Desire Mareaenda-Chidora at Transform 23

TRANSFORM 23 Launch Party

The Full Programme announced for TRANSFORM 23
July 27, 2023

This year TRANSFORM 23 runs from 11 – 22 October – and will be inviting audiences to engage with celebratory, defiant, tender and reflective performances as eleven premieres are set to be presented in venues and spaces throughout the city of Leeds.

13 Companies from different countries will come together across 9 locations in Leeds to collectively explore everything from community and loss to nature and personal odyssey through theatre, performance, dance, club culture and public interventions.

APHIDS - Oh Deer (Image Tommy Thoms)
APHIDS - Oh Deer (Image Tommy Thoms)

MIET WARLOP, MEXA, CHERISH MENZO, APHIDS, ÁSRÚN MAGNÚSDÓTTIR and KATIE BAIRD are among the artists presenting new performance pieces at the festival.

Transform, the engine room for powerful performance in the North of England, last night announced the full programme for the 2023 edition of their international performance festival. Returning to Leeds from 11–22 October, tickets for the full festival programme are on sale now, with all events operating ‘Pay What You Can’ ticket pricing.

The festival will see over 100 artists from all over the world – including Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Netherlands, Iceland and the UK – descend on Leeds this autumn, collaborating with local artists to bring extraordinary performances, that sit at the intersection of different art forms, to the north of England.

Part of LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture, Transform 23 is a future-gazing festival that invites audiences and artists alike to contemplate how we might live differently, with a distinctive mix of bold, vivid and socially conscious performances staged in iconic city venues and unusual spaces throughout Leeds.

MEXA - Pumpitopera Transatlantica (Image: Navid Fayaz)
MEXA - Pumpitopera Transatlantica (Image: Navid Fayaz)

Signature Productions & World Premieres

Based on hundreds of real-life secrets submitted by young people in Leeds and Reykjavik, artist Ásrún Magnúsdóttir, in collaboration with local Leeds-based performers, presents the world premiere of SECRETS

Australian company APHIDS draw on pop culture’s orphan tropes in the UK premiere of OH DEER! reflecting on personal and universal experiences of loss with an integrated cast from Leeds and Melbourne. A Transform co-commission.

Brazilian collective, MEXA, merge club culture with operatic vocals, 90s pop music and video in the UK premiere of Pumpitopera Transatlantica, a vivid reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey that draws on their individual, personal experiences to create an everyday epic. A Transform co-production.

In a test of physical endurance, an ensemble cast grapples with themes of life, death, hope and rebirth in the UK premiere of ONE SONG - a spectacular performance on an epic scale by prolific Belgian theatre maker Miet Warlop.

Katy Baird provides a raw and unfiltered glimpse into the human desire for connection in the world premiere of Get Off, a Transform co-commission.

Katy Baird - Get Off (Image: JMA Photography)
Katy Baird - Get Off (Image: JMA Photography)

UK Premieres

Cherish Menzo and Camilo Mejía Cortes explore ways to detach their bodies from how they are perceived and the daily reality in which they move, in the UK premiere of (afro) futuristic dance show DARK MATTER.

Based on real-life telephone conversations, theatre maker Nastaran Razawi Khorasani explores the invisible stories of an Iranian boy and girl living under dictatorship in the UK premiere of Songs for no one.

An evocative documentary theatre show on the world of deep sea mining – Out of the Blue – is the final part of Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere’s trilogy on the mining industry.

Choreographer Chiara Bersani explores the politics of our access to nature in the UK premiere of SOTTOBOSCO, a gentle and evocative dance performance where sounds and gestures gradually evolve into a new form of language.

Hannah Buckley, Hollie Miller and Craig Scott present their durational installation Blood Bone Breath bringing together movement, image and sound to prioritise softness, slowing down and cultivating deep listening.

SOTTOBOSCO - Chiara Bersani (Image: Guilia Agostini)

Public Art

Paul Ramírez Jonas presents Public Trust, a monumental marquee board of vows made by the residents of Leeds – alongside those made by politicians, scientists, economists, corporations and weather forecasters – to be displayed and engaged with at Leeds train station, in partnership with Leeds Light Night. 

Artist Dmytro Levytskyi offers a window into the everyday realities of life in the Ukrainian city of Kyiv in Photos of SichovykhStriltsiv Street an intimate photo exhibition and audio experience at Leeds Trinity shopping centre.

SECRETS (Image: Transform)

Special Events

Bridging experimental music and operatic performance, South African artist Desire Marea will present an experimental and operatic concert at Leeds Left Bank. In partnership with Leeds Night Night, the venue will be transformed with music, visuals and installation.

An epic club experience for the finale of Transform 23 CLUB ODYSSEY will feature DJs and performers from MEXA alongside explosive acts from across Leeds and beyond.

Transform Happy Hour invites audiences to join the Transform team and festival artists for early evening drinks, conversation and the context behind this year’s programme.

Amy Letman, Creative Director of Transform says: "Transform 23 is our most ambitious festival yet bringing extraordinary performance, dance, theatre, club culture and public encounters to Leeds. Years in the making, we’ve been scouring the world for the most daring productions to bring to the north of England, whilst cooking up major new collaborations with creatives from across Leeds and the globe. From intimate encounters to epic spectacles on big stages – audiences are invited to see the city differently and engage with powerful performance by trailblazing international artists. In this continued age of uncertainty, Transform 23 gives pause to ponder everything from community and loss to nature and personal odysseys – intrepid artists offer brave and heartfelt perspectives on how we might live differently together in the future."

Kully Thiarai, Creative Director and CEO of LEEDS 2023, says: “We are absolutely delighted to be supporting Transform with its most impressive festival to date. The festival sits within the third and final part of our programme ‘Dreaming’ and we are thrilled to see and support so many brilliant international artists and companies bringing powerful and thought provoking work to Leeds during our Year of Culture. We hope that the support LEEDS 2023 has been able to provide to Transform will ensure its long-term growth and development for this and many more years to come. It is a great example of how we have worked in partnership to welcome international artists and companies to connect and collaborate with our communities.”

Miet Warlop - One Song (Image: Michiel Devijver)

Transform aims to conjure a new vision for international festivals – inclusive, sustainable, co-created, local and global. Two productions which received early development at Transform 21-22 – MEXA’S Pumpitopera Transatlantica and Ásrún Magnúsdóttir’s SECRETS – will premiere as part of Transform 23. In recent years Transform has focused on collaborations with young people aged 16-21 – supporting the next generation of creatives and curators. This year, working in close collaboration with the Transform team, young curators have commissioned a major new co-created production with Ásrún Magnúsdóttir and programmed Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere’s Out of the Blue.

Following the success of their ‘Pay What You Can’ ticketing pilot, which was trialled as part of the 21-22 festival, Transform is applying this pricing model across all events in this year’s festival. Ticket options range from £2-£25 with audiences invited to select the pricing level that best suits them as part of Transform’s commitment to inclusion and accessibility to allow more people to access festival events whatever their circumstances.

Transform 23 is produced by Transform – in partnership with Leeds Playhouse and citywide venues and partners. Supported by LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture. Funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.