Warwick Student Arts Festival 2008

For five years the Warwick Student Arts Festival, or WSAF for short, has become a staple part of the end of the academic year for many Warwick University students. As the biggest student run arts festival in the UK, WSAF continually boasts a broad range of events from theatre to art, from photography to interpretive dance, from films to dance demonstrations. Since its inception in 2003, the festival coordinator and their team have continued to expand the range of events and this year was no exception. 

            With events being spread across four large venues as well as smaller obscure alcoves of the campus, WSAF has turned over more than 80 events this year. The university’s regular output of exciting and often well-produced theatre continues confidently into this week, and new student writing dominated this year’s theatre. ‘Cardboard Metropolis’, although not a polished performance, shows the potential of what young writers at Warwick have to offer. Performances of Pintar’s ‘The Dumb Waiter’ and ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Man Brown’ were but two of the many examples of established playwrights proving the students’ abilities to find the heart and soul of these texts, an amazing feat considering many of the actors and crew members had only recently finished sitting their final year examinations.

            Exploring new modes of art is often a welcomed and thrilling experience but some of these experimental pieces unfortunately fell flat on their faces. Quest, a fantasy inspired musical, attempted to amalgamate the bleak world of sorcery and dragons with the lipstick world of musical theatre resulting in a bizarre and often laughable attempt at a play while Angel in Crayola attempted to break the constructs of theatre altogether but to little avail. The performance was uninspiring, badly written and convoluted.

            But these examples are few and far between. Staple favourites such as The Warwick Shootout Screening, where audiences delighted in the winning films from the most extreme film making competition in the country, and the various Warwick orchestras and bands put on a good show and did not disappoint their audiences. Every musical act from the Big Band to Opera Society to Chamber Choir performed to highest degree.

            The dance elements of the festival have been given more prominence this year. The Pole Dancing society took centre stage in the Piazza, the centre of the campus, with a vibrant and enthusiastic performance from society member Rose Biggin. Likewise, the Tribal Rhythms event was a joy to watch. Combining the best elements of Bellydance, Break-dance and Capoeria, these three societies delighted audiences with an innovative amalgamation of three very different yet wholly exhilarating dance styles. 

            The highlight of this year’s festival was the Warwick Sketch Show crew, BabyChimp, whose Evening Without Dignity had audiences laughing out loud from beginning to end, resulting in one of the most enjoyable hours I have ever spent in a theatre. Each sketch was pitch perfect with a range of material that seriously lambastes the best parts of society whilst exhibiting a surprisingly credible element of the bizarre.

            If you can wait until 2009, and can get to Warwickshire for this week of their final term, Warwick students will not fail to delight all comers to this innovative arts festival. Even when compared to some of the larger and more professionally run arts festival that are cropping up all over the country, WSAF is setting a high bar for the others to compete with. 

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