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Monkeywood’s new play: FLESH



by Sarah McDonald Hughes

Directed by Martin Gibbons

Designed by Lois Maskell

The Studio, Royal Exchange Theatre

St Ann’s Square, Manchester

Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 November 2013

FLESH is a brand new play by Sarah McDonald Hughes based on the real experiences of young parents in Manchester. Produced by Monkeywood Theatre in their first collaboration with the Royal Exchange Theatre, FLESH will première in The Studio from Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 November 2013.  

Shannon and Dylan are 16. They’re in love. And they’re having a baby. FLESH is a love story about growing up set in Wythenshawe, Manchester, following two young people as they become parents for the first time.   

In summer 2012, Monkeywood spent hundreds of hours with young parents from across Manchester, Trafford and Salford, gathering their true stories, opinions and insights. The stories they told were surprising, moving and heart-stoppingly honest. Sarah McDonald Hughes is an acclaimed writer who has previously written for BBC Radio and received two Best New Play nominations at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

Sarah explains why hearing the stories of young parents was so important to the development of the script, ““The project and the resulting play has at its heart untold stories and, given this, It was hugely important to me from the very beginning to meet young parents and hear what they had to say – so that the play was grounded in truth and authenticity, but also because we wanted to make a genuine invitation to young parents to share their stories not only with us but with a wider audience. The response was fantastic and completely overwhelming – all the young parents we met were delighted to talk to us and their stories were moving, funny, devastating – but above all, surprising. It’s important to note, though, that the play I’ve written isn’t verbatim – it is a new story inspired by and drawn from all the many stories we heard.”

Monkeywood are a Manchester-based theatre company that make new plays rooted in their Mancunian community. Much of their work focusses on the experiences of young people, particularly those whose voices are unheard or misrepresented. Increasingly, they make plays with artists and their community, as with FLESH where they met with various groups of young parents. During the development of the script many of the groups attended a script in hand performance of the play at the Royal Exchange Theatre in October 2012.

Tom Cole, from Salford Young Dad’s Project, spoke of their involvement, “We all thought the production was amazing and the content of the play was really true to our experience of young parents and their lives. I thought the production was really powerful and kept on thinking about it over the following few days”.

Monkeywood’s most recent production ONCE IN A HOUSE ON FIRE, developed with The Lowry, was nominated for Best New Play in the 2011 Manchester Theatre Awards and for Best Studio Performance for Sarah McDonald Hughes. In Summer 2012 they were invited by Northern Stage to take ONCE IN A HOUSE ON FIRE to Edinburgh as part of their ‘Made in the North’ programme at St Stephens, where it received 5 star reviews and overwhelmingly positive audience feedback.

The development and tour of FLESH has been funded by Arts Council England through Grants for the Arts. The tour of FLESH has also been funded by The Granada Foundation and continually supported by The Royal Exchange Theatre. The production will open at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, in November 2013, prior to a northern tour which includes CAST, Doncaster; The Dukes, Lancaster; Action Transport Theatre at Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port and Hull Truck Theatre; alongside schools and sixth form colleges.