Bringing INUK to Manchester – an interview with Liz O’Neill

Photo credit: Phile Deprez

Z-arts have teamed up with Manchester International Festival to bring INUK by Studio ORKA to Manchester. Liz O’Neill, Artistic Director of Z-arts, tells us how she discovered this fantastic show and what to expect when it arrives in the city on Saturday 7 July.

I first came across Studio ORKA when I was looking for international companies that made exemplary theatre for children as part of my Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award. ‘Exemplary’ for me means work that pushes boundaries and challenges what theatre for families might be.

Although I’d invited Studio ORKA to take part in a week-long artists lab in 2016, and had been introduced to the company on one of their visits to Manchester by John McGrath, Artistic Director at Manchester International Festival, I first saw their work when I visited Ghent in February, where they were performing INUK. I was there as part of a delegation, funded by Future Arts Centres, to look for theatre for young audiences that had a social conscience.

Performed in the car park of a hostel for young unaccompanied minor refugees, it was an interesting experience before we even set foot in the purpose built structure – a self-contained theatre and auditorium made especially for the show. You walk into what is essentially a hotel lobby, and you are immediately immersed in the action. The company had given me a synopsis in English, which must have helped a great deal, as whenever I think back on the show, I can clearly remember all the action and the story, even though it was performed in Flemish! We all left having thoroughly enjoyed the show, agreeing it was one of the funniest, most heart-warming, touching and well-performed pieces of theatre we had seen, and certainly the best fit in terms of our search for something that responds to social change.

On returning to Manchester, I thanked John for introducing me to the company and said how much I had enjoyed seeing INUK. He then put the idea forward that we might be able to bring it to Manchester together and we managed to find a way to share the costs and resources to bring the show to a North Manchester audience in July.

This partnership continues Z-arts’ relationship with MIF, happening exactly one year after The Welcoming Party, our MIF17 co-commission with Theatre-Rites and we’ll be inviting the same schools from across Greater Manchester that we invited to that show. It also means we can reach more audiences from North Manchester and strengthen our relationship with Manchester Communications Academy. For MIF it helps them build new audiences, in particular for Studio ORKA’s new show that will be part of next year’s festival.

I’m delighted that we’ve been able to make this happen. For Z-arts this is the first international production we have taken the lead in bringing to the UK, and I think it’s the perfect show to fill that role. I urge all Z-arts theatre audiences to take a trip up North and into the arms of Studio ORKA!

INUK will take place on Saturday 7 July at Manchester Communication Academy in Harpurhey. Find out more information here.

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