Manchester Interational Festival to Feature Kenneth Branagh, Rob Ashford, Robert Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Mikhail Baryshnikov

By Mark Shenton
February 28, 2013

This year's Manchester International Festival will feature newly commissioned productions from actors and directors that include Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford (co-directing Macbeth starring Branagh), Robert Wilson (directing Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Old Woman) and Maxine Peake and Sarah Frankcom, who will collaborate on Shelley's epic poem The Masque of Anarchy.



Macbeth will run July 5-21 in a deconsecrated Manchester church, for which details of the meeting place will be revealed to ticket holders beforehand. Kenneth Branagh, who last appeared in Shakespeare in the title role of Richard III at Sheffield Crucible in 2002, will play the title role, and co-direct with Rob Ashford. During the run, there will also be a one-off live relay on a big outdoor screen at the NCP Bridgewater Hall Car Park July 20.

The Old Woman will run July 4-7 at Manchester's Palace Theatre. Directed by Robert Wilson and developed with and starring dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov, it is an adaptation of the work of the same name by Russian author Daniil Kharm, written in the 1930s. It will co-star Willem Dafoe, and follows the story of a struggling writer who cannot find peace with himself. Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Spoleto Festival dei 2Mondi, Théâtre de la Ville-Paris/Festival d’Automne à Paris and deSingel, Antwerp, it is a Baryshnikov Productions, Change Performing Arts and The Watermill Center project. 

The Masque of an Anarchy will run July 12-14 at Albert Hall, close to the site of the Peterloo massacre at St. Peter's Field that Percy Byssshe Shelley's epic 91-verse poem was written in response to, when a peaceful protest for parliamentary reform in 1819 was violently quelled. Directed by Sarah Frankcom, artistic director of Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, it will be performed by Maxine Peake, best known for her television roles in "Silk," "Shameless" and "Room at the Top." She has previously worked with Frankcom on Miss Julie at the Royal Exchange.

The Machine will run at Campfield Market Hall July 10-21. The Donmar Warehouse's artistic direcor Josie Rourke will direct the world premiere of Matt Charman's play, based on Grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s headline-grabbing 1997 New York chess tournament against Deep Blue, a super-computer developed by technology giant IBM. The play is commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival, Donmar Warehouse and Park Avenue Armory.

In a press statement, Rourke commented, "It means such a lot for me to be coming home as Artistic Director of the Donmar working with these great partners on such an exceptional new play.  It's always been a source of sadness that I've never had work on in the North West - the last time I worked in the city was as a temp in a Chartered Surveyors' office overlooking Albert Square. It's therefore particularly joyful to be directing Matt Charman's exceptional and thrilling play in Upper Campfield, as part of the superlative Manchester International Festival, and to be taking the Donmar back to New York in this partnership with the Armory."

Alex Poots, artistic director of the festival, added, "On behalf of both Manchester International Festival and The Armory in New York I am delighted that we will be working with Josie Rourke and her team from the Donmar to bring Matt Charman's exceptional play to life this summer. Both spaces in Manchester and New York will lend a fantastic sense of scale to this story of man against machine."

The Rite of Spring will be staged at the industrial space of Mayfield Depot from July 14-19, marking the centenary year of Stravinksy's work. Reworked by visionary theatre-maker Romeo Castellucci in collaboration with Teodor Currentzis, artistic director of the Perm State Opera and Ballet Theatre, and his orchestra MusicAeterna, it is commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival and Perm State Opera and Ballet Theatre.

According to a press statement, it will make what is conventionally a dance piece into an extraordinary theatre and art installation, creating choreography from falling bone powder.  In a show without actors or dancers, the 100 piece orchestra will become part of the staging. Castellucci explained, "The bone powder is the main character on the stage.  It looks as if the dancers got dissolved in the air, turning into a cloud of dust, powder… the dance of dust particles – the endless dance of the Universe."

For further details and to book tickets visit www.mif.co.uk.