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53two launches first season under a new railway arch

There's a new space, new writing and new beginnings for Manchester's much-loved under-the-arches-based 53two as it launches its first season in its new home.

Fans of the friendly theatre can look forward to new writing, the return of JB Shorts and chances for Greater Manchester talent to share work..

The theatre and arts hub – previously at the old Bauer Millet garage in the arches under the Castlefield tram stop – opened at its new location a few yards away in Watson Street during the pandemic.

In May 2021, part one of its two-phase plan was officially completed and doors opened on its arts hub and ‘pop-up’ 85-seat theatre. Since then, as well as hosting theatre, social events, live music and private parties, the venue has supported several charities and provided a haven for creatives across Greater Manchester.

Now in a new 150-seat theatre, the building is already home to some of Manchester’s finest independent theatre companies and creatives.

The new season opens with Things That Divide Us (September 13-October 1), a new play from Joshua Chandos. The one-act two-hander will be directed by the venue's creative director, Simon Naylor. The piece follows Kitty and David as their unlikely friendship blossoms in the realisation that they might have more in common than they first thought, and bond over a shared passion to fix ever-growing immigration problems. Naylor says: "I was lucky enough to read the play in lockdown and I loved it. It's a beautifully simple piece, with emotional intricacies threaded throughout, all based in the most unlikely setting of the Calais Jungle.

53two's foyer and bar
53two's foyer and bar

"It’s new writing and 53two is absolutely here for that – we're striving to become only the second, solely new-writing venue in the north of England."

The almost-legendary JB Shorts is back (October 11-22), a further helping of six short plays penned by TV writers and knocked into shape by directors and actors from across Greater Manchester. It has always been one of the city's hottest fringe-theatre tickets.

Headlining November with another premiere is Dibby Theatre. The theatre's relationship with this award-winning LGBTQ-led company began in its old home and since then, Dibby has toured the UK, as well as delivering industry-leading talent development and community outreach here in Greater Manchester too. The company returns with a new play by Chris Hoyle; expect northern wit, grit and soul.

53two is also proud to support SWITCH MCR, which started out as a young company providing a curtain-raiser in 53two’s old venue. SWITCH has now grown its own identity and operates as a 53two associate company, receiving support with rehearsal and performance space, mentoring and workshops. This autumn weekend festival celebrating LGBTQIA+ artists will see a SWITCH-penned Halloween Spectacular – two weeks wowing (and scaring!) visitors. Written, directed and created by Andy Long and SWITCH artistic director, Gabriel Clark, it will run October 24-November 4.

Underneath the arches: 53two is both bar, party venue and theatre inside
Underneath the arches: 53two is both bar, party venue and theatre inside

November also sees the return of 53two’s mini-festival, NEWvember, providing a super-reduced rate for writers and actors to share new work. For November, 53two is given over to creatives at a reduced cost to show their work to audiences of public, producers and directors without the pressure of a full production. The venue will have three slots a day. The full programme will be released soon. Enquiries for a slot are open here.

In the run up to Christmas, 53two will welcome two shows. Annie Rogers of SWITCH will leading a team producing a fun-packed family show that will run December 13-22, while to close the year, Imaginality Productions will premiere Realms Of Glory (December 14-22).

Set at Christmas 1940, to a score inspired by wartime music, this new musical will tell the story of Lizzie, a munitions worker caught in the air raids of the Manchester Blitz.

*53two will also display the artwork of deaf artist Glen Palin, showcasing his paintings of Manchester city centre.

More information about 53two here


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