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24:7 Theatre Festival 2012 Preview

Joan Davies takes at look the beating heart of new drama coming 20-27 July

Published on July 18th 2012.

24:7 Theatre Festival 2012 Preview

MANCHESTER has months full of festivals.

July rivals October.

Manchester Jazz Festival is in full flow in Albert Square, attracting thousands to its covered performance area. The vibrant outdoor dance festival Urban Moves and Hazard 2012, unleashing a wave of bizarre behaviour in Manchester city centre both return this month while a new festival, Dig the City, sees itself as the green shoots of an annual urban flower festival.  

In its first eight years 24:7 has brought 136 brand new plays to Manchester audiences. This year will see the total rise to 146.  Almost 150 new plays. That’s some going, even for Manchester, City of Firsts. 

The 24:7 festival returns on Friday for eight days of new theatre writing.  With its one-hour shows in non-traditional theatre spaces and a top price of £8 it’s ideal for the times. Advance bookings are up.   

“As always, this year’s shows provide a smorgasbord of drama,” says David Slack, the Festival’s Executive Producer.  “There are all shades of hero and anti-hero, on a variety of physical and emotional journeys. For our audiences it means being able to forget about recessions and rainy weather for 60 minutes and experiencing something that goes a little deeper than the latest Hollywood blockbuster.” 

247 Photo By Neale Myers, Festival Executive Director, David Slack, is on the right247 Photo By Neale Myers, Festival Executive Director, David Slack, is on the right

Festival Director Kathryn Worthington talks of “a world class Festival that is the beating heart of new drama in the UK. Everyone’s welcome, particularly those who don’t normally visit the theatre.” 

Unless you’re one of the determined crowd planning to see all ten plays it can be difficult to choose which ones to see. I suggest pick a couple, and then you’re likely to be drawn in by the reviews or bar-chat to pick a few more. Even seeing four plays is likely to cost you less than one ticket in commercial theatres. 

You could start by looking for a writer with a great track record.  Ian Townsend, writer of All the Bens, has had two successful plays produced at previous 24:7s. This will be his last; there’s a three strikes and you’re out rule to ensure that new writers are brought forward. All the Bens, a vibrant portrayal of loneliness, desire, sexuality, and what happens when you meet your monster in the park, is your last chance to see his writing work at 24:7. 

24/7 Photo By Neale Myers24/7 Photo By Neale Myers

Alternatively you could look for a production company with a great track record. 

Firestarter by Dave Windass is produced by Ensemble 52 - the award-winning theatre company behind the 2009 success As We Forgive Them. 

Firestarter was prompted by a series of notorious arson attacks that took place in Hull four decades ago. Bruce Lee [ not that one ] was convicted of 26 charges of manslaughter in 1981. Eleven of the convictions were subsequently overturned on appeal. Writer Windass, a former journalist, familiar with the coverage at the time, was keen to explore subject matter that had been ignored for years. 

Or there’s Stars Are Fire by Francesca Waite, produced by Monkeywood, the company behind previous Festival successes A Song For The Lovers (2006) and Maine Road (2009), and directed by Liz Postlethwaite. This is a tale of Carly, who calls Manchester home, but whose dad wants to take her back to Northumberland after the death of her mother. 

My Arms - by James Leach is a new drama about the limits of love and our willingness to forgive. It’s inspired by stories of the wives of men who go to prison and is told in reverse order. The production team includes Gayle Hare, co-founder of Organised Chaos Productions, whose years of work with volunteers and front-of-house at 24:7 have given her a keen eye for what works with festival audiences. 

Many of 24:7s previous successes have been penned by writers reflecting on world they know, worlds they’ve worked in.  Four writers follow this path in 2012. 

Lisa Whiteside’s Goldfish is prompted by her previous work as a youth leader running drama activities on a local housing estate. It focuses on the captivating characters of three children. 

Playwright Michael Crowley who wrote The Cell has been a writer in residence in a young offenders’ institution for the last five years and developed his play with serving prisoners. 

In The Interpreter, Home by Hekate Papadaki, the interpreter forms an unusual relationship with a mental health client. Hekate is originally from Greece but now lives in London. As a project manager, she worked within the mental health service providing interpreters for patients. 

Jo Kirtley Pritchard, writer of Loaded worked for five years in alternative education projects in East Manchester. She writes about wired teen Chantelle who is thrown into a unit for excluded kids. 

Eric Northey has chosen to write about the world’s first observation of The Transit of Venus. This took place in 1639 thanks to the pioneering work of two North West Scientists Jeremiah Horrocks from Toxteth and William Crabtree from Salford. It hit the news recently, when it occurred again in June of this year. If you missed it your next chance is in 105 years time.  The play’s probably more convenient, with seven performances starting this Friday. 

Finally one play is presented as a comedy.  The Legend of the Ghost Shark by Anthony Morgan is a surreal comedy using psychological themes to explore the writing process, censorship, fear of the subconscious and the often untapped power of storytelling. 

In its first eight years 24:7 has brought 136 brand new plays to Manchester audiences. This year will see the total rise to 146.  Almost 150 new plays. That’s some going, even for Manchester, City of Firsts. 

The 24:7 Theatre Festival runs from 20 - 27 July. More than 70 performances will take place over eight Festival days in New Century House – head office of The Co-operative – and Three Minute Theatre, in Affleck’s Palace.  Find more information, show times and how to book tickets (£8 / £6) at: www.247theatrefestival.co.uk

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