Mercury Theatre, led by Executive Director, Steve Mannix and Executive Producer, Tracey Childs, today announced the final part of the first season back in the refurbished building – with the unveiling of a dedicated Studio season of 12 productions. Following the venue’s £11.3 million transformation to reimagine the theatre’s spaces, and public reopening in June, the Studio season completes the programme line-up of the theatre’s first full season back in the building since early 2019.

The Studio season complements the previously announced Mercury Originals, a programme of ground-breaking new plays, showcasing the voices of local writers. The first production is a world première of Sirens by award-winning playwright, Kenny Emson.

With a focus on revitalising the Studio space, the programme has been curated by Dilek Latif, Talent Development Producer at the Mercury, to highlight a variety of local and national work.

Dilek said; “There has never been a more vital time to share work that, whilst complements our theatre season, delivers a programme that promises to be bold original and utterly captivating from some of the brightest and best local East-based talent and visiting work from around the country.

“The addition of this exciting Studio season enables us to cater for the wide range of audiences that live in Colchester and across the region – alongside those seeking compelling theatre experiences nationally.”

Creative Director, Ryan McBryde, today said, “Growing the Studio season is a core element of our ambitions at the Mercury. We have sought to bring together a body of work locally, and from across the country, that will delight audiences from Colchester and beyond; celebrating the vibrancy of the UK theatre scene. We have programmed work with an emphasis on connection which is always at heart of everything we do at the Mercury ‘

Opening the Studio season on 14 September is My Night with Reg, the award-winning comedy from Turbine Theatre in a dazzling new revival this summer, directed by Matt Ryan. Set in 1985 on the precipice of the mounting AIDS crisis, the play won the 1995 Olivier Award for Best Comedy after its transfer from the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs to the West End’s Criterion Theatre in its original run.

First Time, conceived, written and performed by theatre-maker and HIV activist Nathaniel Hall (It’s A Sin), smashes through the stigma of HIV and took the Edinburgh Fringe by storm in 2019. The show accompanies Nathaniel’s continued activism to break down the stigma associated with the disease through talks, participatory projects, education and outreach. Everything in First Time is true. Based on Nathaniel’s own story of contracting the virus from his first sexual encounter aged just 16.

The NHS and resonant themes of sacrifice and change feature in The Nobodies, from Chalk Line Theatre Company, too: When a local hospital announces its closure, panic ensues. Healthcare Assistant Rhea is forced to look for work elsewhere. Local lad Aaron worries about his mum’s treatment in the cancer unit. And Curtis just isn’t sure where he’s going to sleep. A dangerous decision triggers a wild chain of events, inspiring a cohort of vigilante activists. What does it take to enact real change?

Created in collaboration with the Mercury Theatre and the North East London Foundation Trust, Theatre Témoin present NHS Yarns; created by a diverse team of professional playwrights and key workers, who have collaborated to imagine new ways of sharing the most vivid and important stories from the front lines of the pandemic. Theatre Témoin is an award-winning Colchester physical theatre company with a fantastical aesthetic and socially engaged ethos and the Sunday Times described their previous production, The Fantasist, as “Achingly beautiful…incredible stage work that will blow you away.”

Essex-based Charmaine presents Power; exciting new circus-theatre work using the physical strength of circus skills to reveal the emotional strength in the stories she uncovers. Expect a mix of mix of storytelling, circus, comedy, and a voice over soundtrack of people revealing their strength and struggle in their own words.

Regional neighbours Eastern Angles are presenting My White Skoda Octavia, a heartfelt story of family life told with truth, humour and tabla rhythm, written by Shamser Sinha and directed by Sameena Hussain. This moving new play has been inspired by conversations with residents in Peterborough and Ipswich and shines a light on the struggles of contemporary life as one family juggles bills, dreams and taxi-driving schemes.

Adapted from real-life testimonies, award-winning theatre company LUNG examines the impact of austerity, our failing social care system and what happens when a child becomes the parent in Who Cares? -raising awareness of the pressures on Young Carers and their lives.

The first one-person show to be performed in the UK Houses of Parliament, Marlon Solomon’s Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale is a piece of documentary theatre which tells the often bizarre and sometimes terrifying story of Marlon’s year-long journey through the conspiracy underworld after he found out that some people he knew didn’t believe the Holocaust happened.

Dan and Boff decided to run a series of routes from the city in which they found themselves to the peak overlooking the city. In story and in song, These Hills Are Ours is the story of what they found by escaping it all by running to wild places, with Daniel Bye and Boff Whalley (Chumbawumba) in their first piece of theatre together.

Other highlights of the Mercury Studio season include burlesque with an old-fashioned glittering line-up of showgirls, circus, drag and comedy, all wrapped up with a feisty, tongue-in-cheek ribbon from Hundred Watt Club, a theatrical performance combined with floristry in an evening of flowers, feathers and wintry thrills from Mig Kimpton’s Tale of the Golden Goose and Colchester’s Packing Shed are home with Terror in the Old Library. The season concludes with fun for younger children in the seasonal show The Jolly Christmas Postman.

Tickets for the Studio season in the Mercury’s refurbished theatre, go on sale on Tuesday 20 July at 10:30am.

The Mercury is now open Tues – Sun from 10am, with a variety of classes and productions available to book now. Audiences are set to return for the inaugural performance at the theatre, a Mercury Production of BASKERVILLE!, directed by Creative Director, Ryan McBryde, from 30 July.