Fagin’s Twist comes to the Theatre Royal Winchester

Avant Garde Dance and The Place present

Tony Adigun’s Fagin’s Twist at the Theatre Royal Winchester.

Following the critically-acclaimed 2016 premiere of Fagin’s Twist and last year’s highly successful tour, Avant Garde Dance and The Place collaborate once again to present the 2018 UK autumn tour. The story unravels and explodes into a captivating performance and ambitious dance show, based on Charles Dickens’ much-loved classic. Fagin’s Twist is the untold story of a notorious and complex villain with a mischievous twist.

This explosive retelling throws a less sympathetic spotlight on orphan Oliver. Fagin’s Twist follows the gang leader in his youth, driven by greed and ambition in the face of overwhelming poverty. The dark Victorian streets are a place of little comfort and fairy-tale endings are hard to find in this poignant coming-of-age tale.

Tony Adigun’s dynamic choreography uses dance motifs taken from the streets to bring to life this adaptation set on the streets themselves, flipping the audience’s expectations of the five familiar characters – Oliver, Fagin, Nancy, Bill Sykes and the Artful Dodger – with an unmatched hip-hop contemporary style.

Tony Adigun comments, I’m excited to be bringing back Fagin’s Twist this autumn with new cast members, new energies, new spirit. I can’t wait to share this show with new audiences and surprise those who have seen it before. I’m motivated to bring hip-hop and physical theatre to inspire a new generation.

Fagin’s Twist is a daring, dynamic and hugely enjoyable rethink of a much-loved Victorian tale seen through the eyes of its infamous villain. (★★★★ The Times).

Fagin’s Twist was originally commissioned by Theatre Bristol, East London Dance, Pavilion Dance South West, Dance East and The Place, and co-produced by The Place. Fagin’s Twist has already performed around the country to critical and audience acclaim, including a run at leading London contemporary dance venue The Place and was performed in August 2017 at Edinburgh Fringe as part of the British Council Showcase.

Continuing to push the boundaries of Hip-Hop Contemporary dance, Avant Garde provides an intensive participation model for people all around the country to give easy access to dance industry. Fagin’s Twist is generously supported by Arts Council England.

Check out the trailer here:

Dates: 2nd – 3rd October

Theatre Royal, Winchester
Book here: www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk
01962 840440


By our editor in chief, Donald Hutera
Exclusive to The Winchester Guide

This autumn Shobana Jeyasingh Dance brings its latest work ‘Contagion’ to six science, art and war-related sites across the country. The tour opens September 15 and 16 at the Gymnasium Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a former army barracks where soldiers were sent to keep fit during the First World War. The good news for residents of Winchester and environs is that the second stop of the tour is September 22 and 23 at the Great Hall in Winchester – a truly stirring location.

Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and supported by Wellcome, ‘Contagion’ commemorates the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic which ravaged the world to a greater degree than the Great War itself. Directly exacerbated by troop and civilian migrations from the First World War, the pandemic infected one third of the world’s population and killed over 50 million people.

‘Contagion’ is a promenade performance which underlines the irony that, while human warfare raged in the trenches, a silent and far deadlier enemy was waging war within the human body itself. The choreography echoes the scientific features of a virus: rapid, random, constantly shape-shifting. A cast of eight female dancers contort, strategise and mutate as they explore both the resilience and the vulnerability of the human body. The extraordinary work of artist Egon Schiele, himself a victim of the pandemic, is a powerful artistic footnote to the performance. His depiction of twisted bodies and expressive lines perfectly captures the physical and psychological anxieties of the times.

As a Winchester Guide exclusive, our editor and contributor Donald Hutera interviewed one of the dancers in ‘Contagion’ via email. Avatâra Ayuso is both a long-time member of Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and the company’s Associate Artist, as well as being an experienced and celebrated dance-maker herself.

Donald Hutera: How has Shobana Jeyasingh gone about finding movement with the cast of ‘Contagion’ that might correspond to and convey symptoms of the Spanish flu?

Avatâra Ayuso: Shobana has been reading a lot about the Spanish flu and talking to expert virologists to understand the disease. She shared her knowledge with the dancers in the studio, and via a process of creative tasks we gave shape to those words, images and behaviours of the virus and its symptoms.

DH: What determined the casting of eight women in the piece?

AA: Women actively took caring responsibilities during the pandemic. Men were busy at war, but women were fighting another kind of war at home. Most of the information we have about the flu is thanks to the letters these women wrote. They are actually the heroines in this episode of history. Having an all-female cast made total sense.

DH: How is the performance structured over-all?

AA: The audience is going to experience a journey that will take them from the most personal stories to the inside of the virus. The visuals, music, costumes, lighting are in close relation with Shobana’s choreography, helping the audience to travel with us, the dancers.

DH: What is the soundtrack for the show?

AA: That is going to be a very special part of the work! I cannot reveal part of it, but I can assure you it will create a very touching atmosphere. The soundscape is supported by real texts of some survivors of the flu.

DH: What are you wearing in the performance?

AA: Very simple costumes. The body is the protagonist in this choreography. Seeing the muscles in action, the lungs, the face and the backs is very important to understand how the virus affected the body.

DH: Are there any direct historical sources in ‘Contagion’, or is it more of an abstract work? I am wondering how much of its historical time it might be…

AA: As I mentioned, there are some texts extracted from real testimonies made at the time. They are very moving. The work flows from literal sources to an abstract representation of the effects of the virus. Both extremes complement each other very well.

DH: What new discoveries are you making about dance and yourself as an artist as a result of being involved in this project?

AA: More than a discovery, it is a re-confirmation that I love working with set designs – despite the difficulties! Working with an active set design like the one we have is always a challenge for the dancers. The body suffers to start with, as a new element enters your creative life. This means your brain and body have to be in total awareness every single minute to avoid accidents, and to develop a strong relationship with the set. Despite all of this, I love it! Once you and the set ‘understand’ each other, you can deliver the emotional story in a much deeper way.

DH: In what ways might ‘Contagion’ be considered new territory for Shobana? What do you think she might be discovering about her art-making as related to the making of this work?

AA: In the ten years I’ve been with Shobana Jeyasingh Company, it is the first time we have used such a big set design. On its own it is a beautiful work of art that will get ‘re-dimensionalised’ by the dancers in motion. Shobana enjoys any new creative challenge and with every one of these challenges, new movement ideas and relationships with the space emerge.

DH: Is there anything else you think it might be useful for a prospective audience member to know about ‘Contagion’ or Shobana’s work?

AA: It will be very moving and visually stunning. Don’t miss the opportunity to see this work. We, the dancers, are looking forward to meeting you. And remember, Shobana is one of the greatest choreographers in the UK!

Contagion is being performed on Saturday 22 & Sunday 23 September at 11am, 1.30pm and 3.30pm in Winchester Great Hall, The Castle, Castle Avenue, Winchester SO23 8UJ.

Booking: 023 8065 2333 / www.thepointeastleigh.co.uk

Tickets: Contagion is included in the entry fee to Winchester Great Hall – £3 for adults, £2 for children under-16 with concessions and family tickets available.

For information on Shobana Jeyasingh Dance:

For information on AVA Dance:

Preview – Exploded Circus at Theatre Royal Winchester

The big top at the end of the world

Theatre Royal Winchester will be welcoming the formidable Mimbre and their touring production Exploded Circus, 7 – 8 September, 7.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Here’s a preview for the must see event:

Mimbre is a female-led contemporary circus company. They use their unique blend of physicality and narrative to tell intimate stories about human connections.

Featuring a breath-taking mix of acrobatics, surprising aerial feats and masterful juggling, The Exploded Circus weaves a story without words, where six women come together to seek order in the chaos and create a new normal. In this new production, Mimbre’s Joint Artistic Director Lina Johansson joins forces with critically-acclaimed designer Loren Elstein and experimental composer Quinta.

The Exploded Circus invites audiences into a moment where an explosion has been frozen in time, the remnants of a big top caught mid-air – with everything from the circus ring, sequins and fairground horses suspended above the ground. With striking imagery and subtle humour, the show explores themes around change, hope and belonging.

Director Lina Johansson comments, With a feeling that the world around us is on the cusp of big changes, I want to create a performance reflecting on this in a microcosm. Be it Brexit, global warming or the refugee crisis, there is a strong feeling of change and upheaval around us. I want to use the show to reflect, as well as imagine what could come from this change and how we can use it to grow. I want audiences to feel the palpable uncertainty around us, but also nurture a feeling of hope. The Exploded Circus mixes spectacle and visual impact with heart and personal stories. The risk and trust inherent in circus – the falls and the balances of the performers – allows me to explore a physical narrative that the audience feel in their bodies as well as follow with their minds.

Mimbre’s work pushes the boundaries of contemporary circus with a cast made up of six versatile artists: French performer Alice Allart on trick bike and slack rope (Stumble Dance Circus, Keziah Serreau, Ilmatila, Osborne&What); physical theatre actor and aerialist Farrell Cox (London 2012 Olympic Ceremonies, Charles Chipperfield Circus, LAS Theatre); physical performer Coral Dawson who specialises in corde lisse and aerial harness (Cirque Bijou, Citrus Arts and Full Tilt Aerial), Canadian acrobat Arielle Lauzon with Chinese hoops and slack rope (Festival Montreal Complètement Cirque, Cirque Eloize), aerialist Rebecca Rennison (Upswing,The New Vic Theatre, The London Cabaret Club) and juggler Lynn Scott (Gandini Juggling, Upswing).

Composer Quinta (The Paper Cinema, Rambert/Cunningham, Ockham’s Razor) creates an ethereal score – combining her flair for improvisation, non-conventional scoring, electronic interfacing and work with new instrumentation. Designer Loren Elstein (Rent, Hangmen, The End of Longing) ingeniously creates a three-dimensional world inspired by artworks such as Cornelia Parker’s Exploded Shed, David Spriggs’ Half Explosion and Ori Gersht’s Time after time photographs.

The show is supported by Arts Council England through a Strategic Touring grant, Foyle Foundation, PRS Foundation, 101 Outdoor Arts Creation Space, Worthing Theatres, Imagine Luton, Merchant City Festival, Brewhouse Arts Centre Burton upon Trent, Lancaster Arts and Circus250.

Fri 7 – Sat 8 September
Fri 7.30pm
Sat 2.30pm, 7.30pm

To book tickets, please visit the theatre website here or telephone 01962 840440.

Win Guide to August

It’s sizzling out there. Here’s our Win Guide to a chilled out hot summer in the city of Winchester:

The Winchester Guildhall is running a Summer Film Fest, with a great programme of family films.

For a full programme or to book tickets, visit the website here.

For a relaxed folk music treat to distract us from the heat, the Wickham Festival is on, 2-5 August. It’s a bumper line up this year. For full details, visit the website here.

Fancy getting involved with the Chesil Theatre? Find out what’s behind the Little Red Door on the first Saturday of every month in an open morning, 10.30am-12.30pm. Visitors can learn about what goes on behind the scenes and meet members of the theatre as well as finding out how to sign up. The next session is on 4 August. Visit the website for more details here.

There are some great community events on at the Theatre Royal this August. Support Hampshire Hospitals Got Talent on 11 August. Money raised will go to the Winchester Hospice charity. Ricnic Hampshire is staging the musical great Gypsy, 22 – 25 August. Petersfield Shakespeare Festival present The Taming of the Shrew, 29 August.

The Boom Town Fair Festival is back between 9-12 August on the Matterly Estate in its 10th Anniversary Edition. Gorillaz will be headlining and other music highlights include Damon Albarn, Jimmy Cliff, DJ Goldie and Limp Bizkit, and many, many more.

Hampshire Open Studios runs between 18 – 27 August.

Check out the local arts scene as over 500 local artists open their doors to show original artworks. For a full programme visit the website here.

Celebrate Cheese and Chilli in the Cheese and Chilli Festival, 18-19 August. There will also be plenty of other entertainment to amuse the family, including pig racing,  face painting, magic shows and live music.  Visit the website here for more details.

The City Mill will be hosting their annual Grand Duck Race, back by popular demand on 25 August.   Complete your ‘Design-A-Duck’ sponsorship certificate to take part in the ‘Best Dressed’ racing duck competition. Submit your design by 25 August and the winner will be announced, along with the fastest race finishers, on the duck race day. The fun starts at 11am. With cake and craft stalls, food and drink, fete games and chances to win prizes, there is plenty for all the family to enjoy and take away.

Graze Festival returns this year, 26 August in Twyford.  There will be live music, food stalls and entertainment for children. For details, visit the website here. Here’s a trailer from last year’s festival for a flavour of what you can expect to graze upon:

We’ll be bringing you more highlights throughout the month on Twitter @Win_Guide.  Have a great summer one and all…

Win Guide to June

There’s lots going on in our fair city this month, from festivals to theatre costume sales and of course our beloved Hat Fair. To find out more, here’s our Win Guide to June.

Head on down to the Chesil Theatre for some folk music on 1 June, performed by the Itchen Folk band. The Compton & Shawford based group will play music from the British Isles and the US. While we’re at the Chesil Theatre, don’t miss their costume sale on 9 June. There will be a range of items on offer from various periods reflecting the range of repertoire that has been dressed over the years. Prices range from just 50p to £50 so get ready to rummage.

The Theatre Royal has an exciting programme on offer this month. Events include Germaine Greer, 3 June and her talk on the inevitability of ecofeminism.  Robert Habermann will be Mad about Movies on 7 June in his history of Hollywood musicals. The show climaxes with a marvellous medley of 20 Oscar winning songs. Shappi Khorsandi will be portraying Emma Hamilton in Mistress and Misfit, 8 June. Dance-wise, you can book to see the sizzling Flamenco Express on 9 June or Ballet Central on 12 June, featuring work by world renowned choreographers.  Families can enjoy the Integr8 Dance school showcase, 15 – 17 June.  Le Navet Bete & Exeter Northcott Theatre bring us Dracula: The Bloody Truth on 13 – 14 June. Kids will be interested in Tall Stories The Snail & The Whale, 10 – 11 June.

Blue Apple Theatre will be filling us in on some history with Winchester! The First 100,000,000 Years, 21 – 23 June. Where did those first settlers on the banks of the Itchen get a decent cup of coffee and did Jane Austen ever get caught up on the one-way system? And finally, don’t miss Reflections of Johnny Cash, Karen Carpenter, Judy Garland & Eva Cassidy, 24 June.

Winchester Cathedral has a packed June full of events to enjoy. Here’s a list of what’s on:

Stone Festival 2018 Friday 15 – Sunday 17 June 2018,

10.00am – 4.00pm Daily. Free Entry – All Welcome

Jane Austen: Tour and Tea Saturday 2 June,10.00am
Tickets: £12.50 Includes hot drink and a slice of cake

Garden Tour  Saturday 2 June, 10.00am Tickets: £6.50

Spiritual Tours with Rev’d Katie Lawrence
Monday 4 June & Wednesday 6 June, 7.00pm – 9.00pm Tickets: £5

Lunchtime Recital – Mikhail Lezdkan (Cello)
Tuesday 5 June, 1.00pm Free to attend

Modern Art Tour and Tea Saturday 9 June, 10.00am
Tickets: £12.50 includes hot drinks and a slice of cake

Britten’s War Requiem Saturday 9 June, 7.30pm
Tickets: £20- £35

Film Night: Stations of the Cross (2014)
Tuesday 12 June, 7.00pm Tickets: £5

Lunchtime Recital: Paul Turner (Piano) & Enigma 14.
Tuesday 12 June, 1.00pm Free to attend

Shipping Festival Service
Thursday 14 June, 7.30pm

Tour: Magnificence Revealed
Saturday 16 June, 10.00am
Tickets: £12.50 includes hot drinks and a slice of cake

Lunchtime Recital: Winchester College Music Scholars
Tuesday 19 June, 1.00pm
Free to attend.

Yanomamo – Featuring Winchester Cathedral Junior and Youth Choir
Saturday 23 June, 7.30pm Tickets: £15 & £20

Professor Alister McGrath – On the Trinity
Tuesday 26 June, 7.00pm
Tickets: £5

Lunchtime Recital – Wells Cathedral School Specialist Music Department
Tuesday 26 June, 1.00pm Free to attend

First World War – In my end is my beginning: Tour and Cream Tea
Friday 29 June, 2.00pm
£12.50 includes a cream tea

For the wordsmiths among us, it’s the Winchester Writers Festival, 15 – 17 June. The festival includes some interesting networking opportunities, including the chance to meet editors and agents.  The keynote speaker for this year’s festival is the novelist Patrick Gale. To book your place, visit the website here.

Winchestival takes place 16 June in North Walls park.  There will be music, comedy and street food to enjoy with the 1980’s synth pop band Fickle Friends headlining the event.  Winchester Comedy Festival will be ensuring that there will be plenty of giggles on the day.  To book tickets for beats, eats and comedy treats, visit the website here.

Hat’s at the ready, the UK’s longest running outdoor arts festival Hat Fair takes place Friday 29th June – Sunday 1st July. On Friday and Saturday there are two jam-packed dates of arts and culture all around Winchester city centre. On Sunday, all are welcome to picnic on North Walls recreation ground where there will be more entertainment to enjoy. For the full programme, which includes an inflatable Whale venue and dancing on giant Jenga, visit the Hat Fair website here.

With so much culture on offer this June, it’s going to be a great month in the city. We’ll be bringing you more updates on Twitter throughout the month. Have fun one and all.

Win Guide to March

March started with the Beast from the East and an Amber weather warning. We hope our fellow Wintonians managed to stay warm and dry in the snow.  A big thank you to Trinity Winchester, local carers, emergency services, public sector staff and neighbours who cared for the vulnerable during an unexpected freeze.

As the snow melts and we return to the beginnings of Spring, here’s our Win Guide to March:

Handbags at the ready, The Original Theatre Company will be visiting the Theatre Royal Winchester with a delightful production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Gwen Taylor, 5 – 7 March.  For more details or to book tickets, visit here. Other theatre highlights this month include Slightly Fat Features, think Monty Python meets Cirque du Soleil, 11 March. Lloyd and Rose Buck will be giving a talk, Our Life with Birds, 13 March.  There will be a rare opportunity to meet Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, hawks, owls, starlings and many more, in the theatre! Jason Donovan will be at the Theatre Royal on 16 March, along with his mid-life crisis.  For the younger audience members, don’t forget to book for Peppa Pig, 17 – 18 March.  The Winchester Comedy Festival will be presenting a Comedy Gala, 17 March.

The University of Winchester students will be teaming up with the Theatre Royal for Scratch Shakespeare on 19 March.  With four directors, four theatre companies and four performances inspired by the Bard himself, be there or be a poisonous bunch-backed toad. Our insult (Richard III) not theirs! There is also the chance to see Wessex Dance Academy, 22 March, and the Young Theatre Royal showcase on 27 & 29 March. Oh, and the Swansea City Opera will be bringing the Barber of Seville to the Theatre Royal stage on 20 March.  For full programme details and to book tickets, visit the website here.

Craig Charles, the beloved Red Dwarf actor, will be bringing his Funk & Soul Club to the Guildhall on 9 March from 10pm.  The event is for 18+ years. Support comes from The Soul Rays and Jimi Needles. For full details and to get booking, visit the Guildhall website here.

Don’t forget it’s mother’s day on Sunday 11 March.  There are still a limited number of tickets left for the Great British Gin Festival, which could be a treat.  To snap the last tickets up and find our more, visit here. There are also various offers on offer throughout the city to spoil mums with lunches, dinners or afternoon tea.  Hotel du Vin has an afternoon tea with Champagne deal on, £50 for two. Or the Holiday Inn will be offering afternoon tea with unlimited Prosecco. An 18+ age guidance of course applies.

For some more theatre fun, The Venetian Twins by Carlo Goldoni will be on at the Chesil Theatre, 17 – 24 March directed by Mark Frank.  Goldoni’s timeless comedy is a wonderful whirling confusion of frustrated lovers, bizarre fights between mistaken adversaries and devious plots that go off the rails – with a surprising bitter-sweet twist at the end. Check out the trailer:

Don’t forget to book tickets here.

Whilst we’re at the Chesil Theatre, the 10×10 Playwriting Competition is open for submissions until 30 March.  The theme is Hidden Worlds.  Ten plays will be selected for performances at the 10×10 New Writing Festival to be held in October 2018. The aim of 10×10 is to discover, promote and produce the very best new writing of ten-minute plays. 10×10 has provided a platform for playwrights and played a small but significant role in their continuing successes. For more details and to download the submission form, visit the website here.

Finally, we recommend a trip to Winchester College to hear the Winchester Symphony Orchestra and pianist Ivana Gavric on 24 March, 7.30pm conducted by Nicholas Wilks. The programme includes Jean Sibelius – Finlandia, The Swan of Tuonela, Lemminkainen’s Return and En Saga. Felix Mendelssohn – Piano Concerto no. 1 and Johannes Brahms – Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn.

We’ll be bringing you more updates throughout the month @Win_Guide.  Have a fun month, one and all.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

As the ‘dark pleasure’ of the multi-award-winning Mark Bruce Company’s Macbeth arrives at Theatre Royal Winchester (Jan 31 & Feb 1) as part of a national tour, veteran dance-theatre critic Donald Hutera learns more about this compelling new take on Shakespeare’s most notorious couple – and, in a Winchester Guide exclusive, speaks not just to the show’s creator but to the two dancers cast in the leading roles.
MARK BRUCE, choreographer and director
Q. What are your thoughts on Macbeth?
MARK BRUCE: It hits you fast, cuts through to the bone, and for me it’s the least ambiguous of Shakespeare‘s plays. Its darkness opens our nightmares; we recognise fundamental traits inside ourselves, and the consequences of acting upon them. The vicious pursuit of power to fill a void will always be relevant. The Macbeths are everywhere in every age, because they’re a part of us.
Q. When did you discover Macbeth and what did you think?
MARK BRUCE:   I first read it as a teenager and, returning to it now, the images and atmosphere it evokes haven’t changed. Its power lies in a relentless tale of supernatural horror told with a beauty and symbolism that reaches to the tragic state of the ‘other.’   The supernatural is always present in Macbeth, bending our own thoughts and perceptions as well as those of the protagonists. It infects us, always one step ahead, and Macbeth’s decisions are made in the world of a nightmare as if there’s no separation between thought and action. Murder is done and descent is rapid.
Q. Why choose Macbeth?
MARK BRUCE: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I had a vision of Macbeth’s world and some of the cast in mind. It was the same with my company’s previous shows, Dracula and The Odyssey.  The choreographic language of Macbeth is very specific and detailed, and I felt I had the right dancers at the right time in their careers to pursue this vocabulary.  I do feel there’s a time when you are ready to do a production, and you can’t really contrive that.
Q. Your production puts Lady Macbeth centre-stage with Macbeth himself. Please say more…
MARK BRUCE: The Macbeths are mere playthings of the evil they set free, and in the madness and emptiness that ensues they become but walking shadows, or – as in my adaptation – simply clowns of sound and fury.
Q. Are you influenced by other artists?
MARK BRUCE: Influences always begin subconsciously and often it’s only in retrospect that I identify them. I also don’t expect to completely understand why an influence has imposed itself. I do think I’ve been affected by the films of David Cronenberg for this production: their pace, his economic shot selection and the film Eastern Promises especially. The brooding atmosphere, the colour, the darkness seem to marry with the world and characters I saw Macbeth taking place in. Compared to a production like The Odyssey, in which there was a myriad of influences, Macbeth is far more lean. It’s written for the stage. My approach has been quite simple so I can really explore the text, and get deeply into the characters and the world in which it is set. 
Q. How do you choose your dancers for Mark Bruce Company productions?
MARK BRUCE: Sometimes I’ll have particular dancers in mind for a production and this will have a bearing on whether I pursue it or not – whether it’s an established narrative or something I’ve written myself. With Macbeth I had a combination of dancers I already knew and some new ones. I held an audition for which we had over six hundred and fifty applicants. From this I took three dancers. They needed to be strong dramatically and in contemporary and classical technique.
Q. Your music choice for Macbeth is classical and doesn’t involve any of your own compositions, unlike many of your other productions.
MARK BRUCE:   The music of Arvo Pärt was a fundamental decision in realising a through-line for Macbeth. I was instantly drawn to how it captures something deep inside us. It can be sparse and refined, and for me Macbeth is a refined play. Like Arvo Pärt’s music, there’s so much going on with every line, every suggestion, and this enables our imagination to transcend to the state of what’s inside the protagonists, what they are missing, and the state of their souls. I felt the combination of the subject matter and this music created something beautiful and tragic. These two elements were the basis of my interpretation of Macbeth.
Q. What are the pleasures (and any perils!) of working for and with Mark Bruce?
ELEANOR DUVAL: This process has been a pleasurable one. We started with some R&D a year ago with a few dancers in the studio, where Mark tried some ideas out and started working on the relationship between the Macbeths. He’s taken his time to create these characters, which has also given us time to inhabit them. Everything has been very detailed, and the ‘conversations’ between Jon and myself are crucial to the plot. The new studio the company has in Frome is a game-changer. There all the creative team have been around, and we’ve had the set up in the studio from day one of rehearsals, so a real sense of atmosphere and excitement has been apparent from the beginning. I guess the only peril working for Mark is that I seem to have very disturbing dreams!
JONATHAN GODDARD: This is my third production with Mark, and I enjoy trying to bring the visions he has into the world. It’s always interesting to see how a director imagines a character, and I relish the darkness of the roles – thankfully quite different to my own temperament and life.
Q. What sorts of things have you discovered during the creation period about the character you play?
ELEANOR DUVAL: Lady Macbeth is extremely manipulative and will do anything to gain power. I feel during the creation time I put a lot of work into how I could make this clear to an audience. The result has been an editing process where ‘less is more.’ The calmer she remains the stronger she comes across. The detail in every look is crucial. Mark spent a long time with Jonathan and me on our physical and mental reactions to the various situations we find ourselves in during the piece. One thing that surprised me was the vulnerability in my character. Obviously I know the play, and the ‘washing of the hands’ scene is well-known. Her insanity, however, builds throughout this production. Lady Macbeth remains strong for her husband until her stubbornness, pride and denial finally cracks, and everything spirals out of her control.
JONATHAN GODDARD: It’s been interesting to give myself over to a character that seems to aspire to total freedom, but who also has to negotiate and bear the extreme repercussions and effects of his actions and fate.  I love that Shakespeare makes everything happen right away, right that minute. If Macbeth decides to murder someone he’ll do it straight away; if things go wrong, they spiral fast. It makes the journey a thrilling one, and demands real on-the-spot commitment to some quite extreme moments.
Q: What have you discovered about yourself as an artist and a person?
ELEANOR DUVAL: Worryingly, I’ve discovered that I enjoy being an incredibly awful person! It’s been a real treat to dip into something this evil. I’ve also found the detail and precision of the choreography an enjoyable challenge. We’ve worked closely from the script in creating a choreographic language. Every nuance and accent is specific. Of all the productions I’ve danced in for Mark this has been a very different approach, and therefore I’ve learnt new skills at the right time in my career.
JONATHAN GODDARD: That I’m still enjoying dancing in my late thirties. It takes longer and longer to warm up, but I’m still curious and my body is just about doing what I want it to.
Q. If this version of Macbeth were to be experienced with all the senses, how might it smell, feel and taste?
ELEANOR DUVAL: This production would definitely taste metallic and smell of flesh. However there are sweet tastes along the way as I feel Mark has created a lot of beauty within the harshness.
JONATHAN GODDARD: I think it would taste metallic, and feel as if someone has just left you alone in a car park at night!
Q. What will it sound and look like?
ELEANOR DUVAL: Truly beautiful. 
JONATHAN GODDARD: It sounds very beautiful. Mark has worked with a lot of Arvo Pärt for this production. I think this music captures Macbeth’s sort of transcendent state and the constant presence of the supernatural in his world.  
Q. In a nutshell, why does this Macbeth need to be seen and experienced?
ELEANOR DUVAL: It’s a unique production that touches all the senses. Audiences will ultimately find it cathartic. Mark has created a world which we have all delved into, from the dancers to the creative team – lights, costumes and set. The audience will have a chance to be drawn into this world and experience Shakespeare’s savage tragedy in all its beauty.
JONATHAN GODDARD: I think Macbeth always feels very modern and current to audiences. It definitely speaks to now and the perils of power unchecked. It’s a brilliant introduction to dance-theatre if you haven’t seen any before and, hopefully, a dark pleasure if you have.
Company and tour info: http://www.markbrucecompany.com/

Win Guide to January

Happy New Year, Wintonians. The christmas festivities may be over but we’re very excited about 2018 in Winchester. Here’s our guide to some invigorating arts and culture in the city this January.

To start the year off with some live music, take a look at the Railway Inn’s programme.  Events include Riteoff (12 Jan), Who Killed Nancy Johnson? (13 Jan), Lucy Bernandez and Friends (19 Jan), Blackstone Jones (20 Jan) and the Department electro party (26 Jan).  For full details or to book tickets, visit the website here.

From the Jam will be taking the Guildhall by storm (26 January) whisking you back to the early 80s.  The band is comprised of legendary former ‘The Jam’ bassist Bruce Foxton, vocalist & guitarist Russell Hastings, drummer Mike Randon, and Andy Fairclough on Hammond and piano.  Tickets (14+) are available here.

For a different aesthetic, Index Cantorum will return with an immersive musical performance at Winchester Cathedral 20 Jan, 12pm & 1pm.  Experience the music in a promenade or sit in the nave whilst the singers encircle the audience. The event is free with a retiring collection.  For details, visit the cathedral website here.

Tom Kempinski’s ‘Duet for One’ is a thought provoking piece at the Chesil Theatre (20-27 Jan). The play which premiered starring Frances De la Tour in the 1980s is inspired by the story of Jacqueline du Pre and her conductor husband, Daniel Barenboim.  A virtuoso violinist, Stephanie has lived for music since the age of four. She and her composer husband appear a golden couple until she is struck down with multiple sclerosis. Can she adjust to a different life? The story is told through successive interviews with a psychiatrist whose quiet probing unveils the true picture. For ticket details, visit the website here.

The Theatre Royal will be hosting the World Premiere of Mark Bruce’s dance theatre adaptation of Macbeth 31 January. That’s right, you can see it here first.  Goaded by the whispers of demons, the Macbeths unleash murder for their own gains and set in motion their path to madness and self-destruction, unravelling events in a nightmare they cannot control. To book tickets, visit the theatre website here.


Macbeth Trailer from Mark Bruce Company on Vimeo.

We’ll be bringing you more highlights throughout the month on Twitter @Win_Guide.  Have a great start to 2018, one and all.

Review of Peter Pan by Sophia, aged 6

Sophia went to see Peter Pan with her primary school. Here is her review of this year’s Theatre Royal Winchester pantomime:

I went to the Theatre Royal and the show was called Peter Pan.  It was so fun!

So there were some characters and one of them was called Tiger-Lily.  I liked her because she was good and she had a costume that looked like a tiger.  There was a really amazing song that I really liked and it had the word ooh-ahh in it.

There was Tinker Bell and it was actually amazing because she really looked like a fairy, she was small and green and she glowed.  There was someone who was Peter Pan and it looked like he was flying.  There was a crocodile and it went on its feet and the feet were sideways.  It looked really good!

There was someone called Wendy and she had brown hair like me and she went to Netherland with Peter Pan.  Captain Hook had a golden bit in the middle and it was shiny.  He was funny and he had a beard.  And there was a disco ball.

At the end we sang a song and it was a really funny Pirate song.  If I could have been in the pantomime I would have been the ballerina.

Sophia and her class had a brilliant time at Peter Pan.  Don’t miss out! To book tickets, visit the Theatre Royal Winchester website here.

‘Thrilling’ is the key word as Charge comes to Winchester’s Theatre Royal

Donald Hutera talks to Kevin Finnan, the artistic director of Motionhouse

Given that creative energy is never in short supply Motionhouse, it may come as no surprise that energy is the core subject of the latest touring show by this long-established, UK-based company. But the production, entitled Charge, is nevertheless bound to offer visual thrills and kinetic surprises aplenty as it uses dance, acrobatics, digital projection and a galvanising soundtrack to probe the sources that activate life in the human body.

I fired off a few questions to Motionhouse’s artistic director Kevin Finnan in advance of the imminent performances at Theatre Royal, Winchester Nov 10 and 11. Here are his answers in an exclusive interview for this website.

Donald Hutera: Charge is part of what the company is calling the Earth Trilogy that includes the shows Scattered and Broken. What prompted this trilogy in the first place?

Kevin Finnan: It wasn’t originally conceived as a trilogy. It started out as a single show, Scattered, which was about water. But Scattered opened up ways of engaging with the human condition, eliciting questions about the environment and a way of working that was really interesting to me. So I decided to make Broken, a show about our relationship with the earth that could develop all of these questions and explore this way of working. That show raised yet more questions and prompted me to make Charge, a show about energy. So it’s a trilogy that has revealed itself through doing.

DH: What forms of research did you and the company undertake in order to create Charge?

KF: To make a show about energy on the micro and macro scale you have to read widely on the subject to gain some small understanding, and search for ideas that will make the story visible.  I did a large amount of academic research. I went to a stimulating event in Oxford run by the Tipping Point/Stories for Change teams. I eventually found – through Sophy Smith, my composer – the work of Dame Professor Frances Ashcroft at Oxford University. I got in touch and she graciously agreed to meet me, afterwards agreeing to help and becoming a partner in the project.

This developed into a series of meetings between my creative team with Frances and her team, during which we spent time discussing the workings of electricity and the human body. Imagine having a whole room of dedicated scientists and artists discussing electrical transmission in the human body. What a gift, and an invaluable resource! Later in the process Frances and some of her team traveled up to see our work in the rehearsal room, and to give feedback. To have access to such fantastic, cutting-edge thought is a thrill, and very humbling. It opens new ways of seeing the world. I can’t imagine I would be creating an ion channel onstage without Frances, as I’d never even heard of them!

I’ve also set a course with the dancers to expand the physical language we use. We recently collaborated on a work with No Fit State Circus called Block which brought fresh skills and impetus into the company, and we’re continuing to explore and expand the use and role of spectacle in our work. In the studio we’re constantly trying to challenge ourselves to move on, creating and stockpiling ideas. With Charge we also spent a lot of time exploring our relationship with the digital. This show crossed the Rubicon for us as it was a massive jump in terms of its complexity of ideas and delivery.

DH: More specifically, how did the work’s themes and ideas get translated into actions and images? I’m especially interested in how scientific principles become theatre.

KF: In a large-scale spectacle the narrative line is created before any movement, and images are developed to it within a strict timeline. With Charge I knew the themes, but had no firm idea of the form with which to tell them.

For all of our stage shows I try to be as open as possible. Through the research process I narrow things down to a series of themes and movement ideas to explore. This creates a series of mental pictures I wish to realise. The company is then encouraged to play and create with each other and the environment. What I do not do is come in with a narrative line as that makes devising very difficult for the dancers and collaborators. Things float and change and everyone’s quite lost for a long time. I have to trust that, in partnership with my fellow artists, I’ll be able to realise the work in the time available.

Ultimately I’m waiting for the work to reveal itself; the creation process is about continuing to explore until you recognise what you’re looking for.

As an example of this, two of the dancers in Charge had been improvising with an idea for a strop duet. When I saw that I played a certain type of music to it, knowing it would work as a thread throughout the show to explore the notion of fading memory as in dementia or Alzheimer’s – where essentially the mind goes dark as there’s no energy passing in that part of the brain.  I saw that the spatial separation inherent in what the dancers created could express this narrative; it would be beautiful, sad and troubling. This is a good example of wanting to embody and make visual a scientific fact, and waiting for the right material to emerge.

An example on the other end of the scale is the work we did on the human heart. The heart beats to a rhythm; all the muscles must be activated at the right time to make the heart muscles open and close together. You can imagine the pulse as a single flash. When you have a heart attack, the rhythm of the spark is interrupted; it’s off-beat, with many points twinkling. This makes the heart go flaccid and unable to pump. The electric shock you see being given in TV programmes set in hospitals is not to restart the heart, but to stop it. The hope is that when it restarts naturally it will restart in rhythm. It’s a bit like restarting your computer. Delving even deeper, it’s the single transmission of electrical energy – the line of ions waiting to pass through the Ion channel – that makes all this possible.

We began by exploring ‘making hearts’ on our own and in groups, moving them and beating them. How would a heart attack make a physical score? Unity to chaos; it seemed quite simple, but in making it we found that chaos meant we completely lost the image of the heart and it just looked like formless, abstract dance. The solution was to keep enough form to recognise the heart, but introduce the breakdown of unity within that form. We then played with how we could make that moment of pulse tell the story in a different way – exploring momentary tableaux, and breaking down movement to a single flash to show the external story of a heart attack. But whose heart is it, and how could we visualise and embody the ion channel?

Our research around the idea of the single energy flow across the cell created so much material that I could just go on and on. Professor Ashcroft is so pleased with our work in this area that she’s asked for film of the show to use at conferences.

DH: This is fascinating stuff, Kevin. Could you mention a few other highlights of the show?

KF: Well, there’s a section where we journey from Galvani’s frogs through to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Here we’re telling the story of our modern comprehension of the human body as an electrically-activated system. And how do we explore the idea of what a memory is – a mutating, complex physical structure that’s built and developed by the brain like the growing of a tree, but only accessed and animated by sparks of electrical energy? We began using silk to signify the tendrils of the mind, and then interacting with film to develop the energy flow.  I love this section. But the company looks great throughout Charge, and really shows what they can do. I’m very proud of them.

DH: What, not incidentally, are some of the qualities and attributes that a performer must have to be a member of Motionhouse?

KF: They have to be daring, bold and committed to working together to realise something as an ensemble. The range of skills and what’s asked of them makes them a special group.

DH: Are you able to encapsulate a little of what you’ve learnt from making Charge?

KF: It was an extremely difficult show to make for a number of reasons. Basically we learned that if we all pull together we can do anything.

DH: Finally, what is Motionhouse’s place in both the UK and global, dance-based cultural ecology?

KF: We started out as dance-theatre and then, fed up with the restrictions of that, we became just Motionhouse. Others then began calling us dance-circus, so we’ve assumed that mantle too. We seem to have just wandered off on our own. I don’t see much that seems like us. All along I’ve simply pursued an interest between movement, imagery and spectacle, and then try to make work that’s emotionally engaging, thrilling to watch and driven by a roiling physical energy. I continue to be amazed at and proud of both the number of people who see us, and the reception they give us. It’s a huge relief that we’ve found a large and very passionate audience for our work.

Friday 10 & Saturday 11 November.
Theatre Royal Winchester


The arts & culture guide for the city of Winchester in Hampshire.