HOME Manchester launches site-specific season

Reporter: Martin Thomasson

Dateline: 11th April, 2014

HOME site-specific programme

Manchester’s Library Theatre Company and Cornerhouse cinema complex find themselves in the unenviable position of newlyweds up and down the country. Having signed up in good faith for a new-build home, they are now being told that their spanking new premises, promised for early autumn 2014, will not be available for occupation before spring 2015. British builders, eh? What can you do?

If you’re Walter Meierjohann, the energetic and charming incoming artistic director of theatre at HOME (which replaces the old Library Theatre Company), you can elect to make a virtue of a necessity by putting together a taster menu of site-specific productions for the forthcoming autumn season.

The season will open in Ancoats on June 10, with Angel Meadow, created and directed by Louise Lowe, artistic director of Dublin’s ANU Productions. Lowe promises an on-your-feet promenade show, colliding the characters of Ancoats's largely Irish Victorian community with contemporary Manchester life.

In September, Meierjohann makes his Manchester debut with a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Victoria Baths. This production will move the action into the criminal underworld of south east Europe, coloured by Gypsy bands and Balkan choirs.

In October, David Greig’s play The Events will occupy HOME’s temporary base at Number One First Street. Produced by Nick Williams of ATC, this multi-award-winning piece, developed as a response to Anders Breivik’s Norway atrocities, examines the limits of forgiveness in a brutalised community.

Later in October, Number One First Street will also be the location for Best of BE (Birmingham European) Festival; three short pieces of dynamic European theatre with the emphasis on physicality. BE Festival directors, Isla Aquilar and Miguel Oyarzun take the reins, here.

The season closes with HOME picking up the Library Theatre Company’s link with the Manchester Fringe, as Number One First Street houses re:play Festival 2015.

For Walter Meierjohann, the theme for this peripatetic season is the notion of ‘belonging’, which he sees as a central question of the 21st century. There is, of course, a certain ironic tension in this, given the company’s continuing wait to be granted access to its own new home. The international elements in the programme establish a central prop of Meierjohann’s vision for theatre at HOME under his leadership.

Whilst acknowledging the strong and continuing British tradition in naturalism, he hopes to move the company into less naturalistic, often multi-disciplinary work. He is also looking to establish a key role for the dramaturg (after the European, rather than the more restricted British model). Petra June Tauscher, in-house dramaturg and Creative Producer, will have a role not just in seeking out and developing new projects, but in acting as what might be described as the artistic director’s creative conscience.

‘After three weeks in rehearsal,’ explains Meierjohann, ‘a director often stops “seeing” the work. The dramaturg’s role is then to remind me of my creative vision.’

The intention is to establish an international network of dramaturgs, seeking out new projects and writers for the company. To this end, an American-based dramaturg has already been appointed.

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