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Inventive retelling of Black Beauty comes to Southbank Centre this Christmas


This Autumn, Southbank Centre showcases some of the most pioneering new artists using performance to challenge societal norms including dancer and choreographer Oona Doherty, performance artists Travis Alabanza and Nicola Gunn, and theatre makers Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence. Alongside these artists, Southbank Centre welcomes back three important companies experimenting with form and challenging the audience experience; Reckless Sleepers, and two Southbank Centre Associate Companies – Forced Entertainment and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance. Winter sees offerings for all ages with the return of Circus 1903 with new acts for 2019 following its huge success last Christmas, the arrival of a new dynamic interpretation of Black Beauty, and a fresh show from favourites Fascinating Aïda.

Carving out a place for themselves as one of the UK’s prominent trans voices, Travis Alabanza presents Burgerza performance that is both timely and unsettling, exploring how trans bodies survive and how audiences can address their own complicity. After someone threw a burger at them on Waterloo Bridge and shouted a transphobic slur, Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This show is the climax of their obsession and will be accompanied by a talk on trans issues (PUR, 29 Nov – 1 Dec). Rachael Spence and Lisa Hammond also use their position on stage to bring to light their personal experiences.

Part-verbatim theatre, part-confession, part-comedy sketch show with singing and dancing thrown in, Hammond and Spence bring Still No Idea to Purcell Room following a highly successful run at The Royal Court Theatre. Delving into the stories the public imagines for this pair, one disabled and one able bodied, by asking people on the street for their plot ideas, they explore these stories and what they say about society and perceptions of disability (PUR, 11 – 12 Nov).

Part of Dance Umbrella 2019, Oona Doherty presents the London Premiere of Hard To Be Soft – a multi-disciplinary performance delving into the psyche of her native Belfast and the young male violence haunting her city. Using movement as a medium for understanding and a catalyst for social change, Doherty weaves everyday stories into a tapestry of mesmerising movement, religious iconography and haunting sound by DJ David Holmes (QEH, 11 Oct). Nicola Gunn dissects the realms of human behaviour through direct address to her audience in Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster as she calls into question mankind’s capacity to make moral judgments. Starting with a disarmingly simple exploration of the moral conundrum of what to do if one comes across a person throwing stones at a duck, Gunn slips across tempos, ideas and performance modes – from movement to dance to performance art and back again – to a complex, philosophical musing on the very function of art (PUR, 16 Oct).

Southbank Centre Associate Company Shobana Jeyasingh Dance returns with the London Premiere of Staging Schiele, a new commission by Southbank Centre. Inspired by the extraordinary work and life of Austrian artist Egon Schiele, four dancers inhabit Schiele’s highly-charged world of colour, masterful lines and unusual perspectives, putting the human body on visceral display. Shobana Jeyasingh’s award-winning choreography matches the intensity of Schiele, engaging with his anxieties as well as his self-confidence, and addressing the male artist’s use and objectification of the female model – bringing his models to life and giving them a platform to express themselves through movement (QEH, 4 – 5 Nov).

Reckless Sleepers and Associate Company Forced Entertainment bring two pieces to Southbank Centre this October that experiment with the nature of performance. The London Premiere of Negative Space by Reckless Sleepers sees the company experiment with a blank architectural canvas to express a love story, a slapstick comedy, a slasher and melodrama without speaking a word (PUR, 11 – 12 Oct). Highly regarded for pushing the boundaries of what theatre can be, the UK Premiere of Forced Entertainment’s Out of Order once again challenges traditional notions of theatre as circus clowns take to the stage, carefully working to unbalance the balance between funny and not funny (QEH, 12 – 14 Oct).

Featuring acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, trapeze, high-wire performers and more, Circus 1903 returns to Southbank Centre for Christmas following last year’s success to recreate the thrills and daredevil entertainment of a turn-of-the-century circus. This year’s show will feature many of last year’s best loved acts including charming life sized elephants Peanut and Queenie created by puppeteers from War Horse and ringmaster David Williamson. With new acts for 2019 including the Brazilian Wheel of Death, this show transports audiences of all ages to the golden age of circus (RFH, 19 Dec – 5 Jan).

Presented by Red Bridge and Traverse Theatre Company, some of the UK’s best theatre makers for children, Andy Manley, Andy Cannon and Shona Reppe bring their critically acclaimed, vibrant re-telling of Anna Sewell’s novel Black Beauty to Southbank Centre. Blending vivid storytelling, joyful music and inventive puppetry, this is the perfect show for families this winter. Offering fun and adventure in Purcell Room, the timeless tale of Black Beauty is reinvented for a new generation (PUR, 14 Dec – 5 Jan).

Fascinating Aïda is back with the World Premiere of a brand new show. With three Olivier Award nominations and over 25 million YouTube and Facebook hits for ‘Cheap Flights’ and their incredibly rude Christmas song, Britain’s favourite cabaret trio Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson and Liza Pulman are bringing their unstoppable glamour to Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall with a mix of big hits, old favourites and hot new songs for four weeks this Christmas (QEH, 10 Dec – 5 Jan).

Rupert Thomson, Senior Programmer for Performance and Dance, Southbank Centre, said:

“On issues including social class, violence, gender and disability, we are proud to present some of the most exciting young artists taking on these topics with ferocity and wit. Oona Doherty, Travis Alabanza, Nicola Gunn, Lisa Hammond and Rachael Spence are all new to our stages; alongside them we are pleased to present masters of their craft who all return to Southbank Centre following successful appearances here before, Reckless Sleepers and Associate Companies Forced Entertainment and Shobana Jeyasingh Dance.”

Still to come this summer, Southbank Centre welcomes the UK Premiere of Jean Paul Gaultier’s eccentric, scandalous, provocative, exuberant and funny new creation, Jean Paul Gaultier: Fashion Freak Show. Transfering from an acclaimed run in Paris at the iconic Folies Bergère, this explosive combination of a revue and fashion show, sees actors, dancers and circus artists take to the stage to share Jean Paul Gaultier’s stories and celebrate those who have inspired him (QEH, 23 Jul – 2 Aug). In August, Southbank Centre Associate Company ZooNation Youth Company make a welcome return to Queen Elizabeth Hall with the World Premiere of Tales of the Turntable, a toe-tapping, heart-warming dance and music show for all the family commissioned by Southbank Centre (QEH, 15 – 26 Aug). Then September, radical and influential choreographer Deborah Hay and pioneering musician and composer Laurie Anderson unite with Sweden’s renowned Cullbergbaletten (Cullberg Ballet) for the UK Premiere of Figure a Sea a work that sees dancers match technical precision and minimalist expression to the electronic, meditative sounds of Anderson (QEH, 6 Sep).

Tickets for Staging Schiele, Burgerz, Out of Order, Still No Idea, Fascinating Aïda, Black Beauty, Negative Space and Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster go on sale to Southbank Centre members on Tuesday 11 June and on general sale on Thursday 13 June. All other shows are currently on sale.