Chinese New Year celebration events planned in Leicester

By Charlie Hawes

Credit: Stefano Borghi

The Confucius Institute at De Montfort University has planned several events to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year for 2023.

According to the Chinese calendar, 2023 will be the Year of the Rabbit.

Chinese New Year will start on Sunday, January 22, 2023, and celebrations will take place for 15 days until Sunday, February 5.

Dr Yingjun Yang, d,irector of the Confucius Institute at DMU said: “We have planned quite a number of events at varying scales.

“These are both on campus at DMU and in the city centre together with partners and the city council.”

Chinese New Year celebration events at DMU include:

  • A Calligraphy and Painting Workshop in the Vijay Patel Building on Tuesday, January 24, between midday and 1pm which will be an interactive workshop teaching Chinese calligraphy and traditional painting.
  • A Tea Ceremony and Traditional Music session in the Vijay Patel Building on Wednesday, January 25, between midday and 1pm, will teach the techniques of tea brewing and tasting and will be accompanied by relaxing and peaceful music performed on the Guzheng.
  • A Chinese New Year performance in the Vijay Patel Building on Friday, January 27, between 11am and midday. A range of performances are planned to include Tai Chi Fan dance, magic shows, traditional folk dance and Chinese classical music played on the Guzheng and Hulusi.

All sessions are free to attend but due to limited spaces pre-booking is mandatory.

For more information on the events and to book your space, please visit:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/dmu-confucius-institute-31837254601

The Confucius Institute at De Montfort University provides an insight for students, staff and the wider community about the Chinese language and culture.

The staff run a wide variety of courses, public events and activities designed to share the Chinese language and culture for better relations between China and the UK.

Chinese New Year dates change every year because the festival is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar which is associated with the movement of the moon.

The lunar calendar is also associated with 12 animal signs in Chinese zodiac, so every 12 years is regarded as a cycle.

Genesis tribute band The Musical Box set to play at De Montfort Hall in Leicester

By Courtney Stevens

The Musical Box performing at one of their shows (Image: publicity picture)

Genesis tribute band The Musical Box are set to play at De Montfort Hall in Leicester on Wednesday, February 8, as part of their global tour The Lamb lies down on Broadway.

The band will be playing all over the UK in February, starting off in York on February 2 and finishing off in Portsmouth on February 18.

The Musical Box are a Canadian tribute band for English Rock band Genesis, re-enacting their performances from the 1970s.

The current line-up includes singer Denis Gagne, guitarist Francois Gagnon, bassist Sebastien Lamothe, keyboardist Ian Benhamou, and drummer Marc Laflamme.

This tour will be re-creating the original band’s 1974 – 1975 show And the light lies down on Broadway, and will be complete with costumes, instruments and lighting.

The band promises a set that will take fans right back to Genesis’ 1970s peak with everything down to the setlists being identical to those played by the original band.

Since The Musical Box’s creation in 1993, they have performed shows across Canada, the US, Europe, and South America.

The band are also the only Genesis band to have received active support and permission from the original group, with members of the band being part of the audience or even appearing on stage with them.

Tickets are available now from https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/the-musical-box

Domestic violence charity offers support through art in Leicester

By Zarina Ahmed

An exhibition to showcase the domestic violence victims have experienced as well as the impact on children is taking place in Leicester.

Charities such as the Zinthaya Trust and Panahghar, both of which focus on helping domestic violence victims, have joined efforts to show Leicester the available support systems in place.

An emotion tree depicting children’s wellbeing as victims of violence

The art included was created by various artists such as victims of violence, children impacted by it, as well as voluntarily by De Montfort University students.

“Anyone accessing help with one of the charities is a massive thing itself,” Ash, a representative from Panahghar said.

As well as adult victims’ artwork being displayed, children’s art is also included, showcasing the impact left behind.

“It’s not an easy thing for an adult, so imagine what a child would have to experience,” Ash said.

Experiencing a shared history with domestic violence herself, Ash participated in being involved with the charity, wanting to spread awareness on helpful and accessible support.

She said: “For me, Leicester was a little naff, yeah, so of course I want to be part of a charity and help people properly.

“This isn’t a nine-to-five-job – we’re always constantly worried about the clients, even afterwards.”

Victims reflect their abuse through face artwork with labels of emotions

The charities involved, as well as Panahghar, provide client-based experiences, based on what victims and clients feel comfortable with at any time.

Under 20 per cent of victims of domestic violence go reported to official care systems or police, the charity’s figures show.

Charities such as Panahghar allow victims to have a safe space to vent to if they’re under threat or feel uncomfortable with the prospect of reporting their perpetrator.

The project to compile the exhibition was made with no official funding and instead organized with contributions from Leicester-based charities as well as the Leicester City Council.

Review: The Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. ‘Over the Rainbow, and above my expectations’

By John Perry

The Wizard of Oz has seen many iterations since its conception into a novel by L. Frank Baum, most notably the 1939 Hollywood classic starring the late Judy Garland. Moving forward the best part of a century, Andrew Lloyd Webber redefined the classic into a stage production in 2011. Now in 2022, Curve Theatre has once again redefined what The Wizard of Oz is with their contemporary take on the tale involving deviations in characters and story to create an important version involving environmentalism.

Stepping into the Curve is an experience of its own, a modern building near the heart of Leicester, but I was still not expecting the sheer scale of production, talent, and technological achievement once I took my seat to view this fantastical performance.

The Wizard of Oz creative director Nikolai Foster brought his vision to the Curve theatre and it’s simply breathtaking. Inspired by Route 66 and the American dream, this is a new rendition of a classic that is a must-see. We all are aware of Dorothy’s adventure through Oz, her meeting characters representing her family, friends and learning to understand the importance of home through a magical experience. Here, we still get that core story but with modern twists, comedy, and heart.

You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz for the next two hours.

The boldest surprise to me was that in the blink of an eye, set pieces meld into the stage with brilliant light shows and 3D effects. Flashes of light, dazzling special effects and environments on stage evolving. You are not pulled into the world; you are immersed into it. You are not merely transported there; you are part of Oz and Dorothy’s adventure for the next two hours.

The cast of the Wizard of Oz at Curve, Leicester. Photograph by Marc Brenner

The acting and vocal talent of the entire cast is brilliant but particularly in Dorothy (Georgina Onuorah), Scarecrow (Jonny Fines) and Glinda (Christina Bianco), phenomenal voices reverberate around the theatre space. They truly know how to pick artists here; the production team is a character of their own too. As is the band hidden beneath the stage – a live orchestra that many wouldn’t even believe was there. To the naked eye it’s simply a musical track playing unless you have the opportunity during the interval or a lucky seat at the front to peer below the stage into a pit of experienced musicians bringing Oz to life.

West End quality without the need for a trip to London is how best to describe it what is witnessed here. It features genuinely funny moments. Hearing a cast member saying “I’m a friend of Dorothy” – we all know the connotations – made the adults erupt in laughter, while Scarecrow simply leaping, falling, and rolling around the set during his introduction had the kids giggling like a pack of hyenas. An addition I did not expect was a puppet version of Toto that was handled entirely by a single crew member on stage, practical to avoid a real dog.

Aesthetically, it deviates heavily from the original to be in line more with its environmentalist take and contemporary vision, which includes Munchkin land being an industrial and dilapidated town, Emerald City representing a New York landscape and the witches of Oz riding motorcycles instead of brooms. It could have done more in terms of altering the narrative to fit this, but I expect it was a creative choice to stay truer to the original in its script.

Ben Thompson (Toto) and Georgina Onuorah (Dorothy). Photograph by Marc Brenner
Charlotte Jaconelli (The Wicked Witch of the West). Photograph by Marc Brenner

As the second half began it truly showcased more of the time and money that went into this daring new take on the classic. The production value and realism they went for was breathtaking: Emerald City having small Easter eggs on the large LED screen at the back, parodies of McDonald’s, Starbucks and even a nod to Garland herself in a Times Square-like billboard. The little things were not ignored.

The pinnacle of the entire performance must be Onuorah’s rendition of Over the Rainbow as Dorothy. A bright, positive, and soulful take on the theme to the original movie. It gave us goosebumps, and earned a standing ovation from many of the audience.

It’s for everyone. A modern take on a classical tale. A fantastic musical, with amazing vocal talent, technical expertise, music that just engulfs the audience in the moment. It was also wholesome to see a sign language interpreter present on stage for accessibility of disabled audience members. Inclusivity is important to Curve.

This production is incredible. After a pandemic delay, to find its feet like this and still be a powerhouse of entertainment. It is special. A true five-star experience and a must see for all the family this Christmas. It certainly went over the rainbow and above my expectations.

The Wizard of Oz runs at the Curve Theatre in Leicester until January 8.

Ooh-yor beauty: Loughborough is full of West End fairy-tale magic this panto season

The West End has come to the East Midlands this Christmas with a trio of stars from hit theatreland shows leading the cast of Loughborough’s end-of-year panto.

Victoria Lucie, Harry Polden and Jake Reynolds are bringing their acting pedigree to Leicestershire in Loughborough Town Hall’s laughter-packed production of Sleeping Beauty.

Written, directed, and designed by Morgan Brind, who won Best Dame at this year’s UK pantomime awards, the show offers a humorous twist on the traditional tale.

The sleeping beauty is portrayed by Victoria, who has previously appeared in the the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap, and is making her seventh professional pantomime to date.

Harry Polden, who is Mervin the Magician, has also been in multiple productions such as Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre.

Prince Vince, Princess Rose’s beau-to-be, is played by Jake Reynolds, fresh from playing Doody in Grease at London’s Dominion Theatre.

The new face amongst this starry cast is Zac Hanlon who plays Stewart the Stewart, who is making his professional acting debut in the show.

Simon Gibson, venue manager at Loughborough Town Hall, said: “We’re hugely excited to be welcoming such talented performers to be a part of Loughborough’s much-loved and critically acclaimed pantomime. What better way to say goodbye to 2022, than by spending time with family and friends enjoying all the thrills, spills, laughter and fun that pantomime provides.”

Little Wolf Entertainment is the production company behind the shows that carefully craft and design the pantomimes in the Town Hall and they have been doing this for eight years.

The venue also offers a relaxed performance of Sleeping Beauty on December 6, aimed at people with sensory difficulties, learning difficulties, and communication disorders.

For that performance, they’ll keep lights on and doors open, lessen the large noises, have no pyrotechnics and offer spaces for those who are uncomfortable during the show. There are also signed performances available.

Standard tickets start from £17.50, concession tickets from £16 and family tickets from £63.

Sleeping Beauty runs at loughboroughtownhall.co.uk until January 2. Book tickets online or call the box office on 01509 231914