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REACT was born out of local artists’ desire for collaboration and development of process and craft. We wanted to create a space in which artists would feel safe to let their ideas run wild, exist beyond their comfort zone and potentially fail, all in the name of experimentation.

  • What is REACT?
  • REACT is a paid opportunity for groups of theatre-makers from the Open Exchange network to spend five days at the theatre, creating work in reaction to a provocation. The emphasis is on process rather than outcome and you are encouraged to treat the week as a chance to play, learn from one another and develop the way you make work. There will be opportunity on the Friday to either share a snippet of what you’ve been developing, or just to have a chat about what you’ve explored over the week.

    We are especially interested in artists of different disciplines collaborating to respond to this provocation, and all teams must consist of two or more Network members.

  • The provocation exists to provide a focal point within the artistic chaos of experimentation and exploration.

  • REACT week takes place three times a year, usually in February, April and October.

  • • A fee of £750 per group
    • A rehearsal space for five days at the Exchange
    • A small budget for props/hires




• Application deadline: Monday 17 December 2019, 11am

• Interviews: Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 January 2019. All shortlisted groups will be invited to the Theatre for a discussion.
• REACT Week(s): Monday 4 - Friday 8 February OR Monday 11 - Friday 15 February 2019


How can we make autobiographical work i.e. material that comes from self, that is intimately personal to the artist/artists but is crucially for the audience?

Can this story, generated from personal experience, be a reflection of the audience’s experiences, to provoke them, to move them, making them active and engaged?

How do you keep yourself/selves safe, in a form that often requires vulnerability and honesty?


Performance artist Travis Alabanza presents Burgerz, an exploration of the act of survival, the way a body can dodge objects, and how a person is received, examined and dissected in public.

‘I was called faggot 60 times in public last year. 15 different men tried to follow me home. A woman told her child not to sit next to me on the tube. And I landed in the national papers after being thrown out of a Top Shop Manchester changing room.'

BURGERZ asks the questions: What does the trans body do in order to survive? And how can one become a protector, rather than a bystander?


‘I am that mixed raced kid, like 50/50, on the fence, luke warm, in-between maybe. Trust me, around here I’m about as black as it goes…’ Jazmin feels different. She doesn’t want to stay in the village. She doesn’t want to have a baby. She doesn’t want to laugh at racist jokes in the local pub. She’s got to get out.

A partly autobiographical dark comedy about finding your voice.


Julie knows a lot about funerals and this is a rehearsal. Created for the 2018 Co-lab festival, Ali Wilson performed this piece with her Mum, who is a Celebrant. The material was generated from real life conversations between Mother and Daughter. 


• All teams must consist of two or more Open Exchange members.
• All teams must include at least one pair of artists who have never worked together before.
• Minimal tech support will be provided from the RET (we can provide projectors and some sound support but no laptops/tablets/mobile phones).
• We would like to encourage thinking beyond a one-person proposal.
You should also consider non-naturalistic ways of storytelling, and we encourage collaborations from cross-discipline groups. 


To apply for this opportunity, please fill in this online application form.

Please prepare the following before you start the online application:

• A short proposal (no more than 300 words) about your idea. You don’t need to know the outcome of the idea but tell us what you hope to achieve or discover. The online application form will also allow you to upload the proposal as a PDF or as an unedited video (no longer than 2 minutes in length). 
• A short introduction to your team (no more than 300 words). Who you are and why you want to work together.
• To confirm your availability for either (or both) of the two REACT weeks.

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  • The Provocation
    In October 2018, we invited proposals to explore Cities After Dark.

    Three images of ON THE NIGHT BUS, by acclaimed street photographer Nick Turpin who captured passengers during their twilight commute, were presented as a springboard for ideas.

    Images can be downloded:
    REACT 11 Provocation Images PDF
    REACT 11 Provocation Images DOCX

    The Groups were:
    • Abey Bradbury, Jose Guillermo Puello, Elliya Evans, John Hatziemmanuel
    • Susanna Amato, Anna Reilly, Emily Smith
    • Tarek Slater, Ryan Gilmartin, Hafsah Aneela Bashir
    • Emma Kenny, Mia Vore, Nina Johnston, Hayley Cartwright

    Quotes from Artists

    “Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity to use the RX for a week and work towards a deadline in mind of a provocation. It was super to meet other people, and understand more about a short term project, and ethical boundaries with working with people with needs. Amazing. Amazing. So happy. And incredibly thankful. ” Susanna Amato

    “I just wanted to say I really enjoyed it. It makes me feel closer the the Exchange and it's allowed me to meet a new creative colleague in Hafsah. I've developed my organisational skills and I have been challenged as a writer. It's a very supportive and freeing week and creativity which is really hard to get paid to do and the Exchange make it feel really easy.” Tarek Slater

  • REACT APRIL 2018
  • The Provocation
    In April 2018, we invited proposals to explore Adaptation, Interpretation, Inspiration, Translation.

    There are many different ways to take something old and turn it into something new. In Spring/Summer 2018 season we have five new pieces of work which use another text as a starting point:

    • Frankenstein (adapted from the Mary Shelley novel)
    • Mountains (inspired by the Lisa Tse memoir) 
    • The Cherry Orchard (a new translation of Chekov)
    • Three Sisters (a new interpretation of Chekov)
    • Queens of the Coal Age (adapted from the original radio script)

    What does it mean to take an existing text and reinvent it?
    How can you find modern resonances within historical contexts and use the original work to focus our understanding of the here and now?
    What challenges are you faced with when working across different mediums/forms?

    For this REACT we wanted artists to use a piece of text which is over 150 years old as the starting point to explore adaptation, interpretation, inspiration or translation. The text cannot be a play or performance text. Why does this text need to be retold now?

    The Groups were:
    • Kayleigh Hawkins, Laura Harper, Sophie Giddens, Owen Rafferty
    • Sarah Sayeed, Bridget Fiske, Abdul Saboor

    Quotes from Artists

    “Low or no budgets, high competition and shorter and shorter rehearsal processes are damaging. If we are not careful the lack of paid opportunities to develop within the creative industries will suck the creativity right out of us. REACT made me aware of how much pressure I am always under. Its so important to have moments to become aware of where you are at in your career development and reflect and REACT gave me that opportunity. We also have the beginnings of some exiting ideas which we are looking forward to developing and are excited to apply for Co-Lab.” Kayleigh Hawkins

  • The Provocation
    In February 2018, we invited proposals to explore the notion of Bump in the Night: Horror and Fear in the Theatre.

    Horror is a notoriously difficult genre in theatre. It's hard to induce a sense of psychological fear when sat in a building where we know it has all been rehearsed.

    Whilst a jump scare is easy to create (is anyone else still traumatized from a school trip to Woman in Black?) getting an audience to suspend their disbelief enough to truly feel a sense of creeping dread is much harder.

    Inspired by the upcoming production of FRANKENSTEIN, for this REACT provocation we’d like you to explore theatrical horror.

    How can we create it? Where can we apply it? What are the ethics of scaring an audience? What does a sense of fear allow you to achieve with a narrative?

    Woman in Black
    The Exorcist
    Let the Right One In
    The Twilight Zone
    Ghost Stories

    The Groups were:
    • Ali Michael, Piers Black-Hawkins, Matt Holt, Evelyn Roberts
    • Lydia Cottrell, Michael-Jon Mizra
    • Paul Blinkhorn, Marty Ross, José Guillermo Puello, Sophie Coward, Parisa Nikkhah-eshghi 

    Quotes from Artists

    “It was a fantastic week: an opportunity to explore and fail. So often in this industry, if you are rehearsing it is always under the pressure of success. It was amazing to work independently from that!” Sophie Coward

  • The Provocation
    In December 2017, we invited proposals to explore the notion of Digital Storytelling.

    Artists, companies and makers are pushing the boundaries of theatre to explore how audiences can engage with work remotely. This extends from live streaming and digital capture - like the work of the National Theatre or our own recently televised HAMLET and KING LEAR, through to entirely digital projects such as THE LAST HOURS OF LAURA K by Rachel De-lahay, or the work of Coney, which has people running around London receiving updates on their phone via WhatsApp.

    We’re interested in collaborators who want to explore creating a theatrical experience on pre-existing digital platforms; Instagram, Periscope, Facebook, Facebook Live, Skype, Twitter, SnapChat etc.

    The Groups were:
    • Clare McNulty, Karl Olsen
    • Andrew Duffy, Natalie Amber, Stephanie Riches, Yvette Freeman

    Quotes from Artists

    “REACT was a great opportunity for myself as someone who is looking to branch out into beginning to make theatre instead of just being in other people's pieces. The resource and support is something which would be hard to come by elsewhere in Manchester. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky to have been given the opportunity by the Royal Exchange. Thank you very much.” Stephanie Riches

  • REACT MAY 2017
  • The Provocation
    In May 2017, we invited proposed to explore the Ethics and Practice of Verbatim Theatre.

    The Groups were:
    • Amy Hailwood, Cat Morefield, Elle Pemberton-Steer, Rachel McMurray
    • Courtney Hayles, Paul Lewis, Sophie Tetlow
    • Ali Wilson, James Monaghan

    Quotes from Artists

    “REACT was such a unique and valuable experience for me as an artist. It is so rare for a group of artists to be supported through exploration. Thank you to the Royal Exchange and all staff” Rachel McMurray

    “Overall, it was a brilliant experience and a rare opportunity to be paid to take the time to simply explore, without the pressure of a performance outcome at the end. I would happily recommend it to any developing theatre maker and hope the REACT programme will continue long into the future.” Amy Hailwood

  • The Provocation
    In February 2017, we invited proposals exploring TALKING TO TOMORROW; how to create work about global issues for audiences under 11.

    The Groups were:
    Daniel Wallace, Garth Williams, John Ellis, Ruth Cockburn
    Charlie Hammond, James Varney, Rhiannon 
    Guy Hargreaves, Marjan Wouda & Nicky McRoy

    Quotes from Artists

    “The react week was a beautiful gift; a wonderful adventure. Thank you Royal Exchange!!!” Marjan Wouda

Open Exchange provides a series of development opportunities for emerging artists of all disciplines, rooted in the belief that collaboration creates great art and brilliant theatre doesn't always begin with a script. Sign up here for opportunities.

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