PUSH Festival at HOME: It's Re:Play re-born

Emma Nuttall

Re:play festival of brand new theatre has evolved into PUSH Festival – which takes place in HOME’s intimate Theatre 2 space in January 2016.

Manchester has some brilliant commissioning theatres (Contact, HOME, The Royal Exchange and The Lowry), each providing courageous drama, sell-out performances and sprinkling a little theatrical magic over the city. There is also a burgeoning underground theatre scene; pubs, pop-up venues and, of course, 24:7 Festival play host to some of the most interesting and dynamic new performances around. Sadly, these smaller productions usually only run for a night or two, and after that there isn’t currently an effective channel that allows local new work to progress onto a bigger stage or to run for an extended period. This is where PUSH Festival comes in.

This is an immersive two weeks, where you can get to the very heart of contemporary Manchester Theatre.

PUSH Festival is Re:Play reborn; it offers a heavyweight platform to the Manchester Fringe scene, picking out the most groundbreaking new drama in Manchester from the previous year to run a rare ‘best of’ programme. This year, PUSH brings seven productions to the stage. First up is Roseacre (15-17 Jan), a Nordic thriller piece presented by Square Peg Theatre, which follows the mystery of a dead body discovered at a demonstration (what sort, we’re not sure). Whereas A Brave & Startling Truth (16 & 17 Jan), presented by Sheep Knuckle, is a drama based around the difficulties of defining memory and imagination when separated by miles, time zones and breakdowns. This “long distance relationship in two acts” will be simultaneously live streamed to Manchester and Melbourne.

Inspired by Alain de Botton’s Essays in Love, and created in response to the question of what remains of individual identity after being severed from a loved one, is You Must Be The One To Bury Me (19-21 Jan). It comes to Manchester fresh from receiving the ‘Best of Fest’ Award at the recent International Youth Arts Festival in London. Alternatively, Hercules Productions presents a one-man performance, Prison Game (19-21 Jan). This is a biographical drama, developed through real life stories, charts the account of a young primary school boy and the extraordinary experiences that life challenges him with throughout his journey into adulthood.

The catchily-titled A-Bomb on Broadway (22 – 24 Jan), presented by 1121 Collective, shows an apocalyptic world and charts the memories and dreams of individuals and their experiences of club night brawls, street fights, bomb sites and car lights. The festival closes with two productions from Mighty Heart Theatre: When I Feel Like Crap I Google Kim Kardashian Fat (first shown during Wonder Women Festival 2015, 22 – 24 Jan 2016) and What’s The Matter With You? (23 Jan). The former is a light-hearted piece of verbatim theatre, exploring what it means to be a woman in a world obsessed with body image and celebrity culture, and the effect that this is having on our self esteem and lives – whilst the latter takes a joyous and poignant look at mental health.

PUSH has also programmed a selection of workshops and discussions throughout the week, led by members of the participating companies and other practitioners from around the country. So, if theatre is your thing, there really couldn’t be a better way to start the year. This is an immersive two weeks, where you can get to the very heart of where contemporary theatre in Manchester is at, or simply revisit favourites from last year.

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