As the November nights draw in, it’s happy hour in The Studio at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre when Pub opens its doors for business from next week.
Pub features work by new directors and some of the area’s most imaginative performers - not a play, but an extraordinary programme of performance with surprises round every corner. With the programme changing nightly, it will serve up a heady brew of entertainment - snatches of stories, live music, real ale, quizzes, games and chance encounters.
The venue will be transformed into a real working pub and audience members will be able to get a round in, have a chat over a game of darts, or play the fruit machines in a traditional old-style boozer while enjoying the performance events emerging around them – all under the watchful eye of the pub ‘landlord’.
Studio producer Richard Morgan explained the background to the project: “It is designed to celebrate the tradition of the pub and pub culture in our lives. Nationally, pubs are disappearing at a rate of 40 pubs a week. The great British pub has been at the heart of our communities for centuries. It has always been a meeting point, a place where conviviality, surprise, tension, joy, laughter and heartbreak can collide - a place which can be as dependable as the ticking clock or where we can be suddenly surprised by the spontaneous or magical encounter.”
The events will showcase the kind of performances which have defined The Studio since it opened in 1998 as part of the post IRA bomb refurbishment of the Royal Exchange. At its heart will be three commissioned pieces by three graduates of the Royal Exchange trainee director scheme.
Pub Quiz (November 11 – 14) features a real quiz night with a prize for the winning team. But the twist is that, as the points stack up and the drinks begin to flow, a love story unfolds amid the scampi fries and salted nuts. Director Rania Jumaily promises “an uplifting night guaranteed to warm the cockles on a winter night!”
Ben Fowler directs You Do It All Again (November 18 – 21), a drama based on real life experiences garnered from an internet appeal for stories about liaisons in pubs and the influence of alcohol on relationships.
And A Free House (December 2 – 5), directed by Chris Meads, looks at the pub as a neutral meeting place for fathers and sons. The story unfolds of Michael who needs a couple of quiet pints in his local. Instead he meets a bar full of strangers who change the way he sees his father, his young son and the man he thought he was!
Also featured during the run are two visiting companies. Bristol-based Corner Boy presents Rum and Vodka by Conor McPherson, a monologue which follows a twenty-something office worker over three days as his life falls apart, and nationally-acclaimed company Told By An Idiot with talented actress Mandy Lawrence as troubled ‘Carry On …’ star Charles Hawtree in one-woman show Jiggery Pokery.
Interspersed among these will be a wide range of interventions - created by local artists who will provide a range of truly unexpected moments of drama – and performance projects drawn from the work of Exchange Education, the Royal Exchange’s pioneering education department.
Keeping order from behind the bar every night will be the ‘landlord’ played by local actor James Quinn. He will welcome his punters every week (Wednesday to Saturday) from opening time at 7pm to last orders at 10.20pm.
All tickets are £6.50 and available in the normal way through the Royal Exchange Box Office (0161 833 9833).
Further programme details – and more general information on PUB - are available at www.pubmanchester.co.uk.