Later this month, the Royal Exchange’s innovative CO:LAB festival returns for 2018, and takes over the building with a riotous weekend of daring and original works-in-progress by the next generation of North West theatre-makers.

This year there are 11 brand-new commissions from artists and companies who want to showcase theatre made in non-traditional ways and through unexpected creative collisions and collaborations. The festival runs across three days from Friday 20 – Sunday 22 July.

Developed as part of the Exchange’s OPEN EXCHANGE talent development programme, CO:LAB (or Collision Laboratory) was created as a response to the needs of local artists who wanted the chance to test their work in front of a live audience and some space, time and money to make it. Piers Black-Hawkins from Ransack Theatre who created Minus Touch for last year’s festival said “Co:LAB was special – a game changer for the artists and a shift in the landscape of the city.”

Amit Sharma, Associate Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre said…
I’m extremely excited about the artists working on our second year of the Co:LAB festival. There’s a real mix of comedy, drama, music with a big dose of heart and soul thrown into the mix. It’s a fantastic opportunity for all the work programmed to interact with an audience with the aim to keep on developing. I can’t wait for an action packed three days!
This year the 11 new commissions include:

A PART OF ME by New Vision Theatre Company is an immersive piece of theatre following the lives of three characters whose only freedom to be themselves is when they are online. The production explores the projected image we portray on social media versus the reality of the lives we lead.

AFTER BIRTH by Highlight Collective is a multi-media installation and performance putting the hidden issue of maternal mental health in public. “This is not what I’d imagined. If I was your bathroom you’d have called a plumber by now. I’m leaking.” How do mothers voice their struggles during a time society expects to be the best? 

ALTAR/ALTER by Lydia Cottrell & Michael-Jon Mizra is a ritualistic hang out for a generation who have replaced the evening fires with a laptop screen. This show invites people to take a break from their screens to experience something that shifts between performance, seance, guided meditation, cave, rave, yoga class and ASMR relaxation.

BAAL by Knaïve Theatre & Impermanence Dance Theatre explore how text, dance and music can intersect in this bold adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s dark, poetic and brooding first play.

CATCHING COMETS by Ransack Theatre and written by Piers Black is a scratch performance of hope, bravery, disasters and heroes. When scanning the limits of outer space in search of hope, Toby accidentally stumbles upon a comet careering towards earth. Armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of disaster movies and their heroes, Toby must find a way of saving the world from its impending doom.

COMMIT by Big Liars is an interactive show about a young black man making a personal decision on a very public stage. Every year young men across America commit to a college of their choice to play American Football. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime: a free college education and a chance to go to the National Football League (NFL) and make millions. Immerse yourself in the supporting cast behind his decision.

ETA CARINA by Violet BlondeThe KommanderrrClare McNulty is an ageing supernova on the edge of space performing to an earth they have left behind. A dystopian world. A tyrannical father. A choice to be made. ETA CARINA explores the artists queer narratives of isolation, loss and disengagement through a dreamscape infused fantasy.

OVER MY DEAD BODY devised by Ali Wilson and James Monaghan The end. The darkness. The rebirth. Heaven. The afterlife. The passing. The dot dot dot… Julie knows a lot about funerals and this is a rehearsal.

PRINCE GORGE by Sophie CowardEliyana Evans and James Varney is a live band and a narrative poem which sees small royal boy Prince George of Cambridge grow up to become a Queer performance artist and cult leader.

THE WITCHING WAY devised by Ali Matthews and Leo Burtin is a DIY rock opera about a teenager born and raised a witch. After struggling with the perils of peer pressure, W. is transported to a cottage in a strange and wondrous landscape. In order to find her way home, she embarks on a quest to reckon with her history, overcome extraordinary obstacles and ultimately find her voice.

TUCH devised by Amy Lawrence with collaboration and realization by Tilda O’Grady catalogues moments of epic touch with other bodies and indulges in its absence. TUCH is a new solo project, a physical monologue, embodied by a different person each time it is shared and uses their remembered traces and fleshy memories.


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