MAF (not MAFS) and theatre news – VIVA’s culture round up
Jessica Ward | 14th November 2023
We all need a bit of escapism and what could be better than some brilliant works of art as Manchester Art Fair host it’s biggest exhibition to date this weekend.
And it’s also your last chance to see the superb Romeo & Juliet at the Exchange, read our review.
Finally, nothing says Christmas like panto and there’s a brilliant new production of the Snow Queen with tickets now on sale.
Manchester Art Fair Unveils Its Biggest and Best Line-Up to Date
The countdown to Manchester Art Fair, one of the UK’s largest and most significant art fairs, is on as it prepares to return to Manchester Central this weekend (November 17 – 19).
The event, which this year celebrates its 15th year, has attracted over 90,000 visitors since inception amassing almost £6m in art sales.
Now, with just one week to go to the return of the acclaimed art and cultural event, organisers have unveiled the full programme for 2023, and it is the event’s biggest and most inclusive art fair on record.
Over 170 UK and international individual artists, galleries and artist-led spaces are confirmed to show including the works of some of the world’s most celebrated artists Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Grayson Perry, and Banksy.
They feature alongside new entrants for 2023 including Demif Gallery, British Art Portfolio, Art Court, and First Contemporary, and returning favourites Hidden Gallery and Carnes Fine Art. It is one of the most diverse ranges of work to be exhibited catering for every style and taste.
Providing the opportunity to learn more about some of this year’s exhibiting artists and developments in the art sector will be the fair’s Art Talk programme. Headlining is artist and disability and arts rights activist, Tony Heaton OBE, who joins curator at Grundy Art Gallery, Paulette Brien, in conversation as they unpack some of the key concerns within the artist’s practice and explore the arts disability rights movement, past and present.
Further inviting discussion regarding inclusivity in the arts is a conversation with Rogue Women chaired by curator and creative consultant Polly Checkland Harding. In this 45-minute passionate talk visitors can hear the thoughts of some of the North’s most prominent female artists including Rogue Women founders Jen Orpin and Margaret Cahill on the subject of gender imbalance in the arts. The two sessions are part of a robust programme of talks running across the Saturday and Sunday.
In an exclusive for Manchester Art Fair, renowned street artist, AKSE P19, has produced a limited-edition print of the photograph of his iconic Ian Curtis mural on Fairfield Street in Manchester to help support mental health charity Shout 85258.
The mural pays tribute to the lead singer of the band Joy Division and is based on a photograph of Curtis performing in Brussels in 1979, taken by acclaimed Belgian photographer Philippe Carly. It is the first time in ten years that the artist has made a print of his work available for sale, having previously painted live at Manchester Art Fair in 2013.
He is joined by local artists Ian Rayer-Smith, an accomplished painter whose work draws from the old masters and contemporary culture to create paintings which deliver a powerful and emotional impact, and Burnley born artist, Liam Spencer, who is known for his vivid portrayals of urban landscapes, particularly of Manchester. Both will also be releasing rare, limited-edition prints exclusively for Manchester Art Fair raising funds for Trussel Trust and Lancashire Wildlife Trust respectfully.
Featuring alongside Manchester Art Fair and widening the breadth of work to be discovered at this year’s fair is The Manchester Contemporary, a collegiate art fair for young galleries, artist-led spaces, charitable organisations, and partner institutions providing a critically engaged environment for artistic exploration and development.
Curated by Nat Pitt from Division of Labour Gallery, this year’s edition will feature large scale sculptures and installations including Pallet Show 12, informed by the mass transit of artworks in the art market and global economy. A special feature, connecting the 200th anniversary of Manchester Art Gallery and the largest ever Manchester Contemporary Art Fund, which this year has raised £20k in donations to purchase work from the fair to place in the permanent collection of Manchester Art Gallery, will also be unveiled.
Learn the art of Gyotaku and the history of this art form from its roots in Japan and watch how a line caught Anglesey Bass is prepared for printing with artist Jane Evans. Or why not travel the journey from realism to abstraction to create your own abstract art with inspiration from one of Europe’s most influential artist’s Piet Mondrian?
Manchester Art Fair is a uniquely diverse mix of acclaimed galleries and independent artists, with a rich programme of artist talks, panel discussions, performances, and installations. Returning bigger than ever with over 170 exhibitors, it blurs the boundaries between the traditional and the contemporary, creating a friendly and unpretentious Northern art-buying experience. Immerse yourself in art on 17-19 November 2023 at Manchester Central.
The Royal Exchange’s Romeo and Juliet delivers a beautiful, box-fresh take on a well-worn classic and it’s your last chance to see it this week – review by Libby Howard
I’ll admit I was a little cynical at the thought of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet set in North Manchester. So many attempts to make Shakespeare ‘relevant’ to a modern audience are heavy-handed and unconvincing.
Director Nicholai La Barrie’s production is anything but that. He and his team pull off that rarest of feats – giving us a genuinely fresh take on this iconic story.
It is a beautiful, haunting production that had the audience in the palm of its hand from the get-go.
We instantly know we’re in Manchester from the accents, the trainers and the hoodies – and the alarming array of weapons being brandished at will by angry young men.
The play quickly establishes the sense of warring tribes and an ever-present undercurrent of danger – with dark, urban lighting and a pulsing soundtrack.
Romeo and his crew burst onto the scene with a rattle of fast-paced dialogue and boyish banter. David Judge’s Mercutio is exceptional – spitting out his lines at record speed, the Shakespearean text oddly enhanced by the North Manchester accent. Adam Fenton as Benvolio is also superb to watch – bringing real presence and a truly unique take on the role.
Conor Glean as Romeo is utterly believable as the rough round the edges young lover who faces a rollercoaster ride through love and tragedy.
I loved the staging of the Capulet party, with our modern and feisty Juliet (played by Shalisha James-Davis in a standout performance) MC’ing through high revelry until the mood music changes and the star-crossed lovers first meet.
The physicality of the lovers’ relationship is absolutely convincing – developing from gentle flirtation to can’t wait lust on their wedding night.
It’s nice to see Lady Capulet (a fiery performance from Kate Hampson) given the head of the household role in place of her husband. This change to the original works well and creates room for two strong and well-received performances from the matriarchs of the play. Gemma Ryan is exceptional as the Nurse – giving new depth to this often-typecast role.
Visually, the production has moments of absolute brilliance. The BMX-riding drug dealers circling a desperate Romeo is a standout moment – the hooded youths a clever replacement for Shakespeare’s Apothecary. Juliet’s funeral is jaw-droppingly beautiful in its staging (no spoilers here – go and see it for yourself).
The soundtrack plays a big part, too, immersing us in this wholly believable world. Composer and sound designer Mark Melville does a stunning job.
As the story moves to its inevitable conclusion, there are few dry eyes in the house. Its message is clear and powerfully delivered. Pointless killings and tribal wars are ruining families and communities. The loss of young life is a tragedy and we must stop it.
As Lady Capulet wept for her lost daughter, I can’t have been the only one to think of the horrific events unfolding in Israel and Gaza, as well as the knife crime that seems to be endemic in our modern cities.
This is a powerful and poignant production that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre. It’s also the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for newcomers.
Many of the wonderfully diverse cast deliver the performances of their lives. Don’t miss it. It was so good I’ve already booked to see it again.
The Snow Queen
A vibrant, musical re-imagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen heads to Sale this festive season from acclaimed children’s theatre company Wrongsemble.
Positive, powerful, and playful – this musical adaptation celebrates the idea that small changes can make a big difference. The Snow Queen – who is supposed to control the weather – is about to face her biggest challenge yet! The seasons aren’t behaving. The world is getting warmer. And it hasn’t snowed for years…Little Lumi gazes up at the stars and worries about the world. The adults don’t seem to have noticed that the seasons aren’t behaving, or that it hasn’t snowed for years. This is an emergency. So, it’s time to take the issue straight to the top (of the world) and find the Snow Queen who she has heard so much about…
It’s on from Wednesday, November 29 to Saturday, December 30, with tickets priced: £16 / £14 / £7 low income/ £12 Schools. To book and for further information is available from the Welcome | Waterside (watersidearts.org).