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Transform review, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Paul Clarke likes change, but wants more

Written by . Published on June 20th 2011.

Transform review, West Yorkshire Playhouse

HUGE regional theatres like West Yorkshire Playhouse have had to get bums on seats as funding cuts bite so it was a brave decision to commission the Transform season.

Transform is an attempt to make audiences think differently about theatre and judging by the performances I saw, it's not only doing that, but is also surprisingly entertaining.

The first thing that strikes you is how the Transform team has really gone to town on changing the dull bar area into a much more intimate space.

Moor took us on a ramshackle romp through quantum physics, the Hadron Collider, sex god scientist Brian Cox and the writing process.

The other unusual offer is that performances and works in progress are popping up across the myriad of spaces in the Playhouse, and I started by dropping in on the Open House team, who have set themselves up in one of the rehearsal rooms.

Transform 024
Their task is simple…they have one week to create a new piece from nothing, and unusually for them they are throwing open the doors to the creative process by inviting punters to add their ideas.  

In keeping with the anarchic spirit there are plenty of pop-up events with some linked to the Ionian Enchantment series celebrating the new rock and roll - science. One pop-up was a rather predictable piece of ‘comedy’ about hand creams. Thankfully, a two-hander - devised that day – using balloons to explain how atoms worked was much funnier and well-acted.

I had thought a lecture by comedy writer Ben Moor sounded a bit dry, but how wrong I was. It was actually a skilled stand up show focusing on how he wrote his Edinburgh hit, ‘A Supercollider for the Family.’ Moor took us on a ramshackle romp through quantum physics, the Hadron Collider, sex god scientist Brian Cox and the writing process.

Transform 018
But Transform saved the best for last with an absolutely mesmerising performance of Tales From The Raun Tree, written and directed by Dom Coyote. The heart of the song cycle is the journey of a young boy lost in a post-apocalyptic world trying to find his way back to summer.

It could have been terribly twee, but it is one of the most dynamic 40 minutes of music I have witnessed for long while. Partly it is Dom’s beautiful lyrics and the way he links the songs so seamlessly, but its also down to the three crack musicians he has hired to bring his vision to life.

BAFTA winner Emily Barker contributes soulful guitar as well as banjo, and whole thing is driven along by double bassist Adrian Acolaste plus Nat Butler on drums, who actually have a day job as Speech Debelle’s rhythm section. When all the elements came together Tales from The Raun Tree was absolutely breathtaking.

Transform 020
Transform promised high class acts which they have certainly delivered in terms of challenging work and have managed to attract a decent sized audience. 

There is now no excuse for the Playhouse not to take on more leftfield work, which will not enrich their reputation as a regional powerhouse, but bring new people to this venerable institution.

Transform runs until Saturday June 18 and details of performances can be found at www.wyp.org.uk.

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