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Veteran London-based dance/theatre writer Donald Hutera opens his Lab

A year ago this month the veteran London-based dance/theatre writer Donald Hutera launched himself onto curatorial waters in a big way. Using the cosy little Giant Olive Theatre at Kentish Town’s Lion and Unicorn pub as home base, the inaugural GOlive Dance and Performance Festival was a whopper of a three-week event. Over 21 consecutive days Hutera put together a programme showcasing four to six works per night. These were finished pieces or works-in-progress by 57 individuals or companies, amounting to a grand total of 98 artists crowding onto the venue’s relatively tiny but talent-hungry stage.

‘GOlive numero uno was a massive learning curve,’ Hutera admits, ‘and retrospectively such a nutty thing to do, but it was also great fun. I really wouldn’t know how to top it. Nor would I want to.’ And so, rather than try to duplicate the success of his maiden curatorial voyage, this autumn Hutera is opting for a relatively stripped-back festival. This time, he says, special emphasis will be placed on nurturing new work. That includes opportunities for him to develop deeper working relationship with artists as a dramaturg (a new career goal). He also promises a festival with a keener sense of audience engagement via nightly post-show talks.

‘This GOlive could be renamed GOlab,’ Hutera jokes, ‘meaning it’s quite consciously much more laboratorial than was previously the case. Very few of the 21 or so works I’m presenting this month will have been seen before or, if they did pre-exist, they’re being reworked for a space that’ll be used more flexibly than before. One of the bigger challenges for this batch of GOlive artists is to see if they can they do what they’d normally do, but maybe this time try it in the round.’

The roster of gifted people hitching a ride on Hutera’s autumn bandwagon spans a five-decade age range. Additionally they embrace such disciplines and genres as classical ballet (embodied by veteran dancer Jennifer Jackson), butoh (Florencia Guerberof of Asian Performing Arts Uk), hip hop dance-theatre (Benjamin Taylor-Shepherd whose company is called Crimson and the Rovers), performance art (recent graduates Robert Hesp and Miau Vartiainen), installation art (Angela Woodhouse and Vanio Papadelli) and contemporary song-and-dance (Nuno Silva, an ace fado singer who’s danced in both operas and West End shows).

‘I can’t play favourites,’ says Hutera, ‘but I would like to mention a few of the women I’m especially glad to be hosting at GOlive. I’ll always make room for Sarah Kent, the former Time Out visual arts critic turned kick-ass improviser. Sarah is fearless and funny. Lorna V is another Time Out alumnus who’s bravely spreading her performing wings via a series of smart, self-composed monologues set in the seductive and socially complex world of tango. Last but not least, Peta Lily is reviving The Porter’s Daughter, a lively, linguistically vivid below-stairs ‘dramedy’ based on Macbeth that I first saw – and loved – in a staged reading 20 or so years ago. It was originally a seven-hander, but Peta’s going to try to turn it into a one-woman show. That takes guts!’

Clearly guts will not be in short supply at GOlive. The dates are Sept 7-21. Admission is by donation (£5 suggested) but all are welcome. The location is Giant Olive Theatre at the Lion & Unicorn pub, 42-44 Gaisford Street, Kentish Town, London NW5 2ED. Full details will shortly be available at Giant Olive Theatre and on Twitter @GiantOlive and Facebook. You can also check out the full program in our season listing here.

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