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Heads Up: Manchester International Fest

'Dr Dee' to Doctor Who – Manchester will see you now

What are we talking about?

Manchester's third biennial international arts festival, dedicated to new works. Expect mixed-media mash-ups of musical, staged and visual art.

Elevator Pitch

Mix it up in Manchester.

Prime Movers

Alex Poots has been festival director since its inception. Damon Albarn composed and performs Dr Dee, a show about Renaissance man John Dee, with direction from Rufus Norris. American avant-garde director Robert Wilson helms a biographical opera, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. Punchdrunk artistic director Felix Barrett has joined forces with Steven Moffat and Tom MacRae from Doctor Who to produce a children's show, The Crash of Elysium. Playwright Che Walker gives a narrative structure to The 8th, an eight-chapter pop song performed by Paul Heaton of the Beautiful South, directed by George Perrin of Paines Plough.

The Stars

Albarn and Abramovic will be performing, the latter accompanied by Antony (of "and the Johnsons" fame) and Willem Dafoe. There's music from Sinead O'Connor, Snoop Dogg, and blind Malian duo Amadou & Mariam performing in the dark. Violinist Alina Ibragimova plays alongside a new stop-motion film by the Quay Brothers, and there's multi-media comedy from Johnny Vegas with Emma Fryer and Kevin Eldon.

The Early Buzz

Albarn has told Radio 4 of his "emotional connection" with the mystical Dee, though adds that he won't be "walking around in a ruff and tights". The Guardian described the Punchdrunk show as "every child's dream come true, and every parent's nightmare. You set off on a family day out to what sounds like a well-meaning but dull exhibition [about] the sinking of a Victorian steamer ... suddenly, you find yourself dropped into the middle of a real-life episode of Doctor Who."

Insider Knowledge

In Life and Death..., the role of Abramovic will be played by 12 different performers; the artist will play her own mother.

It's great that...

If you can't make it to Manchester, you can just switch on the Ideal World shopping channel to see Vegas and Fryer actually flogging their wares.

It's a shame that...

You won't get in to The Crash of Elysium unless you have a child with you. Offer to babysit sharpish!

Hit Potential

The wide range of work should cater for most tastes.

The Details

MIF takes place at various venues, 30 June to 19 July.