Norfolk and Norwich Festival early highlights announced

Early highlights of next May's Norfolk and Norwich Festival (NNF) programme have been released – and Morocco, Russia, Portugal, Argentina and the USA are gearing up to bring the world to the East of England for the event.

A diverse mix of world class musicians, acrobats and theatre-makers has been lined up for NNF11, which runs from May 6 to 21, and out-going festival director Jonathan Holloway said it was just a taste of what was to come when the full programme was announced in early March.

He said: 'Despite the cuts to the arts, we are doing all we can to work with regional and international partners to continue to make Norfolk & Norwich Festival as extraordinary, as diverse and as irresistible as our audiences have come to expect.'

The programme includes Portuguese fado sensation Mariza, who brings her majestic voice to Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday, May 15.

America's hugely acclaimed Kronos Quartet, pictured below, will bring a programme including new work by celebrated composer Steve Reich and pieces by Laurie Anderson and Damon Albarn to Norwich Theatre Royal on Tuesday, May 17. The musical ensemble has collaborated with everyone from David Bowie and Tom Waits to Nelly Furtado and the Nine Inch Nails.

Argentinian director Mariano Pensotti's new piece, The Past is a Grotesque Animal, co-commissioned by NNF, is a funny and moving play that will be performed on a permanently revolving stage at Norwich's Epic Studios from Monday, May 16 to Wednesday, May 18.

Mr Pensotti will be remembered for closing Norwich's London Street for three nights last year when he staged the UK premiere of La Marea as part of Contemporary Art Norwich.

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Russia's Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra is the country's oldest orchestra and brings a programme of Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov to the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome on Wednesday, May 11.

Chouf Ouchouf, a spellbinding show of Moroccan circus and acrobatics, performed by the Collectif Acrobatique de Tangier, captures the danger, joy and urgency of life in Tangiers and comes to Norwich Theatre Royal on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14.

The festival will also see the first performance since its premiere in 1999 of Artichoke's celebrated Dining with Alice.

Dining with Alice is a theatrical, al fresco Victorian banquet in the company of the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and even Alice herself in which the audience finds itself transported to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland.

Produced in partnership with Sky Arts, Dining with Alice will take place in the grounds of Elsing Hall, near Dereham – a 15th century manor house normally closed to the public – from Thursday, May 12 to Sunday, May 15 and from Wednesday, May 18 to Saturday, May 21.

All this will be complemented by the festival's biggest ever programme of free international street performance, including the popular Festival Garden Party and Andy Sheppard's Saxophone Massive.

Tickets are on sale from today to NNF Friends and Benefactors and will be on sale to the public from 10am on Monday, November 29 at, by phone on 01603 766400 and in person at Norwich Theatre Royal.