Chantal Joffe, Toot Theatre, and Hikikomori at Week 53

The second edition of Week 53, The Lowry’s pioneering, biennial cross arts festival, sees contemporary performance, visual arts, sound and theatre combine in unexpected spaces around the entire venue for its 12 day duration. The programme already announced includes the stage adaption of Nigel Slater’s Toast and Chantal Joffe RA’s first solo exhibition in the North of England, Personal Feeling is the Main Thing.

The theme, Coming of Age, celebrates 18 years since the opening of The Lowry, now the most visited cultural destination in the North West. With a programme of interactive installations, exhibitions and performances, the festival examines a multitude of transitions from the individual to the collective. As artists and audiences explore the rites, rituals and passages of maturation, they will question the conventions of life at various stages and perspectives.


Opening the festival, alongside Chantal Joffe’s exhibition, is the English language premiere of Hikikomori by Joris Mathieu (Thurs 17 May – 7pm, Fri 18 May – 1.30pm & 7pm). French company Haut et Court’s visually arresting fable takes its name from a phrase used to describe the Japanese phenomenon of over half a million reclusive adolescents or young adults who have withdrawn from social life. The production employs an original sound device that provides three different narratives for the same show for different ages through headphones – prompting an intergenerational audience discussion after the show.

Two new commissions for Week 53 will each examine different experiences of young people growing up in institutional environments. In partnership with Oval House, TOOT Theatre’s Sixteen (Fri 25 May – 8pm, Sat 26 May – 3pm & 8pm) takes a mysterious disappearance as the starting point for a narrative which tests the legal agency and granted rights of individuals within the care system.

Then a major off-site, immersive performance, Madhouse by Access All Areas, offers a powerful expression of what it feels like to live with a learning disability today (Thurs 17 May – Sat 26 May, 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm & 8.30pm, except Wed 23, 1.30pm, 2pm, 2.30pm, 7pm, 7.30pm, 8pm & 8.30pm). Inspired by a refusal to be silent, and a history of being ignored, five learning disabled artists take audiences on a wondrous adventure underground as they tear back the walls to their lives, past and present.

Throughout the festival, Teentalitarianism will see teenagers take control in a series of new participatory workshops and performances devised for Week 53 by Canadian company Mammalian Diving Reflex. Working with disadvantaged young people, Dinner with the Boss will sit a respected authority figure down for a family meal, while Ask for the Moon considers the teenagers demands for future collaboration (Fri 18 & Sat 19 May, Mon 21 – Sun 27 May). There will also be an opportunity to experience the company’s celebrated Night Walks with Teenagers (Sun 20 May – 7pm). All three works turn convention on its head to dismantle barriers between individuals of all ages.

Manchester based spoken word artist and music journalist Fat Roland turns 45 in 2018. He’ll mark the occasion with his first full theatrical show, Seven Inch (Thurs 17 & Fri 18 May – 8.30pm), a hilarious and touching comedy about music, loneliness, and music’s digital coming of age, presented on a signature cartoon-style stage set. His proposal was selected from over 154 entries to an open call to become the next Developed With The Lowry commission.


A classic tale of transformation is reimagined by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Michael Keegan-Dolan in Swan Lake / Loch na hEala (Fri 18 & Sat 19 May – 8pm). The award-winning, sell-out show – currently touring the globe with performances from Moscow to Seoul – radically restages the story in the Midlands of Ireland, where ancient mythology and the modern world collide. Dance and powerful imagery combine with storytelling, song and a live music score by Dublin-based band Slow Moving Cloud to create a magical adaptation of one of the most famous ballets.

Joseph Toonga’s highly physical and emotive new dance show about fatherhood, Daughter Daughter will be presented in The Aldridge Studio alongside choreographer Grace Surman’s Performance with Hope (Sat 19 May – 7pm). Inspired by real stories from men and their daughters, Toonga shines a stark and honest light on this profound and transformative experience through his signature abstract hip hop and contemporary style choreography. In Performance with Hope, Grace shares the stage with her 10-year old daughter; as the pair makes decisions together, the audience watch as Grace tries her best to raise a woman in front of their eyes.

Scottish Dance Theatre present Fleur Darkin’s Innocence (Sun 20 May, 1pm & 3.30pm) – A unique playroom performance, Innocence invites little ones (and their adults), to explore William Blake’s imagination and enter a realm of mystery, fun and adventure. Innocence is a magical theatrical journey led by Scottish Dance Theatre’s captivating dancers, with live music, songs, giggles and animal noises by Paul Bradley; a beautiful and engaging dance experience for young ones, their families and friends.

Spoken Word

Chortle Award nominated comedian Kiri Pritchard-Mclean will reflect on her experiences of mentoring vulnerable kids through her latest show, Appropriate Adult (Sun 27 May, 8pm), while Seb Lee-Delisle’s Hacked on Classics (Mon 28 May – 3pm & 7pm) is a celebration of technology from the last 40 years – with added lasers. This spoken word performance come-interactive demo gives a geeky insight into classic 80s retro gadgets that many will recall growing up with, from Nintendo light guns and Casio keyboards to cathode ray tube televisions, before giving them a 21st century upgrade with clever, cutting edge electronics.

Visual Arts

technology studio (Sun 27 May – 8pm). A Italian design and creative

Dökk (‘darkness’ in Icelandic) is the new live-media performance by fuse*, a journey through a sequence of digital landscapes, where the perception of space and time is altered, Dökk’s scenography is designed for delivering a sense of deep awareness and interdependence between the protagonist and the world around her. Real-time data from biometric and movement sensors, worn by the performer and placed on the stage, combines with data inferring the emotional states of social network users to modify the digital and sound landscapes for each performance.

Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry, said: “Week 53 champions bold and experimental art across all genres and represents a period in our calendar when anything is possible. “This year’s festival focusses on ‘the coming of age’ and the multitude of scenarios in which that ‘process’ takes place. It coincides with a milestone for The Lowry – that being the 18th anniversary of our opening – which gives the theme an added significance to our staff and long-standing patrons.”


Week 53 is part of The Lowry’s ambition to host bold and experimental contemporary art that is accessible and engaging to a broad audience. The inaugural festival, exploring our relationship with place under the theme ‘Locus’, saw approximately 10,000 visitors entertained by 200 performers across 63 performances – 33% of which were first time visitors. The Lowry is the most visited cultural destination in the North West

and is increasingly expanding its role as producer and commissioner, cementing its position as a power house for culture.

Some elements of the programme are free of change and those that are ticketed are set-priced at £10 or £20. For all ticketed performances there will be an allocation of ‘pay what you decide’ seats available both in advance and on the door – to encourage audiences to ‘try something new’.

The festival runs until 28 May 2018

For more information visit or follow @The_Lowry on Twitter (#Week53).

Image: ‘Rhizome’ Tom Dekyver copyright@ Valery Bellengier