Norfolk and Norwich Festival Gardens preview

Tony CooperNew for this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival (May 1-16) is Festival Gardens, camping out at Chapelfield Gardens. It will be transformed into a magical space where visitors will discover eclectic shows, exciting events and sheer pleasure.Tony Cooper

New for this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival (May 1-16) is Festival Gardens, camping out at Chapelfield Gardens just a stone's-throw away from the city centre.

It will be transformed into a magical space where visitors will discover eclectic shows, exciting events and sheer pleasure. So, whether you're on the look-out for this year's festival sensation or just curious to see what's on offer, make sure you head for Festival Gardens to take in its sights, sounds and atmosphere. And be prepared to be amazed.

The Luminarium - one of the big hits of the 2005 festival - is back with its latest incarnation, Architects of Air: Levity III, running at Festival Gardens throughout the duration of the festival. A sensual world of light and colour it's designed for everyone to enjoy while the labyrinthine tunnels and inspiring special domes will transport you to another world.

The Garden Party - running on Saturday and Sunday May 9-10 (11am-5pm - is a two-day party of fabulous, free, family fun - and everyone's invited.

Festival Gardens will be home for the weekend to some of the UK's very best outdoor performers plus a generous sprinkling of top acts from overseas. Featuring the first performances of the groundbreaking Without Walls programme - UK's consortium for development and creation of outdoor arts - there'll be something to amuse and delight children and adults of all ages.

The Spiegeltent (mirrored tent) promises an exciting new festival venue in the heart of Festival Gardens and will be up and running from Friday May 8 to Saturday May 16. A magical space with wooden floors, intimate booths and a stage adorned with mirrors, lights and rich velvets, the Spiegeltent - once a regular sight on the European cabaret festival scene - is the very essence of theatricality. Hosting a superb line-up of international circus, music and cabaret (and with a licensed bar) the festival's Spiegeltent will create a wonderfully atmospheric performance venue. There'll be two performance slots each evening starting at 8pm and 10.30pm.

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SPIEGELTENT PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE:

t May 8: Taylor Mac, The Be(a)st of Taylor Mac - USA (Friday May 8), 10.30pm, focuses on legendary New York City performance artist who samples surrealism, words, music and socio-political tirades in a stunning tour de force - all performed while playing the ukulele - but not, I suspect, when the ship went down! 01603 766400 (�7.50) Norwich Theatre Royal box office www.nnfestival.org.uk

t May 8-11: Circa (Australia): The Space Between (Friday May 8 to Monday May 11), nightly at 8pm, sees this pioneering Australian ensemble redefining circus while embracing the innovative use of multimedia, interaction and artistic collaborations. The Space Between is no exception. Set to a blend of Jacques Brel songs and contemporary sounds, the show has dazzled audiences and wowed critics the world over. Over the space of one intense hour, three performers explore love, loss and desire on a journey of explosive acrobatic encounters, lyrical duets and supple physical contortions. Prepare to be entranced. 01603 766400 (�10, advance-booked under-26s �5) Norwich Theatre Royal box office www.nnfestival.org.uk

t May 9: In Variety in the Garden - May 9 (10.30pm) - Goronwy Thom hosts a stellar line-up of circus and comedy acts including Herbie Treehead, Matt Barnard, Gareth Jones and Fraser Hooper. They'll all perform to music by Rob Lee. Over 18s only! 01603 766400 (�7.50) Norwich Theatre Royal box office www.nnfestival.org.uk

t May 12: Bo Nanafana Social Club - UK (Tuesday May 12), 8pm - features a beautiful, fantastical collaboration with Norwich's very own doyennes of the gorgeous, the dapper and the cheeky. Their show promises a truly scrumptious and memorable affair! So, be there! Over 18s only. 01603 766400 (�15) Norwich Theatre Royal box office www.nnfestival.org.uk

t May 13-16: Opera - Henry Purcell's original King Arthur is nothing less than a Restoration spectacular. The plot revolves round Arthur's defeat of the warring Saxons in the fifth century while the work contains some of Purcell's most joyful and witty melodies. Les Grooms (The Bellboys) are an exuberant French troupe whose highly original re-workings of the core operatic repertoire have won them plaudits round the world. A glorious, abridged and slightly irreverent tribute to Purcell, Les Grooms' version can be enjoyed in the intimate splendour of the Spiegeltent in Festival Gardens, Chapel Field Park, running from Wednesday to Saturday, May 16, nightly at 8pm. 01603 766400 (�10, advance-booked under-26s �5) Norwich Theatre Royal box office www.nnfestival.org.uk

t May 15: Mat Fraser: Burlesque in the Garden of Evil (Friday May 15), 10.30pm, sees Matt F hosts an evening in the very best burlesque and cabaret tradition. The international roster of stars includes the legendary Julie Atlas Muz from New York and the crazily-contorted Ekaterina Sknarina from Russia. Not for the easily offended! Come dressed to impress, or just your usual mess. There's a prize for best costume. 01603 766400 (�7.50) Norwich Theatre Royal box office, www.nnfestival.org.uk

SPIEGEL LATES

t May 10, 11, 13, 14, 16: Musicians, performers, DJs and creative reprobates will perform, with members of the Bo Nanafana Social Club, a series of free admission late-night shows in Festival Gardens starting at 10.30pm each night. Grab some of the action and take in some alarming great sounds and naff dancing in what promises decadent surroundings. Over 18s only.