Among the host of varied theatres and performances spaces spread across Manchester is the Royal Exchange Theatre, which boasts one of the most eclectic and ambitious programmes in the country.
Set up in 1976 by a group seeking to emulate the democratic performance spaces found in Ancient Greece, the Exchange prides itself on a sense of intimacy and open dialogue with its audiences, created in part by the in-the-round staging of its main space. The Royal Exchange puts on both bold adaptations of classic plays and entirely new productions throughout the year.
The Royal Exchange has a keen interest and involvement in current global issues, and autumn 2016 saw the theatre host B!RTH, an international theatre festival centred around the topic of inequality in healthcare around the world.
Seven prominent female playwrights from different countries (India, UK, Syria, USA, Brazil, Kenya and China) were commissioned to write a piece based on issues relating to birth and maternity provision in their homeland, all of which were shown at the Royal Exchange.
In the video at the top of the page, watch an introductory trailer, while below, a highlights video gives an insight into the intentions behind the writers’ work, alongside footage of the live performances.
The playwrights selected for B!RTH approached the issue from varied and unique perspectives.
The UK’s Stacey Gregg examined issues around the country’s wealth gap, abortion rights and increasing ages of mothers; Liwaa Yazji from Syria highlighted the ongoing war in her country and its impact on healthcare and motherhood; and Swati Simha focused on India’s high rate of infant mortality and the question of birth control.
In the video below, find out more about the playwrights and their views on the subject. In the third video above, you can also get a glimpse of the rehearsal process and hear excerpts from the plays read by cast members in the rehearsal room.