Writers: Martha Kershaw, Rueben Johnson, Gareth George, Becky Prestwich, Andy Sheridan, Victoria Brazier, Rebekah Harrison, Furquan Akhtar, Francesca Waite, Chris Hoyle, Anna McDonald-Hughes, Samantha Siddall, Becky Garrod, James Quinn, Ian Kershaw, Lindsay Williams, Cathy Crabb, Curtis Cole, Sarah McDonald-Hughes, and Eve Steele
Director: Martin Gibbons
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
The Manchester Project, a series of plays written by Northern and Mancunian playwrights, creates a theatrical representation of Manchester and its populace onstage. A number of monologues, duologues, characters, and life stories are presented to the audience. There is Tommy from Tommy’s chippy (he doesn’t own it though), a young girl who wants to go to the One Love Manchester Concert, a guy taking a selfie at Levenshulme station, and two woman catching at tram at Cornbrook. Each play represents a different area of Manchester.
A recorded spoken word opens the show. It is about the Manchester Arena Attack and a 16-year-old girl called Martha who attended the Ariana Grande concert that night. This is a true story and the young writer Martha performed this audio play. It is quite simply: incredible, brave, and moving. The spoken word features clever wordplay, describing the concert as explosive with feel-good energy, but also makes reference to the deadly attack itself. It clearly shows the mental scarring of such an event. It is an exceptional moment of theatre.
The other short plays explore themes of place and home. What does it mean to be a Mancunian? What are the people like? What is it like to live here? Multiple writers share their voices and perspectives on the subject, sometimes these viewpoints clash, other times they compliment each other.
One concept most of these plays expose is the divisions we face in the city and our wider society: exposing how judgemental we are about certain people or communities. When some of the characters make comments about other areas of Manchester, this manifests itself as a joke, the audience laugh, but are we meant to laugh at these comments which might be insulting and could potentially divide communities?
Mark Melville’s emotive sound design includes a haunting soundscape of Ariana Grande’s One Last Time with the sound of sirens, and provides a real moment of poignancy and reflection. The projected image on gauze looks stunning. It’s a cross between a between a map of Manchester and a beehive, attempting to unite the various areas of the city together. Despite a contrast of writers and voices, all the plays connect well together.
Runs until June 2018 | Image: Contributed