Friday, 4 September 2015

Derby-based 1623 theatre company is mentoring a local artist to create an exciting new piece of inclusive street theatre, based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Theatre-maker James Varney has written Macbrew, a piece of inclusive street theatre to engage Shakespeare with new audiences in Derby and beyond. James's script was developed with support from 1623's patron and award-winning playwright Mark Ravenhill, who said that Macbrew is "great fun and uses BSL (British Sign Language) in a really interesting way."

Macbrew will be performed by deaf and hearing actors in city-centre cafes as part of Derby Feste 2015 on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 September (times to be confirmed). This is the pilot stage of a larger project, which aims to engage deaf and hearing audiences across the country next year as part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. 

James is being mentored by 1623 theatre company, which specialises in Shakespeare and adaptations of the playwright's work. They have previously brought Shakespeare to care homes, schools, shopping centres, market places, rural village halls and caves.

Macbrew features three characters, based on the witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth who visit cafes as they try to find Shakespeare's living heir. There will also be a social-media presence of the project too.

James said: “It’s very exciting to be working professionally with a theatre company whose workshops I took part in as a member of youth theatre. I’ve had lots of positive responses to the project, and 1623 have been incredibly supportive.

“The idea of incorporating BSL into the performance came from a workshop run by Jenny Sealey from Graeae Theatre Company on inclusive theatre that I attended at Derby Theatre, as part of the In Good Company artist development programme.

“I’m working with cafes in Derby who have offered to host the event during the Feste weekend. The number of people who are willing to help the project and get involved has been really encouraging.”

Audition applications for deaf and hearing actors to perform in Macbrew are open until Friday 11 September and auditions will be held at Derby QUAD on Monday 14 September.

For more information on how to apply for auditions, please visit

The Macbrew pilot project is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Derby City Council, QUAD and 1623 theatre company.



  • Macbrew is a new play by James Varney, a theatre-maker from Derby
  • It brings together BSL and Shakespeare for deaf and hearing audiences
  • Auditions are on Monday 14 September (application deadline is Friday 11 September)
  • Performances will be on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 September
  • James Varney is available for interview on 07891 471415 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  • Contact Ben Spiller, 1623 artistic director, by phone or email by clicking here

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