Theatre, dance and music in the spotlight

New Art Club present Big Bag of Boom at The Foundry, Western Bank, Sheffield,  October 19 2011,
New Art Club present Big Bag of Boom at The Foundry, Western Bank, Sheffield, October 19 2011,

LOOKING back at 2011, a range of people share their highlights of 2011 and reveal what they are looking forward to in 2012.

Paul Allen, writer, broadcaster and chair of Music in the Round.

Neon I Love You Park hill Flats

Neon I Love You Park hill Flats

Is there anyone else in British theatre who, in a matter of weeks, could direct that dynamic Othello with a defining performance from Dominic West and then give a stunningly high-octane performance – acting, singing, dancing – in the lead role in Company? I hope Sheffield knows what it’s got in Daniel Evans.

The composer Janacek has dominated my year but touring with Timothy West in Intimate Letters gave me the chance to hear Ensemble 360 play Schubert’s String Quintet in C five times in quick succession. They played with such profundity, one critic wrote, that the audience scarcely dared breathe.

The slow movement – surely Schubert’s requiem for his own short life – had the heart-stopping beauty of truly great art. I look forward to more of the same but also some fun and games around our May Festival: watch this space.

Jane Tadman, press officer for Arthritis Research UK, a national medical research charity based in Chesterfield.

Clarke Peters as Othello and Dominic West as Iago in OTHELLO by Shakespeare'Director -Daniel Evans' Designer -Morgan Large' Lighting Designer- Lucy Carter,'Crucible Theatre, , 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

Clarke Peters as Othello and Dominic West as Iago in OTHELLO by Shakespeare'Director -Daniel Evans' Designer -Morgan Large' Lighting Designer- Lucy Carter,'Crucible Theatre, , 2011, Credit: Johan Persson/

I’d thought my cultural highlight of the year would be the much-anticipated revival of the celebrated – or should that be notorious – Marat/Sade by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.

With vague memories of a young Glenda Jackson writhing around in Peter Brook’s famous 1960s production, and around 30 people reportedly walking out before the end every night, surely this was evidence of its shocking, provocative, avant-garde status and a must-see in 2011?

Unfortunately, I discovered that those 30 people had the right idea. I remained in my seat but in a state of stunned stupor while various tedious scenes of alleged obscenity unfolded.

Frankly the piece was an outdated, pretentious mess. So predictably perhaps, my cultural highlight was much nearer to home: Othello at the Crucible.

Evan Dando of Lemonheads

Evan Dando of Lemonheads

In 2012 I’m looking forward to seeing Mark Rylance returning to the Globe to play Richard III and Olivia in a revival of his all-male production of Twelfth Night.

Rony Robinson, writer and broadcaster.

Three local site-specific joys: Cotton Grass Theatre’s sexy Twelfth Night at Thornbridge Hall in the summer. Arctic Monkeys for one brilliant night only at Don Valley. And obscurely, by chance, a repeat on BBC Radio Four Extra of Apple Blossom Afternoon, Dave Sheasby’s Aristotelian comedy masterpiece set in the bookie’s.

Local hope for next year – the beautiful Lantern Theatre rebirthed in Nether Edge, and Dilys Guite grinning in her grave.

Sally Goldsmith, writer.

SO hard to choose. But the poet in me opts for David Tait’s Love’s Loose Ends. Only 25, but he writes powerfully and sparely with craft which is my ideal of what a poet should do.

Can I have Ian McMillan too? For too long seen as that funny fat chap from Barnsley, he’s back on form (and still very funny) with a new collection, This Lake Used to be Frozen: Lamps.

Dermot Healey’s novel, Long Time, No See, is strange and lyrical. I loved it – just don’t expect conventionality. I could say the same about the Crucible’s Sondheim musical Company. Witty, sharp with tremendous score, set and cast – but not popular. I adored it.

I’m looking forward to Don Paterson’s Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets which Rony gave me for Christmas and to Matthew Hollis’s Now All Roads Lead to France about the last years of the poet Edward Thomas.

Jay Arnold, Head of Film Culture, Creative England.

Internationally – Bravio delle Botti festival in Montepulciano, encountered more or less by accident on family holiday in Italy. Glorious Tuscan hill town whipped into day-long frenzy of partying and pageantry culminating in frantic barrel race through medieval streets and squares.

Regionally – archive film screenings across North Yorkshire, launched by the always engaging Ian McMillan presenting hand-picked clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive. Neat combination of rural cinema project and national screen heritage programme, final flourish of eight years at Screen Yorkshire.

Locally – Lemonheads at Plug performing 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray, songs sounding fresh and sparky 20 years on, Evan Dando still a shambling icon.

Special mention for seasonal edition of Fighting Talk, simultaneously broadcast on BBC 5 Live and 6 Music.

2012 most anticipated – post-Olympic rebalancing of regional cultural funding.

Frances Byrne, documentary maker and radio dramatist.

At the Barbican, I watched the Merce Cunningham dancers performing for the last time ever in the UK, strange and as fleeting as birds. I tried to hold on to it but you can’t.

In Sheffield, l’ve loved feeling at home again in The Crucible. Where to start? Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was stunning.

From the Crucible Bar you can see graffiti on Park Hill: I love you will u marry me. With the filmmaker, Penny Woolcock, I made The I Love You Bridge for BBC Radio 4, a quest for the original lovers. It was very moving to do. The contributors are brilliant. (It’s still on the BBC iPlayer).

2012? Dance! I’m looking forward to Akram Khan, the beautiful dancemaker coming back to Leeds and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance where he trained, to work with Verve, their postgraduate company. NSCD is top-notch, as is Akram Khan.

Trisha Cooper, broadcaster and the voice of Sheffield International Concert Season.

Stand-out moment for me came on October 19. Knowing that I love dance and like a laugh I got the call, “You coming to New Art Club tonight, Trisha?”. Well, OK let’s add Art to the list!

There was a tangible buzz at the Students’ Union and on came two thirty-something blokes in shirt and ties and ill-fitting trousers.

“She left me,” said one. “What did you do?” asked the other. “I started a contemporary dance company!” came the answer.

Then – horror of horrors – we were told there would be audience participation; we all shuddered. Nothing to fear, it mainly consisted of opening and closing our eyes while they changed costumes. Mostly our eyes were streaming with tears of laughter.

Tom Roden and Pete Shenton can DANCE – and they’re FUNNY! A sketch would start with an Australian war dance and end with an unmentionable fantasy about Kylie Minogue. Another involves country dancing to Heaven 17 – another, darker number amalgamated Kool and the Gang’s music and the IRA.

You couldn’t be offended. These guys can dance. They’ve actually both run their own serious contemporary dance companies. They’ve choreographed for the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne. And their clowning is no spoof. It’s hilarious.

Think Reeves and Mortimer meet Fonteyn and Nureyev. New Art Club’s Big Bag of Boom was a ‘best of’ compilation and it made me want volume 2.

As for 2012, I’m looking forward to the Sheffield International Concert Season going from strength to strength, with some special premieres connected with the Olympics, and our new Five40Five series at the City Hall.