3MT, the Three Minute Theatre, are currently based on the ground floor of Afflecks, Manchester’s longstanding hub for all that is culturally alternative. Over the past three years co-directors Gina Frost and John Topliff, along with their staff and volunteers, have built a wonderful space for performance and experimentation from scratch, and are now in a position to expand.
Gina explained that back when the venue was first opened, they were almost bombarded with ideas for performances and requests to use the space, indicating a huge demand for a small, experimental theatre and performance space in central Manchester. As Marketing Officer and associate artist Stephanie Jessop put it; “our space is somewhere in between a pub back-room and a large purpose-built theatre” – meaning that experimentation is encouraged, but there is also an expectation of quality.
Both of the co-directors had previously worked as teachers, and their caring and supportive attitudes towards young people have informed the way that the theatre is run; giving new performers and writers a chance to show their work, and to progress in a tough industry. The development of the theatre has been largely organic, relying on word of mouth for most of their promotion, which has facilitated the growth of a safe and welcoming community. Gina spoke of her pride that 3MT is considered to be LGBT-friendly, and that the Theatre is in a position to support women comedians, writers and directors.
As well as a brilliantly idiosyncratic venue, where everything is donated or recycled – even the chairs and glasses, 3MT also run acting classes that are not designed to pressure participants, but rather to present an opportunity for people who might’ve always wanted to try acting, but never had the chance. Arts Administrator and Actor Hannah Ellis explained that 3MT have grown to demand, and will continue to do so; with a vibrant mix of theatre, comedy, spoken word, cabaret, film, poetry and more.