A multi-ethnic play set in a Manchester community centre is touring the North West in August before heading to Edinburgh Fringe.

The Community Centre, written by experienced Manchester-based actor Nicola Gardner, is a funny and hard-hitting play which tackles the problem of a lack of ethnic-minority roles in the arts. 

The play, which is attracting interested from TV production companies, provides roles for several black actors plus Asian actor Alex Kapila.

Directed by John Klark, the show also addresses the recent Windrush scandal, shown through four African-Caribbean pensioners affected by the political scandal, where British citizens were wrongly detained, denied legal rights and threatened with deportation.

Sixty-three people were wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office before a huge public outcry forced the government to address the problem.

Created as an immersive experience where audiences are visitors to The Community Centre, it also highlights the unfair predicament of people who have lived and worked in the UK for decades and are now being shown that they are unwanted and undesirable. 

The comedy also celebrates Manchester's rich cultural diversity. It will tour in August with dates in Manchester and Preston before heading to the prestigious Arthur Conan Doyle Centre in Edinburgh during the fringe festival.

The lack of diverse roles in theatre, film and television has become a major issue in recent years, both domestically and internationally. 

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As an established performer who has appeared in TV dramas Coronation Street, Emmerdale, The Royal and Brookside, Gardner has first-hand experience of the problem within the British media industry, which ultimately led to her writing The Community Centre.

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Gardner, who has two roles in The Community Centre, said: "I wrote a show that would give significant roles to artists from ethnic minorities and enable us to showcase our talents on a bigger stage and in a more significant way. I strongly believe in using performance as a theatrical tool for sharing and highlighting social dilemmas.

"After years of being the doctor or nurse with a few lines to say in TV productions, I decided to write my own show and make my own luck. The Community Centre has opened up opportunities for underused minority artists from the world of acting and also film production. 

"We are all delighted that we get a chance to highlight social issues in a comedic way. Collectively we are mixed-race, African, African-Caribbean, Asian, English and Eastern European – the show represents Manchester’s rainbow population, a fact that is not effectively shown on TV.

"The Pensioners share funny & sometimes heart-breaking insight into the experience of Caribbean migrants and how they helped to shape the UK. Older black people are under-represented in mainstream. My aim is that people who come to see The show will leave with a much better tolerance of people different to themselves.

This is a play about the importance of connecting with each other, regardless of age, sex, colour, race or nationality.

The Community Centre, which has a cast of eight, is touring the UK in with a view to producing a TV pilot.

Gardner added: "Not since Channel 4's Desmond’s has there been a regular comedy series featuring black people. The BBC's The Real McCoy was back in the 90s and didn’t last very long. We aim to change all that with The Community Centre."

August tour dates

August 8, 9 & 10 - The King's Arms, Salford

August 16 & 17 - The Continental, Preston

August 22, 23 & 24 - The Helen Duncan Room, Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, Edinburgh

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