Preview: An International Performance Festival – Transform 19

Transform this year offers an ever more ambitious and adventurous programme of theatre, dance and parties, including UK premieres by artists from around the world – from those for whom community performance is a first,  to internationally recognised names – in spaces you wouldn’t expect! 

Names such as?  You might ask.  Well, here are a few:

Rewire Leeds – machina eX (Germany)
An Atypical Brain Damage – Tianzhuo Chen (China)
When It Breaks It Burns – coletivA ocupação (Brazil)
What We’re Made Of – Future Radicals (UK)
Idol – Jamal Gerald (UK)
bYOB – 70/30 Split (UK)
All Inclusive – Julian Hetzel (Netherlands/Germany)
Oh Europa – Action Hero (UK)
Performing Britain – Live Art Bistro/Jija Sohn (Japan/Netherlands/UK)
MDLSX – Motus (Italy)
Fashion Smash-Up – Danny Banany(Germany)
Daimón – Luis Garay (Argentina/Colombia)
#Punk – norachipaumire(Zimbabwe/USA)

………and what do the critics say?

“Urgent and of the moment” Yorkshire Post

“Ripping up the rule book” BBC News

Some of the City’s disused spaces as well as some of Leeds’ iconic venues will be home to the Festival.  This year’s Festival was launched in a television studio takeover, in partnership with Prime Studios, which will also host aftershow talks, salons, power brunches and after parties during every evening of the Festival, from 26 April – 4 May.

Tianzhuo Chen. All photographs provided by SM Publicity.

A former school hall in the heart of the City Centre will host a performance telling the tale of student protests in Brazil in Where It Breaks It Burns.

Audiences in a major warehouse takeover will be immersed in large-scale pop opera in An Atypical Brain Damage.  The City will be the stage for performance and interactivity, with opportunities to participate in an urban, digital adventure in Rewire Leeds or to step into a motorhome in Oh Europa and sing a love song.

With an emphasis on original work as well as creativity, Leeds musicians, spoken word poets, comedians, designers and vocalists stage What We’re Made Of, and Transform presents two world premieres, Idol and bYOB,  by Northern-based artists, journeying through religion, Black representation, the rise of nationalism, mob mentality and pop culture.


Live Art Bistro and Transform have commissioned artist Jija Sohn to redevelop solo performance Tamago, “taking the audience through the real, the virtual and the kitsch in a study of madness and loneliness.”

Transform’s Creative Director, Amy Letman, was obviously excited about this year’s potential:

“Transform 19 brings together some of the most game-changing artists from across Leeds and the globe, to ask both how we perceive and are seen by the world today.  From culture clashes to gentrification, identity politics and activism – this collection of performances and events consider who already has power, and who needs power next. Transform 19 is the next step in an adventure to create a fearless international performance festival for Leeds.”

There is so much more – electric monologue, DJ sets, dance performances – even something for 8 – 12 years olds, who are invited to create an outfit from recycled clothes and show the fantastical results on the catwalk in Fashion Smash-Up 

Julian Hetzel

James Brining, Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse, spoke enthusiastically“The Playhouse is proud to have supported and championed Transform Festival over the last eight years. What began as a smaller-scale exploration of experimental new work is now a landmark moment in the cultural life of the City and the wider North. As it’s grown, the Festival has retained the core values on which it was built – adventure, innovation and urgent artistic enquiry. We can’t wait to see how the Festival continues to grow.”

About Transform

Transform is an engine room for urgent, of the moment theatre in Leeds and the creators of the biennial Transform festivals, citywide takeovers of powerful performance by local and international artists. Focused on reimagining what theatre can look like and what it can do, Transform presents theatre works everywhere from arts venues across Leeds, to city sites and outdoor spaces. Celebrating the independent and adventurous spirit of Leeds, they reflect the socially conscious and radical North, and connect to the world. Transform 17 featured 76 artists from nine nationalities and new commissions that went on to receive international acclaim. Recent co-productions include The Darkest Corners, a large-scale outdoor show by RashDash, and Javaad Alipoor’s Fringe-First winning The Believers Are But Brothers. Recently, Transform presented Spirit of Change, a guest programme for Barbican, London. The Transform festivals were established in 2011 by Leeds Playhouse. Transform became independent in 2015 to develop as a major international performance festival with Leeds. The organisation is led by Creative Director Amy Letman.

Transform 19 is produced by Transform, in partnership with Leeds Playhouse and citywide organisations. Supported by Leeds 2023, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.



All tickets for Transform are available from the Transform and Leeds Playhouse websites. 

Tickets can also be purchased in person at Leeds Playhouse’s temporary box office at Victoria Leeds, 19 Eastgate or by calling 0113 213 7700. Box office open 10am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Motus (Italy)


Friday 26 – Saturday 27 April 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

8pm | £15 (£10) | 16+ | 80 minutes

Post show discussion: Friday 26 April 2019

Luis Garay (Argentina/Colombia)


Friday 26 – Saturday 27 April 2019

Yorkshire Dance, 3 St Peter’s Square, Leeds, LS9 8AH

7pm | £13 (£8) | 14+ | 70 minutes

Nora Chipaumire (Argentina/USA)


Sunday 28 April 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

7pm | £13 (£8) | 16+ | 50 minutes

Jamal Gerald (UK)


Saturday 27 – Sunday 28 April 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

2pm (Sunday only) & 6pm | £13 (£8) | 16+ | 70 minutes

70 / 30 Split (UK)


Saturday 27 April 2019

Riley Theatre, Northern School of Contemporary Dance,

98 Chapeltown Road, Leeds, LS7 4BH

4pm | £13 (£8) | 16+ | 60 minutes

coletivA ocupação (Brazil)

When It Breaks It Burns

Thursday 2 – Saturday 4 May 2019

Leonardo Building, 2 Rossington Street, Leeds, LS2 8HD

8.30pm | £15 (£10) | 12+ | 75 minutes

Future Radicals (UK)

What We’re Made of

Thursday 2 – Saturday 4 May 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

Various timings (see website) | £8 (£5) | 16+Tianzhuo Chen (China)

An Atypical Brain Damage

Friday 3 – Saturday 4 May

Secret Location (near Prime Studios)*

9pm | £16 (£11) | 18+ | 90 minutes

*to be revealed to ticket holders via email

machina eX (Germany)

Rewire Leeds

Wednesday 1 – Saturday 4 May 2019

Slots daily from 2pm-5pm & 5pm-8pm | Citywide

£15 (£10) | Under 16? Play with an adult | Various times

Julian Hetzel (Germany/Netherlands)

All Inclusive

Friday 3 – Saturday 4 May 2019

Leeds Playhouse (Pop-Up Theatre), Playhouse Square, Leeds, LS2 7UP | 7pm | £15 (£10) | 18+ | 90 minutes

Action Hero (UK)

Oh Europa

Friday 26 April – Saturday 4 May 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD & city locations |Various times | Free though advance booking advised for guided tours

Jija Sohn (Japan/Netherlands) & Live Art Bistro (UK)

Performing Britain

Thursday 2 May 2019

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

8pm | £8 (£5) | 14+ | 40 mins (performance), 20 mins (talk)

Workshop with Danny Banany(Germany)

Fashion Smash-Up workshops & fashion show

Prime Studios, 94 – 96 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, LS3 1HD

Friday 3 May 2019 – Saturday 4 May

Various times (see website) | Free (booking required)Ages 8-12

Feature image is coletivA ocupação.

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