This summer the Royal Exchange’s award-winning Young Company present WE WERE TOLD THERE WAS DANCING, a brand-new show that takes its audience underground in a daring promenade production through the labyrinth-basement of the Royal Exchange building. Directed by Matt Hassall and developed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which began the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967, this bold and original production created by the Young Company charts the shifting and shocking attitudes to gay rights across time, generations and countries.
Something is happening. Underground. Someone is running. Someone is hiding. Someone is dancing. All of them are waiting – for the time when they can be free.
WE WERE TOLD THERE WAS DANCING was inspired by the work of journalist Peter Wildeblood, an influential figure in the decriminalisation of homosexuality, STRAIGHT JACKET by Matthew Todd and the disturbing Channel 4 documentary HUNTED which charted the extent of gay hate crime in Russia. Responding to this work the Young Company have developed a gripping piece of immersive theatre which doesn’t shy away from the complex political issues which continue to impact gay rights worldwide. Moving through the unseen spaces of the Exchange building, audiences will experience the persecution and liberation of the LGBT community over the last 60 years.
“We are excited to stage a full takeover of these vast disused spaces and create a new world for our audiences to step inside. Gay culture in the 1950s had to remain underground, both literally and figuratively. People were living double lives and although this has shifted over time, recent reports of events in Chechnya remind us how far we still have to go. The spaces below the Exchange offer us the perfect location to reimagine some of these events whilst celebrating the radical individuals who fought to bring LGBT rights above ground and into the light. We hope our show will encourage our audiences to do this – looking back on what has been and using this to fuel progress for the future.”
Matt’s work at the Exchange includes THE FACTORY, THE DELEGATION and SHOOTING THE MESSENGER plus NOTHING as Associate Director, THE BURNLEY BUGGERS BALL (Inkbrew Productions) and he is a regular collaborator with Take Back Theatre – a political theatre collective headed up by Julie Hesmondhalgh.
The production has been designed by Bethany Wells who is currently working on the Exchange’s co-production of COSMIC SCALLIES with Graeae Theatre Company. Other recent work includes ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING (Middle Child, Welly, Hull) PARTY SKILLS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Manchester International Festival) THE FACTORY (Royal Exchange Theatre).