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Up Next Festival at Unity Theatre: A two-week arts festival celebrating Merseyside artists

11 months ago

Up Next Festival at Unity Theatre: A two-week arts festival celebrating Merseyside artists
Unity Theatre

Unity Theatre’s annual celebration of Merseyside artists – Up Next Festival – is back for 2023 for an extended, two-week long programme featuring brand-new shows from Merseyside’s most exciting artists and companies.

The line-up of 14 artists/companies has been selected through the award-winning Unity Theatre Open Call scheme, which provides Merseyside creatives with funding, producing support and a slot in Unity’s programme.

This year’s festival includes newly commissioned works across a range of artforms including world premiere plays, poetry, cabaret, installations, drag and music. As well as the packed theatre programme, this mega line-up also includes the first ever Up Next Comedy Night, a brand-new exhibition, DJs, panel discussions, creative events and more.

Opening the festival, Andrew McKay – known for drag persona Filla Crack – presents a new show using interviews from within the drag community to explore the highs and lows of having an alter ego of the opposite sex (Wed 4 Oct).

The opening night will also see the launch of a brand-new exhibition by photographic journalist Hellen Songa.  

More world-premieres, at the Unity Theatre, from Merseyside playwrights at Up Next Festival include Borrowed by Sasha Georgette – a radical story about a pregnant fat girl and a prejudiced healthcare system; At The End of the Day She’s Still Your Mother by the award-winning Jess Green – a darkly comic look at the mother/daughter relationship set in a Breast Cancer Clinic; Smashed by Helen Jeffery – a new show exploring sobriety and drinking culture; and Sass: A Chained Melody by Olayemi Z. Ade – following RnB girl group member Buki as she explores queerness as a Black and North African person.

Other new shows premiering at the festival include a Friday night double-bill of coming-of-age “tales-with-a-twist” in Berber Boy by Habibi Theatre and Space Invaders x Liar by Tip Tray Theatre. Week two then begins with a captivating new sound installation Earth is Lost by Sonic Mutiny, that will take over Unity One and propel audiences into space.

The following Friday (Fri 13 Oct), Merseyside Woman of the Year Natalie Denny and her much-acclaimed social enterprise, Skywriters Ltd. present Revival – a showcase of writing by Black and Minoritorised women, created through community workshops and culminating in a performance for Black History Month.

Finally, Up Next Festival 2023 concludes with a Saturday packed full of laughs, beginning with eccentric drag king comedy Cockroach by The Barry, Brian & Bean Company, followed by the festival’s first-ever comedy night. Hosted by Unity regular and Open Call alumni, the award-winning comedian Sian Davies, this stella line-up of scouse comedians is the perfect way to finish Unity’s two-week celebration of Merseyside artists. Already announced as part of the line-up are sets by Alex Stringer, Niki Rooney and Sian Davies, with more coming soon.

All tickets are capped at £8 and every performance will be captioned, BSL interpreted and/or audio described to ensure the festival is as accessible as possible.

George Soave, Unity Associate Producer says:

“Up Next is a cornerstone of the Unity calendar. Since the inception of Open Call in the pandemic, the project has gone from strength-to-strength, providing over 50 Merseyside artists to date with funding, training, and a slot in the Unity programme.

Up Next Festival 2023 marks an exciting new era for the Unity Open Call, bringing all of this year’s supported artists together for a fortnight-long celebration of Merseyside creatives. The expansion into a two-week festival will see our whole venue packed out with a wide variety of performances which are diverse in artform and story. This year’s Up Next will offer something for everybody. It will inspire. It will provoke. It will offer new perspectives.

Within the context of ongoing cost-of-living crisis, Up Next tickets continue to be affordable for audiences. Whether you want to see the whole programme, or just one show, there’s an affordable option for everybody. Merseyside based artists are once again taking over Unity; we’re excited to host a programme of insightful and powerful performance.”

For more info on Up Next Festival at the Unity Theatre click here.

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