Singer. Poet. Director. Writer. Performer.
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.
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 uni 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 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 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.