the first time. Our shows cover themes as wide as the future of food, the history of colonialism, to what happens when women transgress the powers that be, and questioning land rights.

L’Animale by Chiara Bersani (one of Europe’s most daring performance makers,) is a site specific piece in the stunning Old Bailey and Bat Night Market invites visitors to taste synthetic bat meat. L’Homme rare by Ivorienne choreographer Nadia Beugré, and Bacchae: Prelude to a Purge by Cape Verdean Marlene Monteiro Freitas are both jaw-dropping dance ensemble pieces at Southbank Centre and Sadlers Wells respectively.

We’re also inviting LIFT audiences to come together for Democracy from Where I Stand, a special one-off event at the Dutch Church. We’ll hear from leading thinkers, journalists, artists and leaders – all women – from around our City with some special international guests. We’ll be discussing and listening to different views of what democracy looks like in 2024.

The festival will close with ECHO by Iranian/German writer Nassim Soleimanpour at The Royal Court Theatre – they’ll be joined by a different London artist every night, every show will be different and it will be quite special.

This year's programme features seven productions that challenge the way we view and interact with the world. What inspired such an interesting theme for this year?

The artists – the world itself. We’re making LIFT in a context where there are major wars going on around the world, we’re in the midst of a climate crisis, and we’re in a year where 49% of the world’s population will decide their future in national elections (as we’ll explore in Democracy From Where I Stand.) LIFT 2024 is also happening in a time when it feels like there’s much volatility and change happening locally – an impending national election, a change in how we tell our national stories and deal with the history of empire (for more on that, come see Indigenous Canadian Cliff Cardinal’s The Land Acknowledgement), the travesty of Brexit exposed. These artists may not have the antidotes to all the world’s problems, but they do offer you fresh perspectives.

This is your second festival as artistic director and CEO of LIFT. Is there an added element of pressure that comes with this?

Nah. Every festival brings you on such a different journey, they take on personalities of their own, especially when you’re commissioning and presenting world premieres like we are. I’m thinking of the artists’ work who I love and introducing it to an audience, like the Brazilian directors Janaina Leite and Lara Duerte, and their new work with Clean Break. The Trials and Passions of Unfamous Women is all about justice and what happens when women transgress, or the joyful creative adventure we’re taking with Kuang-Yi Ku (Taiwan) and Robert Johnson (UK) and their Bat Night Market as they imagine a new future for eating bats and play with what’s delicious and what’s disgusting.

My blog is called Stage to Page. But if you could turn any book, from page to stage, what would it be and why?

Great question. I’d love to see an adaptation of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor – it’s one of my favourite queer reads. Likely destined to be a musical, though it’s probably a film. Surely someone is working on Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other – I loved how that book contains a love letter to London theatre. A bigger reach might be some of Carmen Maria Machado’s brooding fantasy short stories – it’s a genre that doesn’t often transit well to theatre but I love her writing.

And finally, why should people book tickets to a LIFT show this year?

Coming to LIFT is about exploring! You’ll get amazing theatre from around the world alongside an audience who are curious, enthusiastic and engaged. LIFT gives you a chance to see artists from around the world throughout June and July – and the festival vibe can’t be beat. Come to us if you want radical shows, shows full of joy, shows that will make you think, shows that will teach you something about the world and give you space to reflect.

You can book tickets to this year's LIFT Festival, here.

**photo credit: Tyler Kelly**

No comments