Interview: Ransack Theatre

Ransack is a new theatre company initially conceived in 2010 and formerly known as Bracket Theatre. Recent University of Manchester graduates Alastair Michael, Piers Black-Hawkins, Claire O’Neill, Verity Mullan Wilkinson and Emma Colledge make up the five member collective who in the past three years, have worked together producing and directing new and other writing, and have decided to take their work beyond university and into the professional theatrical arena.

Ransack’s journey started with Solve,  a piece of new writing by Black-Hawkins which was part of the University of Manchester Drama Society’s Autumn Showcase which was subsequently taken to the  Edinburgh Fringe. Their 65 seat venue was sold out every night and their performances achieved 5 star reviews; even more impressive was that the group made money back from their show which is practically unheard of for a student production. According to Ransack’s Alastair and Piers, this was the catalyst for them to take the theatre company and develop it outside of university and beyond.

After an arduous re-branding, with a logo designed by Will Jenkinson, Ransack is taking great steps into becoming a fully-fledged company, using theatre to ask questions and address today’s issues, as well as being a proactive part of Manchester’s recent cultural explosion. Check them out at their new website, , on their Facebook page,  and on Twitter

How is Ransack being funded?

We paid for Edinburgh with a fundraiser, private donations, and then the cast put their own money into it: this is the sort of model we’re using at the moment.  We’re learning about Arts Council funding as we go along really. The first play we’re doing doesn’t need much: we have a free space in the Lass O’ Gowrie pub just off Oxford Road, we have lighting and staging, and plenty of friends who want to be involved. What we do need to pay for is rehearsal space, which we’re finding we can pretty much fund ourselves. We’re also meeting with a guy called Pete from a company called, somewhereto_ ( which is a Lottery funded organisation set up in the wake of the 2012 Olympics’ legacy programme which helps young people involved in the arts, culture and sport to buy spaces.

What is the ethos behind Ransack?

We have a big focus on new writing but we’re not solely dedicated to that. We’re young and we have things to say about what’s going on in the moment now, giving a voice to that. We really want Ransack to produce stories and work that will speak to everyone. We don’t have a big budget, and it’s not about the spectacle for us; we want to make Ransack a bare bones company all about the stories, the writing and the raw performance.

Ransack is based in Manchester, is it going to stay there or are you going to plan a move?

It was a big thing for all of us, we really wanted to stay in Manchester. The obvious place to go is London, but it’s probably the worst thing you can do as an emerging theatre company because you can end up being a tiny fish in a giant pool. Living in London is so expensive as well: here we can work full time jobs and then have time to work on Ransack too. We know Manchester well because we’ve been here for years and culturally; it’s on the up, and not just in a competitive way. The city’s so supportive and nurtures emerging artistic and cultural collectives and there are so many opportunities to do more exciting and thorough work here.

Look out for Ransack on the 3rd, 4th and 5th December 2013 when they are putting on performances at the Lass O’ Gowrie in a night of new writing, ingeniously dubbed ‘Write Night’, for which they are currently holding auditions. Alastair told me: ‘we don’t want people to just come and see the show; we want people to engage with the show, we want people to be provoked to talk to each other about it and talk to us about it. So the event is as much a social event as it is a theatrical one’. The group are also looking forward to getting involved with the Manchester Fringe Festival and 24/7 Theatre Festival in 2014.