re:playing for Free – January on the Fringe

Posted on January 6, 2014


Salford is kicking off 2014 with not just one, but two festivals, both at opposite ends of the Fringe spectrum, but both sharing the same ethos – showcasing new talent and writing to an ever widening audience.

It is easy at the start of a New Year to forge ahead with a clean sweep and push new plays, talent and material. Both festivals are taking stock a little bit, and share a common theme of development. No doubt you will have seem some Fringe shows that would benefit from more rehearsal time, or more time for the scripts to breathe – that’s exactly the point here. The re:play festival has a well-honed reputation for bringing back the finest of Fringe from the previous year – tweaked, polished and sharper than before whilst at the other end is The Kings Arms new Play for Free Festival testing the waters for new ideas leading to subsequent development.

The Kings Arms Play for Free festival brings new writing to Bloom Street with an ambitious program of plays, some experimental, some rehearsed readings – all of them Fringe firsts. There will be no entry charge as such; rather audience members will be encouraged to pop a donation in a bucket depending on what they think its worth – and this is the key element to the festival.

The festival includes some heavyweight names in Greater Manchester Fringe including My Beating Heart (Troll), Fresh Loaf (Breathing Corpses), Theatre by Numbers (Digging Deep) and runs from the 6 – 20 January.

Our highlights:

Hot Air – Theatre by Numbers presents a new piece of drama from new and promising writer Lindsay Avery with a development discussion afterwards for audience feedback and to provide an insight into Fringe theatre production. (8 Jan)

Life Witness/Braving Faces – My Beating Heart returns with a duo of new plays. Life Witness sees a story of fame, ambition, love and betrayal – and a failing writer afraid of slipping into obscurity. Dark thriller Braving Faces concerns a mysterious writer and a film student crafting a film adaptation of a successful novel – but are either of them who they say they really are? (9-11 Jan, N.B. 11th Braving Faces only)

The Way Men Breathe – Longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, John Clarke & Actors present a harrowing family drama and a compelling story about family relationships, responsibility and love.’ (17-18 Jan)

Fallen – Two Mancunians fall down a hole and meet a faerie. Sound like a joke? Yardstick Narrative Company and Pull Your Finger Out present an intriguing exploration of two worlds colliding. (19 Jan)

To reserve tickets for performances, please drop the Kings Arms a line at

Meanwhile over at the other side of Salford at The Lowry, re:play 2014 is shaping up nicely. re:play gives you the chance to see some of the most challenging, acclaimed, entertaining and different shows from the last 12 months. Highlights include comedy duo Norris and Parker, the acclaimed Away from Home and family-friendly Billy, the Monster and Me, re:play is set to get the New Year off to a flying start.

Our recommendations:

One Hand Clapping – Lucia Cox adapts and directs this lesser-known Anthony Burgess work that originally premiered to great acclaim early in 2013. This powerful story was Burgess’s commentary on what he saw as the degradation of Western society and culture telling the story of Janet and Howard, and their destructive relationship. (20-22 Jan)

Billy, the Monster and Me – the first children’s show to have been invited to perform at re:play, this was the surprise hit of last summer’s 24:7 festival winning the highly-coveted Best Production Award. Ideally suited to younger audiences, this interactive adventure begins when Billy wishes for a monster to appear. But when one does, and gobbles up his family, he needs the help of the audience to get them back! (26-27 Jan)

Norris & Parker – wacky comedy duo Norris & Parker took Edinburgh, Camden and Manchester by storm last year with their anarchic sketch show ‘All of Our Friends Are Dead’. Think Julia Davis crossed with The League of Gentlemen and Father Ted with a sprinkling of Disney, quiche and gin. We’re long term fans of the duo here with their show proving to be one of the highlights of last year. Back with a live band, this is bound to be unmissable.  (28 Jan-1 Feb)

Elsewhere, Stella Grundy and Ian Curley’s masterpiece The Rise and Fall of a Northern Star returns with its mix of live music and storytelling to tell the story of the troubled MADChester icon Tracy Star (20-22 Jan). 24:7 smash hit Away From Home returns with its affecting story of a male escort who questions his life when hired by a Premiership Footballer. Characterised with a powerful performance from co-writer Rob Ward, it’s another chance to see one of 2013’s more challenging plays (30 Jan-1 Feb).

New script development is also in the pipeline with a NewScript Night (24 Jan) featuring script-in-hand performances of plays ready to hit Manchester – and you even have the chance to be involved in the Pitch Party (31 Jan) – a Dragon’s Den style show with brave souls pitching their ideas to a panel of industry experts.

As ever, more information on the festival is available on Library Theatre website. Don’t forget to take advantage of their Buy 1 Get 1 Half-Price offer – especially with many shows on the same night.

Photo credit: Kings Arms

Posted in: Previews