Saturday 6th August 2016

Leicester Caribbean Carnival


The annual Caribbean carnival took place today in Leicester.

Leicester Caribbean Carnival 2016
Leicester Caribbean Carnival 2016

Blessed with hot sunshine throughout the day, the event attracted hundreds of thousands of people to see the process and enjoy the music and food on Victoria Park.

Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016
Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016

The procession started from Victoria park just after 2 pm.

DJ on one of the floats in the carnival procession, 2016
DJ on one of the floats in the carnival procession, 2016

A large number of floats played music for the dancers who followed behind.

Costume in the carnival procession, 2016
Costume in the carnival procession, 2016

Many of the dancers had large costumes support with wheeled frames

Large costume in the carnival procession, 2016
Large costume in the carnival procession, 2016

Many of these costumes would have taken many hours to prepare and assemble.

Dancer in the carnival procession, 2016
Dancer in the carnival procession, 2016

The procession took about two hours to weave its way through the streets of the city centre.

Costume in the carnival procession, 2016
Costume in the carnival procession, 2016

Throughout the whole of their journey along the route, the dancers had to keep moving in time with the music.

Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016
Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016

Dance troupes had come from all over the country, from towns and cities as far away as Leeds.

Thousands of local people lined the streets, together with many who had come to Leicester to see this event from all over the UK and parts of Europe.

Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016
Dancers in the carnival procession, 2016

After the procession, thousands of people gathered on Victoria park for the entertainment and to enjoy the many food stalls that served West Indian food.

Tickets were required to enter the event held on Victoria park.

On the day of the event ticket booths were open at all four entrances at Victoria Park from 9am.

Advance prices were:

Age 13-59 at £2
Age 5-12 at £1
Under 5 and 60+ free

On the day prices were:

Age 13-59 at £3
Age 5-12 at £1
Under 5 and 60+ free

American Idiot

24th March 2016

American Idiot Review
Curve Studio

Our rating: *****

Music by Green Day
Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong
Director and Choreographer Racky Plews

Fifteen years ago I was watching Billy Joe Armstrong and his punk band Green Day performing live at The Reading Festival. I have been loving their music ever since. The audience in Curve Studio theatre tonight also loved it; they gave the performers a standing ovation at the end of the show. It was one of the best musical events I have seen at Curve, or anywhere else for that matter.

So many things stood out for me in this show: all the cast members danced, sang and acted and played guitars; in fact in one scene they are all on stage playing guitars – en masse. You won’t see that again in a musical in a long time. The cast were very ably supported by a live band; some of the band guitarists were on stage, on a platform above the main performance area. The three principals sang songs accompanying themselves on guitars.

Green Day's American Idiot runs at Curve from 19th March. Picture from 2015 London production. Photo: Darren Bell.
Green Day’s American Idiot runs at Curve from 19th March.
Picture from 2015 London production.
Photo: Darren Bell.

The moment that stole the show for me was Matt Thorpe singing Boulevard Of Broken Dreams; the Green Day song that has a special resonance for me; I quoted from the lyrics in my novel The Trench, were its sentiments epitomised what rock bands often seem to feel about working in live music. Not what the song is about but hey it seemed to fit anyway.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone

American Idiot is a punk rock opera; its roots could be said to lie in the rich soil of Tommy, The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar and various other productions that have broken the mould of musical theatre over the past few decades. Green Day’s album of the same name was released in 2004, the musical being premiered in 2009 at The Berkeley Repertory Theatre prior to the show moving on to Broadway.

Tonight’s show at Curve’s Studio was absolutely marvellous. The standing ovation given by the audience at the final curtain was well deserved. The singing was fantastic, the dance was massively good, the acting amazing and the whole show a complete sensation.

American Idiot was exciting, colourful, dramatic, engrossing, poignant, enjoyable… no shortage of adjectives to describe how good it was. The show opens with the cast singing and dancing to American Idiot, the hit title song Green Day’s album of 2004. A number that fizzed with unbridled vitality.

Well maybe I’m the faggot America.
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.

Everyone in the cast was good but Matt Thorpe (who played Johnny) was pretty amazing; Tunny (played by Alexis Gerred) was electric and Amelia Lily (as Whatsername) wonderful, Steve Rushton as Will, superb. The performance of the cast sizzled with energy. These guys really rocked out bringing it all to life on the stage.

We did not see the drummer Alex Marchisone until he came on stage for the curtain call right at the end. But the guitarists were visible for most of the show which was great because seeing them playing live gave the whole thing an extra resonance.

The show tells the story of three friends from a suburban area, following different journeys in search of their true selves. Through the songs they express their love, their rage and their struggles. The theme of the show includes a preoccupation with TV and a screen is lowered over the stage from time to time. The story line revolves around the lives of Johnny, Will and Tunny. Will’s girlfriend Heather becomes pregnant. Johnny wanders through the city streets pining for a woman he saw in a window. Tunny enlists for the army. Johnny starts to shoot heroin. Will feels trapped in life as a father with a baby and Tunny is shot while on active service.

American Idiot. Amelia Lily as Whatsername. From the 2015 London Production. Photo: Darren Bell.
American Idiot. Amelia Lily as Whatsername. From the 2015 London Production. Photo: Darren Bell.

Well there is a lot more to the story and I don’t want to spoil it for you; I just want you to see it. American Idiot is one of the best productions I have seen at Curve – and there have been a few of them. The show’s eight day run in Leicester is a great shame, for its brevity,   but it’s on tour and many other audiences in many other towns will want to see it. The show is moving on to several other cities in the UK between now and July.

Find out more about the show on the American Idiot website

American Idiot. Amelia Lily as Whatsername. From the 2015 London Production. Photo: Darren Bell.
American Idiot. Amelia Lily as Whatsername. From the 2015 London Production. Photo: Darren Bell.

See also:

Our coverage of Rent, the musical

Blood Brothers review

Rocky Horror Show review

News 2016

Archive page

News about the arts, culture and heritage

in 2016

21st March 2016

Shakespeare in the news

Leicester’s medieval Guildhall featured in the news today on the BBC’s East Midlands Today programme.

The piece described the Guildhall as one of  the few surviving Jacobean ‘Theatres’.

Leicester's medieval Guild Hall
Leicester’s medieval Guild Hall

The news item was prompted by work undertaken by the team working on The Shakespeare On Tour project who found that the various companies that performed the Bard’s plays visited many parts of the country, including Leicester.

A discovery in some ancient archives suggests that Shakespeare himself might have been present when the company visited Leicester’s Guildhall.

An entry in the city chamberlain’s accounts shows a payment of 40 shillings to a visiting theatre troupe.

If the troupe did in fact come to the Guidlhall in 1606 there is a chance, at least, that Shakespeare might have been with them.

The company, called The King’s Men, came to the city on several occasions after the death of The Bard.

Shakespeare on Tour on the BBC website.

1st February 2016

Leicester raises the rainbow flag for LGBT

LEICESTER is marking the start of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month by flying rainbow-coloured flags from the Town Hall and City Hall.

Assistant city mayor for community involvement and equalities, Cllr Manjula Sood, was joined by guests including Mark Beasley, chair of the Leicester Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender Centre, to raise the flags at the Town Hall on Monday (1 February).

Councillor Sood said: “We recognise the important contribution that our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities make to life in the city and beyond. We’re committed to supporting these communities.

“LGBT history month is about promoting equality and diversity for the benefit of everyone, and Leicester has a long history of championing diversity.

“Raising the rainbow flag is a way for us to show our support, in the hope that we can all work together to create a fairer society.”

Councillor Pam Posnett, Leicestershire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for equalities, said: “The county and city are united in their respect for all communities. I’m delighted that we will once again be raising the rainbow flag, as it demonstrates our unity of purpose in supporting LGBT communities.”

Mark Beasley said: “The Pride flag allows us to show our respect and pride to those who have been instrumental in bringing equality to the forefront of everyone’s agenda. It demonstrates how as a society, the UK has taken big steps towards full inclusion of LGBT people.

“It also portrays our commitment as we strive to make Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland a place where everyone can feel proud and safe to be themselves.”

Representatives from Leicestershire Police, Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, Leicestershire County Council, local charity Trade and Leicester’s LGBT Centre joined the flag-raising ceremony at the Town Hall.

29th January 2016

Attenborough opens gallery

The naturalist and long-running television personality Sir David Attenborough returned to the place of his Leicester childhood today (Friday 29 January) to open a new fully-inclusive gallery championed by his brother Lord Attenborough.

Sir David officially opened the new £1.5million gallery extension at Attenborough Arts Centre, the University of Leicester’s inclusive, multi-use arts venue on Lancaster Road.

Source: University of Leicester

19th January 2016

Black Women and Dance

Jessica Walker of Serendipity-UK told us ; Black Women In Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers conference is happening May 10th 2016 at Leicester City Hall. The founder of the legendary American performance ensemble Urban Bush Women, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, will be keynote speaker and discuss the achievements of black women in the dance industry.

This is a fantastic opportunity for dancers and enthusiasts to network with industry professionals. Booking has opened for a much needed one-day conference, celebrating the impact Black Women have had on the international dance ecology from the early trailblazers to the contemporary ground breakers. Taking place on Tuesday 10 May 2016, as part of Lets Dance International Frontiers 2016, Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers, will reflect upon the challenges that have faced Black Women in the world of dance, but also celebrate the tenacity, strength and creativity of these women.

The conference, will explore the aesthetics that have shaped Black dance internationally. Examining the struggle for a sustainable Black voice in the UK dance scene, giving appreciation to companies such as Phoenix Dance and Ballet Black, and dance agencies such as ADAD and State of Emergency, who have long strived to ensure that the cultural landscape of British Dance reflects the Black British presence. To examining dance practice in America; from the classical repertories of Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem, through to Urban Bush Women.

The key-note speaker is award-winning founder and visionary partner of Urban Bush Women; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar. The company will also be in Leicester for LDIF16, presenting a UK debut at Curve, nearly 30 years after their last performance in Leicester.

Speakers include Adesola Akinleye, DancingStrong; Deborah Baddoo, State of Emergency; Hilary S. Carty, Co-Creatives Consulting; Catherine Dénécy; Pam Johnson, Arts Council England; Mercy Nabirye, ADAD; Maureen Salmon, Freshwaters Consultancy; Louise Sutton, Arts Council England; Jessica Walker, De Montfort University; Sharon Watson, Phoenix Dance Theatre. The event will be hosted by Pawlet Brookes, Serendipity. The conference will focus on the creativity of Black Women in dance and also examine the role of infrastructure to support artists, and agencies as proponents of Black dance.

Pawlet Brookes, artistic director, Serendipity said “A central aim of LDIF and our annual conference is to give a voice to untold and under-told stories in dance; the personal histories that have shaped the dance ecology but may go unheard or under acknowledged. Black Women in Dance will place those stories centre stage. I also hope the conference will lead to discussion and debate from across the sector to pave the way for future generations”.

Jessica Walker, young emerging artist, said “Even now, Black women are undergoing a continuous contention with their representations in the media and are in need of empowerment across all platforms. This concern is not only prevalent in the UK but exists on both sides of the Atlantic. The conference Black Women in Dance: Stepping Out of the Barriers will see a community come together to discuss and celebrate Black women in the dance sector.”

Imperatively, the conference will give a voice to women in dance, to tell their own stories, share their own perspectives, highlight key issues and work towards making a bright future for Black Women in Dance.

Serendipity is a diversity-led organisation with the specific aim of working in partnership with mainstream organisations to showcase high quality, culturally diverse work that reflects the demographic profile of the UK.

More from the website.

Aakash Odedra

Friday 9th October 2015

Echoes and I Imagine

World Premiere

Our rating: *****

The solo dance performance of Aakash Odedra tonight was sensational. I have not seen male dance of this calibre since I last saw Rudolf Nureyev in the 1970s. Odedra’s first piece was a stunning performance based on the Indian classical dance genre Kathak. Dancing to the choreography of Aditi Mangaldas,  Odedra demonstrated the sublime artistry of his abilities, with movements that had razor-sharp timing, perfectly synchronised with the music. The work opened with with gloriously evocative sounds creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, heightened by the lighting and the floor of the stage being spread with long filaments of golden threads studies with tiny bells, laid out to look like the ripples of a lake.

Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015
Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015

The piece drew on the image and symbol of bells, which hung from the top of the stage in clusters of long strings.  As the programme notes explained ‘The resonance of the bells awaken us to the now. A breath and senses awakens. LIFE awakens me.’ The Kathak dance form is story-telling in motion. The elaborate footwork, enhanced by bells,  attached to the ankles, was characteristic of the dance form; Odedra pulled down two of the long strands of bells and wound them around his ankles before proceeding to display amazing footwork, in his bare feet. In something that Western audiences would recognise as tap dancing, he also used his feet as percussion instruments, drumming on the stage, producing sequences of intricate rhythms. Echoes is a work that plays with the idea of bells, their tradition in classical dance, their ritualistic significance and their potential as a metaphor for freedom and awakening.

Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015
Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015

The piece also included many of the spinning movements – the chakkars –  so characteristic of classical Kathak. What Mangaldas has done is to bring the ancient art form into the 21st century without losing any of its resonance and vibrancy. Some of Odedra’s spins were like those of an ice skater; he has a fluidity of movement that is remarkable but he combined this with dynamics that are amazing.  All the time we watch those extraordinarily impressive hand movements, the fingers that wave and flutter like the wings of a bird. It was like seeing dance from another planet; something that moves forward what we understand about solo dance. Utterly enthralling and spellbinding throughout.

Echoes celebrated the form of classical Kathak, but the second piece – I Imagine – brought a totally new approach and direction to the stage. In it, Odedra demonstrated his sense of humour, his consummate capacity for entertaining his audience. It was another demonstration of his story-telling powers, using mime, antics and even spoken word to engage us in a meditation on the theme of travel and migration (very topical.)  Odedra came on to a stage stacked with suitcases – like the bells, another evocative metaphor. This piece used a variety of masks to signify characters, not unlike those used by actors in classical Greek drama, I thought. At the beginning of the piece, one of the larger suitcases begins to move and Odedra emerges from it, foot by foot, leg by leg, rather like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. It reminded me of Ernest being found in a handbag. The story goes on to depict arriving in a new country, migration to a new and alien culture, the feelings evoking loss of homeland, leaving behind the ones that are loved, the challenges of accommodating a new style of life. And then Odedra does something totally innovative for a dancer – he engaged in a spoken monologue in which he used surprising skills of characterisation, speaking in accents to bring his characters to life, much to the amusement of the audience. It was a sequence that bore similarities to stand-up comedy, recollecting the Kumars, I thought. Towards the end of the piece, Odedra walked across the top of a line of suitcases, having used them beforehand to make an armchair and a house.  It was a gleeful deployment of the props and one that took us a long way from the previous  classical dance routines.

I Imagine included spoken word by the celebrated Sabrina Mahfouz, the British Egyptian poet, playwright and performer who was born in South London. Odedra’s collaboration with the award-winning Mahfouz created a work that was supremely one of theatre, one that gave us dance, drama, comedy and gymnastics. It reminded me of my previous experience at Curve when I saw Bromance, the production by the Barley Methodical Troupe that created a new genre of dance and gymnastics. Odedra commissioned the masks used in this production from circus practitioner David Poznanter (it must have been the association of circus that conjured the idea of the work by the Barley Methodical Troupe in my mind.)

Read our review of Bromance

Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015
Aakash Odedra at Curve in 2015

Tonight’s World Premier of Echoes and I Imagine crowns the previous appearance made by Odedra at Curve, including Inked and Murmer in 2014.

Speaking after the performance, Odedra paid tribute to his teacher, the internationally renown Kathak dancer Nilema Devi MBE.

Read more about Nilema Devi

Aakash was commissioned by Curve Theatre in Leicester to choreograph a piece for the opening of the theatre in November 2008. This piece, called “Flight” was the only one invited to perform for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on their visit in December 2008 [Facebook]

Aakash Odedra was raised in Leicester and his company is based here.

Curve has over the years given us so much that is new and exciting in the arts and tonight was no exception.

See also:

Our news archive page with more about Kathak dance, Nilema Devi and Aakash Odedra.

Read our intro article about A Streetcar named Desire.




10th October 2015

artsinmagazine logo 300 x 300

For current news see news about the arts in 2015

News Archives

In this page we present some of the news archives from the old Arts in Leicester website, included here where they have relevance to current articles published in this magazine.


8th January 2013

Nilima Devi is Awarded MBE

Nilima Devi Menski, the founder and Artistic Director of the Centre for Indian Classical Dance (CICD), in Leicester, has been announced as a recipient of an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2013 for her services to dance.

The award has been granted in recognition of Nilima Devi’s sustained commitment to promoting Indian dance for British arts, multicultural education and community cohesion for over 30 years.

Leicester’s councillor and former Mayor, Manjula Sood said “I am very thrilled to hear that Nilima’s work within the cultural community has been noticed and rewarded.”

Chris Maughan, Associate Research Fellow Lecturer, Arts and Festival Management, De Montfort University commented, “it is richly deserved. Let’s hope it provides a foundation for invigorating ideas and energy in arts development more broadly.”

Under Nilima Devi’s leadership, CICD has made significant educational and artistic contributions through numerous workshops, conferences, classes and public performances on local, regional and national scales. In addition to nurturing more than 20,000 students in Indian dance through teaching in schools, Nilima Devi has pioneered projects such as Sinjini (2009), a DVD on Indian music and dance produced using UK-based artists, and Karman, (2012), a book documenting the living history of arts in the South Asian diaspora, which have become invaluable resources for educational establishments.

Nilima Devi has also produced many major performance works such as the Ugly Duckling (1989), Triangle (1991), Rainbow (1993) (choreographed by Kumudini Lakhia), Melory (1995), Dances of the Spheres (1999) (choreographed by Roshan Date), Flaming Feet (2000), Kathak Tells a Story (2001), Images (2004) and Urjah (2007), which have contributed to transcending cultural and artistic boundaries whilst retaining the spirit of Indian dance.

In addition, Nilima Devi has trained several accomplished British-born dance artists, such as Aakash Odedra, who has been touring Rising with the British Council in India and internationally, a solo production choreographed by Russell Maliphant, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Akram Khan.

The MBE is to be presented by the Queen at a special ceremony to be held at Buckingham Palace in London in 2013.

[From Arts in Leicestershire, news section, 2013]


Karman: groundbreaking heritage project tells the story of Indian Classical Dance

By Asian Arts Editor [the late]  Harjinder Ohbi

It was 30 years ago when Nilima Devi, an Indian classical Kathak dancer threw open her doors to a handful of young girls wanting to learn this intricate but colourful dance form.

This gave birth to CICD (Centre for Indian Classical Dance.) Parents eager to revisit their own Indian roots encouraged their children to join the classes. Later, as years passed by, these students went onto become mothers and teachers, having made the gruelling grades, passing on their knowledge to third and fourth generations.

CICD led the way for visiting professional dancers from Bharatnatyam and Odissa holding masterclasses whilst Nilima also introduced folk, street and bollywood dances, as demanded by youngsters.

Numerous groundbreaking shows at various local and National venues gave way to young male dancers who went onto become International artists. Akram Khan and Akaash Odedra brought forth a new dimension to Kathak with their innovative styles and fluidity within their choreography, earning rave reviews where ever they performed.

It is no surprise then that the year long 30th anniversary celebrations of CICD last year was to lead to Karman the book. Karman literally means a collection of past work .You will find interviews with young performers and how they have managed to incorporate their traditional dance forms during their daily lives and what it means to them.It is an historic account documenting not only achievements based on over 70 hours of oral history interviews by a host of voluntary historians aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The books theme also explores the social changes related to these developments thus presenting a unique piece of history that has never been exhibited in Leicester before. Karman is a project very special for me as it explores the living history of Indian classical dance in the UK. It exhibits the roots of Indian classical dance and music through contributions by early pioneers, professional dancers, musicians, members of the community and art lovers.

There were several aspects to the formation of CICD from spirituality, keeping fit and bringing one’s culture, mind, body and soul together. The opening of the Centre, in 1981, came as a blessing for the young women eager to learn Indian classical dance.

They later introduced Indian Folk styles. It was not always easy to make CICD sustainable at times but they made it happen through performances and sheer passion shown by the youngsters. Whilst the support of Local Authorities and the Arts Council England made it possible to work within local schools and communities, that helped them to create a greater interest, reaching a wider public.

Many of the students have gone onto become teachers whilst the likes of Akram Khan and Aakash Odedra have won International acclaim. I feel theirs is an extension of the form of Kathakand, a modern way of interpreting it. “Traditional art is not static, it moves with the times”, concluded Nilima Devi, Artistic Director of CICD.

The official book launch and exhibition [was] staged at the LCB Depot on 14 June 2012

The touring exhibition opened at the Embrace Centre (11th-27th May 2012) and [was] staged at the following venues:

Peepul Centre, 28th May – 8th June
LCB Depot, 11th – 22nd June
Hamilton Library, 03 July – 17th July
St.Barnabas Library, 17th – 30th July
South Fields Library, 31 July – 15 August
BBC Radio Leicester 01 – 17 October
CurveTheatre, 8 – 19 November
Highfiields Library, 19 – 30 November

Visit the website for the Centre for Indian Classical Dance


Car Man

Tuesday 16th June 2015

The Car Man

comes to Curve

Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man: Bizet’s Carmen re-imagined

16th to 20th June

Our rating: *****

Music by Terry Davies and Rodion Shchedrin after Georges Bizet
Directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne
Sound by Paul Groothius
Designed by Lez Brotherston

The Car Man opened tonight at Curve. A dance spectacular in two acts directed by Matthew Bourne.

Subtitled ‘Bizet’s Carmen re-imagined’, this shows provided a delicious cocktail of modern dance, ballet and drama set to music based on Bizet’s opera Carmen. The two hour show, in Curve’s main theatre, was as surprising as it was thrilling.

The Car Man at Curve Photo: Chris Mann
The Car Man at Curve
Photo: Chris Mann

Set in a small town in the Mid West of the USA, the story is simple enough: a drifter called LUCA arrives in the town of Harmony (population 377 at the start of the show) and takes a job at the greasy garage/diner owned by the cruel and abusive Dino Alfano.  Luca becomes involved with Dino’s wife Lana. Luca murders Dino but puts the blame on Angelo, a guy who works at the garage; he is sent to prison for the crime.  When Angelo is raped by a guard at the prison, he kills him and escapes. Angelo returns to Harmony to seek revenge but, during a fight, Dino is shot by his wife.

Watch the trailer on YouTube

THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction - Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs - Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit - Johan Persson
THE CARMAN by Bourne, , Choreography and Direction – Mathew Bourne, Music- Bizet, Designs – Lez Brotherston, Churchill Theatre, Bromley, London, UK, 2015, Credit – Johan Persson

In directing this ‘dance thriller’ Matthew Bourne has come a long way since his iconic production in 1997 of Swan Lake, with its all-male dance cast. The Car Man provides the same lust, passion, murder and revenge as the plot of the opera by Bizet but there the similarity ends. Matthew Bourne takes us away from a cigarette factory in Spain and puts us down in America in the 1960s. The tiny mid-western town is ironically called Harmony. Tonight’s show provided more blood, sex and violence then we have seen at Curve in a long time. The show’s promo material does warn of scenes of a sexual nature and brief male nudity but not swearing – there being no dialogue or singing.

THE CARMAN by Bourne, Photo Credit - Johan Persson
THE CARMAN by Bourne, Photo Credit – Johan Persson

This is a production in which the dancers have to act and engage in moves that bordered on what we saw in Bromance. It was a piece of theatrical drama that used non-vocal acting, mime and lot of very vigorous dancing. The Car Man is an adult show. It carries a warning of scenes of murder, brutality and sexuality that are aimed at today’s sophisticated  audience of grown-ups and if it was a film I suspect it would get an 18 rating. In designing the costumes and the effects associated with the murder of Dino, Lez Brotherston has not left much to the imagination. Bear in mind that the show’s original sub-title was ‘An Auto-erotic Thriller.’ That gives a clue as to how much sexuality there is in the show. Had all this been part of Bizet’s opera (which was saucy enough) the 19th century audience would have been profoundly shocked. What we saw take place on the stage tonight stands in sharp contrast to the benign delights of the recent Curve production of The Sound of Music. Even the 2011 production of West Side Story punches well above the belt compared to tonight’s scenario.

THE CARMAN Photo:Johan Persson
Photo:Johan Persson

The pre-recorded music was based on a score by Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin to which an hour of additional music was added by Terry Davies the British composer.  Whilst we heard the familiar melodies that we all know so well from Bizet’s Carmen, the score  had moved quite a long way from the 19th century opera. Variously described as being ‘after’ or ‘based on’, the music is perhaps more of a Bizet tribute. Tonight’s scoring was more appropriate to the kind of production it was and the period in which the show was set. But, I could not help being disappointed by it. In its transfiguration from opera to show, the music brings us to certain moments of magic  where we expect it to break into song – which of course it does not. It is of course not a musical. It is at these points of heightened expectation – where the great song or aria fails to materialise – that you wished it was a musical. The Car Man is all about dancing; in settling down to watch it, you have the leave your expectations about Bizet at the door. Take your seat at Curve and expect to be entertained with a thrilling theatrical experience that succeeds on its own terms.

Most of the production is set in the garage and diner combo of Dino Alfano. When Luca, a drifter, arrives in town he gets a part-time job at the garage where mechanics service and repair cars – hence the title. The show combines Bourne’s love of movies with his passion for theatrical dance. A TV film version of it was released in 2001.

The world premier of The Car Man took place in 2000 at Plymouth’s Theatre Royal and premiered in London at The Old Vic. The production has been dubbed ‘dance noir’, its gritty realism heightened by plenty of sex and violence.

The Car Man at Curve 2015
The Car Man at Curve 2015

Matthew Bourne is an exciting choreographer. The sheet exactitude of the movements we saw tonight was exhilarating. Modern dance has moved on from the formalism of classical ballet in which the moves, routines and configurations conveyed expression and emotion in a stylised way and mimed rather than acted the emotions of a scene. Bourne’s approach to choreography retains many of the elements of classical ballet – in the way they dancers point their feet, the shape and movements of the hands and the synchronisations of the group. Today’s dance, in Western theatre, allows for much more fluidity of expression and allows a more elaborated freedom of expression. Bourne’s work had attracted a plethora of awards and he has been celebrated as one of Britain’s greatest choreographers and dance directors. He knows what dance is all about, having been a professional dancer for 14 years. His production of Swan Lake, in 1997, was showered with awards and was featured in the film Billy Elliott. Where dance is concerned, Bourne has become a legend in his own time.

The Car Man was an exhilarating experience. Dan Wright’s portrayal of garage owner Dino was highly commendable and Chris Trenfield carried the part of Luca very well. The roles of Lana (Ashley Shaw) and Angelo (Dominic North) were very ably presented. The company of mechanics gave spectacular performances and the set design by Lez Brotherston conjured up the look and feel of the period and place most successfully.

The Car Man runs at Curve from 16th to 20th June.

Tickets are available from Curve’s website

See also:

Spoken word in July

Our review of Beautiful Thing at Curve

Our review of Bromance at Curve

Bromance at Curve

12th May 2015


Curve, Studio

Our rating: *****

Crying Out Loud and DREAM presented Barely Methodical Troupe in their performance of Bromance. On stage tonight were Charlie Wheeller, Louis Gift and Beren D’Amico. Directed by Eddie Kay, choreography by Ella Robson Guilfoyle.

This hour-long show was sensational. We have tagged the show as ‘dance’ but only because we don’t have any other labels that are suitable.

Bromance, Curve, 2015

This show brought together and fused into one sensational act – gymnastics, acrobatics, dance, mime and acting.  They referred to it as ‘circus performance’ but that to me was not helpful, even though Bromance won the Total Theatre/Jacksons Lane Award for Circus.

The acrobatic routines and the dance moves required split-second timing; the dance routines required synchronised choreography.  The three guys achieved all of this with consummate ease and laudable levels of agility.

The show had moments that were funny; some of the moves and actions drew laughter from the audience. A lot of the acting involved looks, expressions and gestures that were quite subtle. The first scene showed the three guys meeting and shaking hands. That might seem simplistic but they turned it into a piece of theatre that set the whole tenure of the show.

Bromance, Curve, 2015
Bromance, Curve, 2015

The routines involved trust (one member falling backwards and being caught by other members, often running across the width of the stage to achieve this), support (the finale was the three of them standing on each others shoulders to form a human tower), and personal space (there were amusing moments as the guys explored each others bodies and several jumps ended up with two or more of them being very up close and personal.)

So what was it all about?

The title gives us a clue: Bromance.  OK, I did have to Google it. Wikipedia had the best explanation:

A bromance is a close, emotionally intense, non-sexual bond between two (or more) men. It is an exceptionally tight affectional, homosocial male bonding relationship that exceeds that of usual friendship, that is distinguished by a particularly high level of emotional intimacy. The emergence of the concept over the past decade has been seen as reflecting a change in societal perception and interest in the theme, with an increasing openness of society in the twenty-first century to reconsider gender, sexuality, and exclusivity constraints.

The show portrayed the changing companionships between the three characters performing on stage. As they performed their moves and routines, the three men went though various dynamics with their portrayed relationships, two or them bonding together to the exclusion of the other one, recombining their affections and loyalties and revealing the changing patterns of the trio as whole. It was a gymnastic ménage à trois.

In the programme notes for tonight’s show is said:  ‘What did it mean that a bunch of heterosexual men  would leave circus training sessions still holding hands? What did it say about their relationships and masculinity?’

Bromance was as much captivating as it was exhilarating. The show presented an emotionally engaging portrayal of male relationships with some of the most stunning acrobatics I have sever seen. I have watched gymnasts performing (floor, Pommel Horse, Still Rings, etc.) and this is a type of sport that I can appreciate for its supreme skill. The three guys did some amazing things: at one point one of them used the back of another to do a Pommel Horse move and in a breathtaking manoeuvre one of them did a hands-free spin on the the head of Louis Gift (the biggest of the three) which drew gasps from the audience.

It is amazing what three guys can do. Three of them – a small one, a middle-sized one and a big one. That worked well in terms of the acrobatics, especially when the three of them stood on each others shoulders, one of the top of the other, a feat that drew rapturous applause from the audience. During the show all three guys were on stage together, except during a duo when Louis Gift and Beren D’Amico performed together in a scene of heart-warming togetherness.

Barely Methodical Troupe Bromance Photo Chris Nash
Barely Methodical Troupe Bromance
Photo Chris Nash

Charlie Wheeller’s solo involved a large hoop (apparently called a Cyr Wheel) – large enough for him to span across across it, his feet on one part of the hoop and his hands on another. He rolled around the stage in it, used it to do tricks, played with it and generally showed us a range of  impressive skills at using this prop, to good effect. A Cyr Wheel is a large metal ring that rotates gyroscopically as a person ‘spins’ it. It acts in a similar way to a coin/penny, but every movement and motion is caused by the person inside it, Wikipedia helpfully explains. The only other other props on the stage were three chairs which were used in one of the routines.

This was like nothing I have seen before. It’s a real shame that this was a one-off performance; I hope these guys come back to Leicester again because I for one would definitely want to see this show again. Judging from the enthusiastic response of the audience tonight, I think I am not the only one.

I am not going to get hung-up on whether it’s circus, dance or acrobatics – I just loved this show because of its breathtaking artistry and the compelling story it portrayed.


Follow Crying Out Loud on Facebook.

Follow Barely Methodical Troupe on Facebook.

See also:

Us and Them, review of the Tetrad Company show

Review of Shiv at Curve.

Politicians and the arts.

Us And Them

Sunday 3rd May

The Tetrad Collective

presented Us And Them

at Embrace Arts

Us and Them was a platform for new emerging artists and this was its third night at The Attenborough Arts Centre that presented tasters of new work by local artists.

The evening formed part of the Hand Made festival programme this weekend. See below for a link to a report on the music side of the HMF.

Tetrad is a collective led by artists, dedicated to engaging with the creative discourse of performance practices through the bringing together of local artists, thinkers and citizens.

The collective was founded by four Leicester based artists: Comedian Daniel Nicholas, Performance Artist Jack Britton and Dance Artists Lewys Holt and Katherine Hall (who performed at the UK Young Artists festival in Leicester November 2014). The collective, in partnership with Attenborough Arts Centre, are presenting a series of events throughout 2015 with the aim to foster performance and networking opportunities for emerging artists in the East Midlands.

The third Us and Them event will feature six local artists including De Montfort University student Nicky Daniels, Leicester-based dance artist Fern Chubb, Leicester-based artist Heather Forknell and Leicester based comedian and live artist Lindsey Warnes-Carroll.

Tonight, the audience gathered in the cafe/bar area of the arts centre at the opening of the evening; members of the company illustrated the theme Lost In Translation in this way: a member of the audience was asked to say something which was then communicated from one actor to the next by means of semaphore-type messages. various other actors then passed on the message to the next station until the communication arrived at its end point where the presenter announced what he had heard from the others – not what the audience member had said, presumably, a play on Chinese whispers.)

In the main hall (The Diana Princess of Wales hall), we watched a show that featured the story of an inflatable crocodile called Terrance and a mannequin called Julia.

This was the invention of Daniel Nicholas and told the story of how these unlikely creatures met, formed a relationship and married. It was a sort of soap-opera storyline that involved extra-marital affairs and Terrance touring the country as a Ukulele player and night club entertainer. Amusing, whimsical, satirical, it was party comedy sketch, partly fringe frolics but very funny.

Daniel Nicholas’s Reverb was part of Dave’s Leicester Comedy festival this year where it as nominated ‘best Festival Debut.’

Reverb (the love story of Terrance the crocodile and Julia the mannequin) was billed as ‘a surreal anti-love story, in reverse. Mixing story telling with comedy, draft surrealism was coupled with honest autobiographic discourse’, the programme notes explained. The story explored the highs and lows or a struggling performer and the strains that an obsession of a dream can have on loved ones.

Fern Chubb and Lily Thomas presented their dance sequence Who We Are. The girls’ gymnastic ballet was a visual into which you could read what you like. The choreography suggested a playful meeting of two children with duos and solo sequences reflecting their feelings and reactions to each other. The programme notes said ‘The work is semi-improvised with a set structure and material that we ‘riff’ off in performance.’ It was a performance that was richly poetic.

The evening was a really rewarding event that added something extra to the main festival programme of Hand Made.

We listed this event on our What’s On page; here is the entry:

3rd May

A night for emerging artists

Us and Them at the Attenborough Arts Centre

New performance platform night Us and Them will have it’s third night at Attenborough Arts Centre on Sunday the 3rd May (7pm) presenting tasters of new performance work created by local emerging artists.

Us and Them is brought to you by Tetrad, a collective led by artists, dedicated to engaging with the creative discourse of performance practices through the bringing together of local artists, thinkers and citizens. The collective was founded by four Leicester based artists: Comedian Daniel Nicholas, Performance Artist Jack Britton and Dance Artists Lewys Holt and Katherine Hall (who performed at the UK Young Artists festival in Leicester November 2014). The collective, in partnership with Attenborough Arts Centre, are presenting a series of events throughout 2015 with the aim to foster performance and networking opportunities for emerging artists in the East Midlands.

See also:

Coverage of the Hand Made Festival’s musical offerings on our magazine Music in Leicester

The website for the Tetrad Collective


News about dance and dancers

25th January 2016

This page forms part of our archives

Nupur Arts Dance Academy

4th August 2015

Nupur Arts Dance Academy has just received £30,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project commemorating their 25 years in promoting and developing South Asian Dance in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Driven by Nupur Art’s Youth Association, this project will focus on the impact that the organisation has made locally to participants, audiences and the wider public through the creation of an exciting documentary and web resource.  The grant will enable a group of 15 young volunteers to develop transferable heritage and media skills and also play a key role in increasing the awareness and understanding of the development of South Asian dance across the Leicester community. There is a significant knowledge-gap in the records of numerous heritage organisations in the Leicestershire area on the progress of South Asian dance over the 25 years that Nupur Arts has developed, but there is certainly a growing interest in the art form with huge festivals and audiences being attracted to sell-out shows. This project will address this need of promoting the growth of South Asian dance and also empower the young people of Leicester to engage with arts, media and heritage in their local area.

From its humble beginnings, Nupur Arts Dance Academy has become the largest dance organisation in Leicestershire with over 300 students learning a range of Indian classical and contemporary dance styles every week.

As well as innovative productions, vibrant community performances and engaging workshops in the community, in 25 years Nupur Arts has built a core team of young dancers that teach and choreograph in classes and projects. With this focus on young people and by working with heritage professionals from East Midlands Oral History Archive, this project will not only map the journey that the organisation has made but also how it has influenced the cultural landscape of the region. It is a highly relevant history and important to our past and present participants in a city where people of South Asian origin make up at least 31% of the population.

Commenting on the award, Smita Vadnerkar, Artistic Director of Nupur Arts Dance Academy said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are confident the project will support young people to be active citizens with pride in the cultural heritage of Leicester.”

Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “Nupur have educated and entertained Leicester for the past 25 years, helping to expand the city’s understanding of South Asian dance. Thanks to National Lottery players, our investment will create a fantastic opportunity for young people to explore the company’s story whilst learning a set of valuable new skills.”

Source: Nupur Arts

Midlands best dance crew

Midlands Best Dance Crew Returns for 5th Year

Dance at 2Funky
Dance at 2Funky

Now in its 5th year, Midlands Best Dance Crew 2015 comes to Curve Theatre, Leicester, on Sunday 8 November. It will see the crews with the fiercest moves dance it out, for a panel of industry insiders, to win this year’s trophy and a £1000 prize. An evening of stunning routines, using hip-hop, street and break dance, the annual competition is repeatedly sold out and showcases a wealth of urban dance talent.

The event will also feature a ‘Best Dancer in the Audience Section, with a £50 prize.
Previous winners of the competition have included Addict, who have gone on to perform as part of high profile dance shows such as Street Dance (Channel 4), Britain’s Got Talent (ITV) and Got to Dance (Sky1).

Vijay Mistry, Director of 2Funky Arts said: “We’re thrilled that Midlands Best Dance Crew is returning for its 5th year. We’re looking forward to seeing the best, emerging urban dance talent that the region has to offer.”

Midlands Best Dance Crew 2015
Sunday 8 November (doors 6.30pm, show time 7pm)
Curve Theatre, Rutland St, Leicester, LE1 1SB
Tickets: £10-16
E: T: 0116 242 3595

6th March 2015

Project  E

The new dance company in Basin Echo, which focuses on stimulating the audience imagination and interaction with the arts.

Our current project E/ aims to encourage the skills of creativity and critical thinking in 21st Century  schools. We are producing a dance film through the use of mainstream academically approved subjects (Mathematics, Science etc), which gives everyone a basic common ground to relate to. There will be no indicated theme or meaning to the film, it will present a form of art which the spectator can nurture in their own minds.

We are creating E/ to support movements such as Art and Culture Matter and the importance of Arts in Education. Having previously dance for Leicester Youth Ballet (Arts in Education) for 10 years, I understand the importance of keeping the arts in education.

We are in pre production of the project, which is scheduled to be completed in August 2015.

Visit Project on Facebook

See also:

Street Dance

Rent Musical

31st July 2014


Curve, Leicester

Rent, a musical by Jonathan Larson 

Directed by Paul Kerryson

Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Larson

A curve Community Production

Rating: ****

Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of 'Rent' Photo: Pamela Raith photography
Jak Skelly (left) and Tim Wilson (right) and the chorus of ‘Rent’
Photo:  Pamela Raith photography

The premature death of Jonathan Larson in 1996 at the age of 35 was as tragic as that of his character Angel. Rent is a musical that has moments of tear-jerking angst but also moments of joyous celebration, so it echoes the traditions of opera whilst being a musical in the best modern genre of Broadway.

Those of us who saw The Water Babies (Curve, May 2014) would have acquired a taste for modern musicals that prepared us for tonight’s performance of Rent, with its vibrant music, set numbers and youthful energy, just as West Side Story (Curve, July 2011) or Fame (DeMontfort Hall 2014) had done. Curve has embraced modern themes, as we saw with the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Curve, February 2011) as much as with the production of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet (March 2011) or the very musical music productions of Mid Summer Night’s Dream (Curve 2011) or Twelfth Night (Curve September 2013). Curve’s current offerings of Annie and Rent are both community productions, drawing young talent from the local community but, as is always the case, you could not have realised that if you didn’t know in advance. In terms of the quality of what you get from the stage, there is little difference between a professional cast and a community ensemble. Curve’s community productions have never been amateurish.

Larson received posthumous awards for Rent which was a long-running success both in Broadway and The West End. The tragic death of the composer and playwright the morning after the preview of Rent was echoed in the show when one of the leading characters – Angel – dies of AIDS. Larson died of a heart attack, resulting from an undiagnosed disease, but his musical went on to become one of the most successful and celebrated works of the 1990s.

Tonight’s performance at Curve received a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd and you could tell, by being there, just what a buzz there was in the audience throughout the show. The story follows the hopes, dreams and relationships of a set of young creatives struggling to survive in the East Village of New York. Like so many twenty-somethings of the time, they have to contend with poverty, landlord’s chasing them for the rent, drug dealers, hunger and cold. Against this backdrop of hardship and deprivation, the group display a resilience supported by friendships, relationships and camaraderie. Like the production that followed it – Fame – a central theme of Rent’s story-line is the ups and downs and ins and outs of the relationships between some of its leading characters.

The leading characters from 'Rent' Photo Pamela Raith Photograpy
The leading characters from ‘Rent’
Photo Pamela Raith Photograpy

Wannabe film-maker Mark Cohen (Tim Wilson) has dumped by Maureen. Rock guitarist Roger Davis (Jak Skelly) is HIV+ and his girlfriend April killed herself when she found that she also had the disease. Tom Collins (Matthew Browne) shares a love interest with a young drag queen Angel (Keir Barradell). Mimi Marquez (Lola McKinnon), a drug addict and night-club dancer, is the love interest of Roger and like him is HIV+. Maureen Johnson (Tabatha Pegg) is in a lesbian relationship with Joanne Jefferson (Sharan Phull)… and so it goes on. It’s a pretty tangled scenario that unravels as the plot develops and you have to pay attention to keep up with whose doing what to whom.

Jak Skelly as Roger and Tim Wilson as Mark with Christopher McCann in the background. Photo: Pamella Raith photography
Jak Skelly as Roger and Tim Wilson as Mark with Christopher McCann in the background.
Photo: Pamella Raith photography

The leading characters are supported by a chorus of around 25 singers, a bit like a Greek Tragedy, so that at several points during the performance there could be upwards of thirty artists on the stage. It’s a show that has set pieces – duets between the leading protagonists, full-cast choral numbers, monologues and several sessions where the mothers of various characters are on stage, phoning their offspring from various parts of North America, trying to find out if their little darlings are ok.

Jak Skelly and Lola Mckinnon. Photo: Pamela Raith photography
Jak Skelly and Lola Mckinnon.
Photo: Pamela Raith photography

Rent captures much of what the 1990s was about and, like the opera around which it was loosely based (Puccini’s La bohéme), it is a tale of love, tragedy and the lives of young Bohemians, some of which end in death, against the back cloth of life in Manhattan (just as Puccini’s opera was based in the Latin quarter of Paris.) The story is racy, the lyrics uncompromising in the use of colloquial language and the atmosphere sparkles with the lustful energy of youth.

Kerryson’s production brought all this alive. The music was played by a live band, the solo vocals and choral passages were impressive and the sound system at Curve better than anything you will hear at any theatre in the UK. Like all musical productions at Curve, production values are uppermost. Musically, Rent provides salsa, be-bop, reggae and the kind of R and B often associated with Motown, although it has been described as a ‘rock opera’, but with only a slight resemblance to The Rocky Horror show (Curve, October 2013.)

All the performances were excellent but those of Jak Skelly as Roger, Tim Wilson as Mark and Lola McKinnon as Mimi were astonishingly good. Keir Barradell’s portrayal of Angel was amazing, backed by that of Matthew Browne as Tom Collins. Tabatha Pegg’s portrayal of Maureen, the seductive stripper and S&M night-club dancer, drew a strong appreciation from the audience for her lavishly salacious performance. It was the choral scenes that I found particularly engaging, adding in a strong vocal layer and enhancing the musical quality of the show through both acts. Sensational performances from the leading artists and the vocal crew, this was an ace production that glittered with musical fireworks.

Rent was an excellent show and production; well worth seeing. A not-to-be-missed event.

Rent runs at Curve on 1st August, 4th and 7th August

and Annie from 2nd to 10th August

Tickets and information from Curve Online

See also:

Our listing of What’s On in Leicester

Read about Street Dance in Leicester

Find out about Black Music

Gershwin in Leicester