Mayfest: Bristol’s Annual Festival of Contemporary Theatre

Starting out in 2003 at Bristol Old Vic, Mayfest is Bristol’s annual festival of contemporary theatre. Staying in collaboration with the same company, in 2008 Kate Yedigaroff and Matthew Austin (leaders of MAYK who produce Mayfest) transformed the festival into a city-wide celebration of local, national and international theatre when they took over Artistic Directorship of the event.

This year the event runs from 12-22 May and takes place across the city in various venues and outdoor spaces, cooperating with everything the city has to offer. Both local and visiting crowds will sit alongside each other to open up fresh discussion and create new possibilities. Collaborating so extensively means that over 11 days the festival will be home to a programme full of whimsical and ambitious work.

Going back to its roots, one of the latest announced performances is from Improbable, a group presenting the show Opening Skinner’s Box. Based on the Lauren Slater book of the same name, the audience will be taken on a whistle-stop tour which acts as a scientific quest to make sense of what we have been told now that scientific advancements seems to have taken over from religion. The show attempts to answer questions about philosophy, developing society and the curiosity we have about ourselves. After the show on 20 May there is an opportunity to talk with the company about their work.

Kicking off the festival today, however, is Britt Hatzius’s Blind Cinema, an immersive experience in which the audience is blindfolded and forced into the darkness of the performance space. In between the rows of audience members will sit children who describe a film they alone can see – expectations of a show are subverted into a different sensory experience and rely on the conscious re-telling of another party.

For more information about the shows visit

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1. Britt Hatzius, Blind Cinema. Courtesy of the artist.