This autumn the Royal Exchange Theatre reframes the Great Hall, interrupting the space with the first DISRVPT event HOLDING SPACE, created by Manchester artist Keisha Thompson and designed by Alison Erika Forde. A poem, a performance and an installation invites audiences to move beyond the obvious grandeur of the hall, interrogate the history of the bricks and mortar, widen the lens and take time to look at the building in a different way. HOLDING SPACE will launch on 21 October when Keisha Thompson will perform her poem live supported by performers from Greater Manchester and with direction from Nimmo Ismail. That evening the Exchange will unveil Alison Erika Forde’s installation that will remain live for 12months.

DISRVPT is a brand-new programme of special events curated by Joint Artistic Directors Bryony Shanahan and Roy Alexander Weise that seek to disrupt the equilibrium of the Exchange’s Great Hall and invite new ways of interacting with it. Acknowledging the complexity of the Royal Exchange building and recognising the many facets of its history DISRVPT is an opportunity to play, rebel, burst with joy and complexity and bring those quieter, overlooked stories to the foreground. Juxtaposing the familiar trading boards and gilt-edged pillars with a brand-new piece of work from one of Manchester most innovative artists, DISRVPT invites everyone to take up space, tell their story and help define what the Great Hall can be in 2021. HOLDING SPACE will remain at the Exchange for 12months.

Joint Artistic Directors Bryony Shanahan and Roy Alexander Weise said…

“When we arrived as Artistic Directors we were given a picture of the Great Hall. It had a very particular story to tell, one of wealth and power, and one with its roots firmly in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. We instantly knew how important it was to dig beneath the surface of this image, to find and tell the hidden stories and develop creative ways to reimagine the hall for today, for everyone. Forty-five years ago, the space was disrupted by a spaceship-like structure, a home for incredible theatre that shifted the building’s story, and today we want to interrupt that space again, exploding out of the module and spilling into every corner of the Great Hall, asking who are we now and making space to create a new picture that reclaims and reflects the Royal Exchange today.”

Keisha Thompson said of creating HOLDING SPACE…
“When approached by the RET to write this ‘Disrvpt’ poem, I was immediately on board. I was vaguely aware of the history of the building. I knew it needed to have light shed on it. I knew it would be complicated. And I knew it would be emotional. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to be asked as an artist and a Mancunian to delve into the rich history of the building – to come up with something that will hopefully speak to a wide range of people. For inspiration I homed in on the idea of suspension due to the architecture of the main theatre space. I had to approach it as a page poem in my head, then deal with how it would manifest as a physical thing or a performance later. Now I’m at the stage when I can think of those things and again, I’m reinvigorated with excitement. The goal I set myself at the beginning was to come up with a beautiful confrontation. I hope it does the trick.”


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