Menagerie at Cambridge Festival

We’ve had a topsy turvey year, like everyone, but we’ve kept up our collaboration with ‘The Good Death?’ Project, working with Dr Laura Davies from Cambridge University’s English Department.   Following on from the audio monologues of 2020, we premiered the performance of a new play at the 2021 Cambridge Festival.  ‘An Everyday Family Practice‘ is a short play about a family reacting to the news that one of them has a terminal diagnosis.  There are no easy answers in the play – rather it highlights the struggles we all face in talking about this often taboo subject, particularly with the people to whom we are closest.  Follow this link to watch the piece on youtube.  We’d love to hear your responses!

And the partnership with The Good Death? Project continues into Autumn 2021.



An adventure with The Good Death Project

September 2020: Throughout this year, Ideas Stage Director Patrick Morris has been collaborating with Dr Laura Davies of Cambridge University’s Department of English.  Laura is one of the founders of The Good Death Project, which seeks to augment our understanding of dying well by talking openly and positively about death.  As a result of their conversations, Patrick wrote 3 audio monologues from different perspectives – one from a bereaved mother, one from a hospital doctor and the final one from the voice of a famous painting which hangs in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Musuem.   They were recorded (primatively!) and released over the Summer of 2020.  You can listen to them here.

Collaboration with UCL Medical School

October 2019: Spinning off from our project with THIS Institute (see below), we worked with Dr Sophie Park and Dr Ruth Abrams from UCL Medical School to create ‘Is there a Doctor in the House?‘  Their questions revolved around the ongoing changes in Primary Care, particularly the role of GPs within the NHS’s new Long Term Plan.  We had a fabulous forum theatre event at the glorious Bloomsbury Theatre, with over 80 people taking part in a feisty forum theatre debate around current challenges in Primary Care.

Collaboration with THIS Institute

We wound up our 18-month project with THIS Institute in January 2019, with 4 interactive workshops – 2 in London, 1 in Leeds and 1 in Derry.  Partnering up with THIS Institute involved creating a play for their launch in January 2018, which explored the questions and concerns driving their research – particularly highlighting the patient’s voice in healthcare improvement.  An inspirational partnership, involving Point of Care Foundation, McPin Foundation.  Thanks to Helen Gardner and Joann Leeding of THIS Institute for coordinating the project with us, and THIS Institute director, Professor Mary Dixon-Woods for taking the risk with us. 

The Great Austerity Debate on national tour October-November 2018.  

Our forum project, The Great Austerity Debate, toured autumn 2018.  Playing largely to community venues in the East of England, the Midlands and the North-West, it engaged & creatively involved audiences in addressing the human effects of austerity.  

Here’s a ‘behind-the-scenes’ film about our 2016 pilot, including interviews with collaborators Mia Gray and Susan Smith, and on-the-spot reactions of audience members in Cambridge and London.

Web - Audience

“The Great Austerity Debate” at Cambridge Festival of Ideas, October 2016. Photo by Andrew Wilkinson


The Great Austerity Debate gets underway at the 2016 Festival of Ideas.

Our new Ideas Stage project, The Great Austerity Debate, goes out on tour from October 28th to November 4th,opening at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.  It is a forum theatre piece which tackles highly charged questions about the uneven effects of austerity.  Forum theatre relies on interactivity between audience and characters – playful, creative and empowering, it invites audiences to explore potential solutions to the problems that the play throws up.   We’re delighted to be collaborating with 2 researchers from the University of Cambridge’s Geography Department, Prof. Susan Smith and Dr Mia Gray.   Their questions and concerns have inspired the play and they will tour with us. Take a look a the great-austerity-debate-final-eflyer for further details of where we’re taking The Great Austerity Debate.  More about the project here.



New What’s Up Doc? commission for Hotbed 2016 from award-winner Ed Harris

Our What’s Up Doc? commission for this year’s Hotbed Theatre Festival is Chevalier d’Eon by Sony radio drama award-winner Ed Harris.  It’s a collaboration with Dr Joseph Harris of Royal Holloway University of London whose area of expertise is transvestisism and lesbianism in 17th century French Literature.   It’s sure to be an exciting piece and it premieres at Cambridge Junction on Saturday July 9th, for two performances, before heading to Oxford Playhouse for one performance on Saturday July 16th.   Full details of all Hotbed events can be found here. Chevalier_d'Eon

Menagerie in MRC-funded ‘Pictures of You‘ collaboration with CBU at 2016 Science Festival

We are appearing at the 2016 Cambridge Science Festival, in an event organised by the Cognition and Brain Science Unit (CBU) on Friday March 18th.   Craig Baxter’s play, Pictures of You, inspired by research into emotional disorders and mental imagery by Dr Martina di Simplicio and Professor Emily Holmes, will feature.  This is a great follow-on for ‘Pictures‘ which was developed for last year’s Hotbed Festival.   We will show scenes from the play, shaping them around two debates: one on cognitive sciences, and the other on arts/sciences collaborations in the field of mental health. Fuller details, including how to book, here.  The event will run 5 – 7.30pm on Friday 18th March at the CBU 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF.

Menagerie partner with New Writing South for 2016 ‘What’s Up Doc?’ Commissions

Menagerie is teaming up with New Writing South to promote the ‘What’s Up Doc?’ commissions for Hotbed 2016. NWS will host a workshop for writers and researchers on February 22nd 2016 at their base in Brighton.  We will cover all the bases in an informative and inspiring workshop, aimed at writers who wish to experiment and collaborate.  For full details of this workshop click here.  More ‘What’s Up Doc?’ roadshows will be announced early in the new year.  

Ideas Stage at Hotbed 2015.

As part of Hotbed 2015, we presented 3 new pieces for our ‘What’s Up Doc?’ commissions.  ‘What’s Up Doc?’ is a commissioning process which sets up collaborations between playwrights and academic researchers to create 40-60 minute performances for the Hotbed Festival.  We aim to create theatre pieces which engage with the collaborators’ research in order to find the theatrical ‘shape’ of those ideas.  The process is playful, experimental and always unpredictable.
The main commission was ‘Pictures of You’ by Craig Baxter (read more here), in collaboration with the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, working with Dr Martina Di Simplicio and Professor Emily Holmes, whose research explores mental imagery within bipolar disorder.
We presented two other ‘What’s Up Doc?’ commissions at Hotbed 2015:
How to Cheat….And Be a Winner‘ by Grace Knight, in collaboration with Dr Luke Tweedy, a cancer researcher at the Beatson Institute, Glasgow.  The play was drawn from Dr Tweedy’s research into how cells move and make decisions, studying how the complex behaviour of populations emerges from the actions of individual cells. 

Grace Knight Image

Fifteen‘ by Sarah Davies, in collaboration with Professor Philip Davies, University of Kent.  The play explores the world of the number dyslexic, where numbers and sequences and the concept of time are other-worldly, baffling things.  In this case, the collaboration was a little closer to home as they are a father-daughter team and Philip is a numbers expert, with an emeritus post in the university’s Engineering department!  (Both were still on speaking terms at Hotbed…)

Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights!

The documentary video for the Human Rights! Bloody Human Rights! project is available for viewing.  This 2012-14 Ideas Stage project partnered Menagerie’s Patrick Morris with Professor Alan Dignam of QMUL and Amnesty International.  We developed and produced seven human rights engagement events in Ireland and the UK.  The video is a great way to see how a project developed and discover some of the outcomes for Menagerie and our collaborator Alan Dignam.  Read more about the project here.