Casting has been announced for the return to the stage of Theatre-Rites, the highly acclaimed children’s theatre company who celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. Amplifying diverse voices from a team of international collaborators, The Global Playground will premiere at the Manchester International Festival and online this July.
The cast is comprised of acclaimed dancers Jahmarley Bachelor (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, ZooNation; Mariposa: A Transgender Tragedy, Denada Dance), Annie Edwards (A Kate Prince Company; ZooNation), Kennedy Junior Muntanga (Phoenix Dance Theatre; Chotto Xenos, Akram Khan Company) and Charmene Pang (Iceland Dance Company; Isadora Now: A Triple Bill, The Barbican). They are joined by puppeteer and actor Sean Garratt (A Christmas Carol, National Theatre of Scotland; The Table, Blind Summit Theatre) and renowned percussionist Merlin Jones (Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Opera North).
The Global Playground follows a group of dancers who meet to make a film with their nervous and chaotic director but things get wonderfully weird when the camera takes on a life of its own. Mixing dance, music, theatre and puppetry, The Global Playground examines how a camera’s gaze often reveals more than we bargained for. It will be presented both in person and online – digital viewers will gain a unique insight as the camera itself becomes a character on stage.
Throughout lockdown, human relationships have both grown and become more disjointed through digital connections. We can now connect with anyone in person and on screen – but is the camera our friend, our playmate, or something else entirely? The Global Playground explores the magic of our first encounters and is perfect for children and families. Audiences are invited to celebrate who we are and who we cherish, reflecting on a society where our digital and real selves coexist in discord or cohesion.
Following the sell-out success of The Welcoming Party at Manchester International Festival 2017, The Global Playground will be directed by Theatre-Rites’ Artistic Director, Sue Buckmaster (The Welcoming Party; Chotto Desh, Akram Khan Company) with choreography from acclaimed South African dancer Gregory Maqoma (Vuyani Dance Theatre). Designing the production is renowned scenographer and artist Ingrid Hu (A Slightly Annoying Elephant, Little Angel Theatre; Curiouser, Flexer & Sandiland with dybwikdanss, UK and Norway tour).
Composer Ayanna Witter-Johnson (London Symphony Orchestra; The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company) will be joined by sound designer Nick Sagar (Palace of Light, Noor Festival; Horrible Histories ‘Tudors & Egyptians’, UK tour) to bring the musical elements of this exciting production to life. Completing the production team are renowned lighting designer Guy Hoare (Sea Wall/A Life, Broadway; Chotto Xenos, Akram Khan Company) and Martin Riley (The Great Staycation – Dot’s Farm, BBC One; Emmeline Pankhurst: The Making of a Militant, BBC One) who will manage the digital film and production. The Global Playground is co-produced with Manchester International Festival.
Director Sue Buckmaster commented: “As Theatre-Rites turns 25 I have been reflecting on the importance of the connections we have developed with artists and our audiences, how it is our responsibility to nurture and empower both. As a company we have always been driven by the child’s needs and we know that young people’s futures will be a fluid experience of online and real adventures. The Global Playground, with its exceptional cast, is our gift to our audience of young people and to their carers; a chance to reflect on how they can be fully present, wherever they are and however they are connecting. A truly fitting way to celebrate our exciting return to Manchester International Festival and to live theatre.”
To mark their 25th anniversary, Theatre-Rites will be publishing a book celebrating the company and the incredible artists they have worked with. The book will also tell the fascinating story of Artistic Director Sue Buckmaster, who lives with ME, and her puppeteer father who inspired her work. The book will be published on 29th July and has been co-written with Dr Liam Jarvis, Theatre-Rites board member and lecturer at Essex University.
The Global Playground will run at the Manchester International Festival and online from Friday 2 July – Sunday 18 July 2021.
Photo credit: Chris Nash