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Review: Robin/Red/Breast at Factory International is ‘a powerful and immersive production that gets inside your head’

Robin/Red/Breast soared into Factory International, where Maxine Peake’s outstanding performance in this boundary-pushing adaptation of the 70's folk horror film captivated the audience

An adaptation of the 70’s folk horror film, Robin/Red/Breast has flown into the Factory International studios and is pushing the boundaries of theatre.

The world premiere of Robin/Red/Breast, starring Maxine Peake, was hosted by Factory International’s Aviva Studios on Friday.

ROBIN/RED/BREAST at Factory International

A scene from Robin Red Breast by Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom, Imogen Knight, Daisy Johnson and Gazelle Twin @ Aviva Studios
©Tristram Kenton 05-24

Adapted from the folk horror TV film Robin RedBreast, written by John Griffith Bowen, Robin/Red/Breast has been created by a powerful female co-creator trio; Director Sarah Francom, Actress Maxine Peake, and Movement Director Imogen Knight.

The three women are long-term collaborators with Manchester International Festival and Factory International and are co-founders of MAAT, Music, Art, Activism and Theatre.

Starring Maxine Peake as Nora

Starring Maxine Peake as Nora, the award-winning actress is known for her roles in the BBC drama Three Girls and Netflix’s Black Mirror: Metalhead.

Her portrayal of Nora, a writer who has moved to a small cottage in the countryside, in this immersive theatre production is outstanding.

Often alone on stage, she never lets the room feel empty, she fills the space with her character, her emotions almost bursting out of her skin.

Without audibly speaking, you know how she is feeling, what she is trying to tell you and how you should feel. She is the perfect actress for the gritty psychological storytelling in this show.

Factory International pushing the limits and boundaries of theatre

©Tristram Kenton

Being a very new venue, Aviva Studios and Factory International have been able to push the limits and boundaries of traditional theatre spaces.

Before you enter the space, you’re greeted by the lovely Factory International staff handing out headphones, something I haven’t seen in a theatre before!

A little dubious about them, I popped them on as people took their seats and you’re given helpful instructions and information about what you’re about to see on stage and when to remove them.

Once the show starts, you immediately understand the effectiveness of using sound through headphones.

A play that gets inside your head

You’re in Nora’s head and she’s in yours. Her inner monologue is channelled straight to you, while Maxine acts out her daily activities on stage in silence, talking to herself and you without uttering a word.

Maxine is speaking to the silent audience, but looking past them, not looking for an answer or an explanation, she knows she’ll never get it anyway.

Even while dancing with her silent co-star, Tyler Cameron, as if they’re the only people in the room, she gives the feeling she knows she’s being watched.

The overall staging for this production is so simple but incredibly moving and certainly out of the box.

The cottage where Nora lives is made of bare wooden beams, an empty shell of a house in the centre of the space that you can see through from all angles.

The audience sits around the edge of the hexagonal stage, some on the floor, and the back seats are at eye level with the performers.

Naked bulbs hang from the rafters, casting eery shadows onto the back walls of the studio. The raised platform where the actors stand is covered in earth, real soil, bark and dirt.

And it wouldn’t be Manchester without a little rain… indoors!

The technology and structure inside the space enable moments where you are fully immersed in the production, it’s tangible.

A whirlwind experience of storytelling revolving around the female experience of motherhood, childbirth, psychosis and loneliness, Robin/Red/Breast challenges the audience at every turn.

Tickets for Robin/Red/Breast at Factory International

This fully immersive theatre experience is one not to be missed. Robin/Red/Breast is on at Factory International’s Aviva Studios until the 26th of May.

You can get tickets by clicking here

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