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Manchester 24:7 Theatre Festival 2013: Previewed

Joan Davies previews the eight day festival of new theatre

Written by . Published on July 15th 2013.


Manchester 24:7 Theatre Festival 2013: Previewed
 

EVEN before this year’s Manchester International Festival closes its doors another festival opens.

Crucially the plays are cheap, last only one hour and are performed during the daytime as well as the evening. 24:7 is one of Manchester’s brilliant and continuing home-grown successes. 

It’s time for season ten of 24:7 Theatre Festival, a festival focusing on new drama to nurture the writing, directing, performing and producing talent of tomorrow. By taking over non-theatre spaces it brings in and develops new audiences too. 

In 2013 audiences can choose from eleven one-hour plays, all world premieres of course, plus rehearsed readings, scripts in development and a host of extra events featuring emerging artists from the region.

The difficulty is choosing which to see.

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24:7 continues to use New Century House as part of the Co-op’s sponsorship scheme. Five plays run there.

Billy, The Monster and ME! Is an interactive show performed at 2pm each day and aimed at children from the age of 4 and their families. A monster arrives in Billy’s bedroom on the very day that his family is just too busy to play. Sounding to me a little like a low-budget ET, it’s written by Catherine Manford and Sarah Molyneux.

Away From Home written by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson is a one man show tackling homophobia in football and personal identity. It focuses on Kyle, a young male escort and huge football fan, who is surprised to find himself face to face with one of his heroes. As a client.  

Also at New Century House is Blunted, written by Alice Brockway. The play starts with the four characters negotiating their way through the fallout from a brutal, pointless murder. Each character has to come to terms with a horrific crime that has left everybody reeling. Not, unfortunately, unusual circumstances for Manchester. 

Daylight Robbery is based around the life of one of Manchester’s policing heroes, Jerome Caminada, the Victorian city’s first ever Detective Superintendent. Writer, former BBC head of mainstream comedy Micheál Jacob, said, “Caminada is often seen as an inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, he was a real character, and although he sometimes went armed, he relied on his wits. His techniques included donning various disguises to track criminals and springing outlandish traps – he once hid inside a grand piano to catch a thief.” 

Night on the Field of Waterloo, a new play by Thomas Bloor, is set on the battlefield of Waterloo the night after Napoleon’s defeat by the allied armies. The play follows two young army widows in their struggle to survive the dangers of the night and the people they encounter out in the darkness. Bloor, an experienced author of novels for children and young adults, was drawn to the subject matter by his father’s obsession with the Napoleonic wars. 

24:7 continues its relationship with the Three Minute Theatre venue within Affleck’s Palace on Oldham Street 

No Soft Option, the latest play from Manchester playwright and ex-police sergeant Brian Marchbank, explores the funny side of community service. This will be Brian’s third appearance at the festival following the acclaimed Pawn and Flag (reviewed here). Four offenders are forced together to paint a wall as part of their community service. This will be Brian’s final play for 24:7 as they have a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule.

Bump by Laura Kate Barrow is the story of the chance reunion in an empty church between school friends, meeting now as a soldier and a student. Life hasn’t turned out the way they expected.  This is presented as both a comic and heart-breaking tale.

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Temper, the debut play of new writer Richard O’Neill asks, ‘Can you be a man when you’re born a coward?” Exploring how young men can be trampled by their inability to recognise and deal with their emotions.  The protagonist Calum doesn’t have the guts to be truly angry at life; instead he shifts the blame and runs. Then he meets Debs who may hold the key to his transition.

New venue 2022NQ on Dale Street should prove an atmospheric location for the final two plays.

The Young, a play by Faro Productions, confronts society’s obsession with youth and beauty, and is the first-ever devised play (a collaborative creation) at Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival.  

Set in a semi-dystopian world in which everyone is addicted to a drug that guarantees eternal youth, The Young asks an interesting question: if you could stay young forever, would you really want to?

Finally My Space, a play written by Bruntwood winning writer Louise Monaghan, is a tale of Parkour, prejudice and the pains of adolescence

Another play involving a community sentence, the writing process for this one has involved young people from a local high school.

It’s looking like an exciting programme. Clashing with a 5,000 capacity screening of Branagh’s Macbeth on the opening weekend may be a challenge, but there is a growing and loyal audience for this festival and a vibrancy that bounces off the walls whenever or however you’re involved. 

Crucially the plays are cheap, last only one hour and are performed during the daytime as well as the evening. 24:7 is one of Manchester’s brilliant and continuing home-grown successes. 

Next up will be the Manchester Jazz Festival which will overlap the latter end of 24:7. July just isn’t long enough for all Manchester has got to offer.

24:7 THEATRE FESTIVAL: The heart of new theatre, runs from 19 to 24 July in three venues. More details can be found here.

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