One to watch

One to watch

Yorkshire is the most vibrant place for performance outside London. Nick Ahad reports on the burgeoning arts scene and talks to the bright young stars of the future.

Let me tell you about a week I had in Yorkshire recently. Sunday night took me to a one-man beatboxing show about feminism.

On Monday, I watched an all-female company perform jaw-dropping theatre. Tuesday saw me at the Northern Ballet. Wednesday was a visit to Halifax for Yorkshire playwright Blake Morrison’s latest creation. On Thursday (yes, it’s only Thursday, breathe) I went to York Theatre Royal (still sparkling after its £6 million redevelopment). Friday took me to Yorkshire performer Pauline Mayers’ one-woman play. On Saturday, I chatted to writer and director Kay Mellor, directing her first ever musical, based on her mega hit TV show Fat Friends. There’s more, but you get the idea? That was in a week. A single week in Yorkshire theatres. And I missed more than I saw.

One of the main reasons we’re at the top of our game is that the companies here really nurture young talent. They train, guide and invest in people and make sure they have staggering opportunities. And it really pays off because these stars of tomorrow pull in huge audiences and create the most diverse and exciting arts scene in the UK. I spoke to four of them about why we should go and watch them.


Abigail Prudames, 25, from Knaresborough, is a soloist with the Northern Ballet company.

I started dancing at the age of six in my home town of Knaresborough. I did every style of dance I possibly could and had classes every Saturday in Leeds, then became a junior associate at a dance centre. I auditioned and got into the Royal Ballet School and finished my GCSEs there. I was an apprentice at first and worked my way up to soloist. You don’t really have a life outside this sort of career, it’s 24/7. Even though some of us are soloists, we work as a team. I am constantly learning and improving from other dancers.

I’m dancing The Little Mermaid, a part which was created just for me. It’s pushed me harder in terms of my technique and emotional expression. My costume is a different colour to everyone else’s and designed to look like water. Of course I have a tail too, so I’ve had to learn to dance with that!

Abigail will be dancing in Jane Eyre (Leeds Grand Theatre 7 – 14 March, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre 10 – 14 April and nationally touring), The Little Mermaid (nationally touring) and Las Hermanas / Concerto / Gloria, a celebration of the master choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (Leeds Grand Theatre 16 - 17 March).


John Savournin, 32, from Sheffield, is a baritone with Opera North and is also artistic director of his own company, Charles Court Opera.

I grew up in Sheffield and always sang at school. My family were big opera fans and I grew up listening to a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, like Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. I trained formally at Trinity College of Music in London and I’ve been working for UK opera companies on a variety of projects ever since. I was awarded the Concordia Wigmore Hall Prize by the Worshipful Company of Musicians, which I’m very proud of. I don’t just sing, I direct productions as well which makes me unusual. I’m artistic director of Charles Court Opera, which I founded. We specialise in small scale productions of operas, musicals and pantomimes. I feel privileged to be able to wear both hats interchangeably.

John will appear as Count Horn in Un Ballo in Maschera and reprise his role in Kiss Me Kate, all with Opera North this year.


Sandrine Monin, 29, based in Leeds, is a dancer and choreographer with Phoenix Dance Theatre.

I adored dancing as a child and my parents put me into classes when I was about three. I joined Phoenix Dancein 2009 when I was just 21. I was a recipient of the One Dance UK awards, which is a mentoring programme for future leaders in the dance industry and I shadowed a choreographer on an apprenticeship programme. I have worked hard to develop my choreographic skills. I was part of a choreographer and composer lab a couple of years ago, which was run by Phoenix Dance. It paired choreographers and composers to share skills and ways of thinking. It’s exciting to find new ways of working, instead of the traditional way of having the music composed and building the dance around it. I try to develop a unique way of moving that is entirely my own. I run to build up my stamina in combination with strengthening exercises and finish with stretching.

Sandrine will dance the part of Windrush this February. She’s also in Calyx, which she choreographed and will tour with this year.


Selina Thompson, 25, is a Leeds-based performance artist and actress who won critical acclaim at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

I grew up being aware that I was ‘other’. I was adopted and my family are from four different continents. I perform theatre that explores people who are marginalised because of their gender, shape of their body, race, age or ability. At the Edinburgh Fringe 2017, I performed ‘Salt’, (her one-woman show) based on my time aboard a cargo ship which retraced the Atlantic slave trade routes.

I won a Stage Edinburgh Award and the inaugural Filipa Braganca Award for the Best Female Solo Performance by an emerging artist at the Fringe. Salt isn’t a trip backwards in order to mourn, but a way to think about how the confidence, passion, dedication and vision of those that went before me, can inspire me and my generation now. It all sounds a bit heavy, but my work is playful, participatory, funny (I hope) and intimate.

Catch Selina’s performances at various venues throughout the year.


Andrew Tomlinson, 22, from Leeds, is a dancer with the Northern Ballet company.

I started dancing at the age of five where I was raised in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. I didn’t think about dance as career until I got a place on the Northern Ballet’s Centre for Advanced Training Programme.

This meant I was training in the same building as a professional company, so I was exposed to the life of a dancer from an early age. I love the rush and excitement of performing. Dancing with Northern Ballet as a child in productions such as The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and A Simple Man, enhanced my love for the stage and passion to pursue my ambitions.

This profession requires so much dedication. Due to the physical demands, careers are notoriously short, so I aim to get as much as I can out of it and push myself to the limit.

Andrew will be dancing in Jane Eyre (Leeds Grand Theatre 7 - 14 March, Sheffield Lyceum Theatre 10 - 14 April and nationally touring), The Little Mermaid (nationally touring) and Las Hermanas / Concerto / Gloria, a celebration of choreographer Kenneth MacMillan (Leeds Grand Theatre 16 - 17 March).

This article was taken from This is Y 2018