Festival of Fools Returns

Belfast will laugh itself silly over the May Day weekend as an array of international circus acts bring free street theatre and absurdity to the city centre and Cathedral Quarter

From Friday April 28 to Monday May 1 Belfast City Centre will come alive with acrobatics, circus acts, clowning and astounding tomfoolery – all for free - as the Festival of Fools builds on its international reputation for presenting some of the finest and funniest street shows touring the world.

Families and tourists out and about will be able to sample comedic talents delivered in the universal language of laughter as outdoor theatre companies and performers from Spain, Italy, France, Canada, Holland, Argentina, USA, England, Ireland and Northern Ireland take over Belfast.

Featured act Luis Brusca has devoted his life to exploring the chaos and anarchy in the world around us. His research has led to the creation of a poetic and prize-winning clown show looking at lost love and found friends on a sensational journey through life. Other highlights include The Flying Dutchmen, who have been travelling the world on their unicycles for thirty years, hurling flaming torches and punchlines at each other in pursuit of the ultimate trick. And Mat Ricardo, the Gentleman Juggler, is renowned for his engaging, stylish and relaxed approach to even the most fiendishly difficult of tricks. Ricardo has a place in history as the first person to put the tablecloth back on the table.

The festival begins on April 28 at 7pm in Writers’ Square with a standout performance from Catalonian acrobatic company, Vol’e Temps. Paper Worlds is described as a 'tender, daring and disturbingly funny show bringing together dance and circus techniques whilst delivering stunning acrobatics, with dazzling dexterity and some serious theatrical illusion'.

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Over the following three days audiences will have the choice of five shows taking place at any one time through until 6pm each day when the action moves into St Anne’s Square with the Big Finish cabaret show. The growing walkabout programme, sponsored by Beannchor, means that you can expect bizarre sightings of belligerent ballroom dancers; marauding Morris Dancers and the shambolic St Joan’s Ambulance, who have caused more accidents than they have cured. Audiences will be able to spot these artists in action as they make their way between all shows in Bank Square, Cornmarket, Cotton Court, Saint Anne’s Square and Writers’ Square.

Will Chamberlain, Artistic Director of the Festival of Fools, said: 'I am absolutely delighted to be able to introduce another wonderful weekend of talent from around the world onto the streets of Belfast City Centre and the Cathedral Quarter. In a year which has seen so much bad news, we find there is much to celebrate as we bring Belfast’s public spaces to life with comedy, circus and a little bit of glamour.

'Being able to offer 120 free performances over the course of the Festival together with all of the food and drink deals means that we are Northern Ireland’s most affordable festival bringing together people from all backgrounds, ages and territories to unite in a celebration of laughter and talent from around the corner and around the world.'

The Festival of Fools is supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Arts Council Youth Arts Development Officer, Gavin O’Connor, commented, 'The Arts Council is delighted to support the 14th Festival of Fools which brings the best international, top-quality street theatre companies to Belfast to perform. The festival also offers an important platform for young, emerging circus artists from Northern Ireland to perform alongside world-class professionals. An annual spring highlight, the festival, which is completely free, offers something for everyone and I would encourage all to go along to enjoy.'

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A sustained partnership with Translink, with sponsorship of the Young AmBUSadors and EnterTRAINers programme, has helped the Festival of Fools grow a unique strand of programming, presenting 10 different youth and community circus groups from across Northern Ireland, along with one visiting company from Belgium.

Translink’s Ursula Henderson said: 'Once again the Festival of Fools lives up to its reputation of weird and wonderful family entertainment that stops people in their tracks! We’re encouraging festival visitors to make smart moves by public transport to Belfast city centre using Translink’s range of good value bus and train tickets. Visitors can enjoy relaxing journeys with our ‘Friends & Family’ ticket providing unlimited all-day Translink travel for up to two adults and four children for just £22 or enjoy a third-off NI Railways day return tickets and selected Goldline services after 9.30am. We hope the audience enjoys all the action, especially our ‘Young AmBUSador & EnterTRAINer’ performances! Just click www.translink.co.uk/foolsfestival to plan your journey.'

The public also have the chance to win a £100 meal of their choice by voting for their favourite local dish from Festival of Foods partners, as part of the festival's 'Food Factor' competition. In addition to a host of international companies, the festival is presenting some of the best homegrown talent with the Raven Sisters, combining dance with elegant hat manipulation, and Sideboard Sideshow, a surreal and silly duo displaying acrobatics, live music and juggling.

For more information visit www.foolsfestival.com.