Autumn 2019 is the bicentenary of the great romantic poet John Keats’s famous visit to Winchester. Keats stayed in Winchester for two months, from August to October 2019. On 19 September, he took a walk along the banks of the River Itchen and, inspired by this experience, wrote his immortal ode ‘To Autumn’, one of the best-loved (and indeed most anthologized) poems in the English language.
Keats’s time in Winchester – his ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ – represented the last great flowering of his creative genius. Shortly after leaving Winchester and moving into a house in London on 8 October 2019, he became ill. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was advised to leave England to travel to warmer climes. Sixteen months later, in Rome, he died.
Keats was buried in the protestant cemetery in Rome. The epitaph on his tombstone was one he had requested himself: “here lies one whose name was writ in water”.
But in the years since his death his name and his words and his vision have of course proven rather more permanent than he might ever have dreamed.
In honour of the anniversary of his local sojourn, the University of Winchester is staging ‘Two Hundred Years of Autumn’ at Theatre Royal Winchester on the evening of 7 October, as part of Visit Winchester’s ‘Keats in Winchester’ programme of events.
The University has worked with a wide range of regional, national and international organisations – and local people – to assemble this unique show.
“We’re so grateful to Hampshire Writers’ Society, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Winchester Poetry Festival, Winchester Writers’ Festival, Theatre Royal Winchester and Winchester Youth Theatre, as well as our friends from the Keats Foundation and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association,” says Professor Alec Charles, curator of the show. “This is a great collaboration between such a lot of people who have one wonderful thing in common – an abiding love of the poetry of Keats.”
The show will include performances of Keats’s work and of the winning entries in writing competitions run to celebrate the city’s Keats bicentenary – both a children’s poetry competition run by Hampshire Cultural Trust and Winchester Poetry Festival, and a special competition run by Hampshire Writers’ Society to provide literary responses to the opening of his great autumn ode.
There will also be new music and songs inspired by Keats’s poetry, and scenes from Keats’s life specially adapted from his correspondence by Peter Phillips from the Keats Foundation.
The show will feature performances from the University’s students and Winchester’s Youth Theatre, as well as guest performances from Blue Apple Theatre, Storm Cloud Theatre and the Bard Buskers.
The show is directed by Cara Honey and produced by Alex Mackintosh.
“Working with such a variety of people on this project has been fascinating,” says Cara. “I’ve found that Keats is really relatable to so many creative artists and performers – we share so many of his ideals and aspirations. It’s incredible what he managed to achieve in his short life.”
“Keats is one of those artists whose reputation has grown and grown since his death,” adds Alex. “The poet who died so young has really lived forever.”
This year’s Heritage Open Days looks like being another triumph. An even greater number of events – 147 – are on offer over a longer time span – 10 days! Events take place not only in Winchester but also in Alresford, Southampton, Selborne, Chawton, Kingsworthy, Romsey, Hursley, Ropley, Swanwick and Northington.
Places for the bookable events are filling up fast, indeed, some are
already sold out, but don’t worry, there is plenty more to see and do. Whether visitors are interested in costume,
food and drink, archaeology, music, drama or poetry there is something for all
ages. Not only the past but the future
is on show – the open greener houses give people a chance to find out how to
save energy and Alastair Stewart is discussing the impact of new technology on
It is amazing that such a programme can be put together by a team of
volunteers and it is even more of a triumph that it can all be free,
thanks to the lead sponsor Winchester College and many others. However, donations will be welcomed and there
is one fundraising event on Thursday 12th Sept. when Martin Biddle
will be explaining Why did the
Anglo-Saxons build a church in the middle of a ruined Roman city? at the
Discovery Centre, tickets for this are £14.
Some of the events this September are bookable in advance from the website, a few highlights are listed here but there are many, many more:
Steve Jarvis: Winchester Through Postcards – Saturday 14th
Hampshire Firearms Collections – Thursday 19th
Dr Tim Hands: The Path to Keats Autumn – Thursday
University of Winchester Chapel Tours by Design
Engine Architects – Friday 20th
Alastair Stewart ‘Shifting Sands in News
Coverage’ – Friday 20th
Jane Devonshire’ Food, Masterchef & beyond’
Hursley House Sunday 22nd
events visitors are invited to just turn up on the day:
Food & Drink Exhibition and Extraordinary Women Exhibit – throughout festival
A Celebration of Hampshire Treasures at Great Hall on 14th & 15th
Eel House Open Day in Alresford – Sunday 15th
Winchester College Treasury – 19th through to 22nd Winchester Cathedral Open Evening – Thursday 19th WEOROD – Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd
Please visit the Heritage Open Days website for the full programme and to book winchesterheritageopendays.org or pop into Winchester Tourist Information Centre. And remember every event is FREE!
Hold on to your Hats: Winchester’s beloved Hat Fair Festival takes place this weekend, from Friday 5th to Sunday 7th July 2019. Did you know that Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running festival of Outdoor Arts?
Celebrating 45 years this summer, the festival, which welcomed audiences of over 70,000 last year, is set to host acts from across the region, to international performers, and will entertain all ages. Performances, activities and installations will take place throughout the city centre on Friday and Saturday, with the festivities moving to North Walls Recreation Ground on Sunday.
Hat Fair starts on Friday at 12 noon with Hat’s Fair ‘Fabulous’ Carnival. Hundreds of school-children will leave The Great Hall in brightly coloured costumes they have made for the event. They will be followed by Thingumajig Theatre’s Ghost Caribou – two giant puppets, part caribou / part spirit.
One of last year’s headline acts, Motionhouse, returns with a new piece co-commissioned by Hat Fair, called WILD. Performers will carry out daring moves across a forest of poles. Prepare to be amazed!
Audiences will also enjoy Tickertape Parade’s Fantabulosa!, with interactive storytelling, lip-sync, dress-up, games and song inviting them to explore who they want to be. Then on Saturday night, festival goers are encouraged to get involved with a giant ceilidh hosted by Folk Dance Remixed.
Hat Fair is so-called due to the tradition of street artists busking or ‘hatting’ after their show. Some international hatters to look out for over the three days include Spain’s experimental juggler, Grumpy Pants; energetic dancer, BBoy illwill (USA); and Australian contortionists, The Maids. Also, festival favourites, Barada Street and Street Comedy return with acrobatics, comedy and live music.
This year the festival boasts a UK premiere with Money for Free by John Fisherman, from Spain. He invites the public to think about capitalism, society and money in a game that explores what extent the audience is aware of society’s ability to work as a team to make decisions and empower themselves.
On Saturday University of Winchester students perform in the Top Hat Competition, to win mentoring from the Hat Fair Director, Andrew Loretto, and return to Hat Fair 2020 as an official act. Plus, last year’s winner, Martin Jakeman, returns with Home Fires, inspired by Second World War stories.
There is plenty of local talent across the weekend, including Marwell Zoo Choir; puppetry from Blue Apple, which supports performers with disabilities; dance from Prince’s Mead School Dance Squad. The public can also play a street piano and keen singers are welcome to join Hat Fair’s Flashmob Choir.
Young audiences will enjoy Magic Glen; arts and crafts and learning to juggle; while St John’s Almshouses Lawn will provide a calm space for older audiences – with free tea, coffee and cake. There will also be mini-golf, a fun fair, an escape room, food, drink and gift stalls too.
For more information, visit www.hatfair.co.uk. Festival programmes are available from Theatre Royal Winchester, Winchester Tourist Information Centre, and other local distributors.
Summer officially arrives in June and for Wintonians, whatever the weather, the season will be bustling with festivals and activities for all to enjoy. Here’s our Win Guide to June:
Winchester becomes Ginchester on 8 June, in celebration of World Gin Day. Led by the Cabinet Rooms team, the fourth annual Ginchester Fête takes place in the Great Hall and blends summer amusements with gin tasting. For full details and ticket prices, visit the website here.
Also on 8 June, it’s the Arlesford Music Festival, a family friendly, one day event in Arlebury Park. The festival is now in its 10th year and the line up includes Next Level, London Afrobeat Collective, Sunscreem and many, many more exciting musicians. This year, AMF has partnered with Hat Fair to support their Top Hat Outdoor Arts competition in 2019, which means emerging artists will be previewing their work at the festival. Mayflower Musical Youth theatre will also be performing in the family arena and other family highlights include circus skills, a climbing wall, music workshops, Silent Disco and bungee trampolines. For more details and to book a festival pass, visit the website here.
It’s the annual Winchester Criterium Cycle Festival on 9 June. The Criterium is a 1km circuit race around closed roads in Winchester City Centre which starts at the top of the High Street, turns left into St Thomas Street, travels past the Cathedral and the City Council Offices before the long uphill pedal to the start/finish line. Riders must register online in advance. For more details, visit the website here.
Winchestival takes place on 15 June 2019 at North Walls Recreation Park between 11am until 11pm. There will be 4 music stages, with the line up including the Magic Numbers and a BBC Music introducing stage (Solent). The event also includes comedy, family activities and lots of food. For full details or to book tickets, visit the website here.
Winchester Comedy Festival will be hosting their Summer Gala on 6 June. Acts include comedy magician Pete Firman, Tanyalee Davis, Paul Sinha and James Gill. The Gala takes place at the Theatre Royal. For details and to book tickets , visit the website.
The Pasadena Roof Orchestra will be in full swing on 16 June. Grammy nominated alternative cabaret act The Tiger Lillies, return with a very special show celebrating their 30th anniversary on 18 June. Finally, ballet fans will not want to miss Ballet Theatre UK’s Margot Fonteyn – Centenary Celebration on 20 June. Also, if you’re curious about what goes on back stage, the theatre is offering family and backstage heritage tours. For more details, visit the website here.
For those of you who may be interested in treading the boards, auditions take place for the Chesil Theatre’s production of Terrence Rattigan’s In Praise of Loveon 23 & 24 June ahead of the stage show in September. There will be a reading in advance of this on 21 June. If you are interested in getting involved with the Chesil Theatre, please visit the website here.
A reminder that entries close on 7 June for the CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards 2019! There are 4 categories open to Hampshire applicants doing great work across the following categories: Community and Voluntary, Rural Enterprise, Making Places & Young People. Now in its 13th year, the Countryside Awards recognise community and voluntary organisations and enterprises, celebrating the innovative, diverse and sustainable work being done to support and enhance a thriving Hampshire countryside. Apply now http://www.cprehampshire.org.uk/awards
We’ll be bringing you more updates throughout the month on Twitter @Win_Guide. In the meantime, enjoy, one and all!
Happiness is a place called Winchester, according to the Royal Mail UK Happiness Index. The survey carried out in early 2019 measured happiness according to eight factors: well-being, life expectancy, earnings, inequality, carbon emissions, crime, deprivation and access to health services. So with our happiness top spot confirmed, let’s find out what’s going on to keep us smiling this month…
Tickets have sold out for Martin Kemp who will be presenting 80’s gold at the Guildhall on Friday 5 April. If you missed out, fear not because the Magic of Motown returns for its third year on 12 April at 7.30pm. Listen to 36 classics amid glittering costume changes, dazzling dance moves and superb musicianship. For details and to book tickets, visit the website here.
Whilst we are on the subject of glitzy costumes, the fashionistas of Winchester will be delighted to hear that Winchester Fashion week takes place this month, 29 April – 4 May. Details will be announced on their website soon so keep an eye out for them here.
The Theatre Royal Winchester have an exciting programme of cultural treats. Rambert 2 will be performing on 2nd April at 7.30pm. Rambert is world famous as Britain’s original dance company. Rambert2 takes the company’s reputation for bold moves with technical virtuosity, and introduces a new generation. Check out the trailer below and visit the website for more details.
David Baddeil’s ANiMALCOLM looks great on 11 & 12 April. Described as a vibrant, energetic and gloriously funny musical from the award-winning Story Pocket Theatre, ANiMALCOLM combines physical theatre, puppetry and the company’s outstanding storytelling style to bring David Baddiel’s magical and wonderfully comic story to the stage. There’s also a Young Theatre Royal workshop opportunity attached to the touring production. Young people aged 7 – 11 years are being invited to the theatre on 10 April to develop animal characters, working as an ensemble and then present a piece on stage. The workshop costs £50 and includes a ticket to see ANiMALCOLM. For full details, visit the theatre website here.
The Winchester Science Centre will be exploring the Science of Sweets this Easter holiday. Tickets are free when you pay for general admission. Described as an epic live science show featuring a sugar flame thrower and exploding fat, the sugary fun takes place daily at 11am, 12 noon, 1pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm between 5 – 23 April. For more details, visit the website here.
For some egg-citing Easter holiday fun, head over to the Westgate Museum for an Easter trail, 10am – 4pm over the school holidays, 6 – 20 April. The City Mill will also be hosting its annual trail, in partnership with Cadbury, 6 – 18 April. Winchester Cathedral is offering a free Easter trail for children aged 4 – 11 years. Chawton House will also be hosting an easter egg hunt and other appropriately themed activities.
Last but not least, don’t forget to visit Sparsholt College for their annual Easter Bunny Event. This year, Superbunny is visiting the village, 19 – 20 April. Meet real rabbits, dress up as your favourite superhero or villain and enjoy games and craft activities. There will also be a trail on offer too with a chocolate prize. For more details, visit the website here.
We’ll be bringing you more updates on Twitter @Win_Guide throughout the month. Have an eggcellent time, one and all!
Local writer Ron Owen has donated copies of his new book, Stories of Love and Human Frailty, to Theatre Royal Winchester. They are available from the Box Office for a suggested donation of £5 – 10 and all proceeds go to Live Theatre Winchester Trust – the charity that runs Hat Fair and Theatre Royal Winchester. Ron hopes it will inspire readers to reflect upon what makes humans tick.
Stories of Love and Human Frailty – by the writer who has lived in
Winchester with his wife, Colleen, for 40 years – is a collection of short
stories about love of all kinds – paternal, lustful, forbidden; and human
frailty – a failure to keep promises, keep passion under control, put duty
Ron’s characters are based on people
he has met, like the young teenage girl he confronted on holiday in Rome, after
she stole his wallet. They find themselves in situations he has either
experienced or developed for them, in places he has been to, including America
His favourite story in the book is about
a rich restauranteur that pays for a local painter’s daughter to continue her
studies. He enjoyed writing about Malaga, in Spain, which he visited around two
Ron, who started writing around the
same time he moved to Winchester, has produced poems and a short play about two
British and German soldiers who bond during half-time of the 1914 Christmas Day
truce football match.
Ron said: “All the stories in the
book have a bit of me in them and were triggered by people or situations in my
life. When you’ve been around as long as I have, you don’t have to invent.
“I hope it provides a compelling
read for people whose main interest is human nature and what makes us tick.”
autumn, the University of Winchester’s Faculty
of Arts teamed up with Winchester’s St James Tavern
to launch Tavern Talks, a new series of public conversations aimed at bringing
people together to engage in lively discussions about the arts, culture and contemporary
been so pleased by the response to these events,” said the University’s Dean of
Alec Charles. “People don’t just come along to listen – they really
first three events in the series have featured playwright Professor Peter
Billingham discussing the relationship between democracy and civil
disobedience, novelist Dr Vanessa Harbour talking about writing historical
fiction, and playwright Professor Tim Prentki on the performative nature of
organisers have now announced the new programme of Tavern Talks for early 2019.
inevitable, isn’t it, given the date?” says Alec. “If you love love, loathe
love, miss love, or just really feel the need to challenge the notion of love
on a range of key philosophical points, then please join us for an evening of
wit, banter, argument and romance at the St James Tavern on St Valentine’s
night. Singles, couples and members of any kinds on non-traditional ménage are
all welcome and embraced. (But not literally.)”
the Romans withdrew from Britain, Germanic tribes began streaming across the
North Sea, and they brought with them a language we now call English,” says
Chris. “The Saxons created the Kingdom of Wessex, and its first shire was
Hampshire. The English of this kingdom was called West Saxon – today we call it
West Country English. It was the language of King Alfred, and since Alfred’s
time, Hampshire’s West Saxon has become a rural dialect. Had Winchester
remained the capital of England, the Queen would be speaking Tess Durbeyfield’s
Dan says: “As a noted toastmaster once pointed out, etiquette is
knowing how to yawn with your mouth closed. In an era increasingly dogged by a
lack of regard for those with whom we disagree, this Tavern Talk tackles tact
and tactlessness in the times of Brexit, #MeToo and Donald Trump.”
Thursday evening events take place each month in the upstairs room of the St
James Tavern at the bottom of Romsey Road. They feature short informal talks
followed by lively discussions.
evenings start with drinks from 5.30, with the talks kicking off at about
6.00pm. Participants usually stick around for chat and a drink downstairs in
the pub after the discussion finishes at about 7.00.
no charge for entry and everyone is welcome, space permitting.
Booking isn’t required but, if you’d like to reserve a seat, or if
you’d like more information, then please contact: email@example.com
Donald Hutera talks to Yolande Yorke-Edgell about her company’s anniversary production, TWENTY in a special feature for the Winchester Guide.
Yorke Dance Project’s ambitious mixed bill TWENTY marks this enterprising company’s 20th anniversary. The UK tour opened in Bournemouth at the end of January, and includes one night at Theatre Royal Winchester(Feb 12) plus later dates in Leeds, Frome, Banbury, Salisbury and Swindon before culminating in several evenings at the Royal Opera House’s Clore Studio Upstairs in mid-May.
I interviewed dancer, choreographer and company artistic director Yolande Yorke-Edgell about the programme, about dance and about herself as an artist and art-maker, and here are her replies – long, but rich in detail.
Donald: First, a philosophical/practical musing. What’s kept you going as the head of a company for two decades, Yolande, and how do you measure success?
Yolande: What’s kept me going for so long is that I’m passionate about the work we present. The opportunity to reconstruct work by choreographers who’ve been (and still are) pivotal in how dance has evolved, both in the UK and the USA, has been a great honour. For me it’s vital that these works are seen. Ballet companies present both historical and new work but that’s less prominent in contemporary dance, and personally I love performing these works. I’m also driven by the dancers in the company. I want to give them the chance to perform works that are challenging and develop them as artists. They’re just as important as the work itself.
success is difficult. The obvious would be that we started (in the UK)
performing in small venues such as the Acorn
Theatre in Penzance, and our aim
was to work towards venues such as Hall
for Cornwall, Truro or the Norwich Playhouse – the sort of venues Richard Alston Dance Company performs
at. But success can’t be measured by the trajectory of the scale of venues, and
that’s because the way dance is being presented now is harder than ever. Still,
I couldn’t have reached higher than being presented by the Royal Opera House twenty years after the company’s first performance
at the Occidental College Theatre in
my measure of success is two-fold. The fact that we’re still touring an eight-strong
company in work that only major companies around the world present, and with
the level of dancers such as Jonathan
Goddard, Dane Hurst, Freya Jeffs and Oxana Panchenko – that’s a great measure of success! My other
measure is of the trust bestowed upon us to present work by Robert Cohan and Kenneth MacMillan. And just to work alongside and collaborate with Robert Cohan, which was my goal as a
Donald: Tell me about Kenneth MacMillan’s Playground and how it’s been to revive a master’s 40 year-old work.
Yolande: It’s been a fascinating process and very different from reconstructing Sea of Troubles, which he created for the company Dance Advance and which we previously revived. With only a very fuzzy black and white film and the Benesh Notation to guide us, we’ve been piecing Playground together with the help of notator Jane Elliott and two of the work’s original dancers, Susie Crow and Stephen Wicks. Aside from the principal characters there is a corps of twelve which we’ve put together by inviting dancers from Rambert School and Central School of Ballet to take part. On Sundays we all pile into a studio with both casts of lead dancers. That’s roughly 22 dancers, two coaches, a notator and myself. It’s all quite frantic, but a great experience. All of the dancers have a role to play, and so it’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn and develop character roles as well as being in a working environment with our incredible dancers.
Deborah and Charlotte MacMillan [Kenneth’s wife and daughter] have been
providing some wonderful insights too. And, as with any master artist, to
unpick and examine the work has been incredible. All of this focus enriches the
process of reconstructing a very complicated ballet.
Donald: Why do you think Playground has been pretty much forgotten till now, and what factors prompted you to undertake bringing it back to the stage?
Yolande: From what I’ve gathered, and from my own take on this, I would say it was ahead of its time. Too abstract, perhaps, and not a traditional narrative with movement people were uncomfortable seeing. If you look at where people were with personal issues in the late 1970s… They didn’t discuss their problems openly. No one would admit to seeing a therapist back then, so maybe people were uncomfortable with seeing characters that they couldn’t – or didn’t want to – relate to, or even be exposed to. I think Playground is particularly relevant now. It was of interest to me because its theme is bullying, which is a huge problem for children at the moment especially on social media. So this work provides not only an opportunity for audiences to see an intriguing and multi-layered ballet, but it’s allowed us to devise a specific educational programme with a child therapist and movement director that we can take to schools and do what we can to help stop bullying amongst children.
Donald:What happens in Playground,
in a nutshell, and is it being danced en pointe? And what discoveries have been
made in remounting it?
initial discussion with Deborah and Charlotte MacMillan was about whether
or not this ballet was possible to do without being en pointe, and we felt it
was. Further discussions led to us agreeing that only the lead female role
should be en pointe, to give the full effect of the character and the
physicality of the movement, which is key to MacMillan’s partner work. There are only two other featured female
roles, and their movement would not lose its authenticity by not being en
of the most interesting discoveries, which is also an important feature of all MacMillan’s ballets, is what’s going on
around the lead characters. There’s so much happening between all the other
sixteen dancers that is vital to telling the story. This is what’s made it quite
a challenge to reconstruct. Charlotte
MacMillan is re-imagining both the set and costumes, and there have been
lengthy discussions about certain design aspects and what might be most
relevant now. Do we keep the visual impact of a straitjacket, or bring it up to
date with whatever would be used today? We’re still working these sorts of
questions out as we go along. We have to adapt the set to work in smaller
spaces too. It will be very much like the original, just scaled down.
Donald: Who’s dancing the role of the intruder, and who the lead young woman originally played by Marion Tait?
have two casts for the intruder and the young woman. Company dancer Jordi Calpe Serrats and guest artist Jonathan Goddard, and Oxana Panchenko, from Michael Clark’s company, along with Romany Pajdak, first soloist with the
Royal Ballet, will share these roles.
move on to another master choreographer and company mainstay, Bob Cohan. What’s the mood and tone,
the look and sound, of his new work Communion?
Yolande: As a small company we have in the past reconstructed smaller works of Cohan‘s. For this anniversary programme I wanted to offer a commission for a larger group, especially as he’d made such great large-scale pieces for London Contemporary Dance Theatre. Knowing we had working with us Jonathan Goddard and Dane Hurst, who particularly inspire him, he started to create a work for nine dancers. In 1973 he’d made a work called Mass with dancers who walked in a line and voiced overtones [essentially singing two notes simultaneously] as they moved. This was a starting point for Mass and now Communion. I think this new dance reflects where he is in life now, at the age of 93, and from the feedback we’ve had from people who’ve seen the rehearsals it’s a very powerful and moving. Aside from the sounds of overtone singing, the rest of the music is by contemporary composer Nils Frahm.
Donald: Can you say just a little something about the solo to be danced by Laurel Dalley
Smith at Covent
Garden? It’s not being seen elsewhere
on the tour, right?
Yolande: That’s right, it’s only
at the Royal Opera House. Laurel joined the company in 2014 and
was chosen by Cohan to dance in Lingua
Franca which he created for us and which was performed as part of
his 90th Birthday celebrations in spring 2015. Laurel was so inspired by Cohan that she decided to attend the Martha Graham Summer School, and from
there she auditioned and has been a dancer with the Martha Graham Company since 2015. Laurel will be on a short break from the Graham company in May, and to celebrate our anniversary they’ve
have given permission for her to guest with us for the ROH performances. A new section of Communionwill be created featuring Laurel, and it’ll be rehearsed a few
weeks before the May performances.
new work Imprint has
been made in homage to three inspiring people. Can you say something about each
of them, as well as giving some idea of what this work is like in terms of its structure
and the sensory impact of its look, sound and other textures?
Yolande: The journey the company has taken, from its beginnings in Los Angeles through to where it is now, has been greatly influenced by my experience with three choreographers: how they work in the studio, how they make work and how it feels to dance in their work. I spoke at length to Robert Cohan about the idea of making a new work that reflected what I’d learned from each, and how that has impacted me as an artist. He suggested that I go into the studio and remember how it felt to dance their work, and be in their presence, and just let the movement come through me without thinking about it. It was the most freeing experience I’ve had as a choreographer – just allowing that physical history to come through, and making movement with what my body remembered from. I’ve never made work as quickly as I’ve done with this process, and it’s been interesting to see what has come out.
There are two sections dedicated
to each choreographer – Richard Alston,
Bella Lewitzky and Cohan – and the music I’m using
includes Bach and Heiner Goebbels. My fear after looking
at the work is that the audience might think I’m trying to make something in
the style of each choreographer, but that’s not it at all. It’s simply the
imprint of their work on me that they will see. What
I’ve taken from each choreographer is the musicality and playfulness of Alston, the depth and sensation of
movement of Cohan and the clarity,
strength and shape of Lewitzky.
came across this quote on Wikipedia:
“Great control of
every motion and placement,” she says, “is a kind of self-care. It’s
self-love in the best sense. I make a contract with the dancers (not literally,
of course) to keep them alive and well and progressive – doing my level best to
see that they’re not injured.” One must bear in mind, she says, that
“dancing is not normal, that only a strong, knowledgeable body can protect
against damage.” Bella Lewitzky,
from an interview with Donna Perlmutter, Dance Magazine (January 1997)
Any reaction to it? And how normal is dance
Yolande: This is very ‘Bella’! Thank you for sharing it. I was
at my strongest as a dancer when I danced with Bella. She knew exactly how the
body worked best and developed her technique to protect us and ensure she had
strong, powerful dancers.
me dance is, as Bella so rightly
pointed out, self-care. It’s where I feel most comfortable. It is who I am, and
what I know best. As a child it became
my voice and was a safe place for me to express myself. This might go back to
what drives me to lead a dance company. As far as asking how normal it is, for
me it’s not exactly normal, but once you allow it to exist within you, it’s your normal.
don’t know the work of Sophia Stoller
at all. Can you say something about it and her, generally, and, specifically, about
the dance she’s made called Between
Yolande: After forming the Cohan Collective with Robert Cohan here in the UK – a
residency for choreographers and composers to collaborate whilst being mentored
– I piloted theCollective in Los Angeles in partnership with Pennington Dance Group. We worked with
three composers and three choreographers from Los Angeles, and Sophia
Stoller was one of the latter. She created a duet during the residency that
was very powerful, and I thought it would be great to develop that further and
so commissioned this work for our anniversary programme. This ties in to the
ethos of the company presenting work by dance-makers from both the UK and
America whilst being supportive of emerging artists. We also invited her
collaborator Justin Scheid to
compose the music. What I find really interesting is that her style is very different
from what we are currently seeing here in the UK.
Okay, a final question: Why do we need to see dance, and your company dancing,
Yolande: When this question comes up my mind always goes to a scenario that happened when the war in Iraq was breaking in 2003 and I was opening a show in Los Angeles. I had three nights at the Miles Memorial Theatre in Santa Monica. The opening night was when the war broke out. The second night a reviewer from the LA Times came along – one of about ten people in the audience that night as everyone was in shock about what was happening in the world. We spoke, and she said she was very moved by the performance and would do all she could to try and get the review in Saturday morning’s paper so that others would come and see the show. The headline was “Real Emotion from Yorke Dance Project” and her opening paragraph included the line, “It was possible to forget the woes of Thursday night when Yorke Dance Project brought beauty, grace and real emotion to a sparse but appreciative audience.” She did it, and we had a sold-out evening. So I don’t think it’s a case of seeing dance and the company now. There is just something very special about live theatre. You get to be in the same space, and feel the same energy (particularly in small theatres), and be taken out of your head and into another world. It’s like a meditation. You stop thinking and just experience something, whether you end up liking it or not!
View the trailer here:
Tickets available for the Theatre Royal Winchester
The multiple award-winner Jonathan Goddard is one of the UK’s best
contemporary dancers. Although he’s performed in Winchester a number of times, he won’t be available for Yorke Dance Project’s date at the Theatre Royal. Still, he was good
enough to reply to an email query asking him about the work the company is offering
and his part in it.
Jonathan: I’ve been involved with Yorke Dance Project since 2014, and it’s
great to be able to contribute and celebrate its staying power. I’m in two of
Playgroundby Kenneth Macmillan was originally
staged in 1979 and created for what was then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet. It’s
a narrative work which takes the Orpheus and Eurydice myth as its starting
point, and I’ve learnt the role of ‘The Intruder.’ It’s been exciting to revive
this ballet. I think Macmillan had been undertaking psychoanalysis around the
period it was made, so there are some meaty themes to get into – family, and the
balance of sanity and fantasy. I’m very much enjoying dancing with guest
artists Oxana Panchenko and Romany Pajdak, and to develop the work’s
central partnership with them. Playground hasn’t been revived or
performed since it was made, so it is really a process of excavation. It’s a
rarity, and with a great cast, so it’s definitely worth coming to watch!
The other work I’m in
is a new choreography from Bob Cohan.
created last year, feels very special. Bob has made a really beautiful solo for
me which finishes the work. I first danced for him in a revival of his piece Eclipse
for his 80th birthday celebrations in 2005. It’s really good to
be back together, and there’s a sense of achievement, poignancy and fun to be
working together fourteen years later.
Our UK tour will
finish with shows at the Royal Opera
House in London, where we’ll be
adding a duet with dancer Laurel
Dalley-Smith. Laurel began
dancing with Yorke Dance Project,where we met and partnered each other,
and then went off to join the Martha
Graham Company and has been doing fantastically well there in New York City. It’ll be great to dance
together again and see how Bob responds
and creates with someone who is now working with the company where he has so
much history and was a star dancer.
was in the original cast of Kenneth
MacMillan’s Playground. Here, as one of the coaches for Yorke Dance Project’s
current revival of the ballet, she offers valuable inside knowledge about that
Susie: Playground was originally created for performance at the Edinburgh Festival, where it was
apparently well-received; certainly friends of ours who came were impressed. MacMillan choreographed it after
leaving the directorship of the Royal Ballet
and making such exploratory and dark works as My Brother, My Sisters. But after subsequent
performances at Sadler’s Wells, and
I think some on tour, it wasn’t done again.
Was Playgroundperhaps deemed
to be too gritty and uncompromising for further touring? It might’ve been
thought a risk when Sadler’s Wells Royal
Ballet was rebuilding itself and its following. It’s just a shame that it
didn’t get a chance to establish itself in the repertoire.
recently, following the anniversary season of MacMillan work in 2017, there’s been renewed interest in reviving
lesser-known, earlier works of his. That, and the recent success of Yorke Dance Project and its revival
of his Sea of Troubles, probably influenced the
decision to revive this ballet. It’s a work that includes rather naturalistic
movement to create an environment within which the principle characters act out
troubling relationships. The Yorke Dance
dancers have really impressed me in their ability to present the more
expressionist side of MacMillan’s
work. Given today’s social concerns
about bullying, exclusion and mental health issues, Playground also feels remarkably topical and prescient.
It could be really powerful this time
I don’t want to disclose what
happens in Playground. I think all the audience needs to know before
seeing it will be in the title, and in the specified names of a few characters.
Yorke Dance Project is a small contemporary
company of less than ten dancers, and this was effectively a work for a much
larger ballet company with a cast of eighteen and a full orchestral score
originally performed live. So some adjustment has been necessary, a process which
can concentrate the focus on what is important. It’s been really exciting to
see the work coming back to life, and in its painstaking reconstruction to
appreciate afresh MacMillan’s
ability to create character and situation through balletic movement, and acting
through dancing. It also opens up questions about performative skills – how
to be on the stage for a long time as a member of an ensemble and sustain the work’s claustrophobic
atmosphere, often with minimal or simple means, and deciding where the focus
A recorded version has been
made of the original score by Gordon
Crosse which is richly colourful and atmospheric, but also quite
challenging for the dancers to co-ordinate to its combination of more
and less rhythmic passages.
This time the work will be performed
in smaller, more intimate venues. Inevitably the set, while keeping the
character and signification of the original, needs to be more flexible, lightweight
and tourable. The costumes likewise will maintain a spirit of dressing up,
but perhaps give a slightly more timeless look. It’s very special to have
Kenneth’s daughter Charlotte re-designing a ballet made
when she was a small child herself.
It’s been a brilliant learning
experience for all of us!
It may be a short and wintry month, but there’s lots of Theatre on offer in Winchester. Here’s our Win Guide to the Theatre Royal in February:
We recommend booking for the revival of the late Andrea Dunbar’s Rita, Sue and Bob Too, 28 February – 2nd March. Originally premiered at the Royal Court in 1982, Dunbar was born on the Butterworth Estate in Bradford and penned her first play when she was just fifteen in green biro on the torn out pages of her school exercise book. The play made its way to the Royal Court Theatre in London and Dunbar’s talent was discovered. By 1987, Rita, Sue and Bob Too was adapted for film, directed by Alan Clarke. Dunbar died in 1990, but her wicked humour and startling insight lives on. Rita, Sue and Bob too tells the story of two teenage girls in the eighties groomed by an older man Bob. Briefly cancelled for its London performances in the wake of the #MeToo campaign and anxiety about the new context in which it would be received, the production was reinstated within two days following widespread support from critics, artists and fans of Dunbar’s work and thanks to an artistic director who listened and changed her mind. You can hear more about this on BBC Radio 4 Front Row. This revival has toured across the UK to critical acclaim and was produced by Out of Joint, Bolton Octagon and the Royal Court. It’s one to watch, think about and talk about in the bar afterwards. For more details, visit the website here.
Robin Hood and the Revolting Peasants will be rampaging at the Theatre Royal, 7 – 8 February, presented by Oddsocks. Join Robin, Little John, Maid Marion and of course Friar Tuck as they take on some of their hardest challenges to date: A conniving king, a sinister sheriff and a downtrodden village of peasants whose ‘get up and go’ has got up and gone. Tickets are available to book here.
If you’re celebrating the end of dry January, why not head along to The Thinking Drinkers on 9 February. It’s a unique ‘Alcohol based comedy’ (The Sunday Times). Enjoy five free drinks as the award-winning experts take you from the symposiums of Ancient Greece to the classic British boozer via Wild West saloons, Victorian gin palaces and the secret Speakeasy. Tickets and details available here. Strictly 18yrs and over for this one.
Tenors Un Limited present their 15 Year Anniversary Tour, 10 February. Dubbed the Rat Pack of Opera, Scott Ciscon,Jem Sharples and Paul Martin have assembled a fabulous mix of songs ranging from opera, pop and crooner classics, old favourites and self-penned songs. Tickets available here.
Yorke Dance Project celebrates 20 years of performing dance by past masters and emerging artists from the UK and USA on 12 February. This celebratory programme includes works by world renowned choreographers Sir Kenneth MacMillan and Robert Cohan alongside emerging Los Angeles choreographer Sophia Stoller and Yolande Yorke-Edgell. One not to miss. Tickets available here.
Winchester from the Crypt on 13 February features some of the best emerging talent from the Creative Writing department at University of Winchester, who have written an evening of horror stories to ‘chill your blood, rattle your bones and yank your chains’, performed by tomorrow’s stars of the future from the Performing Arts department. Tickets are only a fiver, so book while you can here. This one is 18 years plus too so not for those who are easily spooked.
14 – 16 February, Blackeyed Theatre in association with New Theatre Royal Portsmouth and South Hill Park Arts Centre present Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four. Crammed full of adventure, romance, comedy and of course one or two rather brilliant deductions, The Sign of Four is Arthur Conan Doyle’s epic second Sherlock Holmes tale, a breath-taking yarn brought to life in this spectacular new stage adaptation. Tickets available here.
RUBY TURNER is in town on 17 February! For many years Ruby Turner has been regarded as having one of the greatest voices the UK has ever produced. . Her career to date has been sensational with major tours, film, TV and theatre appearances.A very prolific songwriter, many of Ruby’s songs have been covered by artists such as Lulu, Yazz and Maxi Priest, while her vocal prowess has been employed to good effect by Bryan Ferry, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood and Jools Holland. Book here.
Fasten your seat belts, set your ray guns to stun and get ready for a cosmic adventure of meteoric proportions as award-winning ENCORE Youth Theatre present Return to the Forbidden Planet by Bob Carlton. 21 – 23 February, tickets available here.Bursting with red hot rock & roll hits, including Great Balls of Fire, Good Vibrations, Teenager in Love and The Young Ones.
Towards the end of the month, enjoy the Chinese New Year Extravaganza! Touring across the country to celebrate the biggest festive event on the Chinese calendar, Chinese New Year Extravaganza features a team of performers showcasing amazing Chinese performing arts. From the cheerful spirit of the auspicious Lion Dance, to the awe-inspiring contortion, the show is a colourful display of Chinese cultural tradition. Tickets available here.
Tavern Talks feature short informal talks followed by lively discussion. The evening starts with drinks from 5.30, with the talk itself kicking off at about 6.00pm. Tavern Talkers usually stick around for another drink (or two) downstairs after the discussion finishes at around 7.00.
Entry is free, participation encouraged. All are welcome. No booking required.
Tim will argue that, insofar as we process and perform reality in the same ways in which theatre operates, we might all be said to be ‘acting on the world stage’ – and will argue that, when our opportunities to develop as social performers and audiences are thwarted, we lose empathy and resort to tribal identities at odds with our cerebral wiring.
Tim is a playwright and the world’s first Professor of Theatre for Development, as well as being the author of numerous books on such subjects as Applied Theatre and Popular Theatre in Political Culture.
Forthcoming Tavern Talks:
The arts & culture guide for the city of Winchester in Hampshire.