Lockdown restrictions are easing, theatres and museums are beginning to reopen and summer is just around the corner. Waterside is delighted to add to the good news by announcing the programme for its annual experiential summer arts festival: Refract:21. Running from Thursday 22 July, this vibrant ten day event – now in its fourth year - transforms the spaces inside and outside of Trafford’s award-winning arts venue to offer visitors innovative ways in which to experience the very best in live comedy, music, dance, performance and theatre.

As the great British public embrace ‘al fresco’ entertainment this summer, visitors to this year’s Refract are in for a treat outside on the Waterside Plaza with a programme of free outdoor performances and curiosities. From the exhilarating aerial duet and physical theatre show Why? to the lively, vibrant and playful Grow, and the dynamic dance show AND THEN IT JUST…STOPPED. Set on a large scaffolding frame structure, the performers climb, jump and weave their way through a maze of metal bars in this emotive outdoor dance theatre show, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grow performance

Image Credit: Phil Rees, GROW.

Indoor highlights include a stellar line up of comedy including Drag superstar Jonny Woo appearing with composer Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer the Musical), comedian Sooz Kempner and Kevin Davies and the stars of Britain’s Got Talent and The One Show - The Noise Next Door - who fuse audience participation with madcap songs, scenes and gags.

Where would this year have been without our Friends... and so Waterside is delighted to present a night with one of our all-time favourite friend of a Friend - barista Gunther. The entirety of cult sitcom Friends – all 10 seasons and 236 episodes – will be presented in just one hour, in this hit Edinburgh Fringe comedy, Friend (The One with Gunther). This sell-out solo show from acclaimed comic actor Brendan Murphy, re-imagines the TV classic (coming back to our screens for a one off Reunion on Thursday 27 May) through the eyes of the legendary fictional coffee guru. Hear the true insider story of what happened to Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica and Joey – from the one Friends character who kept them caffeinated through all of the highs, lows, love affairs and failed auditions along the way, in this night of comic parody.

Over the ten day festival, audiences are also welcomed to indulge in the ridiculous and anarchic world of clowns Dik and Adam - in the hilarious and slightly terrifying Coulrophobia; experience the ultimate in camp fierceness led by the Cocoa Butter Club; enjoy one of England’s finest folk singers Jim Moray in a night of traditional and heartfelt songs, and get on down with Mr Wilson’s Second Linerswhere New Orleans meets 90s club classics. For those who love a bit of audience participation, take part in the cult hit event Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote - a unique and hilarious evening featuring crime-solving, games, prizes and an interactive screening of the classic Murder, She Wrote episode “Broadway Malady”.

For families, Refract: 21 features a fantastic selection of engaging and lively theatre shows for kids of all ages. For the under 7s there is an animated and live-action magical, musical adventure in Groove into the Woods - blending jungle rhythms, infectious pop themes, and a heavy dose of 60s Blue Note soul jazz, which will have everyone big and little alike up on their feet, The over 5s can enjoy an hour of songs, scenes and gags all based on what the audience want to see with The Noise Next Door’s improv show, Run Wild!

For something a little more high energy, Desert Island Flicks sees two leading ladies take on all the main roles, stunts, and special effects of the most memorable movie moments of all time; while Lewis Doherty brings his one man cyber punk action thriller WOLF, as well as larger than life, sword swinging, one man adventure BOAR – and mimes every prop and makes every sound effect to bring to life over forty characters.

FallingImage Credit: Pamela Raith, BOAR.

It is Waterside’s utmost priority to keep its audiences, artists, visiting companies and staff safe.  Robust Covid prevention measures will be in keeping with the most up to date Government guidelines for July and it is likely Waterside will be operating on a reduced capacity for both ticketed events and general admission to the gallery and venue. Early booking is therefore advised for all Refract events. Where possible, Waterside will also offer a contingency to deliver some Refract shows online if venue access is suddenly restricted or for those who would remain more comfortable to access content digitally at this time.

Producer of Refract, Darren Adams says :“It is so exciting to bring our fourth Refract festival to Waterside this summer.  After a challenging year for artists and arts organisations, we are so thrilled to be welcoming so many back through our doors and working with new ones to build on the success of the first three years of Refract. Our focus has been on creating a really exciting and uplifting season of unforgettable experiences to bring much needed creative energy, joy and lively entertainment to audiences of all ages who have not been able to experience any live arts for the past few months. Now more than ever, we all need fun things to look forward to and culture is the perfect way in which to bring people together, to bring the wonder and excitement back into our lives and back through the doors of this wonderful local venue.”

Refract: 21 runs at Waterside from Thursday 22 - Saturday 31 July.

Tickets are on sale from midday on Tuesday 25 May at refract.org.uk


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Waterside is an award-winning, vibrant destination for performance, culture and events in the heart of Sale.



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