Over Forty Young and Elders Company Members Aged 14 – 82 Create Show Inspired by the Way Music Connects Us

The Royal Exchange Theatre’s resident Young Company and Elders Company were about to head into rehearsals for their annual inter-generational show when the Government announced its lockdown measures. It was quickly decided that the ‘show would go on’ and that the Company would find a new structure for their story and new ways to rehearse together. Because of the unique way the show is now being made, it has opened-up opportunities for over twice the amount of people who were originally involved. Over forty participants aged between 14 and 82yrs have come together to make a brand-new piece of work reinvigorated by a desire to stay connected.

Carmen Fyfe Paulo – Royal Exchange Theatre, Young Company Member said,
With all of the craziness going on in the world right now and everyone being on lockdown, I think it’s awesome that we’re still doing this Intergen Project! We’re managing to stay connected with a huge range of people who all have different stories to tell, and we’re navigating theses weird coronavirus times together in a fun, creative way.’

The result is CONNECT FEST a pioneering new show directed by Nickie Miles-Wildin and written by award-winning rapper, beatboxer and theatre-maker Testament. Created by the Company CONNECT FEST is inspired by the way in which music can transport, uplift and create incredible connections, from singing together at school or in a choir to the energy and power of a massive music festival like Glastonbury. CONNECT FEST is a theatre show, a music festival and a soap-opera rolled into one and will be made up of five individual online episodes. The first episode will be aired on 11 May at 11.00am on the Royal Exchange Theatre website with new episodes released at the same time daily.

Director Nickie Miles-Wildin said…
We had always planned to make a piece of interactive work about the feeling of music, the impact it can have on our lives at different times. Then lockdown happened. What became apparent was how music is used to connect people – choirs singing over Zoom, music on balconies across Italy, Spain and here in the UK communities coming together to clap, bang pots and pans for the NHS. Over Zoom we have had the opportunity to be together and create new work. From listening to various songs to developing characters and devising scenes, Testament has created a wonderful thread of stories each with connection at their heart: an 80s band wanting to reform, a family Zoom that doesn’t go according to plan and a long-lost love being found over the internet. At a time when we are all socially distanced our wonderful Inter-gen Company make us feel more connected than before.’

The stage is set and the soundchecks are happening, but the music hasn’t started yet. Five different groups of people, with different passions, tastes and different favourite bands are making their way to the festival. All heading in the same direction with one goal in mind – to make it to the gig on-time, to meet new people, listen to music they’ve never heard before and make memories that will last forever.

Testament added…
My work is all about connecting to others – politically spiritually, and socially. Music is one of those connectors that can transcend our backgrounds, social environment, present difficulties and perhaps even time itself. Working online is new for most of us but has given us a chance to see how theatre and music can work across digital platforms. Given the current self-quarantine that much of the world is under, even the process of making the show together has brought the very thing the show celebrates – a sense that we are not alone.’

Following on from the success of past intergenerational productions ADIEU and THE SPACE BETWEEN US the Royal Exchange Young and Elders Companies will collaborate in a uniquely inventive way to create an original piece of online work that celebrates the importance of staying connected.

CONNECT FEST is created with Associate Director: Hannah Sands, with sound and video support by the Young Company Makers and with special thanks to Alexandra Faye Braithwaite and Annie May Fletcher for their sound design and composition.