Cheryl Martin is a unique voice in today’s theatre, both in her own performances and in the work she makes with others as a director. In both kinds of work, she examines experiences that most people are afraid to talk about, but approaches them with a humour, warmth, and raw honesty that draws audiences in and allows them to explore with her, fearlessly. Whether directing a writer like Alan Bissett in unearthing Scotland’s uneasy colonial history, or performing in her one-person show to unearth a personal history of hospitalisation and mental illness, she brings a lightness and wealth of imagery to create worlds audiences love to dwell in.
That relationship with the audience is always key, creating a bond, creating trust, carrying them with you into a world they may think they fear to enter. In many immersive shows created with refugees, she invites the audience to live, for a short time, what other people’s lives feel like. With the joy and the wonder and the beauty that entails, as well as the harsh edges.
Cheryl was Guest Curator for Liverpool’s Homotopia 2018, the UK’s largest LGBTQ+ festival. A Co-Artistic Director of Manchester’s Black Gold Arts Festival, Cheryl’s worked as a poet, playwright and director, and was a former Associate Director, New Writing/New Work at Contact and Director-in-Residence at Edinburgh’s Traverse.
Her new solo show One Woman, R&D-commissioned by Made at HOME, has just won an Unlimited Wellcome Collection Partnership Award main commission. It’s planned to premiere at Manchester’s HOME in Spring 2020 and tour nationally, including the Unlimitd Festival at the Southbank Centre.
Cheryl’s Homotopia-commissioned show Rent Party, co-written with Darren Pritchard, was Sheffield Crucible’s 2017 alternative Christmas show, four 5-star reviews inc. The Stage, Gay Times, & Gay UK, still touring nationally this Spring 2019. Plus Cheryl was commissioned by Contact to write a new work on HIV, I Am Because We Are, which toured October 2018, and will return in 2020 for a national and international tour.
Cheryl’s first solo stage show Alaska featured twice at Contact’s Flying Solo Festival before a national tour including 2016’s A Nation’s Theatre and still touring, including the 2019 Summerhall Edinburgh Fringe.
A Manchester Evening News Theatre Award winner as both writer [musical Heart and Soul, Oldham Coliseum Theatre] and director [Iron by Rona Munro, Contact]. She co-produced and directed an Edinburgh Fringe First winner for the Traverse [The World Is Too Much]. Not to mention directing and devising Community Arts Northwest’s demanding immersive refugee shows Another Country [Z-Arts/Decibel], Heart’s Core [Z-arts], and Lloyd’s Regional Award-winning Rule 35 about Yarls Wood detention centre [Z-arts]. Commonword /Crocus Books published her first solo collection of poetry, Alaska, [longlisted for the 2015 Polari Prize]. And Cheryl’s second solo show Who Wants To Live Forever? premiered at HOME Manchester’s 2017 PUSH Festival/BGAF 2017 at Contact, and toured nationally.
Cheryl -- a longer and a bit older version
I’m a theatre director and writer, as well as a poet and jazz singer.
I was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in nearby Maryland, and went to university at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts back home and Emmanuel College,Cambridge in England. I love Manchester, and I’ve lived here for over 25 years.
This will give you an idea of what I’ve been doing since I left uni: it’s a bio I wrote for Manchester grass-roots publisher Commonword’s birthday a few years ago.
A member of Commonword’s Identity creative writing workshops in the late 1980’s, Cheryl first performed her poetry with other Identity members at the Old Steam Brewery, Oxford Road, and she’s proud to have served on its board and as its Chair for a few years in the 90s.
She has gone on to become Artistic Director of Running to Paradise, which had a sell-out hit at the inaugural Manchester International Festival with the UK première of US-Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Suzan-Lori Parks’ VENUS for PANDA. In 2011, she directed sell-out immersive hit with Another Country for Community Arts Northwest [CAN]. She served as Children’s Director for Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre’s 5-star MEN Awards Best Production of A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.
As Director-in-Residence at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre, she directed the first production of The Ching Room by Alan Bissett [Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland-nominated, brought to the Royal Exchange Theatre Studio Oct. 2010]. She also co-directed and co-produced the Traverse’s The World Is Too Much breakfast plays [Edinburgh Fringe First 2009], directing Heaven by Simon Stephens and Posthuman Satire Slash Romance by Chris Hannan for the series.
She’s been Associate Director New Writing/New Work at Contact, won an Manchester Evening News [MEN] Award for Best Studio Production directing Rona Munro’s IRON, and won another MEN Theatre Award for writing community play Heart And Soul for Oldham Coliseum Theatre. Cheryl was Artist-in-Residence as a poet for the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, published her poetry and had over twenty stage and radio productions as a writer.
In 2011 she directed an outdoor immersive extravaganza, A Game of Consequences, with Contact Young Actors’ Company as part of x.trax festival, while in 2012 she directed and wrote an updated version of Aristophanes’ Birds for new disabled theatre THE UNUSUAL STAGE SCHOOL as part of WHOSE FLAME IS IT ANYWAY? in the Cultural Olympiad run-up to the Paralympics.
Cheryl has worked with refugees and asylum seekers with Community Arts Northwest [CAN] since directing Another Country, [Decibel 2011], and CAN won a 2015 Lloyd’s Bank regional award for the immersive play she directed, Rule 35 [devised with refugee detainees from Yarls Wood]. She was longlisted for the 2015 Polari Book Prize for her collection of poems, Alaska [Crocus/Commonword].
Her one-woman show Alaska was part of A Nation’s Theatre Festival at The Albany in London in 2016, as well as appearing a second year in Contact’s Flying Solo Festival and her first visit to the Plymouth Fringe Festival. She featured as a panellist at The Southbank Centre’s 2016 Changing Minds Festival. And since 2015, with Darren Pritchard, Cheryl’s served as Co-Artistic Director of Black Gold Arts Festival, Manchester’s newest must-see event.