Thursday, 26 May 2016

B!RTH at the Royal Exchange

A creative partnership between The Oglesby Charitable Trust and The Royal Exchange Theatre
Wednesday 19 October – Saturday 22 October
Childbirth is humanity’s universal experience – but why is it still a life-and-death lottery for millions of mothers and babies around the world?  And what does this tell us about the world we are born into? The Royal Exchange Theatre invites us to look through the lens of childbirth to challenge the fundamental inequalities that distort our world.’ 
Mukesh Kapila, CBE, Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs at the University of Manchester and advisor for B!RTH
B!RTH is an international theatre festival developed by the Royal Exchange Theatre and The Oglesby Charitable Trust to provoke debate on a global scale and question one of the key issues of our time: the vast inequality in healthcare across the world. The Royal Exchange has commissioned seven leading female playwrights from across the globe: Brazil, China, India, Kenya, Syria, UK, USA, to explore this issue through their country’s approach to childbirth. Part of Manchester’s year as European City of Science 2016, and supported by leading Global Health Professionals such as Professor Mukesh Kapila and Professor Dame Tina Lavender, B!RTH is a series of theatrical events and debates that will take place from 19 – 22 October. The project will bring together leading voices from the world of science, art, academia, politics and charities, at the Royal Exchange, the UK’s Regional Theatre of the Year.
Chairman of The Oglesby Charitable Trust and Founder of Bruntwood, Michael Oglesby CBE comments on his vision for the project…‘B!RTH is an innovative collaboration bringing together theatre and science to stimulate a debate on women's health in a global setting. The Oglesby Charitable Trust is proud of its involvement in such an ambitious project in this, Manchester's year as European City of Science. We believe this has the potential to have a very real impact on health inequalities, worldwide.’
Emma Callander, co-founder of the global theatre movement Theatre Uncut, is the Creative Director for B!RTH. She has been working closely with the writers to identify issues around childbirth in their local.
·          Award-winning playwright Marcia Zanelatto will explore the social and geopolitical history of Brazil through the experience of childbirth over 100 years. ‘66% of all births in Brazil are by caesarean section – the highest rate in the world. The World Health Organisation recommends 10%.’ (
·         Xu Nuo is an award-winning playwright from China, she will take the following statement as the starting point for her work ‘For every one woman in China, there are 37 men. Men currently outnumber women by 33 million. It has been calculated that there are 30 million women ‘missing’ from the population’. (
·       In India, exciting new writer Swati Simha will explore the presence of sterilisation camps inspired by the shocking fact that ‘1 in 3 women in India have been sterilised. 1 in 3 of these women were sterilised without their consent.’ (Population Research Institute report 2015)
·       One of Kenya’s leading playwrights Mũmbi Kaigwa will explore the migration of medical professionals from the country and its impact on women – ‘Kenya is twice the size of the UK Kenya has 1 doctor for every 10,000 people. The UK has 27.’ (
·       Liwaa Yazji is a playwright, documentary filmmaker, poet, set designer and translator from Damascus, Syria who will explore birth through the migrant experience. ‘13,694 children and 8,823 women have been killed in Syria since the start of the civil war. Six million Syrian children will require some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016. (
·         Multi-award-winning UK playwright Stacey Gregg is exploring whether increasing choice and the perception of control within a capitalist framework is really possible with childbirth. ‘The number of women giving birth over the age of 40 in the UK has doubled in the last 10 years. It is now safer to give birth in Bosnia than in the UK’. (Save The Children)
·         From the USA Kirsten Greenidge is a recent PEN/America Award winner and Obie recipient and will explore the relationship between wealth and healthcare, ‘Despite spending more than twice as much as any other developed country on healthcare, the USA is ranked 61st in the world for maternal health.’ (International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics)
Sarah Frankcom, Royal Exchange Theatre Artistic Director, said...'B!RTH is very exciting - simultaneously we’re commissioning seven international writers to create seven new plays to be seen over four days here at the Exchange. Playwrights are uniquely placed to capture what is happening right now, and quickly and creatively reflect that back, making the plays exceptionally relevant to society today and able to act as a catalyst for debate and change. We are lucky to be able to create this project with a number of inspiring partners including The Oglesby Charitable Trust, the University of Manchester, and to be part of the European City of Science 2016. We believe that when art and science meet on stage the reaction can be incredibly powerful.'
B!RTH marks the development of the relationship between Bruntwood and the Royal Exchange Theatre, which has already seen huge success with the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting.

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