With stages empty since March, it’s a reopening milestone for performing arts
‘First industry to stop, last to return.’ COVID-19 may have affected many industries this year, but its stranglehold on performing arts has been one of the tightest. And having to contend with a local lockdown means Manchester performance venues have a greater struggle still.
The international social and political fabric has been ripped apart in the period since we closed, and it is more important than ever that we provide a platform for great art to reflect this
That’s why we’re heartened to see HOME, one of the region’s most cherished cultural landmarks, announce its return to live theatre in October.
While most of the country has reached stage four of the performing arts’ ‘reopening roadmap’ (socially distanced performances), GM venues are still exempt due to lockdown. HOME is hopeful that restrictions will have lifted by autumn however and, like many venues, must take risks to ensure its survival.
Comprising 11 shows, including three world premieres, HOME’s new theatre season will also see the return of critically-acclaimed artists Javaad Alipoor, Sh!t Theatre and Le Gateau Chocolat, among others. What’s more, all tickets will be priced at just £10 to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to return to the theatre.
At a time when social distancing rules will have a huge impact on profit margins - HOME’s Theatre 1 has been reduced from a capacity of 500 to just 120 - pricing all tickets at a tenner is a (very charitable) risk. But it’s one that Dave Moutrey, HOME’s director and CEO, believes the venue should and must take.
He said: “Much has changed since we closed in March, but we must do all we can to bridge the potential growth in social inequality as a result to this pandemic. This is why, despite limited capacity due to social distancing, we will make every ticket available for no more than £10.”
As previously announced, HOME will start its phased reopening on 4th September. The bar and restaurant will return on this date, plus its five cinemas; which will host an explosive film programme spanning new releases to 4k restorations and the finale of ¡Viva! Spanish and Latin American Film Festival - cut short due to lockdown.
The commencement of HOME’s theatre season in October marks the second reopening stage, while an announcement on the autumn exhibition in HOME’s gallery is to follow in the next few weeks.
During its closure period, HOME has continued to work online; presenting new artist commissions in theatre and visual art, hosting film streams and director Q&As and supporting artists through digital workshops. Moutrey added that, until it can reopen at full capacity, the venue will “give equal weight to delivering work online, to ensure that audiences who cannot return just yet can still engage with new, relevant work.”
The new theatre season - what’s in store?
The season will start with a special one-night performance and book launch from HOME’s resident artists, Young Identity (Tuesday 13th October). Following this, the Fringe First award-winning trio RashDash will present the World Premiere of Don’t Go Back To Sleep, a cross-continental musical collaboration about life in lockdown (21st - 24th October).
In November, Javaad Alipoor returns with The Believers Are But Brothers (3rd - 6th November). Originally co-commissioned by HOME, the show first appeared in Manchester in 2017, with reviewers describing it as ‘vital’ and ‘a revelation.’ It went on to tour the world and win a host of awards, including the Scotsman Fringe First Award. Bertrand Lesca & Nasi Voutsas will also return to HOME with The End, their 2019 exploration of the end of their relationship, whose themes of the end of the Earth and ecological crisis feel more relevant than ever (12th - 14th November).
Later in November, Beats & Elements’ High Rise eState of Mind tells difficult-to-swallow truths through a dystopian lens; using grime, beat boxing, hip hop, live looping and MCing (18th - 19th November). And HOME regular David Hoyle presents another world premiere, A Grand Auction of My Life, where the past is examined and HOME’s theatre space becomes an auction room for the sale of memorabilia and memories (Friday 27th November).
Kicking off December, from 4th - 5th, is a third world premiere; an original live score and feature-length film The Earth Asleep, directed by Manchester-based visual artist Clara Casian (House on the Borderland) and composer Robin Richards (Dutch Uncles). This haunting new travelogue addresses the Oshika Peninsula earthquake and tsunami, and asks if our exposure to extreme live trauma in the form of rolling news and citizen reportage has resulted in an inability to process grief at a manageable, human scale.
Onto Friday 11th December, and HOME’s own Accessible Music Productions (AMP) will bring House Party - their regular inclusive club night for music lovers, makers, movers and shakers aged 18+ with different abilities and additional needs - to the Theatre 1 space for the very first time. House Party is renowned for its energy, excitement and enjoyment and features a tantalising and eclectic mix of styles, musicians and moods.
December will also see a diverse festive programme. Getting audiences into the festive spirit, quite literally, the legendary 'ghost whisperer' Séayoncé presents Déjà Voodoo from 8th - 9th December. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a romcom and HOME are obliging by treating guests to Sh!t Theatre’s take on Richard Curtis’s festive tale of infidelity and inappropriate signwriting in Sh!t Actually (15th - 23rd December). For younger audiences, meanwhile, Le Gateau Chocolat brings family-friendly cabaret and tales of not-quite-fitting-in in Duckie - a reworked version of The Ugly Duckling with a message of tolerance and self-acceptance at its core.
Looking forward to 2021 and HOME’s annual PUSH Festival returns with a celebration of the North West’s most exciting new work from theatre makers, companies, visual artists, and filmmakers. 2021’s edition will be extended and run for a whole month (18th January - 6th February).
And the digital programme continues…
HOME will also continue to present work digitally for those who don’t feel ready to return to a live theatre environment just yet.
The ground-breaking Homemakers series will continue throughout autumn with premieres from Stacey Makishi, Esosa Ighodaro and Hot Brown Honey. Homemakers will also debut two new works from deaf artists David Ellington and Matty Gurney, presented by theatre company Ad Infinitum. This will be part of their online festival Where You Are; exploring the themes of freedom, oppression, transformation and care. The festival will also include a new podcast and a screening of Dr Paddy Ladd’s lecture on deaf culture.
Other online events include Cheryl Martin’s One Woman, a hypnotic dreamscape that draws the audience inside the mind of a woman coming to terms with the childhood trauma that affected her mental health as she searches for a different way forward that will allow her to leave the past behind. The show is presented in partnership with Black Gold Arts, and was originally due to appear in a physical form at HOME in July.
During lockdown HOME commissioned Manchester-based guitarist, percussionist and music technologist Jaydev Mistry to capture the sounds from the sonic landscape of the empty building. Empty, this unique audio-visual exploration of a building bereft of people, will be accompanied by Arvind Mistry’s photography.
HOME are also partnering with two companies well-known to Manchester audiences as they present their works on digital tours around the country. Dante or Die have revisited User Not Found, which looked at what happens to our digital lives when we die, as an immersive video podcast. Alongside this Wise Children return digitally to HOME to present Emma Rice’s Romantics Anonymous, which will be live-streamed from the Bristol Old Vic.
There will also be a series of digital book launch events featuring Arsène Wenger, Fatima Bhutto and Graham Norton, among others.
HOME reopens its dining spaces and cinemas on 4th September - see the film programme here.
Its theatres will reopen in October - see the theatre programme here (tickets for this year’s show will be available from Friday 18th September).
HOME is Manchester’s centre for international contemporary culture. Since opening in May 2015, HOME has welcomed over two million visitors to its two theatres, five cinemas, art gallery, bookshop and restaurants.
HOME works with international and UK artists to produce extraordinary theatrical experiences, producing an exciting mix of thought-provoking drama, dance and festivals - with a strong focus on international work, new commissions and talent development. HOME’s ambition is to push the boundaries of form and technology, to experiment, have fun, take risks and share great new art with the widest possible audience.
The patrons of HOME are Danny Boyle, actress Suranne Jones, playwright and poet Jackie Kay CBE, artists Rosa Barba and Phil Collins, filmmaker Asif Kapadia, and actress and author Meera Syal CBE.
HOME is a charity and needs support to bring the best film, theatre and art to Manchester and inspire the next generation. Get involved at homemcr.org/support.