5 - 9 Jul 2023

Coming soon: Watch on Factory+
Portrait of Maxine Peake
5 - 9 Jul 2023
John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH
Coming soon: Watch on Factory+

Age Guidance: 14+, under 16s to be accompanied by an adult aged 18+
Running time: 45 minutes.

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

Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight adapted Kay Dick’s rediscovered masterpiece.

Imagine a near-future where creative expression is outlawed, all art eradicated and any resistance takes enormous courage.

Would it be enough to go on quietly creating for yourself? To memorise your favourite passages before all books disappear? What is art without an audience or a debate?

These are just some of the questions raised by They: A Sequence of Unease, Kay Dick’s dystopian masterpiece. First published in 1977, the novel went out of print for decades but was recently re-discovered and feels more relevant than ever.

For MIF23, the book was brought to life as a live performance created by Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight. The adaptation was their latest Festival collaboration, following The Masque of Anarchy, The Skriker and The Nico Project, which celebrated radical acts and artists. They marked the trio’s first production as the newly-formed company MAAT – a collective adventure to make new work in conversation with Music, Art, Activism and Theatre.

We stepped through the doors of the iconic John Rylands Library, and into a dystopian world – as Maxine performed an afterhours reading of They – in one of the last safe spaces left for artists in the city.

Image: Paul Husband


  • Maxine Peake portrays a powerful yet soft, dynamically charismatic, and introspective protagonist

    A Youngish Perspective

  • This powerful performance is a perfect representation of Manchester International Festival

    Manchester Evening News

  • We tiptoed out, still quivering, until the bright lights of the foyer gave us the courage to speak above a whisper

    Theatre Reviews North


Written by Kay Dick

Adapted and co-created by Maxine Peake, Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight.

Commissioned and produced by Factory International for Manchester International Festival.

Lighting Designer - Amy Mae

Sound Artist/Composer - Melanie Wilson


Access Information

The event took place in the Reading Room of John Rylands Library. The full address of the venue is John Rylands Research Institute and Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester.

What3words is:


The main entrance to the Library is located just off Deansgate.

Entrance to the Library is through a modern extension that links to the Historic building, the modern extension is accessible, with level access. The Library has a power-assisted entrance door to the left of the revolving door, operated by a push button.

There is level access via lift to all floors with the exception of the historic entrance.

The corridors around the building are wide with stone flags.

There is one accessible toilet in the basement of the modern building, which has left hand transfer. This is accessible by lift and a RADAR key is required to access this facility. A key is available at the main reception desk or from our Front of House team at the event.

The Library welcomes assistance dogs.

There was no captioned performance of this show.

A signed performance of They took place on Sunday 9 July at 7pm. The performance was interpreted by Siobhan Rocks.

There was no relaxed performance of this show.

Further information about accessibility can be found at Visit (The University of Manchester Library)

Travel Information

The closest stations to John Rylands Library are:

St Peter’s Square tram: 0.3 miles

Salford Central station: 0.4 miles

Manchester Oxford Road station: 0.6 miles

Deansgate station and Deansgate-Castlefield tram: 0.6 miles

Click on the links above to find detailed access information for each station.

The easiest way to reach the Library from Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria railway stations is via the free buses that travel around the city centre.

The number 1 free bus runs from the forecourt of Piccadilly station every few minutes. Alight on John Dalton Street at stop WX, turn left onto Deansgate and you will see the Library in front of you.

The number 2 free bus runs from Victoria station approach every ten minutes. Alight on Deansgate, opposite the Library

Buses on these free routes are wheelchair accessible. For full details of the free bus routes, please visit the TfGM website.

There are four bike parking spaces near the venue. Additionally there are:

4 spaces on Hardman Street, Manchester M3 3AP

10 spaces by Tesco, 11 Quay St, Manchester M3 3BB

16 spaces on John Dalton Street, Manchester M3 2BY

There is no parking at the Library. There are several car parks within walking distance of the Library.

The nearest car parks are:

NCP Blackfriars street - 0.3 miles away from John Rylands Library

NCP Watson Street car park - 0.4 miles away from John Rylands Library

NCP New Quay Street - 0.4 miles away from John Rylands Library

The nearest on street Blue Badge bays are at Dolefield (off Bridge Street outside the law courts). There are 4 bays available here (0.2 miles from John Rylands Library).

For a list of other parking bays available in the area, visit Manchester City Council website.

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