In A Former Cotton Exchange, The Present Collides with The Past in an Award-Winning Play That Confronts an Ugly History Head On

Winner of the 2018 Alfred Fagon Award ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS is an astonishing new play from one of the UK’s most pioneering playwrights Winsome Pinnock. Seamlessly weaving the past and the present together ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS explores Great Britain’s role in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade from a unique perspective. This World Premiere production is performed in the Royal Exchange, once one of the world’s largest cotton exchanges, and examines the impact of historical legacy and the representation of painful subjects. Juxtaposing the intimate and the epic, the personal and the political it invites us to ask what is chosen to be represented and what is denied. Innovative director Miranda Cromwell makes her Royal Exchange Theatre debut with this beautifully poetic play powered by love, resilience and hope. ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS can be seen in the Theatre from 12 March – 4 April.

Winsome Pinnock superbly laces together the stories of Lou, played by Kiza Deen, a 21st-century actress who finds herself bound by historical legacy; Karl Collins’ Thomas, a sailor who longs for the sea and an ageing J.M.W Turner, played by Paul Bradley, who is impatient for artistic inspiration.

Kiza Deen makes her Royal Exchange debut in this award-winning play. Her recent theatre credits include THE PHLEBOTOMIST (Hampstead Theatre), RANDOM (Leeds Playhouse) and BR’ER COTTON (Theatre 503). Karl Collins is a stage, television and film actor; his recent theatre credits have included IN A WORD (Young Vic), OUR TOWN (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) NINE NIGHT (Trafalgar Studios) SHEBEEN (Nottingham Playhouse & Theatre Royal Stratford East) and CHIMERICA (Almeida & West End). He was a regular on Channel 4s HOLLYOAKS, other television credits include the upcoming VERA (ITV) and MIDSOMER MURDERS (Bentley Productions) plus THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD (Clerkenwell Films) and THIS IS ENGLAND: 90 (Warp Films).

A graduate of Manchester University Drama department Paul Bradley makes a welcome return to the Exchange where he began his professional career in Michael Elliott’s the LADY FROM THE SEA. On Television Paul is probably best known as Nigel Bates in EASTENDERS and Elliot Hope in HOLBY CITY. His recent theatre credits include; YES PRIME MINISTER (Theatre Clwyd), OCTOPUS SOUP (Simon Fielder Productions), A VERY VERY VERY DARK MATTER (Bridge Theatre) and HUMBLE BOY (Orange Tree Theatre).

The cast is completed by a stunning ensemble which includes Anthony AjeNatey JonesRochelle RoseMatthew Seadon-YoungKudzai SitimaCathy Tyson and Everal A Walsh. They are joined on stage by musician Femi Temowo.

Winsome Pinnock’s stage plays include THE PRINCIPLES OF CARTOGRAPHY (The Bush Theatre), TITUBA (Hampstead Theatre), CLEANING UP (For Clean Break at Oval House Theatre), TAKEN (For Clean Break at Oval House Theatre), IDP (Tricycle Theatre), THE STOWAWAY (Play for young people, Theatre Royal, Plymouth), ONE UNDER (Tricycle Theatre), BEG BORROW OR STEAL (Kuumba Community Arts Centre), WATER (Tricycle Theatre), MULES (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs and Clean Break Theatre), CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? (Connections at Royal National Theatre), A ROCK IN WATER (Royal Court Theatre), LEAVE TAKING (Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, National Theatre, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and Lyric theatre, Hammersmith), A HEROES WELCOME (Royal Court Theatre Upstairs), THE WIND OF CHANGE (Half Moon Theatre) and PICTURE PALACE (Womens Theatre Group). Awards include the Alfred Fagon Award (2018); George Devine Award; Pearson Plays on Stage Scheme best play of the year Award; Unity Trust Theatre Award. She received a special commendation from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Her play LEAVE TAKING received a major revival at the Bush Theatre, London in 2018 and a new version of ONE UNDER was produced by Graeae Theatre Company in 2019 for a UK tour. She is currently commissioned by the Bush Theatre, Royal Court Theatre and is developing a screenplay with Blueprint Pictures.

Miranda Cromwell’s directing credits include as co-director DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Young Vic Theatre); as director HALF BREED (Talawa Theatre/Soho Theatre/Edinburgh Fringe Festival/India tour), MAGIC ELVES, HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE, SENSE (Bristol Old Vic), PIGEON ENGLISH (Edinburgh Fringe Festival/Bristol Old Vic), THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (Bush Theatre) and DEATH AND TREASON (Bristol Old Vic/UK tour). As Associate Director her credits include COMPANY – Olivier award for Best Musical Revival, Critics Circle Award for Best Musical (Gielgud Theatre) and ANGELS IN AMERICA – Olivier and Tony Award for Best Revival (National Theatre/Neil Simon Theatre, Broadway); A MONSTER CALLS – Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family (Old Vic/ Bristol Old Vic); CORAM BOY (Colston Hall).

The creative team includes Designer Laura Hopkins, Lighting Designer Jessica Hung Han Yun, Sound Designer Elena Peña, Composer / Musical Director, Femi Temowo, Associate Musical Director, Elizabeth Westcott, Associate Director, Mumba Dodwell and Assistant Director Chantelle Walker.