HOME’s opening programme: Funfairs, dance & deceitful hearts

Polly Checkland Harding

We preview a year of theatre, visual art, film and dance at Manchester’s new arts space, HOME.

After months of build-up, HOME has announced its opening programme. At the launch this week, the line-up for its two theatres, gallery space and five cinema screens was revealed. Following a trailblazer dance production by Hofesh Schecter in April, HOME rolls out what looks set to be a dynamic schedule of theatre, visual art, film and dance at an arts cenre where the focus will be “not just multi-art form, but cross-art form,” according to Artistic Director of Visual Arts, Sarah Perks. But what exactly is on the cards?

Theatre

Things kick off with a new adaptation 20th-century masterpiece, Kasimir and Caroline, a play restaged in Manchester under the title The Funfair. Written by Austro-Hungarian playwright Ödön von Horváth, it tells the story of a breakup, which takes place at a funfair, its live band, big dipper and freakshow creating a whirling, neon backdrop. Stockport-born Simon Stephens is behind this version, a writer whose portfolio includes the Olivier award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – and his adaptation promises to be, according to the programme, “an explosion of human dirt and magnificence.”

Equally dark is Kafka’s Monkey, the tale of an ape who turns into a man. Comic, surreal and starring Kathryn Hunter, the production sold out at the Young Vic in 2009. Next, comes madcap musical satire Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) by inventive production company Kneehigh, before things take a turn for the absurd in La Melancolie des Dragons. Conceived, directed and designed by HOME’s international guest artist for 2015, Philippe Quesne, it blends theatre with visual art to tell the story of six metal heads who, on their way to a gig, become snowbound and stranded in their car. Cue the appearance of a stranger – with whom they create an improvised amusement park. As you do.

Merging cinema, 1920s cabaret and animation is Golem, an acclaimed play that explores whether we are in charge of technology, or if it’s in charge of us, while in October a new version of The Oresteia condenses Aeschylus’ epic trilogy into one play. It is directed by Blanche McIntyre, who Meierjohann refers to as a “hot cookie” on the theatre scene. Finally, HOME’s Christmas production, Inkheart asks what would happen if the stories we tell could come to life. Ultimately, Meierjohann argues, it’s a programme that – though occasionally fantastical – reflects what it is to be alive today: “we live in times that are quite uncertain – theatre reflects this in a magical, poetic way.”

Visual Art

Stories are equally important in HOME’s visual art strand. “Even if you haven’t heard of the artist, or you don’t at first completely understand the theme, everybody knows about heart break, everyone knows about break up,” points out Sarah Perks. The opening show is group show The heart is deceitful above all things, which takes its lead from The Funfair. Using a mixture of new commissions and existing works, it explores love, loss and uncertainty, and features work from artists Jeremy Bailey, Declan Clarke, Irina Gheorghe and more.

Next up is I must first apologise… from Beirut-based artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. It interrogates “the creative genealogy of online spamming,” according to Perks, and features film, sculpture, photography and installation. Safe in November asks “are you allergic to the 20th century?” through a series of new commissions from artists including Claire Makhlouf Carter and Chris Paul Daniels. Finally, The Demiurge is an act of sci-fi-esque offering from AL and AL, and spans an exhibition and a “space opera performance” to create myths about the origins of DNA and a possible cure for death.

Film

Details of the full film programme are yet to come – as CEO of HOME Dave Moutrey pointed out, the film industry works to shorter lead-in times than theatre and visual art – but there is a taster of what’s to come. Alongside the return of Viva!, which returns with two “weekenders” (one in June and one in the autumn), is the new Music & Film series. Creating original scores for silent films, archive footage and artist film are Manchester bands and musicians Gogo Penguin, Robin Richards (of Dutch Uncles) and Josephine, whose Celluloid History Songs was one of the highlights of the Everything Everything residency at Central Library last year.

Dance

One of the surprises of the launch was the fact that dance will form part of HOME’s remit. Hofesh Schechter stages a three part trailblazer in April. Beginning with an existing work called Fragments, Schechter then stages a new commission – The Bad – which in turn is followed by a DJ set (and dancing, late into the night; the sort of audience participation we can really get behind). And 5 Soldiers, by the Rosie Kay Dance company, is a site-specific piece that will play out at the Rusholme Army Reserve Centre, an exploration of how the body remains central to war in the 21st century. Continuing the work of Angel Meadows and Romeo and Juliet, it’s a reminder of where HOME started out from all those months ago.

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