Theatre company brings to life Birmingham’s industrial history.
The elegant gardens of Birmingham’s magnificent Soho House, home to eigheenth century entrepreneur and industrialist Matthew Boulton, are the setting for a new theatre show which explores some of the colourful characters from the house’s fascinating scientific past. Taking place over two weekends in July and August, Power Of Invention brings to life some of the members of the world-famous Lunar Society who regularly met at the house and whose ideas went on to transform the modern world.
The Lunar Society, who acquired their name because they always met by the light of the full moon, would gather at the house to dine, conduct experiments, and discuss the latest scientific and philosophical theories. Now, eight of the region’s leading writers will be resurrecting characters from the house’s history including Matthew Boulton and daughter Anne, his business partner James Watt, and Lunar Society members Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestly and William Withering, together with workers from the famous Soho Manufactory.
Writer Julia Wright from Boldtext Playwrights says: “Soho House is of world importance. It was a melting pot of ideas and invention, from James Watt’s steam engines to scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs. And, with the Soho Manufactory right next door, it was where the modern production line was first put into practice. As well as shining a light on some of the famous Lunar Men, the short plays will also be exploring the lives of some of the women connected to the house.”
Today, Soho House is one of the city’s historic properties cared for by Birmingham Museums Trust. As part of their research for the play, the Boldtext playwrights were given access to the archives and collection on display at Soho House to learn about the history of the property’s first resident, industrialist Matthew Boulton and home of The Lunar Society.
The eight playwrights include writers for theatre, TV and radio, including Birmingham-made radio institution The Archers, as well as novels, musicals and film. The show, funded by Arts Council England and The Barry Jackson Trust, lasts around an hour and will run three times a day at 12, 3 and 6pm on July 30th, 31st and August 7th.
Audience members are asked to bring along a rug or blanket to sit on, although, if sitting on the ground is a problem, a limited number of seats will be available, or people can bring their own fold-up chair. There will be a limited amount of space under cover in the event of rain, so people are advised to bring waterproof clothing. Gates will open thirty minutes before each show so that people can enjoy a picnic along with the plays. Prebooked picnic boxes will also be available, and drinks and snacks will be available to purchase on the day.