Preview: Push festival

A series of plays about Manchester were forced into a different place after the Arena attack. They’re part of this year’s Push festival, a platform for emerging artistic talent in the north

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A wide-ranging celebration of the North West’s creative talents, Push Festival is now in its third year at Home in Manchester. The 2018 line-up remains true to its mission to showcase the talent of the region, offering up a wealth of very different performances, screenings and workshops.

On 25-27 January, Marcus Hercules brings his new show Rasta Liv to Push. Blending together a live soundtrack, video projection and performance, it’s a biographical piece about Hercules’s father Ellis, who left the West Indies in 1961 and repatriated to Ethiopia over 50 years later, having spent the intervening years living in Manchester and Leeds. Hercules says: “The show is an inversion of the Rasta stories that are traditionally shared on this platform. Rasta Liv is a celebration of sport, Ethiopia, Rasta, family and the beauty of the human spirit.”

Hercules is effusive about the possibilities afforded by working with Home on the Push Festival. “Everything from the technical support, rehearsal and performance space, to the fantastic marketing team and Jodie Ratcliffe’s brilliant festival management is provided for us. All we need to do is focus on creating quality theatre. The festival allows us to elevate our work, and puts it in front of the national press, reviewers and audiences that would not normally engage with it.”

Also part of the festival is Mental (22-24 January), in which Kane Power explores his experience of caring for his bipolar mother Kim. Power says: “Bipolar is one of the lesser widely discussed mental illnesses, so we wanted to share our story honestly and openly to raise awareness and help end the stigma. My mum was heavily involved in making the show. It’s an exploration of both of our experiences, as a carer and a sufferer and as mother and son.”

For Power, Mental offers “an insight into the extraordinary ability of the human mind, and how individuals, families, the medical profession and society respond to it.” Being involved in the festival has offered Power an inspiring opportunity, he says.

“Push provides a platform for emerging artists like me to get our work out there in a well-established venue. It’s great to be part of the festival alongside local emerging artists that are making work about significant subjects in innovative and expertly crafted ways.”

A particularly ambitious element of the programme this year is The Manchester Project by Monkeywood Theatre Company. Made up of 19 short new plays, there will be a full performance on 27 January, as well as the individual plays being performed before other shows throughout the festival.

Monkeywood’s Martin Gibbons says: “The idea for the project was conceived before the appalling terror attack at Manchester Arena, but that forced it into a different place. Everything that now happens, in Manchester and beyond, takes place in its shadow.

“The plays aren’t about that but they are written in the aftermath of what happened. What we hope above anything is that the project will celebrate Manchester’s strength, spirit and resilience, whilst being honest and authentic.”

Like his fellow Push participants, Gibbons is enthusiastic about what a festival like this can achieve. “It offers a platform to artists and companies as well as opening up new companies and shows to audiences who might not otherwise come across them. The programming of the festival is ambitious and interesting and really does offer something for everyone, artists and audiences alike.”

Push Festival is at Home Manchester, until 27 January (

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