Switch_Mcr – An Interview With Artistic Director, Gabriel Clark

If you haven’t heard of Switch_Mcr, I strongly suggest checking them out. They are one of the most exciting theatre companies in Manchester, nurturing northern talent, creating impressive work, and running local workshops.

I caught up with artistic director, Gabriel Clark, to talk all things Switch_Mcr, ahead of their double-bill of plays which is going to be performed at 53two from 27th June – 9th July.

Rehearsals Under Way for Switch Mcr's double bill
Rehearsals are under way for Switch Mcr’s double-bill.

Can you tell me about Switch_MCR?

We are a Manchester-based theatre company creating new and exciting accessible work. We’re a team of young creatives, but the work we do is for everyone and with everyone. We regularly work with the Royal Exchange Elders Company, run workshops at the University of Manchester and are the resident Next Generation Artists at the brilliant 53two. We run monthly Switch_Lab sessions, outreach projects, one-to-one script surgeries, scene studies, script deconstructions, and mentorships, as well as programming festivals and productions all year round.

What inspired you to create Switch_MCR?

We came about as a result of seeing a lack of opportunity for people like us to be creating the work that we want to see, and to be involved in that work both on and off the stage. We were very lucky to have had incredible training during our time in the Royal Exchange Young Company, notably with the influential Nickie Miles-Wildin whose practise, which places accessibility front and centre, was formative in the creation of our company.

As an Artistic Director I’m inspired by the works of Complicité, with their integration of the design team, from the beginning of the production process, Rimini Protokoll’s community work which highlights the structure of cities, such as Utopolis and 100%. The greatest inspiration I find is the eclectic makeup and artistic bubbles within our own city of Manchester.

Can you tell me more about Switch_Labs?

The Switch_Lab is our free monthly workshop at the University of Manchester for actors, writers, and directors to develop their practise, and collaborate with new people. In the 4-hour long sessions, we work with writers to develop an extract of new writing, pairing them with directors and actors, to stage a rehearsed reading of their work over the course of a Sunday afternoon!

It’s always such a wonderful, creatively enriching day, ran by our brilliant Nathan Lea, where everyone leaves feeling so inspired. It’s become an absolute staple of our company and I’m really pleased to say that the University of Manchester have just invited us back in for another year! The bells for the second year Switch_Lab are getting ready to ring!

Switch Lab session, ran by Switch Mcr
A Switch_Lab workshop at the University of Manchester.

What is the thing you love most about Manchester theatre?

I just love the community of it. The more you give to the theatre in this city the more it seems to give back! There’s never a show, building, gallery, institution I go to where I don’t bump into someone I know, or have worked with. Whether it’s a touring production visiting The Lowry, Palace Theatre, or the Opera House, a bold new play at the [Royal] Exchange, a gritty vital piece of theatre in 53two’s arches, an art installation, poetry reading, exhibition at a gallery or student play I always leave inspired, optimistic and hopeful. There seems to be that Northern, Mancunian spirit of warmth, edgy, eye-twinkling magic in anything that this city produces, and I’m so proud to amongst those creating sparks of stories in this city.

What plans have you got for the rest of the year, after the double bill?

In short, a lot! We’re bringing the brilliant Save me a Seat Festival back, this time celebrating the work of LGBTQ+ People from the Global Majority. We’ve got a brand new horror play that I’m currently working on with my amazing friend, collaborator and co-writer Andy Long, a touring show at Christmas in co-production with 53two, with community right at its heart, which is currently being worked on by Annie Rogers… then a whole new double bill to kick us into 2023, and much more to follow!

What advice would you give to people starting their careers in the theatre industry?

Go for it! In every sense of the word. Believe in yourself and what you want to say, because we all have stories, a voice and our own way of telling them. Go to see plays, concerts, spoken word nights, jazz, blues, rap, rock, go to galleries, museums, HOME, the [Royal] Exchange, 53two, Contact, Switch! So much is free and easily accessible, and it will undoubtedly nourish and inspire you. There will always be someone there to uplift and help you.

Get involved in everything you can and trust that you’re on your own path, and love the journey.

Personally, what theatre are you most excited to watch this year?

I’m very excited for The Glass Menagerie at the Royal Exchange, I think Atri Banerjee is such a fantastic director and I’m so excited to see what he does with Tennessee Williams’ work. I can’t wait for the touring version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane at The Lowry. It’s a beautiful beautiful show and so up my street! I’m also buzzing to see all the work that 53two have programmed, everything that Dibby Theatre are doing, but right now I can’t wait for Switch’s Double Bill!

Senses of Responsibility and Blue Moss are the most different, brilliant pieces of theatre so get your tickets now!

Switch_Mcr double bill

Senses of Responsibility is written by Lekhani Chirwa and tells the struggles of young carer, Symonie, as she comes to terms with her mum’s genetic condition, and the challenges it brings her. Symonie is caught between trying to live a normal life, and getting tested for the condition herself. Written in five acts, with each one following the 5 senses, should Symonie go and live her own life? Or should she continue caring for her mum?

Blue Moss is written by Joseph Conway and takes place in the overgrowth of an encapsulating blue moss. Three friends find themselves trapped in the unending forest, surrounded by the blue moss. In this realm, they learn to cope with each other, their pasts, and the many questions this world poses. Swimming in memories, claustrophobia, and dreams, the question arises- can these not-quite-human foragers cope with this loneliness?

Switch_MCR’s double bill runs at 53two between 27th June and 9th July 2022. Tickets to watch both plays are only £15, and can be purchased here.

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