McGrath reveals his first MIF programme

Published: 14 March 2017
Reporter: David Chadderton

Thomas Ostermeier Credit: J+®r+®mie Cuvillier
Cotton Panic team Credit: Heather Birnie
Fatherland workshop Credit: Donald Christie

Former Contact Theatre artistic director John McGrath, returning to Manchester from his last role as founding Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, has revealed his first programme as Artistic Director of the biennial Manchester International Festival, which runs from Thursday 29 June to Sunday 16 July 2017.

Actor Jane Horrocks, writer Nick Vivian and the band Wrangler (featuring ex-Cabaret Voltaire member Stephen Mallinder) collaborate on Cotton Panic, directed by Wils Wilson and set in the Industrial Revolution of 1861 when the supply of cotton to the northern mills dried up due to the American Civil War.

McGrath said, "Jane Horrocks is one of the North West’s great talents, and in this collaboration with Nick Vivian and Stephen Mallinder, she will be putting her unique skills to very exciting use. Combining a two-hundred-year-old story with a very contemporary musical universe, this piece of gig theatre will be a rare and inspiring moment. I am also delighted that the wonderful site-specific director Wils Wilson will be working with the team to stage the piece in the magical environment of Upper Campfield Market."

Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari of performance collective Shunt help their audiences to "learn the essential skills needed to survive and thrive in a world where everything they’ve taken for granted has gone: skills ranging from how to make the perfect martini, to how to pick the best music to get everyone dancing; from tricks to entertain a terrified crowd to cleaning and stitching a wound" in Party Skills for the End of the World in a secret location.

Thomas Ostermeier, Artistic Director of Berlin's Schaubühne, will direct the première of an adaptation of Didier Eribon's controversial book Returning to Reims starring Schaubühne ensemble member Nina Hoss.

McGrath commented, "it is rare indeed for Berlin’s great Schaubühne to open its newest work outside of its Berlin home, but in this extraordinary co-commission with MIF, the Schaubühne and HOME, we will see an entirely new creation from the company’s Artistic Director, Thomas Ostermeier, for the first time here in Manchester."

A site-specific piece combining installation, live music, puppetry and dance aimed at families and children, The Welcoming Party from Theatre Rites will take audiences through the Museum of Science and Industry to "explore how we can offer a welcome to people who are on a journey to find a place to call home".

McGrath said, "Theatre Rites bring world class theatrical imagination to work with children and families, and in this new work, created for the wonderful spaces of MSI’s Victorian Warehouse, they will be applying their visual and storytelling skills to great effect. With so many children and families having to go on journeys across the world for the sake of their safety, The Welcoming Party will help all of us to imagine a better way to look after each other."

In 10000 Gestures, choreographer Boris Charmatz will stage in the vast warehouse space of Mayfield a piece featuring 25 dancers in which none of the titular gestures will be repeated.

Frantic Assembly's Scott Graham, Karl Hyde of the band Underworld and playwright Simon Stephens have collaborated on Fatherland, inspired by conversations with fathers and sons from the three co-authors’ hometowns, which will be performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Other events in the Festival include a large-scale event for an audience of thousands created by the people of Manchester from an idea by Jeremy Deller, Manchester band New Order at Old Granada Studios in collaboration with artist Lia Gillick, an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery on the legacy of New Order and its predecessor Joy Division, a collaboration between Frank Gehry, John Adams and Lucinda Childs that brings together music, art and movement, a piece in which Yael Bartana recasts Dr Strangelove’s war room with famous women taking charge of the world and an opera for babies composed by Scottish Opera’s Lliam Paterson and directed by Improbable’s Phelim McDermott.