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Royal Exchange commissions leading female playwrights for B!rth international festival

Playwrights from China to Kenya will come together to explore global healthcare issues

Chinese playwright Xu Nuo

The Royal Exchange, Manchester has today announced details for B!rth, an international theatre festival to provoke global debate on inequality in healthcare across the world.

In association with The Oglesby Charitable Trust, the venue has commissioned seven leading female playwrights from around the world; Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Syria, UK and the USA to explore the issue and their country's approach to childbirth.

The festival forms part of Manchester's year as European City of Science 2016 and will run from 19 - 22 October.

On his vision for the project - which will include a series of theatrical events and debates with leading voices from the world of science, art, academia, politics and charities - chairman of The Oglesby Charitable Trust Michael Oglesby CBE said:

"B!rth is an innovative collaboration bringing together theatre and science to stimulate a debate on women's health in a global setting... We believe this has the potential to have a very real impact on health inequalities, worldwide."

Some of the productions include:

• Marcia Zanelatto will consider the fact that 66% of all births in Brazil are by caesarean section – the highest rate in the world.

• Xu Nuo looks at the gender imbalance in China - for every one woman in China, there are 37 men.

• Swati Simha explores the presence of sterilisation camps inspired by the fact that a third of women in India have been sterilised, and a third of those were sterilised without their consent.

• Kenyan playwright Mũmbi Kaigwa looks at the migration of medical professionals in a country that has one doctor for every 10,000 people.

Sarah Frankcom, artistic director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, said:

"B!rth is very exciting - simultaneously we're commissioning seven international writers to create seven new plays to be seen over four days here at the Exchange.

"Playwrights are uniquely placed to capture what is happening right now, and quickly and creatively reflect that back, making the plays exceptionally relevant to society today and able to act as a catalyst for debate and change."

B!rth runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester from 19 - 22 October.