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24:7 Theatre Festival Is On Its Way

Joan Davies looks ahead to a delicious dish of drama

Published on July 21st 2011.

24:7 Theatre Festival Is On Its Way

Sometimes it seems that Manchester is full of festivals.  24:7 is a real success story, attracting more attention every year.  A festival of new theatre writing, a successful showcase for emerging theatre talent, it started its life in 2004 with the intention of providing a local showcase for local actors.  Now in its eighth year it will straddle three non-theatre locations with its thirteen premieres of short plays. 

Nothing lasts more than an hour, nothing costs more than £8, even on a Saturday night, so it’s a great opportunity to try spotting some new faces. 

The difficulty is picking what to see.  There really is something for everyone.

Here’s a run down.

Five of the plays will be performed at New Century House on Corporation Street. 

Flag, delving into the world, of stand up comedy, brings a rapid return for writer Brian Marchbank, a former police officer whose comedy siege drama ‘Pawn’ was a big hit last year.  

Future Shock, by former East Enders writer Richard Stockwell was inspired by a scene from the film Alien. 

No Place Like Home by Rebekah Harrison is set in a women’s refuge but explores dilemmas we all face in life.

The Crimson Retribution by local Physics teacher Steve Pearce, is a comic drama with a superhero on the sofa.   

Joanne Sherryden’s The Rainbow Connection is described by director Adam Zane as ‘a love story between a gay guy and a straight girl’.

This year 24:7 returns to using The Midland Hotel as a venue. 

Dick Curran, writer of last year’s award winning has written Keep It Simple – a comedy directed by Emma Roxburgh.  Unlike most of the home-grown 24:7.

Steerage tells the story of ten-year-old Immy and her teenage brother Zead, locked inside a shipping container bound for England.  Writer Georgina Perry has worked with refugee children.  Direction is in the hands of 24:7 veteran Sue McGeorge. 

True by Emma Rydal, who also acts in the play, is about the changing nature of the mother daughter relationship.  This is Emma’s first play.  She will be joined by Roberta Kerr who recently performed in Hard Times.

The Festival also takes five productions to Sachas Hotel, the performance-friendly venue on Tib Street. 

Peggy And The Spaceman  by Joyce Branagh the festival’s first ever Family Friendly Show suitable for children aged 6 and above.  It’s a child’s view, based around Yuri Gagarin’s visit to Manchester in 1961 when during the Cold War years Manchester welcomed the famous cosmonaut.  

In contrast,  Sherica by Ian Winterton is about a Guardian reading teacher’s infatuation with a prostitute and the chaos it brings to his life.  With claims to controversy this new drama comes to Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival before heading to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, where tickets will cost you 25% more.

Telling Lives is another local story.  Written by Eric Northey and based on his discovery of the pre-First World War admission books of Prestwich Asylum.  Lily Handley was diagnosed with depression after having an illegitimate child at the age of 21.  Confined to Prestwich she died there 30 years later.  Northey was inspired to write about her on finding her photograph, a beautiful young woman with a direct yet wistful look.  The production uses Brechtian techniques to try to raise questions about our view of mental health and songs are provided by Stockport composer Christopher Cotton.

Actor and director Sue Jenkins, the former Jackie Corkill of Brookside and another Fleeshman family member, will direct The Shadow Of Your Hand by Michael Stewart:  a domestic setting explores the idea of exploitation.

Finally I Know Where The Dead Are Buried by Matthew Dunster explores racial tension in a small northern town.  Oldham born Matthew is a successful actor, writer and director with recent credits, Mogadishu, 1984, and You Can See the Hills, at the Royal Exchange.

The plays have been chosen by blind adjudication using a panel of experienced readers.  As 24:7 has grown in size and recognition it has attracted work from beyond Manchester, and sees its successes travel, but the focus is still on local work and local practitioners.  

Founded by local actor David Slack, since 2004 the Festival has produced more than a hundred pieces of new theatre by emerging writers, giving them an industry recognised opportunity to see and hear their work before an audience.  The Arts Council recently awarded 24:7 National Portfolio Status, recognising its role in bringing new writing to the fore.  

If you want to catch one or more of the plays you may need to act fast; word of mouth works quickly in Manchester and some of the shows will sell out. 

The 24:7 Theatre Festival runs from 21-29 July at New Century House, Sachas Hotel and the Midland Hotel, including performances, workshops, After Hours sessions and a Big Weekend. See website for full details, times and ticket prices. www.247theatrefestival.co.uk


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