Summer is coming: Quarantine Theatre goes seasonal

Polly Checkland Harding
Photo of a girl in a pink top having water splashed in her face.

Quarantine Theatre brings Summer to the stage in June – with the help of dozens of volunteers.

Officially, British Summer Time began at the end of March – though no one told the weather. But with the beaming and bath-warm days we’ve recently been having here in Manchester, it does finally feel like this most welcome of seasons is on the horizon. Having said that, the skies might decide to stay rain-filled over the coming months, as pay-back for my optimism. Whichever way the weather turns, Quarantine theatre’s newest project asks both its performers and audience just to enjoy being alive, right now. Summer is coming to a warehouse in Salford and – whether the world’s ceiling turns out to be blue or grey when it does – this version looks set to be glorious.

Summer is coming to a warehouse in Salford – and it looks set to be glorious.

The principles that have shaped Summer are both inventive and ancient: the production explores the idea that life is no rehearsal – and that theatre, too, shouldn’t be anything other than live, spontaneous and responsive. For seven nights only (previews 5-7 June; performances 11-14 June, 8pm), a whole host of people will take to the stage; performers not usually to be found treading the boards. Organiser of In the Dark Radio, Nija Dalal has got involved, as has our very own Stevie Mackenzie-Smith, joining a real assortment of volunteers. What makes the production innovative and unpredictable is that despite the large number of performers involved, it hasn’t been rehearsed – or not exactly.

On the night, the people on stage will respond to prompts they’ve never heard before. Summer’s naturalness isn’t something you can practice, but its quality, the way in which the volunteers interact, has been carefully fostered in a studio space. Stevie Mackenzie-Smith described it as a free dance rehearsal, where she hesitated in a corner until Stuck In The Middle With You beckoned her to the floor. After that, joining in, even without alcoholic aid, became surprisingly easy. Summer looks set to be as organic as the season it echoes, to reflect the growth and bounty of this time of year. How different, then, will the next three productions in the series – Autumn, Winter, Spring – be? Unfolding over the next three years, before an epic event in 2016 which will compress the year’s seasons into one long show, Quarantine’s quartet of performances is amongst some of the most ambitious theatre the north has to offer. Tickets are on sale for the first in the series – which means that you can now buy yourself a good Summer for only nine pounds.

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