This vibrant event transforms the spaces inside and outside to offer visitors innovative ways in which to experience live comedy, music, dance, performance and theatre.
Indoor highlights include a stellar line up of live music including the acclaimed Riot Jazz who bring their unique sound to the Waterside stage, fusing Jazz, Hip-Hop, Drum & Bass, Balkan, Trap, Grime, Dubstep, Latin and Classical. This 9-strong troupe is comprised of three trumpets, three trombones, drums, sousaphone, and is fronted by the prodigious MC Chunky. Riot Jazz write and play whatever their hearts desire. And the same goes for their unique take on covers, which range from Britney Spears to Todd Terje. Be prepared for a unique, genre-bending night of exhilarating music fit for any occasion, guaranteed to have every crowd on their feet.
Global music collective Kabantu, join the Refract line up for one night. Kabantu which means “of the people” – stemming from the South African philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am who I am because of who we all are” bring their collective and eclectic sounds to share their marriages of music in a globalised 21st century.
Harriet Dagnall, who has been a familiar face on the vibrant Manchester music scene since 2018, also comes to Refract for one night to perform live. Raised on diverse range of music, she draws inspiration for her original songs from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins and her current influences which include The Japanese House, Marika Hackman, Yebba and The War on Drugs. Joining her on the same bill, are Foxglove. This four-piece euphoric, Indie alternative band also hail from Greater Manchester and have been writing music together since 2016. Firm favourites and regular “giggers” on the city’s music scene, Foxglove are tipped as one of Manchester’s hottest rising acts, with releases including Car Radio, Selfish and the more recent single Blind.
For those who prefer their music complete with jazz hands and show tunes, Refract has it covered with the critically acclaimed Off Broadway and West End musical hit, Julie Madly Deeply. This charming and cheeky cabaret takes an engaging look at fame and fandom, through the eyes and voice of award-winning performer Sarah-Louise Young. Performing songs from musicals including Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, Young’s show and musical performances are intertwined with stories and anecdotes about her musical legend Julie Andrews’ own life, from her beginnings as a child star to the more recent challenges of losing her famous singing voice. What emerges is a delightfully funny and candid love letter to a true show business survivor.
Additional theatrical delights in the Refract programme include Edinburgh Fringe hit, Like Animals performed by the acclaimed Superfan. This is a funny and poignant investigation into love and communication in human (and not-so-human) relationships, inspired by true stories of animal language experiments, performed by real life couple, performers Kim Donohoe and Pete Lannon. In The Formidable Lizzie Boone, multi-award-winning Selina Helliwell, will pull you into Lizzie’s world for a night of healing and humour. Centred around a therapist’s office, this one-woman show explores the intricacies of humanity through a woman who loves vodka with lemonade and a cat called Lionel. Expect dark drama, dark comedy and a spot of burlesque in this adult themed one-woman show.
A programme of outstanding, free outdoor work always features in the Refract programme and this year is no exception. Highlights include an opening night treat on the Waterside Plaza celebrating the astounding story and achievements of the Preston-based Dick Kerr ladies’ football team. These pioneering Lancashire women went on to defy a ban on women’s football in 1921, when the FA delivered the bitter blow that football was ‘Quite Unfit for Females’. This dance based show – bursting with teamwork, resilience, determination, and fantastic footwork – sheds an important and creative spotlight on arguably the most successful women’s team of all time!
On the Festival’s first Saturday, the Plaza is also the stage for more all-female outdoor dance theatre when acrobatic company Mimbre bring Lifted to Refract. Teaming up with three guest choreographers – Yi-Chun Liu from Peeping Tom, HURyCAN and Gary Clarke – this captivating performance experiments with new approaches to Mimbre’s trademark acrobatics. Lifted mixes dance, theatre and circus to celebrate the expressions and impressions that appear when three strong women move, lift and balance each other.
Dance meets circus meets cabaret for more free outdoor street performance celebrating fabulousness with Glam. Audience members are encouraged to join in the fun and to dance with the cast in this gloriously fast paced show of acrobatics, hand to hand, disco, feathers, glitter and glamorous make-up! This colourful performance highlights the power of bringing people together and invites each of us to celebrate the most fabulous part of ourselves. Glam is inspired by club culture and the journey of the LGBTQ+ community.
Refract:22 also features a fantastic selection of engaging and lively theatre shows for kids of all ages and abilities. SPLAT is a fully inclusive physical comedy show featuring much chaos and joy and no spoken words making it fully accessible for deaf and hearing impaired audiences big and small. Also ideal for little people and their grown-ups is a welcome return from Groove Baby – bringing Groove Sensations – a sensational sensory voyage specially created for under 3s featuring specially created animations and actions accompanying an eclectic musical set for a full auditory, visual and interactive feast. For slightly older children, Groove into the Woods is a jazz and funk fuelled family adventure into the deep dark woods. Who will we find and will they be bad or good? Specially designed for ages 3 – 7 this is a fun mixture of animation, interactive music making and solid groove from the Groove Baby Organ Trio. For older kids, the interactive fashion-filled Devil Wears Prada meets Spy Kids participatory show Fashion Spies puts audiences right at the heart of the action. Find yourself on an undercover mission as you travel around the world. Your choices will help to thwart the biggest threat that fashion has ever seen in this fabulous choose-your-own-adventure comedy. The stakes and the shoulder pads have never been higher…
For lovers of Waterside’s regular comedy nights, Refracts plays host to Laugh Riot for one night only featuring some of the best stand ups on the circuit today – featuring Waterside regular funny man, Jonathan Mayor as MC, the brilliant and very talented Luisa Omielan – who the Guardian deem “One of the biggest stand up hits of the decade”, – a London-based American actor, comedian and cabaret performer David Mills, who according to the Scotsman is “darkly funny, bristling with sharp-tongued satire and incisive wit“ and comedian, actor, tv warm up man and all round entertainer Lee Peart.
Comedy fans will also be able to celebrate one of the greatest sitcoms ever made with renowned stand-up Joe Rooney for a night of all things Father Ted! Joe featured as the rebellious Father Damo in the classic Father Ted episode The Old Grey Whistle Theft, leading Dougal astray with his earring, cigarette smoking and bad-boy attitude. In this one man show, Joe Rooney: A Celebration of Father Ted – Joe will host a screening of the episode, take you behind the scenes and set you a Craggy Island quiz.
Completing the Refract line-up is VR dance sensation Facades – walking the line between reality and illusion. Inspired by iconic moments from film, Facades is a virtual reality dance experience that uses the architectural features of windows, mirrors and doors as metaphors for duality, reflection and portals. This surreal ‘VR noir’ presents hauntingly beautiful choreography from unique perspectives, inviting the viewer to step into the frame, move beyond the veneer and take a closer look.
Producer of Refract:22 and Manager of Waterside, Darren Adams says ““It is so exciting to bring our fifth Refract festival to Waterside and to offer a fully live series of events. After a challenging year for artists and arts organisations, we are so thrilled to be welcoming so many up and coming and established performers through our doors and on to our stages to build on the success of the first four years. We cannot wait to share with our audiences such a great wealth of local and national talent across all genres of performance and celebrate the arts at our annual summer festival.
Refract: 22 runs at Waterside from Thursday 21 – Saturday 30 July.
Tickets are on sale from midday today – Friday 10 June: refract.org.uk