Preview: Angel Meadow [ANU Productions] [HOME]

An ANU Production

ANGEL MEADOW

World Premiere

Tuesday 10 June – Sunday 29 June, 2014 

Ancoats, Manchester

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Immerse yourself in an adrenaline-fuelled encounter, exhuming an area of Manchester that no longer exists.

Angel Meadow, once a steaming, sordid hell on earth at the centre of the industrial world; populated by red eyed scuttling gangs, girl rippers and the displaced Irish. Here lost strangers sought solace, sex and the divine. 

You and I will be the strangers.

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With less than one year to go on the construction of HOME, the £25 million, state of the art new centre for theatre, film, and art (formed by the merger of two of Manchester’s best-loved arts organisations, Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company), HOME Manchester presents the world premiere of Angel Meadow, the first in a series of site-specific theatre productions taking place around Manchester in the lead-up to the Spring 2015 grand opening.

The multi-award winning, Dublin based theatre company ANU Productions pride themselves on presenting ‘unconventional work, creating innovative exchanges with audiences and continually pushing the boundaries and conventions of performance and installation’, and with their very first production outside of their native Ireland, Angel Meadow looks set to be one of the must-see theatrical events of 2014.

Set within the atmospheric confines of the derelict Edinburgh Castle Pub in Ancoats, ANU’s latest production, helmed by ANU artistic director Louise Lowe, is inspired by the 19th century experience of Irish migrants escaping poverty and famine for a better life in industrial Manchester. A visceral enactment of the lives of the Irish community settling in Ancoats, ‘Angel Meadow’ will ‘ignite aesthetics and politics, and the historic and the contemporary, in a controlled explosion of cold rage’.

“The name Angel Meadow conjures up an image of fresh air and sunshine,” says director Louise Lowe, and indeed during the Eighteenth Century it was; ‘a heavenly landscape with arresting views over fields and hills’ is the description found in a number of contemporary sources. However, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution during the latter stages of the Eighteenth Century, and the growth of the textile industry in the early years of the Nineteenth Century, the former aptly named idyll of Angel Meadow was swiftly transformed into one of the worst and most infamous slums in the country. A place where those born within it had a life expectancy of just 17.

Angel Meadow covered 33 acres on the edge of the city centre. Its population of close to 30,000 was comprised predominantly of destitute Irish who had fled the Great Famine to find work in industrial Manchester and now lived in squalid conditions in cellars beneath lodging houses.

“We know from archives and oral histories that life here was overcrowded and dangerous. Gangs of scuttlers roamed large, and territorial combat was a way of life. The community worked hard and lived hard, living cheek by jowl in perpetual twilight. We’re not making a documentary, and that is one reason why we involve the audience so centrally in the piece. Their contribution, even though it will be different each performance, is crucial.”

Angel Meadow will be a living and breathing piece of work which will quite literally evolve as the production unfolds. It is an intense examination of place, space and interest, one that engages with the city in a new, refreshing way, which continually questions the heritage of the Irish in Manchester and fully captures the spirit of Angel Meadow in its historic, site-specific location.

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“Such is the Old Town of Manchester, and on re-reading my description, I am forced to admit that instead of being exaggerated, it is far from black enough to convey a true impression of the filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness, the defiance of all considerations of cleanliness, ventilation, and health which characterise the construction of this single district, containing at least twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants. And such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England, the first manufacturing city of the world.

If any one wishes to see in how little space a human being can move, how little air — and such air! — he can breathe, how little of civilisation he may share and yet live, it is only necessary to travel hither. True, this is the Old Town, and the people of Manchester emphasise the fact whenever any one mentions to them the frightful condition of this Hell upon Earth; but what does that prove? Everything which here arouses horror and indignation is of recent origin, belongs to the industrial epoch.”

Socialist reformer and co-author of the Communist Party Manifesto, Friedrich Engels, writing on Angel Meadow in ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, 1844.

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Angel Meadow runs from Tue 10 – Sat 29 June in Ancoats, Manchester at a secret location. Tickets are available online here or from Cornerhouse Box Office in person or over the phone on 0161 200 1500.

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Angel Meadow is the first production of HOME’s site-specific season for 2014/15.

It will be followed by Romeo and Juliet directed by Walter Meierjohann at Victoria Baths – the Grade II* listed building which won the BBC’s Restoration programme in 2003 (Wednesday 10 September – Saturday 4 October) – and then three productions at Number One First Street – The Best of BE (Birmingham European) Festival (Friday 17/Saturday 18 October); The Events, presented by ATC (Wednesday 22 October – Saturday 25 October); and re:play Festival (Monday 12 – Saturday 24 January 2015).

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