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Manchester Sound: The Massacre At The Library Theatre

Joan Davies lets you in on a thought-provoking secret ahead of the new venue, ‘Home’

Written by . Published on May 20th 2013.


Manchester Sound: The Massacre At The Library Theatre

THE Library Theatre's heading 'Home'.

This is the slightly controversial name of its new venue, shared with Cornerhouse and sited between Deansgate-Castlefield and Oxford Road Stations, where building has recently started. The plans look great.

In the meantime though the theatre again takes over a non-theatre venue, hoping to keep it a secret, and focuses on home-grown events of great national and international importance

The month-long production opens in early June in a location which is still largely secret, and we’re asked to keep it that way. 

If we think of ‘large popular movements which changed the world’ it's difficult to find one in which Manchester hasn't played its part: universal suffrage, women's emancipation, the eradication of slavery, self-governance for former colonies, even vegetarianism. Then there’s dancing for hours to repetitive beats after consuming varying qualities and quantities of drugs.

Do the first and the last of these fit together?  Can they provide the foundation of an entertaining, thought-provoking piece of theatre? 

The Library Theatre is brave enough to try. Manchester Sound: The Massacre will bring together participants from the Peterloo Massacre 1819 and from Manchester’s music scene in 1989.

Apart from a certain rebelliousness and of course location, the Hacienda’s just a stone’s throw away from St Peter’s Fields, is there anything to link the two? 

Manchester Sound: The MassacreManchester Sound: The Massacre

Opinions are divided. Recognising this, the Library Theatre’s recent ‘symposium’ brought together an expert on each event, the core creative team and then pulled in as chair DJ and writer Dave Haslam, with a foot in both camps.

Manchester Sound’s writer Polly Wiseman whose ‘large popular movements which changed the world’ phrase I quoted seems to think there’s a strong link. Director Paul Jepson seems less sure and wants also to look at the differences. For a sizeable part of the audience the differences were clear, the director’s suggestion that many Mancunians didn’t know their history was insistently denied, and the world of the Hacienda could have been a foreign land. For others the challenge to authority is a unifying factor.

The month-long production opens in early June in a location which is still largely secret, and we’re asked to keep it that way. 

Manchester Sound: The Massacre CastManchester Sound: The Massacre Cast

Just in case the director was correct: The Peterloo Massacre took place in 1819 on St Peter’s Fields, near what is now Manchester Central. Thousands of ordinary people gathered to hear Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt speak in a campaign for wider enfranchisement; Manchester did not even have any MPs at the time. The authorities panicked and sent in armed men on horseback to arrest the speakers. In the ensuing panic an estimated 18 people were killed and a further 600 injured, many seriously. Named ironically after the Battle of Waterloo, the Peterloo Massacre today symbolises the sacrifices made in the fight for democracy and plays an important part in Manchester’s image of itself as a city which takes the world forward.

It will be interesting to see how intricately the creative team can link those events to rave culture.

The Library Theatre’s enthralling site specific work, Hard Times and Manchester Lines, has been a positive force during its period without a permanent home. Manchester Sound: The Massacre may well be another one to remember.

Saturday 8 June - Saturday 6 July (performances: Mon-Thu 7.30pm; Fri/Sat 6pm, 9pm) at a secret location in Manchester city centre. There will be a bar – no need to bring your own drinks.

Tickets cost £26, £24, £22 and £18. Call the box office on 0161 200 1500 or click here for tickets.

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AnonymousMay 20th 2013.

Such a terrible name (really terrible!) - Almost obscene in its apparent sequestration of an ordinary noun - Is there still time to change it? Please do, just saying it makes me feel sick to the stomach. I don't believe I could go there for the name alone and will probably stick to the Great Northern and see less erudite films, ones that don't even have subtitles or have ones you have to make up!

1 Response: Reply To This...
rinkydinkMay 21st 2013.

It is a great name. What are you on about?

AnonymousMay 21st 2013.

To draw comparisons between the Peterloo Massacre and late eighties pop music is really at best quite cringeworthy and at worst utterly insulting to the memory of the deceased and their struggle.

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