What Is The City But The People?

Opening Ceremony M1F17

A free public event in Piccadilly Gardens

June 29th 2017

Idea by Jeremy Deller

Directed by Richard Gregory

Piccadilly Gardens is sunny and crowded. Friends bump into each other and strangers talk for the first time. Above us is an 80 metre long raised walkway, two giant projection screens and a stage.

MIF17 opens with a single figure walking the runway to the pounding beat of DJ Graham Massey and assorted local buskers and musicians. The same man closes the show, he is homeless and sells The Big Issue

In between, 149 other city dwellers strut their stuff. Dog walkers, lovers, drag queens, protesters, famous Mancunions, The taxi drivers who turned off their meters on the night of the recent bomb in the city. A brand new baby and a Mancunian in her 100th year. Different cultures, creeds and social stratas. Manchester.

This is an artistic statement that celebrates diversity and community. Manchester is one of the most ethnically diverse districts in Greater Manchester. It is the only authority outside London with residents within each of the 90 detailed ethnic groups listed in the Census.

Manchester is growing rapidly with a 19% increase between 2001 and 2011. The population is expected to exceed 550,000 by 2021. It is a city which prides itself on welcoming new people. It is also a city with rapidly increasing numbers of rough sleepers, up 41% in the last year. Some of our newer residents struggle to find a home and have to be creative with hidden, disused spaces. Organisations such as Coffee for CraigThe Booth Centre and The Brick Project are all doing great work. Andy Burnham recently pledged 15% of his salary as Lord Mayor to an appeal intended to end homelessness by 2020.

Post the explosion on 22nd May the city feels kinder and more empathic. The Manchester Values focus on what we have in common and how we all contribute to Manchesterthose who are newly arrived and those who have always lived here. 

As we remember that Muslim taxi drivers turned their meters off and homeless men cradled injured children and carried them to safety. Let’s hope that Dellers vision on the walkway remind us all to be a little kinder and practice empathy.

The walkway took several weeks to build but overnight it was removed after the ceremony. It could have been a great temporary roof for Manchester’s rough sleepers to rest under as well as walk over.

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The Marriage of Kim K

Music by Stephen Hyde

Libretto by Leoe Hyde

53Two

real live actual couple sit on a sofa drinking wine and bickering over what to watch on telly. A string quartet and a barefoot keyboard player play Mozart. It could be Gogglebox The Opera. Indeed it might have been if Leoe &  Hyde had thought of it.

Instead these intrepid boys weave centuries old opera with popular celebrity culture. The Marriage of Figaro meets A marriage of Kim Kardashian. This should be a car crash affair of which the least said the better. Thankfully the end result is fresh, fun and really rather clever.

The music moves well between genres and sounds great. Echo Chamber are a talented bunch who I heard earlier this year at a MIF17 Festival in my Home. The overall impact is polished and impressive. The piece would really shine in a larger venue to allow for better acoustics for such a big sound

The staging is very effective with the central sofa and telly creating the focus of the piece. If we use populist reality docusoaps as a means of escape are we just relaxing or are we disengaging from our lives? 

Real life couple Amelia and Stephen may or may not squabble over the remote control in private but like most couples they will sometimes stop listening with their hearts because their heads are full of stressful thoughts.

When all 3 couples occupy the stage the performance is at times sublime and surreal. It can also frustrate as clever lines get lost as couples are singing over each other. This works as a device to demonstrate the cacophony of our modern media obsessed world but at times detracts from some fine performances. 

Visually it’s fab and frothy. The central couple are authentic and well developed with Amelia Gabriel giving a standout performance. Kim and Kris are suitably trashy and raunchy and played with OTT relish- great fun. The Count and Countess look and sound stunning, and the costumes are fabulous. The attention to detail is really impressive and adds real depth to how the show looks on stage.

By combining Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries 72 day lovefest/marital car crash with the Count and Countess in The Marriage of Figaro we see nothing really changes. Two hundred plus years on we still fall in love, we still disappoint and are disappointed. We will always have lavish peacocks and steadfast wrens. The music may vary but at its heart the beat remains the same.

Showing July 3,4,10,11,15,16,17 July

Moving to Edinburgh Fringe

Peter McMaster:27

Image: Oliver Rudkin

CONTACT THEATRE

Created by: Peter McMaster

Performed by: Peter McMaster and Nick Anderson

We enter through the curtains unto the main stage as though we are entering a large black confessional box. We are greeted by two men in Skeleton unitards. Is this the afterlife? Is this where all the dead 27 year olds artistes gather on a Tuesday night?

Peter McMaster explores the vulnerabilities around masculinity and the choices we may make about how fast and furious we drive toward 27 and what lies beyond. What unfolds is brutally visceral and beautifully tender.

The scene is set and as these two men hold hands they evoke a powerful image of tenderness and trust. It reminded me of my son at 3 years old clutching his best friends hand as they jumped off a wall together rolling and tustling in the warm Greek sand. There is much rolling and tustling on the stage too. Bodies slam into each other with a raw intensity that blends aggression, curiosity, lust and love. Yellow tape marks out the space like a sporting event and it does indeed feel like Alan Bates and Oliver Reed wrestling in Women In Love.

The intimacy of the performance revs up a notch as the two performers start to disrobe requesting assistance from the audience.  This could go very wrong but the vibe of warmth and trust in the space allows it to be natural and unforced. As we assist it is playful and charming. The naked male body becomes unthreatening and is simply the casing for the two lifeforces on stage. 

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Ash is frequently shaken across the stage to remind us of the impermanence of life at 27 or any age. At times the ceremony feels like a hedonistic take on Ash Wednesday. As they roll and throw and support each other round the space, sweat and ash clad their bodies. The fresh, pink flesh becomes deathly grey and dulled. The dirt on the outside echoes the darkness on the inside that they apologise for, unrolling scrolls of apologies that we help them read out. The dirt on the outside echoes the shame on the inside but as a celebration of life experience, and living through your excesses and your mistakes.

The musical backdrop is straight from the back catalogue of the 27 Club – Nirvana, Amy Whitehouse, Jimi Hendrix. The impact of the music highlighting the story combined with the power and grace of McMaster and Anderson ensures a truly memorable experience. 

I left 27 feeling incredibly glad to be alive in that space watching that show on that summer evening. I was 27 when my Father died and for a while I just wanted to be with him. To be just ashes. A performance like 27 is a celebration of choosing life. I would see it again in a heartbeat.

What If I Told You?

Written and Performed by PAULINE MAYERS

Directed by CHRIS  GOODE 

The Studio, The Royal Exchange 

Pauline Mayers is a Rambert Ballet trained dancer, a choreographer, a writer and a theatre maker. She is a Hackney girl who has travelled the World as a dancer. She is a women of a certain age who has lived through significant  physical injuries and the emotional pain of depression.  She is a performer and an experimenter and an explorer. She is a black woman who has had a mixed response from the dance world about having a black body  to channel ballet through. More recently she has also experienced the closed doors that often greet an older dancer.

Talking to her in interview recently and watching her perform this  evening there is an undoubted warmth and engagement with others that is striking. As she opens the show her gaze attempts to connect with each member of the audience with a white hot intensity. This will draw in many audience members but for some may prove uncomfortable to fully engage with.

What If I Told You? uses theatre, movement and dance to explore prejudice and the conscious and unconscious assumption around skin colour. The piece weaves elements of her personal history and dance experience with the story of Dr J.Marion Sims often referred to as the father of modern Gynaecology. 

Dr Sims practised medicine in the nineteenth century and made major discoveries in the field of Gynaecology. His work was and remains highly controversial as he used black slave women as his subjects and refused to use anaesthetic deeming them less able to feel pain than white women.

The piece uses audience interaction and participation throughout. It is most powerful as we recreate a montage of a painting of Sims with Anarcha (a patient he experimented on many times), and two other white doctors observing while two tramatised black women peek through a curtain to see what awaits them. This is the impact of the piece that has stayed with me. Imagining that Anarcha might have been Pauline and seeing a lovely young black woman I know who could have been waiting her turn. Sims and another doctor were portrayed by white middle class men I also knew. It was deeply unsettling to imagine whose shoes we might walk in, in another place or time. 

There are some very rich moments to observe and there are some lovely interactions and connections as the audience participate in the movement of the piece. There is however a frustration that in weaving these elements together so much there is a risk that the piece loses some of its impact. An hour limits some of the storytelling when we also are participants. Pauline is so engaging I wanted more of her and less of me!!

Koan is a Japanese word for public thought. Its the audience thinking and speaking and reflecting together. Its a radical act of self care and empowerment. 
The Koan completes the second half of the show and is led by poet Khadijah Ibrahiim. Koan is a Japanese word for public thought. This is an important part of the piece as it is an exploration of subjective experience and a continuation of sharing what is “sameness” as opposed to “otherness”. 

The genuine hope in What If I Told You? is that each of us leaves the space with a keener and more empathic perspective on our neighbours. 

“There are periods of history where skin colour is used as a means to separate and disconnect us. I really feel what hurts you, hurts me. We are all human beings. There is only one race.”
This is a very personal piece. Pauline says it is an invitation to walk in her shoes for an hour. As with any subjective experience this will be more potent for some than for others. This is undoubtedly painful and chilling at times however it is also celebratory. Having stubbornly fought to be recognised as a black dancer and struggled with the loss of that career this show is also a homecoming. Theatre has welcomed her as a performer and story teller and her joy and appreciation is evident in this piece.

SHOWING 19/20 JUNE


Interview with Pauline Mayers


Getting a sense of Pauline Mayers before her new show What If I Told  You opens at The Royal Exchange Studio ahead of going to The Edinburgh Festival. Warm, funny and sharply intelligent. 

What led you into dance? Did you start from an early age? 

I’ll give you two versions because there’s what I remember and what my Mother remembers. There’s being 13 and although I had a very happy childhood, things were not going quite so well at 13/14. And the only way I could be out of the house was to do something constructive so I went along with a friend to the White Lion Youth Centre in Islington….My Mum would say from an early age 7/8 she remembers me trying to tap dance. I would try to emulate Gene Kelly laughs. My Mum,”You always wanted to be a dancer.” There’s what I remember and what my Mother witnessed. So somewhere in between.

I’m actually a Psychotherapist. That’s really typical of how we remember our past and how others define our past. Often they are very different, very different stories indeed. 

YES! There’s also something about what you remember and what you tell yourself you remember laughs based on scant pieces of information you kinda make a whole- “Oh that must be what happened”…..I think memory and history are all tied up with subjectivity, almost never objective and coming from various different angles. I kind of imagine it as a big 360 degree motion capture thing. There’s yourself in the middle and you have all these cameras swirling around you and depending on where the camera is people remember that part or version of you……Certainly doing the show, this piece; and looking back on photographs of me at Secondary School. I remember me as a very quiet child yet pictures show 13 year old me with my leg cocked up as high as I could get it so I clearly was not the shy child I recall!!

Perhaps you were a shy child but movement released something in you?

I think that’s definitely true, I do, there’s an absolute exhilaration and freedom. Movement was also like a Rubik cube, a challenge to unlock and solve, and I enjoyed trying to get my body round these tricky ways of moving. The getting up and performing was always secondary to the act of developing myself as a physical being. That curiosity of what happens if I do this? It’s the absolute laboratory laughs I used to absolutely love that.

So you eventually went to The Rambert School?

My training was intense, amazing  and wondrous; also terrifying, depressing and lonely. A few teachers had a very fixed idea of what dancers should look like and I didn’t fit the look of the dancer that they were imagining in their heads.

How did you cope with that?

It was my drive to be the thing that I wanted to be. My philosophy was I’m paying the same amount of fees as everyone else so I’m going to take your information and I’m going to be like a sponge and be this thing that you say I can’t be!!

That makes sense from a psychological perspective. We tend to adapt or rebel!

Absolutely! A teacher saying “Oh Pauline dear. Go to the back of the class. You really can’t do this.” I remember saying, “I can’t do it yet but the point of being here is that you teach me so I can!”

You were clearly there for a reason…

I think I felt if I didn’t do the dancing I would die…..It was a matter of life and death. How I felt when I danced was euphoric, falling in love, it was like I could be me….. I’ve tried to leave dance a number of times in the last few years. I can’t do anything else- not in a negative way but in a – I would not be me if I don’t do it.

You left dance in 2011 and moved into choreography. Was that about what’s happens to dancers at a certain age?

Absolutely. It’s a very big question especially for certain forms of dance. I came up against a wall of NO. I had all these amazing experiences dancing travelling around the World. I had an extensive set of skills and yet I was being told NO.. I was 41 and I’ve done this thing called Dance but I’m not being respected for that. I wasn’t being listened to. I wasn’t even being acknowledged.

That can happen to women of a certain age and you weren’t that old!!!

When it comes down to people of colour it’s like the Highlander effect. There can be only One! It really felt like I wasn’t that one. It felt like me coming in and wanting to tell unique stories was not needed because we’ve already got our person. I needed to walk away for my own sanity. In 2011 I shut the door on dance. It felt like theatre welcomed me with absolutely open arms. I had all these extraordinary collaborations. I realised I can contribute, The ideas I have in my head create value to any collaboration I do. So between 2011-2015 I worked solidly whereas 2005-2011 I was constantly on the dole!!!

So the rules in dance and theatre seem very different?

In the theatre I was just this curious bird who just wanted to find things out from people and that was ok. I could investigate like in a laboratory. In dance arenas only certain people were given permission to frame those questions. 

I’m intrigued- through out our conversation you’ve mentioned terms like experimenting, investigating, curiosity. I know you mention Dr J Marion Sims in the piece- what made you reference his experiments?

His experiments had an air of theatrics. He wanted an audience and doctors came from all over to see him create these tortuous gynaecological  experiments or mutilations on black women. He thought they felt no pain so used no ether. Even for his time what he did was extreme. He was a celebrity surgeon using black slave women as they were not valued.

How do you move between such a grim story and the lighter moments in your show?

I think it’s  humourMy own story could be seen as really grim laughs Right- young girl from Hackney leaves home at 15, ended up being a dancer til 30, then being freelance then 7 years having no money and bailiffs at the door, having depression and then the last 6 years full of amazing work. I love laughing and the joy of hearing people laugh.

So how did you come to work with Chris Goode?

Huge laughter…I had decided to go into theatre. I had a Twitter account but no real idea of its  power. I was up at 1am and this tweet from West Yorkshire Playhouse said first person to tweet back gets a wristband for TRANSFORM 2011. Chris was doing something called ‘open house’-based around Our Town come and join- you can observe or take part. I hadn’t noticed last bit and being a dutiful dancer turned up with notebook and pen.I thought I’d be observing how theatre is made but I opened the door to Chris and a group of actors sat in a circle. He gave me the biggest smile and said “Hello would you like to come and join us?” Before I knew what was happening I was involved with all the experimentation with the actors and then performed with them that night!! I went back another 2 nights and it was the most exhilarating thing I had done in a really long time.

Amazing!

Chris is extraordinary. He never leads the way you would imagine.The people in the room have all the skills and the attributes within them. They just need a space explore that so Chris was holding the space for all of us to meet, to be curious and to experiment and look at questions-What if….? Shall we…..? Such beautiful open language .. He then invited me to work with him again at Mayfest in Bristol and again at TRANSFORM 2012. It’s the curiosity. Nothing is quite as it seems because its not.

I find that process fascinating. Like light bulb moments.

Yes absolutely. I think he has a very unique gift. Virtually everyone I have met who works with him have opened out and jumped forward. It’s quite spectacular the way he brings people together at a crossroads in their lives. They are somehow transformed working with him. Working with him felt like the Universe opened up for me in a way I’d never seen before…And it continues to do this to this day and I feel it’s from that very first experience of working with him.

In “What if I told you?” are you aiming to facilitate that kind of experience for the audience?

Yes I suppose in a way.

Your show sounds like full on audience partipation.

 It is. I prefer to term it as an experience of walking in my shoes.

Ok

Audience participation can be limiting. You can ask them to do a task and they may or not do it. I feel we are all being story tellers in the space. We are creating and recreating moments from my life and moments from the past to inform where we go from this moment on. We are creating a memory together. That what the show does is the conduit to the Koan which is the second half of the show and is more important.

Koan?

Koan is a Japanese word for public thought. It’s the audience thinking and speaking and reflecting together. It’s a radical act of self care and empowerment. The space is held by a facilitator who leads the discussion, the poet Khadijh Ibrahiim. It enables people to have a space to pause and reflect – Now I’ve seen this what does it mean to be human?

Are you present in the room during the Koan or do you step away?

I’m nowhere to be seen!!!laughs Thats a very conscious thought. I’ve done my bit! I’ve given my experience and had the audience live in my shoes for an hour.

Perhaps you need time to process that too…..

 What I want is for the audience to come to their own conclusion. They already have a sense of the idea of colour prejudice as ridiculous. Yet we are still dealing with the complexities of it. We are using a very loaded term by using the term race. We are imagining it far bigger and greater than the actual act of racism is. The slave trade was about making money and eventually racism was tied into that. There are periods of history where skin colour is used as a means to separate and disconnect us. I really feel what hurts you, hurts me. We are all human beings. There is only one race.

Slavery went on for 400 years, The mass movement of people from an entire continent in a machine-like way. It sought to eradicate the history and culture if a continent and replace it with something that never came from there.

When something happens on that huge a scale for that long it can almost start to lose its true impact. It’s too big.

Absolutely. In What If I Told You I want to say to people we are human beings first and foremost. We love. We hate. We forgive. We have empathy and  compassion in equal measure. What’s your experience? What’s mine? How do they connect? What’s the common denominator? And then move forward from that- we might have a chance to really talk about this in ways that we need to talk in order to heal.

If one person goes to What If I Told You  and is changed by that experience and says “I’m thinking differently about skin colour and I want to share that with others” then I have done exactly what I set out to do.

It feels like a really timely piece to be performed especially here in Manchester.

We love and we hate. It’s a piece that grows with time not diminishes. It’s a piece to reflect on. People are surprised by the horror of it, by the joy of it, by the challenge of it.

I look forward to seeing it Pauline. Good luck with taking it to The Edinburgh Festival.

Thanks.
SHOWING AT THE ROYAL EXCHANGE STUDIO 19/20  JUNE  

Interview with Pauline Mayers 

Getting a sense of Pauline Mayers before her new show What If I Told  You opens at The Royal Exchange Studio ahead of going to The Edinburgh Festival. Warm, funny and sharply intelligent. 

What led you into dance? Did you start from an early age? 

I’ll give you two versions because there’s what I remember and what my Mother remembers. There’s being 13 and although I had a very happy childhood, things were not going quite so well at 13/14. And the only way I could be out of the house was to do something constructive so I went along with a friend to the White Lion Youth Centre in Islington….My Mum would say from an early age 7/8 she remembers me trying to tap dance. I would try to emulate Gene Kelly laughs. My Mum,”You always wanted to be a dancer.” There’s what I remember and what my Mother witnessed. So somewhere in between.

I’m actually a Psychotherapist. That’s really typical of how we remember our past and how others define our past. Often they are very different, very different stories indeed. 

YES! There’s also something about what you remember and what you tell yourself you remember laughs based on scant pieces of information you kinda make a whole- “Oh that must be what happened”…..I think memory and history are all tied up with subjectivity, almost never objective and coming from various different angles. I kind of imagine it as a big 360 degree motion capture thing. There’s yourself in the middle and you have all these cameras swirling around you and depending on where the camera is people remember that part or version of you……Certainly doing the show, this piece; and looking back on photographs of me at Secondary School. I remember me as a very quiet child yet pictures show 13 year old me with my leg cocked up as high as I could get it so I clearly was not the shy child I recall!!

Perhaps you were a shy child but movement released something in you?

I think that’s definitely true, I do, there’s an absolute exhilaration and freedom. Movement was also like a Rubik cube, a challenge to unlock and solve, and I enjoyed trying to get my body round these tricky ways of moving. The getting up and performing was always secondary to the act of developing myself as a physical being. That curiosity of what happens if I do this? It’s the absolute laboratory laughs I used to absolutely love that.

So you eventually went to The Rambert School?

My training was intense, amazing  and wondrous; also terrifying, depressing and lonely. A few teachers had a very fixed idea of what dancers should look like and I didn’t fit the look of the dancer that they were imagining in their heads.

How did you cope with that?

It was my drive to be the thing that I wanted to be. My philosophy was I’m paying the same amount of fees as everyone else so I’m going to take your information and I’m going to be like a sponge and be this thing that you say I can’t be!!

That makes sense from a psychological perspective. We tend to adapt or rebel!

Absolutely! A teacher saying “Oh Pauline dear. Go to the back of the class. You really can’t do this.” I remember saying, “I can’t do it yet but the point of being here is that you teach me so I can!”

You were clearly there for a reason…

I think I felt if I didn’t do the dancing I would die…..It was a matter of life and death. How I felt when I danced was euphoric, falling in love, it was like I could be me….. I’ve tried to leave dance a number of times in the last few years. I can’t do anything else- not in a negative way but in a – I would not be me if I don’t do it.

You left dance in 2011 and moved into choreography. Was that about what’s happens to dancers at a certain age?

Absolutely. It’s a very big question especially for certain forms of dance. I came up against a wall of NO. I had all these amazing experiences dancing travelling around the World. I had an extensive set of skills and yet I was being told NO.. I was 41 and I’ve done this thing called Dance but I’m not being respected for that. I wasn’t being listened to. I wasn’t even being acknowledged.

That can happen to women of a certain age and you weren’t that old!!!

When it comes down to people of colour it’s like the Highlander effect. There can be only One! It really felt like I wasn’t that one. It felt like me coming in and wanting to tell unique stories was not needed because we’ve already got our person. I needed to walk away for my own sanity. In 2011 I shut the door on dance. It felt like theatre welcomed me with absolutely open arms. I had all these extraordinary collaborations. I realised I can contribute, The ideas I have in my head create value to any collaboration I do. So between 2011-2015 I worked solidly whereas 2005-2011 I was constantly on the dole!!!

So the rules in dance and theatre seem very different?

In the theatre I was just this curious bird who just wanted to find things out from people and that was ok. I could investigate like in a laboratory. In dance arenas only certain people were given permission to frame those questions. 

I’m intrigued- through out our conversation you’ve mentioned terms like experimenting, investigating, curiosity. I know you mention Dr J Marion Sims in the piece- what made you reference his experiments?

His experiments had an air of theatrics. He wanted an audience and doctors came from all over to see him create these tortuous gynaecological  experiments or mutilations on black women. He thought they felt no pain so used no ether. Even for his time what he did was extreme. He was a celebrity surgeon using black slave women as they were not valued.

How do you move between such a grim story and the lighter moments in your show?

I think it’s  humour. My own story could be seen as really grim laughs Right- young girl from Hackney leaves home at 15, ended up being a dancer til 30, then being freelance then 7 years having no money and bailiffs at the door, having depression and then the last 6 years full of amazing work. I love laughing and the joy of hearing people laugh.

So how did you come to work with Chris Goode?

Huge laughter…I had decided to go into theatre. I had a Twitter account but no real idea of its  power. I was up at 1am and this tweet from West Yorkshire Playhouse said first person to tweet back gets a wristband for TRANSFORM 2011. Chris was doing something called ‘open house’-based around Our Town come and join- you can observe or take part. I hadn’t noticed last bit and being a dutiful dancer turned up with notebook and pen.I thought I’d be observing how theatre is made but I opened the door to Chris and a group of actors sat in a circle. He gave me the biggest smile and said “Hello would you like to come and join us?” Before I knew what was happening I was involved with all the experimentation with the actors and then performed with them that night!! I went back another 2 nights and it was the most exhilarating thing I had done in a really long time.

Amazing!

Chris is extraordinary. He never leads the way you would imagine.The people in the room have all the skills and the attributes within them. They just need a space explore that so Chris was holding the space for all of us to meet, to be curious and to experiment and look at questions-What if….? Shall we…..? Such beautiful open language .. He then invited me to work with him again at Mayfest in Bristol and again at TRANSFORM 2012. It’s the curiosity. Nothing is quite as it seems because its not.

I find that process fascinating. Like light bulb moments.

Yes absolutely. I think he has a very unique gift. Virtually everyone I have met who works with him have opened out and jumped forward. It’s quite spectacular the way he brings people together at a crossroads in their lives. They are somehow transformed working with him. Working with him felt like the Universe opened up for me in a way I’d never seen before…And it continues to do this to this day and I feel it’s from that very first experience of working with him.

In “What if I told you?” are you aiming to facilitate that kind of experience for the audience?

Yes I suppose in a way.

Your show sounds like full on audience partipation.

 It is. I prefer to term it as an experience of walking in my shoes.

Ok

Audience participation can be limiting. You can ask them to do a task and they may or not do it. I feel we are all being story tellers in the space. We are creating and recreating moments from my life and moments from the past to inform where we go from this moment on. We are creating a memory together. That what the show does is the conduit to the Koan which is the second half of the show and is more important.

Koan?

Koan is a Japanese word for public thought. It’s the audience thinking and speaking and reflecting together. It’s a radical act of self care and empowerment. The space is held by a facilitator who leads the discussion, the poet Khadijh Ibrahiim. It enables people to have a space to pause and reflect – Now I’ve seen this what does it mean to be human?

Are you present in the room during the Koan or do you step away?

I’m nowhere to be seen!!!laughs Thats a very conscious thought. I’ve done my bit! I’ve given my experience and had the audience live in my shoes for an hour.

Perhaps you need time to process that too…..

 What I want is for the audience to come to their own conclusion. They already have a sense of the idea of colour prejudice as ridiculous. Yet we are still dealing with the complexities of it. We are using a very loaded term by using the term race. We are imagining it far bigger and greater than the actual act of racism is. The slave trade was about making money and eventually racism was tied into that. There are periods of history where skin colour is used as a means to separate and disconnect us. I really feel what hurts you, hurts me. We are all human beings. There is only one race.

Slavery went on for 400 years, The mass movement of people from an entire continent in a machine-like way. It sought to eradicate the history and culture if a continent and replace it with something that never came from there.

When something happens on that huge a scale for that long it can almost start to lose its true impact. It’s too big.

Absolutely. In What If I Told You I want to say to people we are human beings first and foremost. We love. We hate. We forgive. We have empathy and  compassion in equal measure. What’s your experience? What’s mine? How do they connect? What’s the common denominator? And then move forward from that- we might have a chance to really talk about this in ways that we need to talk in order to heal.

If one person goes to What If I Told You  and is changed by that experience and says “I’m thinking differently about skin colour and I want to share that with others” then I have done exactly what I set out to do.

It feels like a really timely piece to be performed especially here in Manchester.

We love and we hate. It’s a piece that grows with time not diminishes. It’s a piece to reflect on. People are surprised by the horror of it, by the joy of it, by the challenge of it.

I look forward to seeing it Pauline. Good luck with taking it to The Edinburgh Festival.

Thanks.
SHOWING AT THE ROYAL EXCHANGE STUDIO 19/20  JUNE  

A Spanish Adventure

THE EDGE THEATRE

Written and Directed by Janine Waters

Music and Lyrics by Simon Waters 

“Welcome to the mass movement of giving a toss about stuff” Julie Hesmondhalgh, Patron, The Edge.

It’s 1936 and the far right are threatening the existence of a small family run art centre in the days before the Spanish Civil War.  It is an easy leap to today and the ongoing erosion of arts Funding in Britain. Community Arts organisations such as The Edge do battle every day to keep their doors open and get funding to make Art that really makes a difference.

Today was testament to when it all comes together and something wonderful happens. This afternoon a welcoming Dressing Room cafe and a flowery garden and cosy red theatre space was filled to capacity to celebrate The Arts Council money being well spent. The 3 year association between The Edge and The Booth Centre has flourished. 

The Booth Centre Theatre Company filled the space with drama, music, dance and mime. The show was funny, clever and provocative throughout. The cheers and claps at the end were not polite but well earned and infectious. 

I talked to one of the especially impressive performers afterwards. Catherine Bowen-Colthurst has both volunteered at The Booth Centre and been a service user. The benefits and opportunities in theatre which she has experienced are obvious. As is her quiet delight in her involvement and the diligence and talent which she brought to her performance.

The afternoon ended in Patron Julie Hesmondhalgh opening the new studio space as The Edge adventure on another day and hopefully never have to close their doors through lack of funding.

Saturday 17th June