Looking back at PUSH2017

Two years ago I listened to Walter Meierjohann talk about the as yet unfinished HOME, and describe how he wanted to connect with theatre makers in Manchester, and that HOME would be a directing theatre.  You can read the original post here.  I questioned whether Manchester would warm to HOME.  I needn’t have worried.

For the past two weeks at PUSH2017 there has been a real energy about the theatre, the focus on local talent encompassing finished works, work in progress and workshops.  As a showcase for North West theatre it has been superb.  In terms of providing space, time and expertise to local theatre makers, I suspect each of those showing work have found the support and exposure invaluable.  Across all Manchester theatres, we have an enviable selection of programmes to support regional theatre makers.

I saw more plays than I had planned; there was too much temptation.  Mighty Heart presented Now is the Moment We Learn Hope, and Square Peg performed The Return.  Both were works in progress, pieces at an early stage that invited feedback, asked the audience to contribute to how these pieces might be developed in the future.  Both were sold out.

Hope featured large in the Festival.  Powder Keg’s excellent Morale is High at the Anthony Burgess Foundation brought together personal stories and gig to look at how we deal with our hopes for the future.  Cheryl Martin drew parallels between personal loss, immortal jazz singers and the science of the universe in Who Wants to Live Forever, but hope ran all the way through her powerful performance.  Mina from Nataly Lebouleux was a highly visual and physical portrayal of Conversion Therapy, an enlightening performance on a difficult subject.  People Zoo’s The Trial was a surreal and powerful take on Kafka’s story, with clear parallels for today’s world.  Betty from Fly in Your Soup Theatre was a beautiful, sensitive portrayal of old age and how we look back on lives lived.

I was fortunate to attend one of the many workshops – over the two weeks there were sessions on finding your voice, ‘vogue’ dance, short film funding, theatre marketing and much more.  I took part in a session on set design ‘The Model Box’ with Rhys Jarman, who designed the set for Gecko’s Institute.  Working through the emotional and physical themes of Madame Butterfly, the session build up to the construction of a full 1:25 set model.  Theatre constantly relies on learning new skills.

It was billed as ‘Two weeks of inspiring, creative experiences fresh from the North West’.  PUSH2017 was all that and more.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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