Preview By Steve Cooke
The acclaimed, theatrical team behind the 2021 hit #BeMoreMartyn – Hive North - have announced the 10 writers whose brand-new work has been selected for its annual LGBTQ+ new writing showcase – OutStageUs. Ranging in age from 21 to 63, the winners of this year’s competition hail from across the North West, Birmingham and York and include award-winning actors, performers and published authors. All 10 new plays will be staged for two nights at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on July 14-15th.
Over 150 scripts were submitted for consideration for this annual and important creative initiative – shedding a spotlight on and showcasing the best new writing within and about the LGBTQ+ community.
A panel of readers led by Hive Artistic Director; Adam Zane narrowed this down to just 20 entries from which the final 10 were selected following one-one development chats with each short-listed entrant.
Zane comments: “We were thrilled by the number of entries we received this year and really impressed by the standard and variety of writing. Our final selection represents a completely broad spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community with diverse themes such as access to queer spaces for disabled queer people, asexuality, aging in the LGBTQ+ community, consent, and non-binary self-discovery. It is so exciting to hear new voices share their own personal stories of the LGBTQ+ experience and we are really proud to be able to give them a platform on which to share their truths and their words. We cannot wait to see them come to life on The Lowry stage next month”.
The ten winning entries and entrants are:
Deranged by Rav Bansal: Deranged confronts themes of cultural expectations in British Indian families, self-identity, and family acceptance with light-hearted humour in a heart-warming tale about authenticity and love. Bansal is a ‘British LGBT Award’ nominated broadcaster, writer and activist who has appeared on many radio and television programmes - including shows on BBC One, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC Radio London, and Radio 4. His podcast ‘Do You Wear That in the Shower?’ has been nominated for several awards for highlighting the queer South Asian experience. He is currently studying scriptwriting for the stage and screen.
If I Ever See Her Again by KT Miles: Their play for OutStageUs examines themes of identity, transformation, love, and memory. It explores the pain of transitioning and the resulting shift in relationships from the perspective of a non-binary person, highlighting the complexity of personal growth intertwined with love and loss. Miles have most recently written and produced (In) Good Spirits for VAULT Festival 2023, a play developed as part of the National Theatre's Writing for Theatre mentorship programme. They were also long-listed for the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, and will graduate this summer from King's College London with a BA in English.
Twenty by Mitesh Soni: Twenty is a compelling and thought-provoking monologue that raises important issues about consent and respect in relationships, especially within the gay community. The monologue really drives home the point about how certain behaviours and attitudes can be normalised or accepted in certain communities, even when they are harmful or abusive. Soni is an actor & writer based in Manchester. His acting credits range from The Play What I Wrote to Eastenders, to Hazy the Oldham Coliseum Panto Cow. As a writer his work includes Brit Bred (part of the Box of Tricks 2021/2 Playbox cohort) and Pricky (Tribe Arts Theatre).
Out Out by Izzy Campbell: Out Out explores themes of self-expression, acceptance, the exploration of sexuality and societal norms - delivering an affecting narrative about transient connections and their enduring impact. Campbell is a writer, actor and singer from Liverpool. She trained in theatre at Salford University and has contributed creatively to various Liverpool & Manchester based theatre companies including Contact and 20 Stories High. Izzy’s play 'You Are My Sunshine' was selected to be a part of Unity Theatre’s Up Next 2022 Spring programme.
The Sweet Shop Lament by Saskia Pay: The Sweet Shop Lament is a daring and humorous monologue exploring the intricacies of sexuality and erotic fantasies in an unexpectedly poetic way - offering a unique, unfiltered insight into the mind of a complex individual. Pay is an actor and writer originally from South Wales who is now based in Manchester since graduating from LIPA with a BA in Acting. Her writing credits include a rap series for BBC Bitesize, sketches for BBC Sesh and music for All Things Considered.
Shrink/Grow by Connor Cooper: Shrink/Grow is a compassionate and insightful play that presents an intimate exploration of a first date between an able-bodied person and a person with a disability. Through a sequence of dialogues and monologues, it illustrates the internal struggles, external obstacles and societal perceptions that affect people with disabilities - particularly in the context of dating and relationships. Cooper is a writer and theatre reviewer based in Salford, Greater Manchester.
A Second Chance by Roo Pilkington: A Second Chance is an engaging play that explores themes of identity, societal expectations, self-acceptance, and the pursuit of happiness. It focuses on the life of Estelle, a sex-worker who finds herself faced with a new, unexpected client, who seeks to explore her hidden sexuality. It's a profound reminder that second chances do exist, regardless of age or circumstances. Pilkington is an actor and poet based in Bury who describes themselves “as camp as an ice skater's best friend”.
The Right One by Luke Elliott: The Right One is an emotional journey that offers a deep and often overlooked perspective on asexuality. It challenges the concept of 'normalcy' and societal expectations around romantic relationships and sexuality. The play also emphasises the importance of self-acceptance and the support of friends when grappling with identity. Elliott is a British-Jamaican actor and writer from Birmingham. He co-wrote and performed in Buried History (The Play House) in 2017. His children's picture book Lines, Lines, Lines! (Formy Books) was published in 2021. He has written theatre reviews for Media Diversified and The Understudy. His short story
Don’t Go Under the Coconut Tree was published by PREE Lit earlier this year.
2545 by Rian Craske: 2454 is a compelling one-man show that portrays the struggle and resilience of a young trans man navigating his journey towards self-actualisation. The play is a poignant exploration of the human cost behind numbers, resonating with themes of self-identity, sacrifice, resilience, and hope. Craske is a writer and performer based in York where he graduated with an MA in Playwriting. He has produced, written and acted in work for multiple student theatre companies as an undergraduate including producing 2021 Best Musical at Edinburgh Fringe, On Your Bike, and performing as drag act Grant Favours.
From Kray to Crone by Lel Meleyal: From Kray to Crone is a poignant monologue reflecting on the changing times and spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. It captures the journey of a seasoned lesbian from an era of fighting for survival and visibility, to the seemingly ungrateful ease with which the younger generation takes up the space once fought for. Meleyal is a self-confessed “63-year-old, working class, disabled, lesbian”. All are important aspects of her identity and writing. Her first novel ‘Everyday Wendy’ was published in 2022. She lives in Scarborough with her wife and pup.
As well as seeing their work performed on stage by a professional cast and creative team for OutStageUs 2023 - following a bespoke development process - the successful 10 writers will also be paid a fee of £350.
All 10 winning entries from this year’s OUTSTAGEUS will be performed on Friday 14 and Saturday 15 July at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre at 8pm.
The Lowry Quays Theatre, Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ 8pm
Tickets are now on sale: https://thelowry.com/whats-on/outstageus/
Top Row from Left to Right Luke ElliotmRoo Pilkington Mitesh Soni Connor Cooper Rav Bansal
Bottom Row from Left to Right Saskia Pay Izzy Campbell Rian Craske Lel Meleyal KT Miles
OutStageUs is an annual event that showcases the best of LGBTQ+ theatre from around the country. Based in Greater Manchester, OutStageUs provides a platform for queer voices and stories, offering audiences a diverse range of stories that tackle important social and political issues. The project has an open submission process from which up to 10 scripts will be developed and staged professionally. Each year the project employs over 30 established and emerging LGBTQ+ artists. OutStageUs has quickly established itself as a vital and exciting part of the queer theatre scene, celebrating queer voices and promoting LGBTQ+ visibility and acceptance.
Hive North is a Greater Manchester-based theatre company founded in 2004 as Hope Theatre Company. They produce original work that empowers audiences, with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community. Hive North has a strong history of collaborating with emerging LGBTQ+ artists and encouraging their professional development. They tour productions to schools, festivals, and theatres across the UK and internationally, including Edinburgh Fringe and Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival. Hive North has a reputation for producing challenging and thought-provoking theatre, including the UK premiere of The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, part of a global event broadcast live from New York.