Challenging prejudices – Take Back Theatre are back tonight to celebrate the NHS

Debbie Manley | 17th July 2018

Julie Hesmondhalgh by Elspeth Moore

It’s never a comfortable experience watching Take Back Theatre – challenging and thought-provoking, they deliberately take you out of your comfort zone

This Is Where We Are, set in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, was not written about the Manchester Arena attack but it made you think about it and society’s prejudices.

A young Asian man is sat in an overcoat on a hot day wearing a rucksack. What would you think if he approached your child in the fountains?

The scene was set in This is Where We Are by Nadia Emam (Royal Exchange, Talawa, Slung Low) and Darren Jeffries (Hollyoaks) explaining who all the characters were, using only the facts, but leading the audience to think that these were going to be the victims of a terror attack.

But there was the surprising twist at the end and a lesson in not jumping to conclusions.

The play was longlisted in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2017, reaching the top 20, and was recently shortlisted by the BBC Writersroom Script Room.

Take Back Theatre was formed in 2015, by actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, visual artist Grant Archer and writer Becx Harrsion, as a response to the politics of austerity. Take Back creates work that explores social and political issues, starts conversations and is ultimately full of hope. In 2017, Take Back won Manchester Theatre Award’s Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence.

The second half was Monkeywood Theatre’s audience favourite, The Manchester Project, in a night exploring our City, which was amusing for its little details about areas we knew.

Nineteen writers were commissioned to write tiny but titanic plays about an area of Greater Manchester. The result is a tapestry of beautiful, honest moments from some of Manchester’s most exciting voices, exploring what it really means to be a part of our City.

Dean Fagan, who played Luke Britton on Coronation Street, was excellent popping up several times in these little scenarios. Let’s hope we see more of him on stage soon. James Quinn, a familiar face from the small screen, was also excellent.

Monkeywood is an award winning Manchester theatre company making authentic and innovative new plays – and won the 2015 Manchester Theatre Awards Stage Door Foundation Award and graduates of The Lowry’s Associate Artist scheme.


Take Back’s next project is Take Back Our NHS on Tuesday 17 July at the Comedy Store, Manchester at 7.30pm.

It’s a celebration and a thank you to its workers, and a call to arms to save it, with script in hand performance, new writing and music. There’s concessionary rates for NHS workers. Tickets are here.

The 19 writers on the Manchester Project Shorts were:

LITTLE HULTON by Reuben Johnson
LEVENSHULME by Gareth George
PRESTWICH by Becky Prestwich
TIMPERLEY by Andrew Sheridan
RUSHOLME by Victoria Brazier
DROYLSDEN by Rebekah Harrison
OLD TRAFFORD by Furquan Akhtar
BURNAGE by Francesca Waite
MIDDLETON by Chris Hoyle
DIDSBURY by Anna McDonald Hughes
DENTON by Samantha Siddall
CHORLTON by Becky Garrod
WITHINGTON by James Quinn
HARPURHEY by Ian Kershaw
CORNBROOK by Lindsay Williams
FAILSWORTH by Cathy Crabb
MOSS SIDE by Curtis Cole
FLIXTON by Sarah McDonald Hughes
CITY CENTRE by Eve Steele