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53two create ONLY new writing with a drive to provide a platform for new voices in a mid-sized theatre with proper facilities and support. Although independent, the productions we house are a far from what you would expect when you hear the word 'fringe'. 

The work covers everything, celebrating all disciplines of the arts ensuring that the participants cover the full demographic of the population of Greater Manchester. Alongside these policies, we ensure that the events are given a dynamic backdrop to play on, incorporating stunning set-design and lighting, lifting the exciting new work to a whole new level. 

With incoming plays produced by 53two, we strive for not just excellence, but a brave approach to work that invites and engages new audiences, targets demographics that otherwise might not be targetted and welcomes every single person to the venue to experience sometimes challenging, sometimes funny, sometimes musical but always of excellent quality and far-reaching engagement. 


This project fits closely with the ambitions of the Arts Council concerning a ‘Creative and Cultural Country’. 
Firstly, ours is a notably ambitious project that we believe fits with the Council’s ambition for theatre in England to be ‘world leading’. 53Two is above all investing extraordinary commitment and effort into producing Will Nyerere Plastow’s play, Terror Management Theory. This is because we see in him a writer of significant potential at national and even international level, and because we think this play is not only an outstanding piece of exciting drama but that it also contributes to moving ethnic theatre beyond any limiting pigeonholing as to scope and issue and heralds a world we want to embrace, where black theatre confidently takes its place in the cultural mainstream.

It is not that Terror Management Theory (TMT) does not engage in questions of race; it does, just not from a heavy-handed issue-led perspective. We see a successful, confident Black Britain, one where deceptively at first it appears the one white character in this single location, single occasion four-hander, is notably at a disadvantage. The play leads us to question many of our assumptions about race, age, class and gender. Black women are powerful, black men seek her approval, while the younger white character is initially presented as a trashy make-weight. In the course of the 80-minute running time all our opening assumptions are undercut as secrets are spilled, relationships explode and raw ambition rips apart a veneer of upper-middle class privilege. TMT is not afraid to go big. It has not only resonances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, but in its climax the work goes full-on Medea, as it moves from an apparently super-civilised realist beginning to a disturbingly surreal closing world of amoral mayhem.

It should be noted that all four parts in TMT are substantial, surprising and offer real scope to the actors. It is not insignificant and three of the four roles are black, and that with every character in a different decade of their lives – from twenties to fifties – the play offers exceptional roles for actors of varying ages, including a stellar, complex and sexy role for a black middle-aged woman, a demographic seen all too rarely on the British stage.
TMT will offer a dynamic, ambitious night out at the theatre, with a clear mission to get audiences thinking about a whole raft of assumptions about expected and approved roles for particular people in society, while enjoying the playfulness of a dramatic thriller.

As Manchester’s independent theatre 53Two, situated in the heart of the city, is completely committed to being relevant, diverse and accessible (our recent upgrade had upgrading accessibility at its heart). Our social area, with open access from the street and welcoming open glass frontage, is popular with groups across the city, to drink to talk, to work or simply to come in and take some time out. We run a young writer’s group and regular evenings promoting shorter pieces of new theatre. As a 150-seater, with flexible seating and staging possibilities, we see one of our great strengths as being a brilliant venue for new and experimental writing profiled at professional level.

At the same time we are aware that theatre writing, theatre-going and theatre producing remains, across England, dominated by the white middle-classes. We know that in a diverse city like Manchester this is simply not good enough. Our ambition over the coming twelve months is to commit to challenging this status quo at 53Two. We see TMT as the first in a series of pieces of work privileging Manchester’s diverse ethnic communities and already have plans that our following major production will have an Asian focus. We want to develop talent from all Manchester’s communities, and we know the talent is out there. Our premise is that providing role models is a great way to contribute to creative transformation, as is it hard to imagine cultural activity that you cannot see taking place. We want to build in coming seasons on this modelling, but it feels like an excellent place to start.

This show is also evidence of ambition at our theatre. Outside our Christmas show to date 53Two has only hosted shorter runs and often single nights performances. We believe that Manchester’s mainstream theatres have left a space for new writing and new kinds of plays that take risk and appeal to unconventional audiences, and we want to step up to produce and become known as hosts of extraordinary theatre. The project is a major investment of time and expertise for our small team, although we are working closely with the writer, director and designer in a pooling of expertise. Both director, Jane Plastow and lighting designer – this will be a lighting design led show in staging terms – Tim Skelly, have international experience and have worked on a range of productions from the small scale to working in National Theatre spaces.
We also want to reach out and celebrate the potential of emerging playwrights in Manchester. Our two-day, 20-person playwriting weekend, builds significantly on our existing writers’ group and we will be reaching out to a range of colleges and through our ethnic networks to actively encourage participation from a diverse range of creative voices. We seek to make 53Two the go-to place for those looking to stage and to see cutting edge diverse theatre in the city’s most welcoming and accessible performance space – one where all the tickets stay at sensible price levels.

We think our strategy, seeking out exceptional diverse theatre writing, putting together outstanding creative teams and investing heavily in high end production values can mark a new stage in the blossoming story of 53Two, can launch a great new playwright on the world, bring new audiences to the theatre and can support new writers across the spectrum of society. We intend to carefully study the impact of our new season, looking at feedback, electronic, written and in person (our Q & A will be important here) as we plan the next steps in our journey to becoming on the nations most welcoming, innovative and leading independent theatres.

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