Free Your Mind

31 Oct - 5 Nov 2023

This event has ended.
Three dancers pose wearing suits and sunglasses. The image is black and green with a pixellated effect. Three dancers pose wearing suits and sunglasses. The image is black and green with a pixellated effect.
31 Oct - 5 Nov 2023
The Hall, Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester, M3 4JQ
Standard Tickets £20, £25, £30, £40
Affordable Tickets £10, £12.50, £15, £20
Aviva £10 Tickets
This event has ended.

Age Guidance: Over 12's only. Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult over 18.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes approx. Including interval

Accessibility features available for this event: Captioning Audio Description Relaxed Performance BSL Interpreting Wheelchair Access

The Matrix... Now.

‘Ever have that feeling where you're not sure if you're awake or still dreaming?'

In 1999, we were offered a simple choice: red pill or blue pill? Blissful ignorance in a simulated world or a chance to jump down the rabbit hole into the unknown. The Matrix made us question reality. What is human after all? Who’s really in control?

Nearly 25 years later and we’re no closer to an answer – with big tech, social media and the advance of AI impacting our lives in a million different ways. It’s from this ever-shifting landscape that Free Your Mind was born.

Specially created to celebrate the opening of our new venue, Free Your Mind was a journey into The Matrix through dance and immersive design. As our official opening show, this never-seen-before production stretched across the building’s ultra-flexible spaces. 

Tapping into the collective energy of the moment, it depicts a world where humans are enslaved by algorithms – asking can we break free? And do we even want to?

Free Your Mind was brought to life by a dream team of creative forces who've had their hand in some of the most iconic cultural moments either side of the millennium (we’re talking the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony for starters).

Directed by Manchester’s own Danny Boyle, it featured hip hop choreography by Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, a powerful score from composer Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante (co-founders of Boy Blue), eye-opening staging from world-leading designer Es Devlin, alongside words from acclaimed writer Sabrina Mahfouz and costumes by iconic fashion designer Gareth Pugh.


Dancers wearing black perform on stage for Free Your Mind with blue lighting

Free Your Mind Trailer

Film still

Free Your Mind by Gareth Pugh and Ruth Hogben

  • A thrilling shock to the system... a fresh blast of spectacle as well as an urgent entreaty to wake up

    The Guardian

  • Epic, intimate, flagrantly dramatic

    The Telegraph

  • Bold and articulate, fiercely aggressive in the fight scenes, punchy and visceral

    The Times

  • Nothing short of mind-blowing... never less than spectacular... truly extraordinary, and unlike anything I've ever seen on stage before in the UK

    Manchester Evening News

  • An eye-popping, innovatively staged reimagining of a cinematic classic


  • Like nothing you have ever seen before... This is arguably the best dance show of the year, if not decade!

    The Theatre Talk

Building Worlds: Behind the Scenes of Free Your Mind

The Creative Team

Free Your Mind brings together a dream team of respected names.

Mikey Asante

Producer, composer and DJ Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante – and co-founder of hip hop dance theatre company Boy Blue.

Kenrick Sandy

Renowned choreographer and performer Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy – and co-founder of Boy Blue.

Headshot of Danny Boyle

Director Danny Boyle and producer Tracey Seaward – the creatives forces behind London’s 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

Headshot of Es Devlin

Artist Es Devlin, whose immense stage sculpture has stood out everywhere from Superblue Miami and the Serpentine to the Royal Opera House and Super Bowl.

Headshot of Sabrina Mahfouz

The storytelling of poet playwright Sabrina Mahfouz, whose work spans theatre (Noughts & Crosses), dance (Echoes and I Imagine), opera (I Am, I Say) and memoir (These Bodies of Water).

Headshot of Gareth Pugh

Costumes by fashion designer Gareth Pugh, who has dressed iconic superstars Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.

Headshot of Lucy Carter

Lighting design by the critically acclaimed Lucy Carter, who is a two-time winner of the prestigious Knight of Illumination Award for Dance.

Headshot of Gareth Fry

Sound design by the multi-award-winning Gareth Fry, whose work includes the V&A’s landmark David Bowie is exhibition and the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Headshot of Luke Halls

Video design by Luke Halls, who is recognised by Drama Desk and BAFTA for his work on concerts, opera, theatre shows, film and public art.

Free Your Mind official programme

Free Your Mind programme
Find out more about the big ideas behind Free Your Mind with our official programme. Available to buy at Aviva Studios, it features original writing from award-winning author Jeanette Winterson, a history of Manchester’s connection with computing, reflections from the creative team behind the show – and the AI-powered ChatGPT going head to head with poet, playwright and essayist lisa luxx.



Commissioned and produced by Factory International.

Based on the Warner Bros films written and directed by the Wachowskis.

Produced by special arrangement with Warner Bros Theatre Ventures


Music Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante

Direction Danny Boyle

Stage Design Es Devlin

Text Sabrina Mahfouz

Choreography Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy

Costume Design Gareth Pugh

Lighting Design Lucy Carter

Sound Design Gareth Fry

Video Design Luke Halls

Make-up sponsored by M·A·C Cosmetics.

Rehearsal and production photography by Tristram Kenton.

Early workshop development for Free Your Mind was supported by
UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK R&D programme

Good to know

Security will be in place at this event and bags checked upon entry. Please keep personal belongings to a minimum. On this occasion, due to the unique nature of the event, bags larger than an A4 sheet of paper will not be permitted. Thank you for your cooperation.


We have a range of affordable tickets, including Aviva £10 tickets for those who might need them. You can find out more about our Affordable Ticketing Policy here.

For other ticketing and box office related enquiries, please contact

For more information please visit: Ticketing and Sale of Goods Terms & Conditions – Factory International

Access information

The full address of the venue is Aviva Studios, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ and the what3words is

To book access tickets and personal assistant tickets please call 0161 817 4531 (Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm) or email

Access bookings can be made by email or phone. They will also be available in person from our venue from 27 September 2023.

We're a new purpose-built cultural space in the heart of Manchester. The approach to Aviva Studios is flat, with smooth concrete flooring.

The entrance to our building is through double glass doors. There are automatic doors at both entrances and these are also staffed when the building is open to the public.

Once inside, there is step-free access to all areas of the venue. Lifts to the Warehouse are located through the glass doors beside the city entrance.

Lift and escalator access to the Hall is located next to the river entrance, just beyond the brick arches.

You will first arrive into the Social, a large public space where there are a range of seats (including those with arms), a bar and toilets.

The bars in the Social and Hall Foyer have lowered accessible service points, and induction loops for hearing-aid users.

There are accessible toilets on all public levels of our building.

Accessible toilets are located inside the main toilets space in the brick arches of the Social.

Here you’ll find a mixture of accessible cubicles with left- or right-hand transfer, towards the back of the space, as well as ambulant accessible cubicles with grab rails.

The toilets in the brick arches of the Social are gender neutral, so you can use facilities in any of the three arches. There are shared handwashing facilities in each arch – they have soap dispensers under the mirrors to your left and dryers to the right. There are separate handwashing facilities inside the accessible cubicles.

There are additional single-room accessible toilets in located in both Hall Foyers, at stalls and circle level.

You do not need a key to use the accessible toilets at Aviva Studios.

We are working hard to get our Changing Places up and running as soon as possible, but unfortunately it is not currently ready to use. We are very sorry for the inconvenience. If you have any queries in the meantime, please drop our team a line on and we’ll be happy to help.

Assistance dogs are welcome at Aviva Studios, and we can provide mats and water bowls on request, just ask a host when you arrive. We can also take care of your assistance dog if you do not want to take your dog into the performance space.

If you’re bringing an assistance dog to this event and would like us to make arrangements to care for them, please let us know by contacting or calling our access phone number: 0161 817 4531 (phone lines are open 10am to 5pm, Monday to Friday).

There is step-free access to all areas of the venue, with lift access to the Warehouse from the Social, and lift and escalator access to the Hall from the Social. The escalator leading to the Hall foyers usually works in the direction of audience flow, so it will take you up before the performance, and the same escalator will bring you down at the interval or at the end of the show.

This performance will use both the Hall and Warehouse spaces. In the Hall, there will be reserved seating – here we have wheelchair spaces in the stalls, 6 in the mid-circle, and 6 in the rear circle, which you can book by calling 0161 817 4531 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm) or emailing Access bookings can be made by email or phone. They will also be available in person from our venue from 27 September 2023.

In the Warehouse, where there will be unreserved standing, we will have a dedicated access seating area with wheelchair spaces and seating for those who require it. This area will also have reserved space for Audio Description, Captioning and BSL users on our access performance dates.

We are working hard to get our assisted listening / induction loops system up and running as soon as possible, but unfortunately it is not currently ready to use. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and are working to resolve this. If you have any queries, please drop our team a line on and we’ll be happy to help.

We use WilliamsAV WaveCAST receivers to provide assisted listening at Aviva Studios.

You can collect a WaveCAST device from a member of our Front of House team when you arrive for your event. The Front of House team will also be able to show you how to use the device and connect to the audio feed for your event.

We can provide headphones for use with the receivers, but you are also welcome to use your own headphones if you have them.

We can also provide neckloops to use with the WaveCAST receiver if you are a hearing aid user. Again, you can collect these from our Front of House team when you arrive.

If you prefer, you can also download the WilliamsAV WaveCAST Receiver app to your own wifi-connected mobile device before you visit (IOS – WaveCAST app / Android – WaveCAST app) and use your own headphones to listen. When you arrive in the venue, you will be able to join the wifi network and choose the appropriate channel for your event in the app.

There are audio-described performances of Free Your Mind on the following dates:

Friday 20 October at 7.30pm

Sunday 29 October at 2.30pm

Thursday 2 November at 7.30pm

We are working hard to get our WaceCAST assisted listening / induction loops system up and running as soon as possible, but unfortunately it is not currently ready to use. Audio description for these performance will be delivered using headsets and Inner Ear Monitor packs rather than our WaveCAST system.

If you are attending and need to use an audio description headset, but have not booked an audio description ticket, please get in touch at so we can ensure you receive your headset, and have appropriate seats.

If you are attending the performance, but do not wish to attend the touch tour, please visit the Orange Box in the Social a staff member will ensure you have a headset for the performance.

If you have any questions or concerns about your visit, please email us at, or call our ticketing team on 0161 817 4531 (Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm). We apologise for any inconvenience caused and are working to resolve this.

There are captioned performances of Free Your Mind on the following dates:

Saturday 21 October at 7.30pm

Saturday 28 October at 2.30pm

Wednesday 1 November at 7.30pm

The captioning will be displayed on screens.

Please note that Act 2 contains no captions as there is no narrative-based dialogue.

There are BSL interpreted performances of Free Your Mind on the following dates:

Saturday 21 October at 2.30pm

Thursday 26 October at 7.30pm

Saturday 4 November at 7.30pm

The interpreter is Lizzie Wharton.

There are relaxed performances of Free Your Mind on the following dates:

Sunday 22 October at 2.30pm

Tuesday 24 October at 7.30pm

Saturday 4 November at 2.30pm

The performance on Tuesday 24 October will also have reduced audience capacity.

For the relaxed performances of Free Your Mind, we have made the following technical adjustments:


Overall lighting levels throughout the show are reduced.

Individual lighting effects are less intense – we have taken out strobes and fast moving lights, as well as ‘blinder’ lights that would normally shine at the audience.

There are still some lasers used in the show – these are metres above the heads of the audience, at the very end of Act 2, and point upwards into the ceiling only.

There are some handheld lights used by the performers (lightsticks in Act 1, which do not flash, and iPhone sized lights in Act 2 which will be at 50% intensity for the Relaxed shows

The House Lights will be on at a low level in the Hall so that the audience can see.

The lighting has been adjusted in the Warehouse so that the audience can see.

If you are affected by lighting you might prefer to sit/stand further back in the Warehouse, as sitting on the front bench or standing close to the stage tends to leave the footlights in your eyeline.
Conversely, the back rows of the stalls in the Hall still have some brief moments of brighter lights on them right at the end (the last minute) of Act 1.


Overall sound levels are reduced throughout – edgier music sections and the most extreme sub bass have been smoothed out to be less intense.

There are some gun shots and cannon effects which have been minimised.

We will have ear defenders or ear plugs available to use if required.

Special effects:

All smoke flares have been removed.


In the standard show, Act 2 has a large LCD screen above the stage (which operates at three different heights, at stage level, 2m above stage and 3.5m above stage at different times during the show). This screen usually shows some fast-moving, flickering images – particularly in the first 12 mins of Act 2. For the relaxed shows, we have replaced the fast moving, glitching content with static images which will fade into one another.

There are still some sections of video content that follow the beat of the music, but these are much less fast-moving.

After that first 12 minute section, the screen is either at 2.5m or 3m above the stage throughout Act 2, meaning that it’s not directly in the audience’s eyeline. The screen returns to stage level for the curtain call at the end of the show, when it has static images on it.

In addition to these technical adjustments to the show, audiences will be welcome to move, wriggle and make noise if they need to. It will be fine to leave the performance space and come back if you need to. There will be an announcement about these things before the show starts, so that everyone knows what to expect.

Please note this show contains loud music and sound effects, smoke, haze, flashing, lasers and bright lights. There are depictions of guns and sound of gunfire (though there are no physical guns within the production) as well as stylised depictions of death and references to drugs or pills. There are also fast-moving screens as part of the pre-show and interval.

Please see ‘Relaxed Performances’ above for details of how these things are adjusted for our Relaxed shows.

Two people in the Social at Aviva Studios

Free Your Mind | BSL Trailer

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