Wigan talent preparing unusual show about austerity Britain

A cast of creatives from the borough will take to the stage for a night of drama with a difference.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 9:45 am
The Wigan cast of Rent Party
The Wigan cast of Rent Party

Rent Party, by Darren Pritchard, is being performed at The Old Courts later this year as part of the Moving Roots network involving arts organisation in five towns and cities across the country.

The show is an immersive experience inspired by the poetry of Langston Hughes, who worked during the explosion of African American creativity that became known as the Harlem Renaissance, and the rent parties staged in that part of 1920s New York.

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For the Wigan show a diverse cast of five actors and creatives from the borough has been assembled following an open audition inviting people from the community to take part in the project.

Jonny Davenport, artistic director at The Old Courts, said: “As an arts organisation we are always looking for ways to host great work, engage our audience and promote arts and culture. The Moving Roots project does exactly this.

“Rent Party is a great show for starters but coupled with the flexibility and enthusiasm of the writer and the truly original cast of Wiganers, our producers have begun something pretty special which we are all excited to see unfold.”

The cast for Wigan’s Rent Party includes Sarah Hardman, who started singing in choirs aged seven, has performed in musicals, writes her own songs and plays at open mic nights.

She is joined by 22-year-old folk and ambient-influenced singer-songwriter Alice Mae, who has previously played at The Old Courts for International Women’s Day and the Green Room Sessions as well as at events such as the Wigan Diggers Festival.

The third cast member is Jamie Lee, a performer, writer and spoken word artist of mixed heritage who lives in Ince.

A member of Contact Theatre’s Young Company in Manchester, he is passionate about work which addresses the climate crisis, social justice, disability acceptance, sexual liberation, racial equity and challenging biases.

The Rent Party cast is rounded out by Shaun Fallows, a performance poet, writer and disability activist from Worsley Mesnes who is a familiar face on the Wigan arts scene, and 23-year-old singer-songwriter and guitarist Zha Olu whose music draws from folk artists such as Joni Mitchell, soul performers like Lianne La Havas, pop and RnB.

Wigan’s Rent Party is the only one of the tour which will feature completely original music and material and will be staged at the Crawford Street venue at the end of October.

Producer Jess O’Neill said: “The original Rent Party performance was a thoughtful and exciting show about the Black, Queer experience in Britain.

“Based on the Rent Parties of the Harlem Renaissance and styled like a 90’s R&B album. Each cast member shares their stories and their talents.

“In bringing Rent Party to Wigan, Darren Pritchard is working with our local artists to share their unique experiences and talents.

“Our cast does represent some of the Black and/or queer experience but also share stories of classism, ableism, sexism.

“But, like every one of Darren Pritchard’s Rent Parties, we will come together to celebrate the talent that comes from these artists and their experiences.

“The aim of the network is to make a long-term difference. This starts with important conversations with members of the Wigan community, including a local sounding board, and ends with a high-quality performance that inspires, demonstrates what is possible and elevates expectations on what we expect to happen here and how we are seen.

“The Moving Roots project uses co-creation as a method of making work. Co-creation means that with organisational support, members of community have agency in creating. All voices are heard, leadership is shared and all parties benefit from having the support of each other to help bring their creative vision to life.

“I am excited about working with the cast and crew to make Rent Party a success by sharing real stories by real people.”

The Moving Roots network is a collective of arts organisations including The Old Courts, Battersea Arts Centre in London, Lyrici Arts in Medway, Common Wealth in Cardiff and Jumped Up Theatre from Peterborough.

Moving Roots will bring three productions to Wigan over the next three years and each show made as part of the scheme will be produced locally and then performed at four locations in the UK.

Find out more at www.theoldcourts.com

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