Introducing Manic Chord and their Testeronomic Theatre

Mar 7, 2013 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Archive, Events, What's On

Introducing Manic Chord and their Testeronomic Theatre


Hard to know what they’re up to sometimes … what with the Thai massage, the yoga mats, the loud whistling, the sharpie sketches of brains and test tubes … sarongs … shorts over the thermals … the endless pots of coffee, and man-sized soup portions … and now they got blackboards and couple of gorgeous blondes!

Well, it’s Manic Chord Theatre – “high octane energy” – aka the Three Lad Theatre, and they have moved into the Joiners Bar here at Temple.Works.Leeds to build a company and build a show to take on tour. Having graduated in Theatre and Performance at Leeds University in 2012, aged 21-23, they already have an impressive series of performances and workshops under their belts including WYPH’s Furnace, NEWK with Skeleton Project, and workshops at GCSE Level in Wakefield.

“It was mainly girls on our course” they said. “It’s just not seen as a proper subject by most lads”.  They got along so well together from the start of the course that they decided this was their mission: to stick together in Leeds, and to build a lad’s company together. “We don’t go home at the end of the day and lock the door. We do as much as possible together – it’s our passion, not a job. “

So what is it they do? It’s three-man ensemble theatre. They take turns at being director. “It’s testeronomic” says Dave.  It now also involves others – their new production assistant Hattie Callery, their designers Helen Russell-Brown and Stuart Mellor.  Their inspirations include the  visual and devised corporeal theatre, England’s  Complicité; Parisian collectivist stage ensemble Theâtre Du Soleil;  Leeds own absurd comedic Uncanny Theatre, and West Yorkshires’ autobiographical physical performers  Skeleton Project  (TWL performers); and finally London’s famously outrageous  subterranean curatorial collective Shunt (many of whom helped shape Temple.Works.Leeds’ own performance programme and business model).

Manic Chord’s current show “After What Comes before” (still in research stage for further development) is being pilot performed March 14 and 15 at TWL and is based on three scientists …  in a lab. I cannot say more, as it is top secret.  It will be a surge of Manic Chord energy, physicality, storytelling and word play.


If ever there was a natural threesome, this is it: three very different characters as will be evident in their performances:  wittily charming Northeasterner Dave Cartwright, broodingly handsome Heathcliff Sam Berrill, and manly Alex Monk, everyone’s choice for Head Boy. As doyenne of TWL, I have all the pleasure of bursting in on them at possibly inopportune moments to show guests the venue, and I can honestly say they have never looked  like they are having anything but hard- working fun.“So why are you at TWL”? I asked them. They answered “TWL is a lab itself. It’s haphazard, it’s organic, it has a critical urban position, and it’s a developing project itself.  It’s in Leeds, and we wanted to stay on in Leeds when we graduated – we love it – and we wanted to produce where others also are building projects.  That’s TWL. It has space for us to build our work, we just fit in. “

Having started at TWL officially as interns in September 2012, they became residents within weeks as it was clear they they had serious plans for their work and future.  I have seldom seen any group so very focused, well organised and full of sheer, infectious delight. At TWL we decided to support them on a little-used barter arrangement to help them on their way – they get to use the 3,000 sq ft. Joiners Bar daily as their base when not used for events, and in return they clean, concierge, tour, shift furniture, help with access and security, and deal with those little emergencies that occur at TWL when I am not on site. Like maddened techs, mysteriously unlocked doors, and hauling 20 times their body weight of model railway layouts up the terrifying external metal staircase while singing snatches from Les Mis.

Is this theatre? Yes. It’s the building of a company who as they say “work together, eat together, socialise together, make stories together, and haul model railways together”.

Susan Williamson

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • […] night I was at a Manic Chord performance at Temple Works. I’m not sure if I’d call myself “audience” for this one. True, I was perched on a chair […]

  • […] pay to see exaggerated versions of Samm, David and Al in a variety of different contexts. They were recently described by Susan Williamson at as ‘wittily charming Northeasterner Dave Cartwright, broodingly […]

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