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Theatres Team-up to Announce New Artist Commissions

The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and the Mercury, Colchester have revealed the artists who have been awarded a commission, as part of a brand-new partnership between the two venues to support theatre-makers in Kent, Essex and Sussex.

The artist commission programme is part of the two theatres’ commitment to supporting theatre-makers across their region. The Marlowe and Mercury teams were looking for work from the boldest, most talented and theatrically daring theatre-makers and have awarded ten commissions.

Successful artists have each been awarded up to £1,000 to support the development of new work, along with mentoring and rehearsal space support from The Marlowe and Mercury teams.

Essex artists are: Sharan Atwal, an actor and writer whose work will deal with issues around fertility and the pressure society places on women to have children by a certain age; Blouse & Skirt!, a brand new Theatre Company that celebrates stories, songs, performers and puppets from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, whose The Instrumentals, deals with a young girl’s grief at losing her Grandfather; Mark Smith of Deaf Men Dancing (a collaboration of male dancers who are deaf & hard of hearing) is developing Isolation In The Dark, inspired by inventor of the lightbulb Thomas Edison, who was partially deaf; TalkShow (made up of artists Clare Dunn, Stu Barter and Faith Dodkins) is working on Take This Test… a new interactive digital piece that parodies Buzzfeed-style clickbait personality tests to explore morality and what makes a ‘good person’; Sundeep Saini is a theatre-maker, movement director and choreographer who is creating a multidisciplinary family show about mental health struggles that affect children, including the lack of connection in a digital age; and writer Esohe Uwadiae is developing a project that follows the highs and lows of growing up as a Black woman in Essex.

Kent artists are; Henry Madd, award-winning poet and emerging theatre maker, whose latest venture Puddle will explore climate change and environmental migrants through the eyes of two lost polar bears; Gaz Tomlinson (also known as Quiet Boy) is developing A Message From The Future which plays with the idea of the audience dissecting a music artist’s interpretation of their current surroundings (where they are living 50 years from now) and how that information might challenge our current thinking on the economy, capitalism and the environment; and Margate based artists Jodie Cole, Faith Prendergast and Karl Fagerlund Brekke are creating a new work called Boogie Booth that is an exploration on joy and how movement can connect us.

From Sussex, George Rennie (City Actors) and Sarah Gain Productions have teamed up to create Fright Box, an inter-dimensional horror play in which YouTube ghost hunter, Dara Faulks, must cross the boundary between live and digital performance, confronting a demonic legacy and exorcising a truly haunted house.

The commissions are part of Catalyst For Culture, a Marlowe-led initiative to support artists and share work across our region. The programme is funded by SELEP Ltd.

Rebekah Jones, Executive Producer at The Marlowe said: “We are thrilled to be working with our partners at The Mercury to support the early development of work by our region’s theatre-makers. The freelance creative sector has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and we believe that it is vital to support artists by investing in new work, to try new ideas and take risks.”

Ryan McBryde, Creative Director of the Mercury Theatre said: “It is fantastic to be working alongside The Marlowe to ensure that we can provide essential support for local freelance artists. It is vital that our theatre-makers feel completely supported in developing new work and can benefit from links with professionals and access to our new theatre rehearsal spaces.”

Christian Brodie, SELEP Chair said: “We are delighted to be able to invest in this programme, and the future of the Marlowe and Mercury Theatres. SELEP has always been passionate about supporting the creative arts and ensuring that we are doing all we can to celebrate and support this incredibly important industry.

We have a strong network and burgeoning pool of talent in the South East and at the South East LEP, we recognise the undeniable value that creative and cultural activities play in boosting our local economies. We are fortunate to have a collaborative and forward-thinking network of organisations, businesses and people across the South East who make programmes like this possible.”

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