Back in June, on the shortest night of the year, from dusk till dawn a band of young people – students, citizens, vagabonds, dreamers – set out on a marathon of a task: to imagine the multiple possible ways in which the rest of their lives, and the future of the world, might pan out.

Commissioned by HOME in collaboration with New Adelphi Theatre, supported through the generosity of the Salford Advantage Fund: ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ was a live-streamed durational performance created by alumnus James Monaghan with a cast and crew of students from the University of Salford.

The project, alongside other #HomeMakers such as Ugly Bucket, Christian Asare and Chad Taylor received a ★★★★ review from The Guardian!

I caught up with James and some of the students involved (after some much-deserved sleep) to find out more! So grab yourself a cuppa and read a snapshot of what it was like to perform “alone together” during lockdown.

Hello James! Thank you for chatting with us! Tell us more about your time at Salford; what did you study?

Thank you, it’s a pleasure. I am masterfully dyslexic, so please expect perhaps short – abrupt or long and confusing, slightly wavy answers. I studied Contemporary Theatre Practice before the course was shut down in the infamous old Adelphi – which in truth suits my practice way more than a fancy traditional theatre space. I loved my time at Salford. It was through Salford that I created my first theatre company SheepKnuckle with collaborator Patrick Confrey who I met on my course. It was through Niki Woods I got my first professional gig with Blast Theory on their project I’d Hide You. A company that still inspire my thoughts around creating work to this day.

No worries James! We love Blast Theory – and our lovely Artistic Director Niki Woods. So, tell us more about how your degree, and the connections you made at Salford helped to shape your creative practice.

Salford opened the window to operating and making work in a different way. I had come to Salford as an Actor who was bored of pretence, bored of seeing the same formulaic work again and again. Bored of theatre. I had dipped my toes in live art performance down in London but in all honesty, I had no idea what I was doing. Just mostly seemed to be naked, drinking vinegar beetroot whilst dancing in 3 tons of soil. At Salford, I was opened up to artist and companies such as Gobsquad, Blast Theory, Rimini Protokoll, Jerome bel, Franko B, Katie Duck and of course Quarantine. I became fascinated with the combination of digital misuse, framing authenticity, deconstructing traditional dramaturgy and repurposing conventions for work that focuses more on the experiential and liveness, rather than narrative. I guess those influences gave me more of a conceptual rigor.

…and since graduating you’ve worked with Quarantine (who performed Wallflower at the New Adelphi Theatre back in October 2018), Boundless Theatre, fellow alumnus Ali Wilson and more. Tell us, what’s been your highlight so far?

I have to say working on LSTNT was one of my highlights. To direct a show with a cast of 20 during lockdown and for all rehearsals to be done via zoom was an exciting challenge. The fact that the performers were able to convey such an intimate feeling and a real sense of live-ness on that format was a huge high. I laughed and cried at what they did on the night. Although some of that might be sleep deprivation.

Aside from that, touring with Quarantine was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Touring Europe and performing in Vancouver was great. I love their work, their process and them as people. So a defo High.

So your interests lie in authenticity and shared experiences. Tell us how the #Homemakers project came about?

Simple answer. I applied with an idea. They (HOME) gave me the commission. The idea grew into a bigger idea once the University of Salford and New Adelphi Theatre were on board and co-commissioned the project. Otherwise, the performance would have had only four performers.

Longer answer.

I had got an email from a former student saying they were in their final year and they wanted advice about entering the industry at this time.

I had no clue what to say. A week later the concept of 20 students imagining the rest of their lives in this period of uncertainty excited me.

I think many of us were so occupied with how to deal with the present moment, it was such a weight. It was and perhaps still is hard to think straight. Everything is uncertain. Nothing to anchor us. So in a way, for those making the work it was an anchor, something to hold onto as we go into the abyss. In form the work replicated this, each performer did not know exactly what they would do on the night. Just ‘I have these tools, this is the structure, these are my hopes, fears and expectations for the show and now we go into the unknown’. It was like a mini metaphor for our time and experience.

I also wanted our hopes, fears and expectations to be documented. To create an archive of what we were imagining at this time. Something the performers might look back on in 20 years and compare how their lives/the world did pan out.

It was incredible to watch, so many poignant, beautiful, thought-provoking moments. Tell us about the challenges you faced and overcame during the making process…


Creating a performance with an ensemble of 20 without being in the same room. You can’t feel the room’s tension, you don’t know if your words, thoughts are landing. So much of a processes information is passed on by way more than words. Performance at it’s best is unspoken, so that was tough. It was the same though, when you performed the work. So the process would always reflect the outcome. It was more about leaning into those limitations than trying to overcome them.

I guess another major challenge of note was creating a structure, a set of tools and a piece that was rigid enough yet was not over-rehearsed. At some point each group of performers would just say ‘I don’t want to rehearse anymore’ – this was because the rules was – you could never repeat a future. Never do the same thing twice. This particularly hurt when a performer would do something magical, a moment of brilliance, a moment where they really connected. There were so many moments that will remain lost to the process. Moments that deserved an audience, a platform, yet they never will. They didn’t make it to archive. This I know was difficult for the performers.

The whole piece you could say was an exercise in framing authenticity, finding structures that allowed the performers to be visible yet with enough rigour to do something artistic, engaging and interesting. Authenticity is one of my key artistic concerns and something I could talk about for a long time. I do believe authenticity is a feeling and so the challenge was making a piece that felt honest, felt authentic to both performers and any potential viewer.

The performance took place over 10 hours, with you at the helm and tech support from Jason Crouch, Davinia Jokhi and Technical Theatre Student Sarah Johnson. How else did you prepare for this mammoth performance?

Aside from posh coffee and snacks? All the preparation was gearing the performers for the tasks. Once it started, the performance was in their hands. As it should be. I think as a director at some point you just hand the work over, it’s not yours anymore – there is not much you can do. Of course, I agonised about what to say, how to get them Geed-up for the event. But to be honest, the best thing I did was remain calm, relaxed and act like I knew it was going to go well. Which I did – of course ;)

What a team! How was your experience working with our students?

Brilliant. I trusted them completely. I don’t think it’s for me to talk about talent, I am not that egotistical. Yet if I were – I would say there is so much talent at Salford and each performer should be proud of the performance they gave. Yet to repeat, it is not for me to say.

On that note, I like to make work that scares the sh*t out of me – otherwise, I am not sure if it’s worth making. The performers had to and did learn to trust in the uncertainty, to trust in not knowing; not preparing what they would do and feel confident to be themselves and take risks that may or may not pay off. They were all put into a corner that they had to fight out of. This was a great leap of faith on their part and one I am thankful they were able to take.

Do you plan on developing the piece?

Tricky question.

No. It was a one-off. Never to be repeated. That is part of the concept. It could repeat in different places, with adjusted reasoning I guess. I am certainly interested in digital intimacy and archiving.

Yes. The elements to that work were a combination of thoughts, ideas on form and content that I have been working on for a few years now (exploring digital intimacy, framing authenticity and performance structured oppose to scripts), combined with the urgency of the time-bound nature of it must happen on the shortest night of the year. It must happen before lockdown is lifted.

This work will become something else. So Yes?

What’s next for James?

I am currently working on ‘We Will Probably Never Meet’ with Ryan Gilmartin and Boundless Theatre Company. A project that connects strangers for intimate conversations via phone calls.

Then I am developing a piece with The Lowry Theatre called ‘Go Nasty’. A project that looks at blurred sexuality and digital intimacy which will take place on sex sites. I would expect the first performance in September…

We’ll keep our eyes peeled for that! Any top tips for our students?

Everyone’s journey is different. There would be so much to say and so much to ignore. My top tip is ‘your instinct is your best friend’. Don’t stop listening to it.

And what a better way to follow your instincts than by working on a project such as this.

Continue reading to hear about our students’ experience of this live streamed, durational act of faith…

Sarah Johnson, Technical Theatre (Second Year)

“My role within the show was sort of that of a Stage Manager/DSM without a stage. I spent a lot of my time creating documents, helping work out timings for the show, creating a cue list/‘book’, and eventually then cued the show for about two thirds of its duration. Although those are quite standard SM duties, ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ was unlike any show I had been a part of before. Working solely online was unknown territory for us all but proved to create a completely unique piece and experience, it allowed me collaborate with practitioners such as James and Jason (the other technician and live-streaming expert) despite being all the way in Ireland, and build relationships with them and HOME themselves. It was a such a joy to work with them and to be able to witness my peers pushing themselves to create extraordinarily personal performances from their homes – those of which were so interesting that myself, James, and Jason chose to stay up the entire night to watch them instead of doing shift work like planned! Helping facilitate the performance was not only enjoyable but massively rewarding, it’s allowed me to create connections and given me an insight into how working within the industry might have to look like now.”


Emily Stefan, Theatre and Performance Practice (Graduating Class of 2020)

I feel hugely privileged to have been given the opportunity to have been part of this performance. I’ve really enjoyed being in something so interesting and different from anything I’ve performed in before. Although it has sometimes been challenging in having to work separately from each other and also working in a style a don’t have much experience in, I think those challenges are what has pushed me to think and perform much more creatively throughout the rehearsal process and performance. I’ve learnt so much from this project and from those I’ve been working with. It’s also taught me a lot about working in theatre professionally and to not be afraid to think creatively in my own future theatre making.”

Zoe King, Theatre and Performance Practice (Graduating Class of 2020)

“Creating Let’s Spend The Night Together has been an incredible and rewarding experience. Throughout the rehearsal period I feel I have grown as a performer, and I have learnt a valuable set of theatre making skills that I will cherish forever. I have been able to step out of my comfort zone, push boundaries and let my imagination run wild. Although we created and performed in our own individual spaces, the teamwork and support for one another resonated throughout the process. In the far future when I am asked about how I filled my time during the coronavirus lockdown, I will be proud to say I was a part of this work.”

Sian Carry, Media and Performance (Graduating Class of 2020)

“It was an incredible opportunity being a part of Let’s Spend the Night Together team. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a “performer” by trade, James (the director) worked so hard to make me comfortable with being on camera and the actual performance felt both thrilling and amazing. Everyone on the team was fantastic and I am so proud to be able to say I was part of the first theatre piece of its kind in this post-lockdown world”

Jamie Irwin, Theatre and Performance Practice (Graduating Class of 2020)

“My experience before, during and after ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ was touching, eye opening, hilarious and very reflective – all rolled into one. I was the first soloist in cycle one, so I had a fairly big responsibility of opening the all mighty eight hour durational performance.

When I was first approached by James to take part in this performance, I really did not know what to expect. Nobody has ever made a durational piece of work streamed on an online platform before, but I was very excited about being involved from the get go. As the weeks went by, myself and my group of soloists (Shyla, Max and Helen) grew closer and closer. Four strangers that allowed each other into our lives and homes. At first, I thought the idea of allowing audience members to spend the night with us was a little daunting, but the rehearsal process completely changed my views on this. There is something very intimate and personal that I enjoyed about having people virtually in my home but more importantly in my past, present and future.”

Helen Varey, Theatre & Performance Practice (Second Year)

“This was my first experience participating in a durational, online performance during a lockdown! The whole rehearsal period provided a connection with other actors that might have otherwise been lost in different circumstances; an escapism as we pondered our futures together and a sense of intimacy as we got to watch each other cook, dream, and brush our teeth. I had wondered if it could provide what an audience wanted in a digitally, socially distanced world. How could it work via a zoom call? We all embraced the challenge and under James’s guidance, we saw the piece clear all the audience-engagement hurdles that the pandemic has created. It was brilliant learning from James; understanding how he adapted and innovated our respective skills and encouraged us to come up with solutions. I’d do it all over again!”

Charlie Blanshard, Theatre and Performance Practice (Graduating Class of 2020)

“A world championship experience. What a night and what a performance. Working on this show was an amazing way to start my professional career in the theatre industry. It taught me so much about performing and myself. The talent and creativity of this industry shone through. At a time when we are all isolated, I’d never felt more connected.”

Zachary Douglas, Theatre and Performance Practice (Graduating Class of 2020)

“My experience: From the start, I had no idea what to expect from this project, especially with it taking place on Zoom. It was incredibly challenging especially when I was rehearsing from the comfort of my home rather than in a rehearsal space which is where I concentrate more. However, the exercises and archives we used to imagine our own futures made me realise that the future could be more exciting than I realised, listening to everyone in my cycle have different and realistic interpretations made me feel good about myself and happy to be surrounded by those who care.”

Georgina Sheridan, Media and Performance (Graduating Class of 2020)

“My experience as a performer for Let’s Spend The Night Together was both challenging and thrilling at the same time. The main challenge was staying awake at 4am. The best part about the project was I felt a sense of connection to a group of people through the power of Zoom. I pushed myself to think of my hopes, fears and expectations which was new for me but it has changed my outlook for the future in a positive way.”

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