Knock on the door, hang up your coat and grab a chair, THE DOCK is open!
As part of WEEK 53, the normally restricted backstage area of The Lowry known as THE DOCK, has opened to the public for the very first time.
The unseen space between the Lyric and Quays theatres has been transformed by artist David Shearing into a festival hub, acting as a bar, a pop-up café, a meeting place, a performance space and a place to hang out between festival events.
For those who haven’t heard of the festival, WEEK 53 is a two-week long showcase of national and international works which challenge convention and celebrate creativity. The innovative festival allows the audience to watch performances in unusual spaces which are normally off-limits to the public.
As part of festival, the backstage DOCK area has been transformed by artist David Shearing into a specially commissioned design which explores the festival theme of ‘home’ and ‘place’. The vehicle unloading bay which links the Lyric and Quays theatres has been converted into vibrant garden area with artificial grass, potted plants and strings of lights, bringing the cold, hard industrial area to life.
Guests are invited to swap Monopoly style money for drinks or food at the pop-up bar, grab a garden chair and soak in the festival atmosphere. Make shift tables made out of wooden pallets provide a place to rest your drink while local music plays softly in the background.
WEEK 53 is all about rewarding the compulsively curious and Shearing has created plenty of nooks and crannies for the audience to explore. Outside, Shed 53 draws the most attention with guests curiously popping their heads through the shed door glimpse inside at the Big Brother style diary room. But the main attraction is the performance area itself, which is accessed by a small front door labelled with the number 53.
Inside, a small corridor decorated with old fashioned wall lamps and framed Lowry prints leads to a wide open space and the performance area. It is here that the concept of ‘home’ and ‘place’ truly comes to life, with Shearing cleverly contrasting the warm welcome and comfort of a living room with the part-theatrical, part-industrial backstage environment.
Different sized hard-back chairs and sofas are placed in rows on the cold, hard floor while a large overhead light display, furnished with different style lamp shades, lights up the otherwise dark industrial area.
Music plays from retro style radio sets placed around the room on top of ATA boxes, echoing softly around the scaffolding and light equipment. But the focal point of the room is a small, raised stage decorated like a living room with its carpeted floor, plush furnishings, large sofa, wall pictures and small window.
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As part of the special launch night, three WEEK 53 signature commissions made their premiere in the innovative performance area. STAR BOY PRODUCTIONS took to the stage first, entertaining the audience with their clandestine survival tactics, explaining the lengths African immigrants must go to in order to remain in Europe. The world premiere of 30 DAYS OF THE SMITHS followed with a live performance from Oberman Knocks before DJ duo THE CHUGGERNAUTS closed the event with a DJ set, mixing chuggy house with disco.
If THE DOCK LAUNCH NIGHT is anything to go by, WEEK 53 certainly delivers on its promise to offer audiences a different type of theatre experience. Where else do you get to knock on the door, wipe your feet on the mat, hang up your coat and grab a chair and watch a theatre performance?
WEEK 53 runs at The Lowry from 28 April to 8 May 2016
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Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.