Oldham Coliseum Theatre has announced seven artists selected for Micro Commissions to create new work designed for audiences and participants to experience online.
Exploring themes of health and wellbeing, local stories or work for and with young people from Oldham, the selected works respond to the world as we live in it today, almost one year on from the beginning of the pandemic.
The works include: Joyce Branagh’s The Newcomer – exploring the true story of a survivor of a Polish WWII concentration camp who came to Oldham aged 12, Jade Williams’s creativity and wellbeing project for young people inspired by Black British history, Grant Archer’s investigation of how lockdown has affected people working in the creative industry, Tori Burgess’s audio drama A Tale of Two Giants – based on the Saddleworth folk tale of Alphin and Alder, Dare to Know Theatre’s community verbatim piece The Wobble Room, Caitlin Gleeson’s One Foot In Front Of The Other – exploring health and wellbeing through the lens of walking, and Chloe Heywood and Rowan Prescott’s piece about growing up in a poverty cycle in Oldham.
Theatre director, writer and actor Joyce Branagh was inspired to create The Newcomer following a writing workshop she held with the Coliseum’s over 50s group and will work with the concentration camp survivor herself and local young people to explore her tale. Presented either as an audio piece or a film piece, the joyous true story will be a crucial link to talking about immigration historically and in the present day with both older and younger members of the community, building bridges between different cultures and ages.
Jade Williams is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative facilitator. Her four-week workshops for young people from Oldham will use movement, writing, drama and media to boost wellbeing and confidence with the overarching theme of exploring Black British history, exploring Black British figures, such as the first Black British circus owner Pablo Fanque, with a view to honouring them in a creative way.
Digital artist Grant Archer will collaborate with ballerina Nicky Henshall, actor Shobna Gulati and composer Akshay Gulati to explore how the events of the past year can be turned into a positive to drive us forward. Filmed on the Coliseum stage, the timely piece will reflect not only the struggles of the creative industry, but the impact of the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.
A Tale of Two Giants from Tameside-based artist Tori Burgess will be an audio drama for young people, exploring Oldham local folklore in an accessible and engaging way. The play will be framed to work as a precursor or accompaniment to a walk around the natural beauty on Oldham’s doorstep, with the setting at Dovestones Reservoir with possible further materials such as scavenger clues and further folklore reading.
In The Wobble Room Dare to Know Theatre will follow the story of nurses working in ICU wards at Oldham Royal Hospital, celebrating and documenting the dedication and heroism that nurses have shown throughout the pandemic. It is hoped that the piece will echo the feelings inside hospitals around the country, exemplifying the need for support and understanding about the pressures healthcare workers are facing.
One Foot In Front Of The Other from Caitlin Gleeson is a collection of six short thematic audio pieces that consider walking from a personal perspective, creating a narrative that is gently hopeful. Based on Caitlin’s experience of walking during recovery from Long Covid, the project is made up of non-fiction blended with invitations to participate in mindful observation.
Chloe Heywood and Rowan Prescott grew up in Oldham, meeting at Oldham College and going on to study at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and Arden School of Theatre respectively, but both are now back in Oldham studying at home due to the pandemic. Their piece will be a filmed 25-minute play filled with authentic stories, injecting comedy and laughter whilst tackling the harsh realities of growing up in a town where deprivation is prevalent.
The seven new works will be released throughout the Spring months of 2021.