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Class Consciousness in Manchester Theatre - MIF

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The programme for the Manchester International Festival (MIF) looks interesting. The Albert Hall is being brought into use and the Mayfield Depot is being turned into a performance space. But this is a major arts festival and it feels wrong that that the venues are stimulating more interest in me than the shows.
I’m so out of touch with the current music scene I’ll accept it’s my own fault that the various concerts leave me cold. But the theatre, that really ought to be up my street, seems also to be of limited interest. I know, I know, these days the arts have to compete with the almighty football and attract tourists to Manchester. So you can’t blame the MIF for becoming a showcase for shows that have the promotional appeal to attract Londoners who see so many productions they are blasé and are looking for something a bit, well, arty.
The MIF comprises more than 20 world premieres but I’d question how many will appeal to the regular punter who shows up every week. It makes me sound like a philistine but I’d still rather see a major actor like Maxine Peake in a play than a staged poetry reading.
Then there is Macbeth of course. It was pretty clear from the moment of announcement that the hoi polloi had little chance of getting a ticket. An acknowledged Shakespearian master in one of the bard’s greatest plays is a big draw and staging the play in a tiny venue would create rarity and an immense snob value and so sell out instantly. But it’s hard not to feel a tad, well, offended at the idea of televising a relay of the show to a sodding car park rather than, say, a cinema.
Billy Connolly once shared a bill with the Monty Python team and remarked that he was probably the only person there who left school before he was 25. I can relate. Having received an education of a standard poorer than Michael Gove could conceive in his wettest dream I’ve always approached theatre with caution feeling that it wasn’t really intended for the likes of me. Hell, it wasn’t until I got involved with WOS that I even dared try dance or opera. It bothers me that an arts festival that is on my doorstep seems to offer little to attract people like me who might find the idea of even entering a theatre daunting.
My compulsive tendencies are such that I’ll probably weaken and try a couple of the shows at the MIF; I’d like to see why The Rite of Spring caused riots. Summer won’t be a complete write-off with 24: 7 and the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival in July, which are likely to be much more to my taste. I know my place but am upset to be reminded of it by the MIF.
- Dave Cunningham 


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