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Brief Encounter With ... Chris Honer

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The Library Theatre is ringing in the changes, with a new season recently announced, an interim new venue and then a permanent home. The basement of the Central Library has been home to some very fine productions since 1952. The Lowry is named as one of the hosts for the Library's productions next year.We caught up with Artistic Director, Chris Honer to find out about the new season, their successful Christmas productions and possible new venues.

The new season has a great deal of variety. What are you particularly looking forward to working on?
I’m looking forward to directing The Good Soul of Szechuan. Brecht is such a great playwright, and such an intriguing storyteller, so his plays are a real pleasure to work on. And Good Soul is a terrific play for our times, with its theme of how difficult it is to live a good life in difficult times. Brecht does good jokes too.

Rock ‘n’ Roll was a huge hit for you. Does a production like that enable you take risks on less box office-friendly material?
Yes. Last season both Rock ‘n’ Roll and Great Expectations did extremely well and that means we can afford to bring plays and playwrights to the North West that haven’t played here before, but which we believe the region should have the opportunity to see. That inevitably involves some risk-taking. For instance, I was delighted that we were able to produce Caryl Churchill’s A Number here, and Bryony Lavery’s Frozen, but they both have challenging subject matters and plays like that aren’t necessarily going to pull in huge houses. I believe it’s good to have a balance between known and unknown material.

Your Christmas productions are always incredibly popular. What’s the secret?
Don’t go for the lowest common denominator as I think a lot of Christmas shows do. We work on the assumption that families will enjoy a great story, with lots of human interest, and exciting and stylish staging, and won’t balk at a little darkness. This year’s Grimm Tales, with a superb text by Carol Ann Duffy, and delicious music from Conor Mitchell, will be right in line with this tradition.

You have a big move next year. Can you tell us anything about potential buildings you have your eye on? Do you hope to stay in the city centre?
We certainly hope to have a new home - eventually - in the city centre. I hope that there’ll be an announcement about this before Christmas, but I’m not in a position to tell you anything further about that at the moment. But what I can tell you is that, after the last production by the company in the Library Theatre in June 2010, we will continue to produce an exciting programme even though for a time we won’t have a home. We will have regular slots at the Lowry, and also, and I’m very excited about this, we are planning a number of theatre events in non-theatre sites in the city.

The Library audience are very loyal, I recall following the fire during the run of Chapter Two in 2007. Do you think they will continue to come to productions during the transition period?
Although there is a very loyal core audience, and I’m sure they’ll continue to support our work, the core isn’t that large. The majority of our audience picks and chooses what it wants to see across the whole range of Manchester’s cultural offer. We’re looking at this next phase as a great opportunity to attract more people to our work, and people who perhaps have never ventured down into the basement of Central Library to see it.

Chris Honer was speaking to Glenn Meads

The Library Theatre's new season gets underway with Desperate To Be Doris from 23rd September.

For further details, please click here.


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