A fresh start – Autumn at the Unity

I’ve written before about how putting together an opening season as a new artistic director is something of a daunting experience. But its an exhilarating one too, and this blog is really about why that is, as well as being a kind of introduction to the Autumn season.

Where to start?

chicken tech 1

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One of the things that really excited me about Unity was its radical roots and history. As our recent programme U Decide showed, political theatre is alive and strong at the moment – and so it should be with what is happening in the world around us. Reflecting that, we open with two of our own co-productions, two pieces of radical new writing. In Edinburgh – together with my former company Eastern Angles – we present Molly Davies’ Chicken (pictures are from the technical rehearsal in Edinburgh) and back home in Liverpool we are co-producing (with Hightide and Soho Theatre) Anders Lustgarten’s bold, angry yet hope filled Lampedusa. Both shows are being directed by Stephen Atkinson, artistic director of Hightide Festival. The show opened to rave reviews in London, returning for a second run, and comes to us direct from the Hightide festival of new writing.

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Around Lampedusa we are building our own programme of new writing from local voices – Unity’s own Youth Theatre, 20 Stories High, Action Transport, Clapperboard and Collective Encounters are all creating new short works – check the web site for details for the full wrap around programme (and see this blog here).

Partnerships and Collaboration

Both of these co productions point at something which has always been important to both Unity and me – collaborating and building strong partnerships. In Autumn we kick start a new relationship with the Philharmonic, and its brand new venue The Music Room. We’re taking a night inspired by the Liverpool Acoustic Festival and going to play in our Hope Street neighbours brand new space (details of the Festival Sessions
here). It has the potential to be the start of a very exciting relationship. It’s great too to be working with Hope Street Limited on both the On the Verge festival as well as new work inspired by the explosive tale of Medea from Yorgos Karamalegos.

And it’s a strong collaboration which underpins Liverpool Theatre Live – a live stream event which celebrates the breadth and depth of Liverpool’s rich theatre scene. Catch it live on the Unity web site (and various other sites) or join us in the Unity bar for the broadcast on November 16th. This will be the first of a series of explorations which explore the connections, tensions, possibilities and challenges of two simple words – DIGITAL and THEATRE.

Under 12’s

The Autumn sees us relaunch Splatter Days as part of our all important family strand.
Splatter Days is of course our Saturday morning programme of workshops for 5 -13s, which then links into a performance strand which this Autumn includes Big Telly’s Gulliver (with the Irish Festival), The Poetry Joe Show, Curious and the wordless and beautiful Happily Ever After from Action Transport.

And we are working once again with Action Transport on our Christmas show, with the magical mystery that is Princess and the Pea. We’ve added additional family performances over the Christmas period …and have a few other surprises in store…but its already selling fast so do book now!

New voices

In Autumn we bring Michelle Innis’ and the BAFTA nominated Cathy Tyson’s She Called Me Mother home. Michelle and Cathy were school mates at St Winefride’s in Dingle, and now Cathy stars in Michelle’s first play…

Autumn also sees us stage a mini series of Phrased and Confused performances. P&C started by asking a very simple question – if your house was going up in flames what would you save – your music or your books? Since then it has gone onto commission works from the likes of Kate Tempest, Mark Grist and MC Mixy (Dead Poets), Jean Binta Breeze and Ben Mellor for festivals and tours across the UK. Our mini series here at the Unity features Hannah Silva ripping into 50 Shades of Grey, Jessica Green ripping into our education system and Testament ripping up – and putting back together hip hop style – Blake.

And for the next new voice? Join us at our scratch night


Outgoing artistic director, Graeme Phillips MBE, leaves as his legacy a beautiful, precious, special gift that is the Unity. At the heart of that is an innate curiosity, a sustained commitment to talent, an interest in alternative and physical theatre alongside a passion for celebrating difference and diversity.

Homotopia is one of the many arts organisations who have flourished with the help and support of Graeme and the Unity. The impact of their work is now felt on an international stage, but the festival is back with us in Novemeber , and I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the work of Jean Abreu again, as well as Ecce Homo.

Another Unity stalwart Tmesis return with a second chance to see their Unity commission That’s Amore, which heads up a physical theatre strand which includes the already mentioned Home, Liverpool based Mary Pearson in an exploration of the avant garde and all female clowning troop Jammy Voo (there is a boy on stage, but he’s the musician, so apparently that doesn’t count!).

I hope you’ll join us!


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