Full Programme Announced For Transform 23

Miet Warlop’s ONE SONG © Michiel Devijver
Miet Warlop’s ONE SONG © Michiel Devijver

Transform, the engine room for powerful performance in the north of England, has today 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.

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


  • 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.


  • 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 DARKMATTER.
  • 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.


  • 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 Sichovykh Striltsiv Street an intimate photo exhibition and audio experience at Leeds Trinity shopping centre.


  • 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.”

Transform aims to conjure a new vision for international festivals – inclusive, sustainable, cocreated, 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.


SECRETS – World Premiere

11 Oct, 7.30pm & 12 October, 2pm 

The Warehouse in Holbeck

Amusing, confusing and occasionally dark, this riotous new gig-theatre show is based on hundreds of real-life secrets submitted by young people in Leeds and Reykjavík, commissioned by Transform’s Young Curators.  

SECRETS is created by Icelandic artist Ásrún Magnúsdóttir in collaboration with an incredible collective of young Leeds based performers and artists. Original composed music gives voice to the unspoken worries and private lives of teenagers – from soulful melodies to electric and rousing rhythms. 

Come prepared to put yourself in the shoes of today’s teens – as these extraordinary performers give voice to thousands of real-life concerns and the things that are rarely spoken about or seen. 

Alongside the performance of SECRETS, Transform’s future-gazing group of Young Curators will conceive a programme of special events and interventions to get you thinking, talking and dancing around the show. More details will be announced soon.

Commissioned & Produced by Transform. Supported by Children Culture fund of Iceland and Reykjavík Dance Festival.

Desire Marea

12 October, 8pm

Left Bank Leeds

Bridging experimental music and operatic performance, join us for a communal and ceremonial concert by South African artist Desire Marea. This multi-sensory experience in collaboration with Light Night transforms Left Bank with breathtaking vocals and stunning visuals.

OH DEER! – UK Premiere

13 – 14 October, 7.45pm

Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

Popular culture has a thing for orphans.  

Movie theatres, books and comics are full of little lost orphans who depend on themselves, pluck up the courage for adventure and make a few wisecracking friends along the way. Of course not everyone gets a happy ending. 

Australian company APHIDS make a lively new space to reflect on personal and universal experiences of loss, working with people who have lost a parent – from Melbourne to Leeds.  

From a wide-eyed fawn alone in the forest, to a powerful ice princess whose parents are lost at sea – this playful performance moves away from the idealised orphans of fairy tales to contemplate the reality of coping with bereavement.

This project was commissioned through RISING’s 2020 A Call to Artists initiative, a program supported by Creative Victoria and City of Melbourne.

Commissioned and produced by RISING. Co-commissioned by Transform.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body, the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, the City of Melbourne and the Besen Family Foundation.


14 October, 7.30pm

Main Theatre, Leeds School of Arts, Leeds Beckett University

In her new creation, Cherish Menzo and her onstage partner Camilo Mejía Cortés look for ways to detach their bodies from the way they are perceived and the daily reality in which they move. 

They look up to the sky, at dark matter and at black holes that meet and collide to give birth to a new, (afro)futuristic and enigmatic body. 

This dance performance incorporates the Chopped and Screwed method – a remix technique from hip-hop music in which the tempo is sharply reduced. By stretching the notions of time, the register changes and the performing body transcends into a different state. 

The performance is soundtracked by the Distorted Rap Choir – the voices of local Global Majority people whose voices are altered and warped to bring new meanings to this other-worldly and futuristic experience.

Produced by GRIP, Frascati Producties

Co-produced by Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels, BE), CCN-Ballet national de Marseille dans le cadre de l’accueil studio / Ministère de la Culture (France), actoral festival (Marseille), STUK (Leuven), La Villette (Paris), Festival d’Automne à Paris, Beursschouwburg (Brussels), De Coproducers (Netherlands), Perpodium (Belgium).

With the financial support of the Flemish Government, The Performing Arts Fund NL, Ammodo, Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government, Cronos Invest.

Performances at Transform 23 supported by the The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the UK and Ireland and LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture

ONE SONG – UK premiere

19-20 October, 7.30pm

Quarry Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

A spectacular performance that is part sports competition, part concert – on an epic scale. 

In ONE SONG, a group of musicians complete a workout whilst performing a single song – over and over. A cheerleader, a commentator and watching fans spectate as this mesmerising ritual unfolds – cheering and heckling by turns. 

Belgian artist Miet Warlop and an ensemble of extraordinary performers invite us to witness this exhilarating physical struggle, grappling with themes of life and death, hope and rebirth, as well as the bodily realities of sweat, pain and exhaustion. 

Produced by NTGent & Miet Warlop, Irene Wool vzw. Co-produced by Festival d’Avignon, deSingel (Antwerp), Tandem Scène nationale Arras-Douai, Théâtre Dijon Bourgogne Centre dramatique national, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), La Comédie de Valence, Centre dramatique national Drôme – Ardèche, Teatre Lliure Barcelona. Supported by the Flemish Government, Tax Shelter of the Belgian Federal Government, Frans Brood Productions.

Performances at Transform 23 co-presented by Transform and Battersea Arts Centre and using public funding through the national lottery from Arts Council England.

Pumpitopera Transatlantica – UK Premiere

19–21 October, 9pm

The Warehouse in Holbeck

Brazilian artist collective MEXA present a vivid reimagining of Homer’s Odyssey, combining operatic vocals, 90s pop music and personal stories to create an everyday epic which is both dazzling and entertaining. 

MEXA was formed in 2015 following episodes of violence in homeless shelters in São Paulo. Central to Pumpitopera Transatlantica is a question around heroic paths: how might we look at these individual stories and trajectories from a mythological perspective?

In their own personal odysseys, as mothers, racialised and LGBTQIA+ people, they have found a safe haven in queer nightlife, performances and drag shows. 

This thrilling, immersive performance merges club culture with dance, music and video to tell their individual stories and create a thrilling new epic. Three years in the making, Transform has been working with MEXA and São Paulo based cultural space Casa Do Povo since 2020 to develop this new production. Around the show, local artists have been invited to create micro-performances and interventions inspired by the theme of odyssey. More details will be announced soon.

Co-produced and commissioned by Casa do Povo & Transform. Supported by LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture.

Supported by the Secretariat for Culture and Creative Economy of the State of Sao Paulo and the Ministry of Culture.

Blood Bone Breath

20 October, 6.30pm

Studio 3, Yorkshire Dance

Enter this womb-like installation – a soft, red room alive with the ebb and flow of three performers’ movement.

Audiences are invited to rest and relax as the dancers follow their senses and navigate their relationships whilst exploring the space. 

Accompanied by a meditative soundscape, imagery emerges and disappears in cycles of metamorphosis. Blood Bone Breath is co-created by dance artists Hollie Miller and Hannah Buckley with live sound from Craig Scott. The installation brings together movement, image and sound to prioritise softness, slowing down and cultivating deep listening. Blood Bone Breath navigates intimacy, agency and being in relation to one another. 

Audiences are invited to step outside of the flurry of the festival and relax within this deeply reflective space where bodies and atmosphere intertwine. 

Supported by Yorkshire Dance, Wainsgate Chapel and Studio 307 and using public funding through the National Lottery from Arts Council England.

Out of the Blue

20 – 21 October, 7.15pm

Studio, Leeds School of Arts, Leeds Beckett University

Out of the Blue is an evocative documentary theatre show about the world of deep-sea mining.

Worldwide, only ten percent of the ocean surface has been mapped and explored. At a moment in history when the planet we live on seems to have been explored extensively, some places remain unstudied and untouched but also at great risk. 

After their acclaimed performances Mining Stories and Pleasant Island, Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere present Out of the Blue – the final part of their trilogy on mining. With resources on land becoming increasingly scarce and overexploited, mining companies turn towards the ocean.

Through a series of interviews and conversations, an intimate portrait of this new industry emerges.  

Produced by CAMPO.

Co-produced by Bunker (Ljubljana), De Brakke Grond (Amsterdam), Noorderzon – Festival of Performing Arts and Society (Groningen), Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Zürich), Beursschouwburg & Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels), PACT Zollverein (Essen), Théâtre de la Ville (Paris) & Festival d’Automne à Paris (Paris).

Get Off – World Premiere

20 Oct, 8.30pm & 21 Oct, 6pm

Main Theatre, Leeds School of Arts, Leeds Beckett University

Join dedicated pleasure seeker and self-proclaimed hot-mess, Katy Baird as she fearlessly unveils her journey in search of the ultimate euphoric experience that unites us all.

Will the pulsating bass line of a nightclub offer the long-awaited high? Could spontaneous dancing at a house party ignite the euphoria she craves? Or perhaps, the ultimate ecstasy lies in the most unexpected of places. 

With unwavering determination, Katy offers a raw and unfiltered glimpse into the human desire for connection, exploring the depths of our desires and questioning the autonomy we have in choosing where we seek it.

Indulge your senses. Embrace the chaos. Discover the essence of shared euphoria. Welcome to Katy’s unfiltered odyssey—a performance that will captivate, challenge, and ultimately bring us all closer together.

Co-commissioned by Transform and Battersea Arts Centre with further support from Artsadmin, Tramway, CAMPO, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Cambridge Junction and Horizon. Using public funding through the National Lottery from Arts Council England.

Songs for no one – UK Premiere

21 Oct, 2pm

Carriageworks Theatre

Join Theatre-maker Nastaran Razawi Khorasani on a journey through the invisible stories of an Iranian boy and girl living under dictatorship.  

Based on real life telephone conversations, this evocative solo performance includes dialogues, poems and songs to reveal the lives and realities of those who are not often visible.  

Having left Iran as a refugee in her own childhood, Khorasani reflects on the fragility of freedom. She asks what it means to live under a dictatorship and explores what ideas and dreams give the younger generation hope.

A production from the Kobe collectief. Co-producers BNG Bank Theaterprijs, Maas Theater and Dance, Theaterfestival Boulevard in collaboration with Het Nationale Theater, We Are Public and Workspacebrussels.

Performances at Transform 23 supported by the The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the UK and Ireland and LEEDS 2023: Year of Culture


21 Oct, 4pm

Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre

Journey into a dark corner of a forest, where a group of disabled children are lost. Or maybe they were abandoned – or perhaps are searching for something. Perhaps the woods, one day, simply grew around them. Our present tells us: things happen. All we have to do is to figure out if we can survive those things or not. What might unfold?

This gentle and evocative dance performance created by choreographer Chiara Bersani ponders the politics of our access to nature. Witness a mysterious and evocative environment, where sounds and gestures gradually evolve into a new language.

Produced by corpoceleste c.c.0.0#.

Co-produced by Stronger Peripheries: A Southern Coalition. Tandem “Con- necting Dots” L’Arboreto Teatro Dimora – Mondainno (Itlay), Sardegna Teatro (Cagliari), Bunker (Ljubliana) supported by Creative Europe, Theaterfestival Boulevard (s-Hertogenbosch), Carreau du Temple Etab- lissement culturel et sportif de la Ville de Paris (Paris), Tanzhaus nrw (Düsseldorf), Tanzt Im August / HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Rosendal Teater (Trondehim), Le Gymnase CDCN Roubaix – Hauts–de-France (Roubaix), Kunstencentrum VIERNULVIER vzw / Arts Centre VIERNULVIER, (Gent), Snaporazverein, (Samaden) SPIELART Theater Festival (Munich) , Cen- trale Fies (Dro), Fuorimargine Sardegna Teatro (Cagliari). 

With the support of MiC – DIREZIONE GENERALE SPETTACOLO (Italy), Homo Novus Festival International Festival of Contemporary Theatre (Riga).

Club Odyssey

Sat 21 Oct, from 10pm

CLAY: Centre for Live Art Yorkshire

Join an epic club experience for the finale of Transform 23. DJs and performers from Brazilian artist collective MEXA are joined by explosive acts from across Leeds and beyond. Expect myths, monsters and dancing!

Public Trust

11 – 13 Oct, 12–10pm

Leeds Train Station

How serious are the promises we make to one another, the vows we take? What about the pledges made by our public leaders? 

Public Trust asks you to make a promise and examine the value of your word. 

Your vow is recorded in a drawing you can keep, and then displayed on a monumental marquee board for passers-by to see.

This board places your words alongside other promises made by politicians, scientists, economists, corporations and weather forecasters, all chosen daily from headline news.

Presented in association with Fierce. Originally commissioned by Now + There

Photos of Sichovykh Striltsiv Street – UK Premiere

21 – 22 Oct,  10am–6pm

Leeds 2023 Hub, Trinity Leeds

During his daily walks in Kyiv, artist Dmytro Levytskyi photographed his sites and surroundings. The war seemed to leave a shadow on the street – on shop windows, old cars and the people going about their daily lives. 

Most of the photos were taken on Sichovykh Striltsiv Street, as Levytskyi walked from the market to the square, passed shop windows, stopped at cafes and greeted people as they passed. Walking for him became a ‘dance of the eyes’ through the city, the traces of war and the peculiar changes in surroundings captured forever in his photographs.

You are invited to spend some time with this photo album, and to listen to a soundscape of Levytskyi’s reflections. Watch and listen as the events from the last years unfold through intimate and everyday details, forever engrained in the photographs. This intimate experience offers a window into the everyday realities of living in Kyiv today. 

Produced by Miskyi theatre (Kyiv) and Goethe Institute in Ukraine.

Transform Happy Hour

13 & 20 Oct – 5pm

Outlaws Yacht Club

Join the Transform team and festival artists for an early evening drink at Outlaws Yacht Club, and for conversation and context on the programme.

Related Articles


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *