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Behind the Scenes: TRANSFORM 12

Posted on 21 April 2012 by Jessica Wilson

TRANSFORM 12 is the second festival to be produced by the West Yorkshire Playhouse aiming to make extraordinary work with artists who urge audiences to think differently, not only about theatre making but also about life. Over two weekends in April (19-22 and 26-28) Leeds will play host to one of the UK’s newest theatre festivals, incorporating work by theatre makers from West Yorkshire and beyond in a playful festival.

The first TRANSFORM festival in 2011 developed relationships with artists who work in diverse ways. This year’s festival aims to sustain and build upon these collaborations, as well as creating new ones with the artists programmed for TRANSFORM 12. Associate Producer Amy Letman maintains that regional producing houses, such as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, are a dying breed, so she aims to emphasise the Playhouse’s presence as a producing theatre, programming unique work through TRANSFORM 12. A number of collaborations are taking place with many different artists, highlighting their work through the association with a regional producing house.

The programme of work has stimulated numerous events for audiences to engage with throughout the theatre space, giving those who will attend a role in making the festival what it is. Letman talks of the adventure of reinventing the West Yorkshire Playhouse through the sheer variety of theatre makers programmed to present their work and provide spectators with new experiences. The Playhouse’s ethos is one of community engagement with the local population; consequently TRANSFORM 12 can be seen as a reflection of the Playhouse itself as it looks to programme novel work through its relationships with theatre makers across the country.

In championing the festival, Letman focuses on one invitation specifically: Chris Goode & Company. Following the creation of Open House last year for TRANSFORM 2011, Chris Goode & Company has been commissioned to create and develop a new piece of work especially for the festival. As a continuation of this relationship with the West Yorkshire Playhouse, TRANSFORM 12 will see Chris Goode & Company present 9 featuring local participants from across Yorkshire, taking a leap into the unknown to perform on the Courtyard stage. Working closely with directors Chris Goode, Kirsty Housley and Jamie Wood, alongside designers and the Playhouse’s technical teams, nine non-performers with little or no theatrical experience have created nine highly personal, expressive solo performance portraits. This collaboration between the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Chris Goode & Company is one which Letman clearly cherishes, combining the new and experimental with tradition and stature.

Chris Goode & Company received 120 applicants for the creation of 9, invited 56 to audition and eventually selected the final participants to collaborate with. After three months of creative process, 9 illustrates the transformative potential of theatre for participants and audiences alike. The journeys of nine regular people culminate in one show. In this piece, the traditional finished product joins with the ethos of Chris Goode & Company, which relishes the theatrical abandonment of the company and genuine collaboration with the nine would-be artists. Letman asserts that maintaining relationships of this kind is vital for the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s future as a successful and daring producing house – in terms of regional theatre – for the arts sector.

The “Company” part of the Chris Goode title refers to whoever the company works with, which, by extension, includes the audience and whoever is involved in the theatre making at that particular moment in time. Chris Goode & Company aims to reach out to as many people as it can, creating relationships to give its work a sense of transformation and renewal; a microcosm of the spirit of TRANSFORM 12. The festival is therefore part of a process of change for the Playhouse and other regional theatres, encouraging them to embrace alternative work, thereby increasing their “mainstream” capacity. Audiences are able to try the new experiences provided for them by TRANSFORM 12 and other experimental festivals like it, with so many meaningful pieces on offer across the two weekends. Letman describes the sheer variety of work which will be part of the festival, such as that which is still being developed, finished productions, and even those where TRANSFORM 12 will be the only opportunity for the audience to see them.

Alongside commissioned pieces of performance sits a festival programme brimming with energetic work by some of the UK’s most original and inventive theatre artists. For Letman, the Playhouse has been seen to marry the flinging open of its doors with the crafted, finished pieces it is recognised for, now strengthening its relationships with theatre makers and continuing to create new experiences for audiences. The traditions of the Playhouse have been revitalised through both TRANSFORM festivals, taking over the West Yorkshire Playhouse as a progression of the exciting foundations laid by TRANSFORM of 2011. As for 2013, watch this space.

TRANSFORM 12 is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse this weekend and next. For more details and to book tickets, visit the theatre’s website.

For an exclusive look at what TRANSFORM has to offer, visit www.youtube.com/user/WYPlayhouse to watch videos of the making of some of the shows, and the programme’s trailer.

Image credit: 12 Proposals for a Better Europe, Nicolai Khalezin and Chris Thorpe

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