Bringing rent parties from 1920s Harlem to Medway! Rent parties were held in 1920s New York when African Americans faced disproportionately high rents. They threw wild jazz parties for paying guests to make up the money before the rent collector came round.
Lyrici Arts and British choreographer Darren Pritchard are creating a digital theatrical show in Medway this summer! Featuring talent from Medway, and inspired by the style of rent parties, the co-created show will highlight local voices, hidden stories and fierce talent.
Rent Party is a show made with, by, and for the local community with world-class artist Darren Pritchard (Rent Party, Mother of the House of Flava, House of Ghetto). Each partner is re-imagining Darren’s unanimously critically acclaimed hit show with a local cast throughout 2021; passing the mic around the working class communities themselves and platforming the incredible talents of professional, often unheard artists in their local areas.
Each Rent Party production showcases the voices, lives and skills of artists from each of these places, some of whom have never performed in a traditional theatre setting. In a mighty retort to Arts Council England’s reports that these have long been areas with low arts engagement, these highly skilled performers from each town make up the 21-strong national cast. Telling their own stories of who they are and what their community has faced, they create an authentic, captivating and dazzling map of their lives through devised performances across styles such as Hip-Hop & Trap music, fire dancing, spoken word, ventriloquism and opera. Weaving a vibrant tapestry of humanity, the shows are shaped by the unique experiences and talents of each cast, who give a distinct shape to the challenges and triumphs of their communities and their lives.
The tour began in June with a digital screening by the Medway cast. It continued with in-person performances by the Peterborough cast (Jumped Up Theatre) on 1 & 2 July, followed by further digital screenings of the Medway cast on 8 & 22 July 2021. The Wigan cast (The Old Courts) will perform on 29-30 October. Dates and venue for the East Cardiff (Common Wealth) performances to be announced.
“Rent Party Medway places true experiences at the heart of the show and portrays the essence of human strength to overcome adversity and celebrate all that connects us. Using Lyrici Arts’ passion for lyrical theatre, this remixed and reimagined digital version is told through a spectrum of monologues, songs, dance, visual arts and spoken word. We’re so proud to be able to showcase the wealth of Medway’s local talent.”
Keely Augustus, Artistic Director of Lyrici Arts (Medway)
This show is part of The Moving Roots Touring Network.
Darren is a performer, choreographer, teacher, producer and director. He’s also a celebrated Vogue performer and the Mother of the House of Ghetto in Manchester.
Darren has 20 years of experience in the fashion, theatre, television and performing arts industries.
In addition to his leadership in the infamous House of Ghetto and pioneering efforts in Black Pride MCR, Darren is also the co-artistic director for the Manchester-based arts organisation Black Gold Arts.
He is Fierce.
“These are issues being raised by marginalised communities a hundred years ago – as well as the racism, we also see that the power structures have not changed – class and wealth are ruling Britain today. There is poverty and deprivation, people can’t afford to pay their rent and bills. The world of theatre is not yet as diverse as it claims to be. Power and privilege remain at the top, with working class, freelance artists doing what we have to do to survive.”
“Rent Party is an opportunity for artists to make work in their own voices. We don’t have a building, but we’re four communities delivering four fabulous shows – in the middle of a pandemic. I was interested in exploring what it means to translate Rent Party for these areas, and see what stories can be found. These are 5* shows with people and voices onstage that you don’t see normally. It’s unscripted, these artists are bringing themselves. They want to be heard, to share their stories and deal with current issues. They’ve taught me that we all go through struggle in our lives. These productions are a true testament to the human spirit, to untapped talent – give people a platform and they shine.”
Darren Pritchard, Lead Artist and Director