Transform festival sets out to break boundaries (From York Press) #wyptransform

8 Jun

Transform festival sets out to break boundaries

10:09am Wednesday 8th June 2011

YORK company Pilot Theatre and their ever-progressive artistic director Marcus Romer will take part in Transform, a two-week festival of boundary-breaking artistic endeavours at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Pilot???s contribution to this new strand of programming at the Leeds theatre will be A Midsummer Night???s Stream from 11am to 11pm on Saturday. ???You can follow it online at, as we???ll be filming and streamlining all the events happening that day,??? says Marcus. ???So if you can???t be there you can still watch it, and you can leave messages on the chatline too.???

Running all this week and next, Transform???s brief is to reflect how ???the landscape of art is shifting and how the way in which people want and choose to interact with the cultural offerings of their city is changing???.

In response to this ongoing revolution, Playhouse artistic director Ian Brown and new associate producer Amy Letman, in tandem with Transform curators Alan Lane and Kully Thiarai, have created a season of work that has ???hitherto not had much of a place in the Playhouse???s programme over the past 21 years???.

???The world has changed quite quickly for theatres and society has changed full stop,??? says Alan. ???A crisis and a change of government allow for some introspection and the problem for us was to express it in a way that doesn???t suggest we???ve come bury to what???s been done before at the Playhouse but to look at new ways of doing things while being sympathetic with the past.

???What we want from our theatres or our festivals has changed. We???ve all changed; our phones have completely changed in those 21 years, as have our banks and supermarkets. Transform is one of the ways of looking at how theatre can be relevant in 2011, 2012, 2013??????

From Open House, a new piece spanning 12 hours by artist Chris Goode, to Geraldine Pilgrim???s 15-minute performance of Handbag; from Lemn Sissay???s one-man show, Something Dark, to The Red Room???s installation and interactive performance, The Book Of Politics, each work will investigate how theatre can be transformative.

???Transform is about looking at things differently,??? says Alan, who is artistic director of the Slung Low company. ???It???s about change, about exploring ways of transforming ??? transforming the way you approach the building, the idea of what you might experience here and what we imagine a ???Playhouse??? to be.

???It???s about starting a conversation. Well, specifically it???s the first line in a conversation.???

Among these starting that conversation will be Peepolykus, Quarantine, Imitating The Dog, magician Tim Sutton and Leeds band Hope & Social (who will participate in the Smoke And Mirrors cabaret on June 18 at 7.30pm).

All of the artists had to respond to a series of provocations and questions issued by Lane and Thiarai, who asked not only ???What is the transformational element in your project ??? for you, your audience, and the broader theatre ecology???? but also ???What challenges does your work provide for West Yorkshire Playhouse????.

Pilot???s Marcus Romer was as enthusiastic as ever in embracing the philosophy of Transform, especiallyat at a time of funding cuts to the arts, as Alan enlightens: ???Marcus says you can cut a leg off a starfish and not only will it grow back but also a new starfish will grow from that severed leg.???

New avenues will be essential to nourish theatre’s future, suggests Alan. “We used to think of think of theatre as sitting in the dark, having a G&T break for 15 minutes and then seeing a slightly shorter second half, and that???s been the way for more than 100 years, but when people say that is traditional theatre, I say, ???No, it isn???t???. The tradition is The Globe and theatre on the streets, and for me, what???s really exciting about Transform is how it will transform the audience experience,??? he says.

Alan???s mantra for Transform is to be bold. ???The joyful thing is that the only potential failure here is the failure to take risks, when in these desperate times there are lots of theatres that shrink away and do conservative shows,??? he says. ???But boldness is the braver course and is the way not only to survive but thrive and the Playhouse is doing that with real intelligence.

???Just as there is already boldness to theatre companies in Yorkshire, companies like Northern Broadsides and Pilot Theatre.???

Programme in place, Transform???s next challenge is to enthuse Yorkshire audiences to ???come and try things out???. ???That???s the test it has to pass for it to be worth it,??? says Alan. ???The last step is getting an audience in. We???re at the mercy of the public and that???s OK, that???s what???s meant to happen. I know the artists are of the highest standard and the work has rigour and humour to it.???

Transform runs at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until June 18. Tickets can be booked on 0113 213 7700 or online at

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