Just over 23 years ago one of the best films of our generations came out The Matrix. The film which came out in 1999 made $467 million worldwide. It won 4 Oscars, 5 Baftas, 11 Saturn Awards and lots of other awards. Not only was it a scif-fiction film, but a film that made you think. Last night I attended the stunning press day and night of ‘Free Your Mind’ at Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, is a landmark a new cultural space for Manchester and the world.
Built with flexibility in mind, the design of the building is led by Ellen van Loon of the world-leading practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The multi-use space can adapt to host any kind of set-up — from intimate theatre shows and intricate exhibitions, to huge multimedia performances and warehouse-scale gigs fit for the greatest artists of our time. Its development is led by Manchester City Council, with backing from HM Government and Arts Council England. To be honest I was very impressed with the space it has a very cool vibe to it, mostly homely, warm and inviting. The space is built on the old Granada Studios land, very nostalgic for me as I used to work there.
The show itself ‘Free Your Mind’ has some world-leading artists. Oscar winning Director Danny Boyle, Es Devlin, Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy, Michael ‘Mikey’ J Asante and Sabrina Mahfoz. It was inspiring to listen to them all at the press junket especially Danny Boyle who I am a huge fan of. It was also lovely to hear that this huge investment for Aviva In the north backed by £99.05 million from HM Government, led by Manchester City Council and £7 million National Lottery Grant and Arts Council England. Its really refreshing and important to invest in the north especially as we have just had the blow back of them not funding HS2 recently. I am so happy the funding has come here especially Manchester YAY!
The show itself is inspired by The Matrix which is a dramatic retelling of the film through dance which travels up to the present day and even into the future, starting from 1948 when Dr Alan Turing joined the University of Manchester which he invented the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE.) Which had dramatically changed our world as it is today. The first of the show in the brand new 1500 capacity new theatre, with very comfortable seats, arm rests and plenty of leg room. They have also invested heavily in the sound and tech in the room, which out giving the story away. Its very immersive and really pulls you into the story. The first half really makes you think about what has happened in the tech industry and how we have evolved from 1949 to 1999. I loved the Alan Turing played by Ian Harris, his faces while he was acting the part were great especially as the real Alan Turing was speaking on a television screen loved this effect.
Interval time and the buzz down stairs was amazing, everyone laughing and enjoying themselves courtesy of Factory Internationals food and drinks hospitality, thank you so much.
The second half we changed location this time we were in a high tech, high spec studio. Its felt like I had walked into the year 3000 giant screens in front of us and a long stage with the audience looking at us from the other side of the stage. The second half time scale began from 1999 to the present day and even mentioned the future. The giant screens lifted in front of us and there were the screens and the main characters from The Matrix, Neo played by Corey Owens and Morpheus played by Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy both powerful and truly excellent dancers. Kenrick’s Chorography was simply outstanding especially his solo performance, I mean wow what a dancer! I didn’t even know the human body could move in that way. I loved the performances from Trinity played by Nicey Belgrave, Neo played by Corey Owens and Agent Smith played by Mikey Ureta all incredible dancers and again Kenrick’s chorography was amazing!
One of the scenes I absolutely loved was the 1950s Housewife scene dance, the dancer was Lauren Stewart! She was dressed like a 1950s girl carrying a bottle of coke, I loved her dancing. When Neo started dancing with her without the influence of technology you could see how happy he was. Makes me think how much happier I used to be without my phone, less stressful and more free. I loved how this whole immersive experience really made you, think, feel and react. Pure genius from director Danny Boyle and his very clever and highly creatively team.
I have only given one 6 star review previously after I have been reviewing for over 7 years and this one gets it. Congratulations for creating a spell bounding, law defining, forwarding thinking, innovative put together by the best in the industry this is definitely NOT to be missed!
Its on at Aviva Studios in Manchester tickets start at £10. I promise it will change your life and thought process. Go and book it now – https://factoryinternational.org/whats-on/free-your-mind/
Its on from now till 5th November 2023
Congratulations cast and creative it was an absolute pleasure to meet you all thankyou for a wonderful day and night. One of the best dance productions I have ever seen, congratulations Factory International and all the young people involved in the production.