We’re really excited about this one! But this is my space to say exactly why I’m so personally excited!
Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone
Of course at the heart of the season is Nina a story about me and Nina Simone, which sees the first return to the UK stage for over 10 years of our patron Josette Bushell Mingo who was last seen in the UK in the title role of the Royal Exchange’s acclaimed Anthony and Cleopatra. Josette is one of those extraordinary artists whose work easily crosses from the experimental to West End, from classics to the radical. And Nina is all of these things and much more…you can expect great songs, raw politics and a brilliant story. This is Nina Simone we’re talking about after all…
As we did with Lampedusa the show is accompanied by a wrap around programme which asks similar questions to, or is inspired by Nina. I had the privilege of seeing both Jamal Hardwood’s Word and Joe Sellman-Leava’s Labels at Pulse recently and its great to bring such vital but different pieces to Unity. Labels is a funny and lyrical exploration of the labels we put upon ourselves and others.
— Javier Rasero (@Javier_Rasero) August 6, 2016
By contrast Word burns with a quiet anger….its playful format (is it really theatre?) sucks you in, making you complicit but it’s conclusion leaves you thinking for days. Words are indeed pretty special….
In Call and Response we are inviting three theatre makers to create their own responses to Nina. Each of the selected makers will be invited to see the very first performance on the 15th October, and then invited to return on 28th and 29th with their 15 minute response. Who knows, but I hope the results will be both fascinating and explosive. And our own Youth Theatre are working with MDI to create a short piece inspired by Nina and the theme of Strong Women for the Engage Conference which will be performed on Wednesday 12th October at Bluecoats.
Developing New Talent and New Work
Call and Response points to the work we are doing this season around new talent and new work. There’s no better feeling than when the Unity is buzzing with making and creating (see this blog for example). And this Autumn is no different ..we’ll be hosting research and development weeks for our own Christmas show, and for developing work from Petit Ullaloom, Lizzie Nunnery (some of you may have seen a sneak preview of horny tons of soil at the Liverpool Acoustic Festival) and David Judge with Box of Tricks (who we worked with earlier this year to take plays into chip shops!). We’ve also been able to provide rehearsal space this summer and Autumn in our pop up project space in Liverpool One to a whole range of Liverpool artists and makers.
Our popular scratch night is also back to (Tuesday 13th September at 8pm). Last summer’s scratch featured three shows which have headed straight to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and we are already working on supporting at least two previous scratch shows into full productions.
Now this I’m really excited about…and yet I won’t be able to see it in full. Only the lucky under 10s who get a ticket will see the full thing.
Lone Twin are bringing their Beastie to Unity. OK confessional time I think Lone Twin are one of the most innovative theatre companies around …making work which isn’t theatre (that theme again). They find theatrical magic (The Times words not mine) in line dancing, in boats made of memories, in the midst of catastrophe. In reality it doesn’t matter ‘what’ it is , Lone Twin have proved again and again they can find that extraordinary magic, hope and love often in the most unusual ways and places’. And thats exactly what Beastie does
In cities and towns across the country people have been seeing a mysterious creature. Some say they’ve seen it at night, others say they have seen it on the bus. One boy said it eats shoes, but one thing is for certain – nobody knows what it is
An amazing experience for 6-10 year olds, the kind that leaves us adults going ‘if only’…if you’ve got children please book now …Beastie is very, very special!
And as I write this we are already working hard with our fantastic collaborators Action Transport and LIPA on this year’s Christmas show. Our beast in this one is, of course, the Big Bad Wolf because this year’s starting off point is Little Red Riding Hood. What’s at the heart of our creative partnership with Action Transport is an extraordinary creative dialogue which keeps getting more exciting and energising. Last year we had pea mania, can’t wait to see what happens this year..!
As we did last year there’s more performances over the Christmas period (it’s the perfect family treat fot those with young families)..but if last year is anything to go by..get in now before those tickets go go goooooo
What’s new for 2016/7 is the Dark Dark Wood initiative. Throughout December we will be converting Unity 2 into the very wood of fairy tales. A place where Little Red, and countless others, have been lost and found. An intimate space where the extraordinary happens! Inspired by this year’s Christmas show, Grimm’s fairy tales and the works of writers like Angela Carter and Roald Dahl, the Dark Dark Wood will be home to special splatts sessions, performances and one off happenings . We’ll be announcing the full programme of events for the Dark, Dark Wood in September..so do check back then.
Talking of Splatterdays our regular arts workshops for 5 to 13 year olds are happening on Sept 17, Oct 1st, 15th,29th, November 12th, 26th and then in the Dark, Dark Wood on the 3, 10 and 17 December.
There’s nothing we like more at Unity than working in collaboration with like minded organisations. And Autumn is packed with such collaborations
First up comes our collaboration with Tmesis opening their new show Happy Hour, prior to its national tour, and following its highly successful research and development week with us at the beginning of the year.
And then in November we hand over our programme to two of Liverpool’s most celebrated festivals, who between them have a reach which is not just regional, or indeed national it’s global. Both Homotopia and DaDa have curated programmes of fascinating, extraordinary work which will absolutely challenge and inspire…and not just in Unity…both festivals are, as always, reaching out across the city. There’s so much brilliant stuff going on it seems futile to select a few highlights but here goes!
- I was in the Torvill and Dean era but I am looking forward to the Homotopia / Birmingham Rep collaboration Looking for John inspired by ice skater John Curry.
- Having seen an early scratch of The Rise and Fall of Hamburger Queen last year at Unity I’m excited to see Ashleigh Owen’s return with the full show!
- Project O are one of the most exciting contemporary dance companies around. Come see Swagga and you’ll see why – its like no other dance show I have ever seen.
- Can I Start Again Please was one of my highlights from last years Edinburgh festival. A beautiful and challenging show and an absolute must see. Guardian review, ‘devastatingly good’ here.
September sees us exploring the space in-between live and digital. First up we are hosting a hack event which is bringing together technologists, technicians and creative. You can find out more on this mini site here (which includes introductory blogs from me and Co organiser Julia Payne of the hub.
Then later in Autumn we welcome back Metro Boulot Dodo for a digital theatre seminar.
An unofficial labour party fringe
Also in September the Labour Party conference rolls (or insert your own adjective here) into Liverpool. We thought we should mark the occasion …So…. From the Broadchurch finds commedians Alfie Brown, Ahir Shah and Liam Williams promising
it’s like other political events…but substantially funnier…and less harrowing…and there will be beer…
Prior to the comedy (at the bargain price of £5 – for comedy at proper prices see our Liverpool Comedy Festival shows which include the brilliant Simon Munnery) we’ve a short event exploring the findings of our Future Lab…for more details see this post here.
Then on 28 Sept Luke Wright performs his Fringe First Winner (cue sound effect) and Stage Award Winner for Acting Excellence (cue another sound effect) show What I learned from Jonny Bevan . A poetic exploration of the New Labour dream, Wright’s Everyman tale tackles British politics head on, challenging the rise of New Labour, David Cameron and the abandonment of those left behind. Don’t be fooled by the awards – the show is an absolute tour de force..and promises to be
like other political events ….but substantially more poetic and far more real…and there will be beer…(!)
Earlier in September we are supporting Collective Encounters conference Rediscovering the Radical which is happening round the corner in LIPA. There’s a stella line up of speakers (if you exclude yours truly) including artists, activists, academics, change makers and arts managers from all around the world. I’m particularly looking forward to hosting The Scream on Thursday night described as:-
a space to groan and moan, shout and sing, get on your soapbox and acknowledge what’s wrong.
Many of you will have seen that our planned capital works have been pushed to January. You can find out more about where we are with our plans here and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported our campaign so far. We’ve successfully raised over £715k with just over £65k to go.
The delay has meant we’ve been able to programme some additional work including a quartet of new shows that have been nurtured by that firey furnace down at the Lantern. We welcome Helen Jeffrey’s The Brink (which I saw a tantalising glimpse of at an Everyman scratch), Mark Murphy’s The Lima Syndrome, Jessica May Burton’s Ghost Street and Adam Simpson’s One More Unfortunate . I hope the furnace that fired these gems isn’t silenced for long.
Look out too for Beatles themed Ticket to Write and a visit from an artist I’ve heard so so much about but not yet seen. Jennifer John and Lorna Brooks joins us on the 8th and 9th of September for a night of great musicianship and fantastic songs.
So do come and join us this Autumn! And then when you’ve been once come back again! And if you see a fella in a cap post show do tell me what you thought!