MaD Theatre Company will be performing at our 25th Birthday on 20th February, sponsored by Metronet UK.

The theatre company, which performs across Greater Manchester will be performing a scene from their latest production – Gin and Chronic Arthritis.

We had a chat with Rob Lees, one of the founders to see what they’re all about…

FM: Who are MaD Theatre Company?  

MaD: “MaD Theatre Company was founded and is run by Rob Lees and Jill Hughes, since 2006 Rob and Jill have written over 40 plays and have directed and performed them in theatres around the North West.  We facilitate approx. 200 people per week in our workshops and they are all members of MaD.”

FM: When did you first apply to us for a grant? 

MaD: “I think the first time was in 2008, where we secured a grant to facilitate a number of workshops in schools in Rochdale. Through this project we met a number of young people, many who are still with us today.  A Large number of these have gone to college to study Performing Arts and two of them are at university.”

FM: What were your thoughts when you were invited to perform at our 25th Birthday? 

MaD: “We were really excited for a number of reasons. Firstly because of the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Midland Hotel, although we have performed at nice venues before, such as the Library and Stockport Plaza, we are used to playing at pubs and social clubs and using the cleaners cupboard as a dressing room!  So to perform in front 350 well dressed movers and shakers, eating fancy three course meals is a welcome change. We are going to perform the first scene from our play ‘Gin and Chronic Arthritis’, out of the cast members three are young people from North Manchester, one of them Mea, 13, from Blackley said ‘I can’t believe I’m performing in front of people that have paid £85 a ticket, I only paid £80 to see Beyonce, I’m proper made up!’.”

FM: What do you guys like about Forever Manchester?

MaD: “It might sound obvious, but we like the fact that you are very pro Manchester, as we have found that a lot of funders and promoters for arts organisations tend to look beyond local companies when promoting Manchester. We feel Forever Manchester celebrates Mancunians and promotes and gives a platform to groups like us.”

FM: What’s the inspiration behind Gin and Chronic Arthritis? 

MaD: “‘Gin and Chronic Arthritis’ is set in contemporary Manchester but its inspiration goes back to 50s and 60s ‘Kitchen Sink’ drama, like ‘A taste of Honey’, ‘Billy Liar’ and a ‘Kind of Loving’ etc. where they use  regional accents and settings.  Its our aim to showcase working class actors of all ages and celebrate working class Mancunian culture.  It also highlights the non traditional family structures which are now common in inner city areas, in particular the Matriarchal household, which are very common in North Manchester.”

FM: What’s MaD’s best achievement to date? 

MaD “We’ve had a number of achievements over the years, for example last year we performed to over 1,000 people at Stockport Plaza with our play ‘They’ve just Nipped out for Fags’.  We’ve seen a large number of our young people progress to further and higher education and secure good employment opportunities. We have been featured on Channel 4’s ‘Secret Millionaire’.  But our greatest achievement was with our play ‘Angels with Manky Faces’ in 2009, which sold out numerous performances at Manchester’s Library and Dance House Theatre and the Unity in Liverpool. It was based on the book ‘Gangs of Manchester’ by Dr. Andrew Davies, and told the story of Victorian Manchester’s Scutllers. The production was a multi-media extravaganza featuring numerous Mancunian personalities and institutions including Clint Boon, Graeme Hawley, Mike Joyce, Terry Christian, Twisted Wheel, John Henshaw, Martin Coogan, Phil Beckitt, the Naughtys and FC United. It was a great experience for the 20 young people in production to work with such legends of Manchester, plus we were invited to Oxford and Cambridge universities to give lectures on how we turned a factual book into a real life piece of history.”

FM: How did MaD Theatre Company come about? 

MaD: “MaD began its early life as part of an extra curricular activity at Moston College. It soon became apparent that North Manchester had little or no arts activity, so we decided to create a platform for the creative talents of local people. We also realised that North Manchester had a unique swagger and edge, and there were no opportunities to celebrate this, so we began writing plays that highlighted and celebrated these traits, in central Manchester venues.”

FM: What are MaD’s goals for the future? 

MaD: “MaD’s goals for the future is to be recognised as one of Manchester’s innovative organisations.  Not dissimilar to Morrissey and the Suffragettes.”

FM: What are you hoping to get from the night on 20th Feb? 

“First of all, we are looking forward to a good feed and of course performing the first scene of ‘Gin and Chronic Arthritis’.  We are hoping that the audience enjoy our performance that much that they want to see the rest of the play at The Met, Bury on 24th and 25th June.”

FM: What’re your plans for the rest of the year? 

“We are planning to tour around schools with a play we have written called ‘Blacks Eyes and Cottage Pie’ in partnership with Women’s Aid, Salford and Essential Safeguarding that addresses issues around teenage safe and healthy relationships.  And on a lighter note, we hopefully will be starting our first national tour of a comedy called ‘It takes three to Tango!’ about a ballroom loving mother and daughter who both fall in love with the same fella!  Launching at Stockport Plaza this autumn.”

Don’t miss MaD Theatre’s performance at our 25th birthday. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.