The Great Hall of the Royal Exchange Theatre was once referred to as The Biggest Room In The World. Able to hold over 15,000 people seated on the ‘floor’ it was the largest place for traders to assemble anywhere in the world. A melee of speech and activity, the space has changed and transformed throughout its history and, within it, voices both heard and unheard have played a huge part in its purpose and success. From the cotton trade to the theatre stage, through visitors, artists, audiences and theatre makers, thousands of voices continue each day to fill the beautiful acoustic space of the building.
The Biggest Room In The World, part of the theatre’s ongoing You, The Audience project, launches with Jason Singh’s Weave: Echo, the first in a series of artist commissions which will animate the stunning architecture of the Great Hall in new and unexpected ways, both for and with visitors.
Amanda Dalton, The Royal Exchange’s Director of Engagement commented “The Biggest Room In The World is a new programme of artist responses to the Royal Exchange’s Great Hall and the experience visitors have when they inhabit this vast space. Working with artists from across many different disciplines, the programme is a series of creative responses which the public can interact with. Taking ownership, if only for a short time, of one of the city’s most impressive buildings. I’m thrilled that we’re working with Jason to launch the project. Weave: Echo is a very clever piece of work which will delight and surprise anyone who comes across it.”
Weave: Echo is an experimental sound and visual installation which celebrates the acoustics of the Great Hall with a vocal composition that changes through the online activity of today’s “voices” – the voices of the people of Manchester and beyond. Created in joint collaboration between musician and composer Jason Singh and composer and software architect Cassiel, with additional contributions from the Sacred Sounds Choir, Weave: Echo invites visitors to use pre-assigned hashtags and interact with the Royal Exchange’s Twitter feed in order to transform and develop the sounds they hear in real-time. The public will control and manipulate the composition to create an experience which is unique to them and their immediate connection with, and experience of, the Great Hall.
From 17 March Weave: Echo will be played in the Great Hall at various times of the day and will use today’s technology to celebrate the timeless interaction between people and space.
You, The Audience continues to grow and, in addition to Weave: Echo, the Theatre is also celebrating this unique project with Show and Tell. This four day exhibition collates stories and ideas from audiences who, over the past 18 months, have been responding to the provocation ‘Theatre in the 21st century: what’s it for and what do you want a theatre to be?’ The exhibition includes an intimate and atmospheric sound installation by artists Eloise Whitmore and Tony Churnside, built from the voices of audience members sharing their personal dreams and memories of theatre, and newly commissioned work from visual artists Oliver East and Johnny Woodhams. Visitors can also view and vote on the developing Audience Manifesto and contribute a personal story to be added to the Theatre’s You, The Audience audio archive. Show and Tell takes place in The Studio from 17 – 20 March.