Elevator returns to Live

Published: 28 November 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Comprising six performances of new plays, plus one work-in-progress, one evening of spoken word, one masterclass and three panel discussions, Live Theatre’s fifth Elevator Festival of new work runs from 11 to 21 March 2020.

It opens at 7:30 on 11 March with a panel discussion, Northern Generic, looking at the characteristics of Northern new plays. And then from 12 to 14, there will be the first of three double bills of new plays: Last Seen Bensham Rd by Samantha Neale, directed by Holly Gallagher, and Redcoat by Lewis Jobson, directed by Melanie Rashbrooke.

In Last Seen, while struggling to get her two children to school, Tanya has to navigate the morning rush and run shopping errands on an unfeasibly tight budget. It feels like everything Tanya tries fails. She longs to disappear from the wall of judging eyes and spiralling anxiety. But Tanya didn't bargain for a literal disappearance.

In Redcoat, we meet Lewis. He's a Redcoat. Living the dream and living it large in Bognor Regis. He loves to make you smile and show you a good time. But what happens when you're having an 'off day' and you tell Barney the Dinosaur to piss off in front of a load of kids?

Both writers have a close connection with Live. As an actor, Neale has appeared in a number of plays at Live, including Alison Carr’s The Girls from Poppyfield Close (2011) and Iris (2016) and Zoe Cooper’s Nativities (2012). She has also appeared at Alphabetti and the Customs House and her plays have been performed by Live, Alphabetti, Coracle and Workie Ticket.

As an actor, Jobson has performed at Live with the Six Twenty and at the Customs House and can be spotted regularly behind the bar and front of house at Live.

On 14 March from 11:00 to 2:00, Joe Douglas, Live’s Artistic Director, will lead a masterclass on directing new plays for the stage and at 2:30 that day, a panel of producers and artists from the independent sector will discuss self-produced work. Then at 5:30 in The Studio, Rosa Stourac McCreery will direct a rehearsed reading of a work-in-progress by Juliana Mensah, Faster than Bolt. It's 2012. The Olympics. England is welcoming the world and Mo Farah is as British as the Queen. The UK government is also ‘dispersing’ asylum-seekers, out of London and into the ‘regions’. Faizah is not a British citizen, but if she hitchhikes from Newcastle to London and can outrun Usain Bolt, maybe she will become one.

On 16 March, there’s a panel discussion on The Arts of Wellbeing in which artists and practitioners talk about the pressures faced by individuals in the theatre industry, as well as self-care methods and how to work towards a caring, reflective practice.

Two further double bills follow. From 17 to 19 March, Getting Away with It by Ed Edwards (directed by Cressida Brown) is set in 1981. Hunger strikes in Ireland, mass uprisings in Britain. Rebellion everywhere. The stakes couldn’t be higher as two individuals engage in very different military-style operations on the same day. Belfast. Manchester. “How are they connected? Who’s gonna get it? And who’s gonna get away with it?”

This is partnered with Dawn by Rachael McGill (music direction by Calum Howard), which tells of Dawn, a hairdresser who likes to rap. Her life changes after an unexpected encounter and the discovery of a surprising skill. Join her as she shares her journey, via New York, Paris and Glasgow, all the way to a nuclear bunker in the Nevada Desert.

The third double bill is on 20 (7:30) and 21 March (2:30 and 7:30) and consists of Snatched by disabled actor Melissa Johns, who appeared in Live’s Edinburgh Fringe production The Prize in 2012. Her iCloud was hacked in 2018 and explicit photos of her released online. In Snatched, a young disabled woman with a history of body dysmorphia comes to terms with her body becoming public property. This humorous and revealing show mixes verbatim monologues with melodrama, vulgar news headlines and musical storytelling, refusing to display embarrassment or remorse in order to champion female sexuality, fighting body shaming and the taboo of sex and disability.

The second show in the double bill is Magic Bus by local writer and performer Sian Armstrong whose one-woman show Stupid, produced by Mortal Fools, has toured widely around the region. It’s 1978 and Simon, a 17-year-old lad from Yorkshire, is running away from home on the Magic Bus: a pirate bus service that travels the world. This is, we are told, a “moving, energetic, hilariously honest story about family, hope, the coming together of different cultures, and a life changing adventure.” With live music and original songs.

The final Elevator event of the year is Wordplay, which is at 6:00 in the Undercroft and it’s a performance by Live Theatre's young people's spoken word group.

Some events are free but all are ticketed and must be booked in advance.