Ann Young revisited Norwich’s much anticipated Dandifest 2017 for its launch party on 25 April. This year, the two-week festival celebrates 50 years since the partial legalisation of homosexuality, diversity and bees plus features a sneak preview of Vince Laws’s new play A Very Queer Nazi Faust.
Attending the launch at St Margaret’s Church was a bit like meeting up with an old school friend; even though some time had passed, you hoped they hadn’t grown up too much! There was still some irreverence among the stained-glass windows yet the sexuality and nudity felt ‘contained’. It was perhaps replaced by more immediate issues around life under Tory rule; the cuts, the increase in domestic violence and mental health issues. I just had this nagging feeling that, despite the humour and joy felt in being together again, life wasn’t really getting better. Or perhaps it was just the cold, leaching into my bones.
There was less visual art on show than previous years, but the quality was very good. Berlin-based Dutch/Mexican theatre designer and illustrator collaboration Atelier Fantarium’s piece, ‘Bert, the most unfortunate Fisherman in the World’ made me smile on so many levels. Being part of Dandifest, was it a statement about Bert’s luck with men and relationships, or just his inability to catch fish? Haley Hare’s Black Dogs resting among Vince Laws’s Sunflowers demanded a closer look, with their regal stature and Serotonin Eyes. The dogs appeared a little demonic yet there was both a strength and vulnerability about them, echoing the names of those lost sunflower souls.
This year, Dandifest had a very ecological feel. It was good to be reminded of our need to care for our environment and campaign against corporate greed. We learned through art, how our global bee population is being decimated by human activities such as intensive farming and over use of pesticides. Visiting from Australia, The Golden Bee Collective, represented by Edwina Bush raised awareness of the impending global crises. Edwina sang with a passion about our need to reconnect with nature. The collective, initiated by a group of artists in the 1990s, are on a mission to save these amazing creatures and the planet.
There was a great sense of anticipation as everyone settled down to see the sneak preview of Vince Laws’ new drama piece, A Very Queer Nazi Faust. Faust is at the end of his tether with the unfair disability assessment process and his inability to pay for his dog’s (played by Dolly Sen) vet bill or the rent. Harassed by the media and public sector officials, he tries unsuccessfully to commit suicide, only to find that a very saucy Lucifer has taken an interest in his already tortured soul.
Does he sign away his soul in return for perfect health, wealth, fame and the long slow death of Theresa May and Ian Duncan Smith? Of course he does, wouldn’t you? We will have to wait until later this year to find out poor Faust’s fate but like Brexit, I have a bad feeling it will all end in tears!
Dandifest is runs from 25 April to 6 May with free workshops, exhibitions and events. For more information, visit here.