Interview with Chris Honer, Director of re:play Festival

Director of the innovative project, re:play Festival and Manchester Library Theatre Company, Chris Honer speaks to Aesthetica about his work and the events involved in re:play 2013. Taking the tiny productions that appear momentarily in pubs and small venues around Manchester, re:play gives emerging writers, directors and actors the chance to perform for a longer period of time at The Lowry. Featuring Manchester’s emerging talent in the theatre scene, the festival seeks to offer opportunities to many (as well as the selected plays) and includes a variety of events, ranging from an Open Space discussion Talking Shop to NewScript Night (a performance of four new short plays.)

A: Can you explain to us the ethos and inspiration behind the re:play Festival?
CH: There’s a lot of high quality new work happening in smaller venues (and in unexpected places) around Manchester and Salford. We wanted to get wider recognition for the best of this work by giving a platform to these fascinating new voices and performers.

A: This is the sixth year of the festival. How would you say it has evolved over time and what new elements does the 2013 event have to offer?
CH: The main thrust of the festival is still the eight featured productions – and it’s a particularly rich mix this year. It’s the ancillary events that have evolved. For instance, this year we’re offering four micro-commissions to emerging playwrights on NewScript Night. They’re each all writing a short play in a week, provoked by current events and stories, to be performed on the Friday night. Also the wonderful Tuheen Huda is performing his Pandamonium, the winner of last year’s Pitch Party. That’s a first. And on the Sunday afternoon we’re hosting an Open Space conversation about the state of theatre in the North West and beyond for anyone who works in theatre. It should be a passionate session.

A: In a fresh and varied programme comprising eight main productions, can you talk us through some of what you consider to be this year’s highlights?
CH: That’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is! The shows this year tell us great stories about love, loss, revenge, football, redemption, and most of the seven deadly sins. Some are funny, some verge on the tragic, and some are both.

A: The festival is staged primarily at The Lowry; can you talk a little about the venue’s role and importance in the event?
CH: Working with Porl Cooper at The Lowry has again been great. He has such passion for discovering and developing new work. And The Lowry is always helpful in trying to resolve the sometimes rather odd demands these shows make technically.

A: Showcasing work at the re:play Festival provides a great platform for artists and writers to develop. Are there any particular success stories from previous years that stand out to you?
CH: Cathy Crabb’s Beautiful House was a great thing. We featured the Salford Studio production in re:play in 2009 and then subsequently gave it a full Library Theatre Company production with huge success in spring 2010. I’m hoping of course that writers and directors from re:play will play a part in the programme at our new home, Home, once it opens towards the end of 2014.

A: What are the future plans for next year’s re:play?
CH: As ever the shape of next year’s re:play will be determined by what’s produced on the Manchester and Salford fringe in the next 12 months, and by our assessment of this year’s festival.

A: Following re:play, what’s next for the Library Theatre Company?
CH: I’m directing Brecht’s great play Mother Courage and Her Children at The Lowry in February, and, in June, we’ll be producing Manchester Sound: the Massacre in a secret found space somewhere in the city. The audience is invited to a rave at which some surprising and remarkable events happen.

re:play 2013, 14 – 26 January, Studio at The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ.

All images courtesy of the Manchester Library Theatre Company
1. My Arms
2. Hidden
3. All The Bens
4. Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down