Manchester Jewish Museum


Go Back

Reclaiming those stories others would rather erase – Interview with Victor Esses

Victor Esses is a Jewish-Lebanese Brazilian queer theatre maker and performance artist. In this interview he talks about his new piece, the Death & Life of All of Us, which he will be performing at Manchester Jewish Museum.

On Thursday 14 April we welcome Victor Esses in our beautiful Grade II* listed Spanish and Portuguese synagogue.

Victor is a queer theatre maker and performance artist. His practice centres nuanced intersectional auto/biographical stories of belonging, resilience and intimacy, encouraging audiences to ask personal questions about what makes us most human. With his new piece, the Death & Life of All of Us, he will take us on an autobiographical journey through sound, image and film in a work-in-progress performance about the stories others would rather erase. The ones of shame, family and intergenerational trauma. His new piece is a celebration of complexity, imperfection, truths and untruths, humanity.

Victor’s performance is the final event of our Synagogue Nights season, during which we have welcomed talented artists representing various music genres – from the classical sounds of Manchester Baroque, through Klezmer with The Klezmorim of Manchester to the latest hits from Jewish songwriters performed by the unmissable Jeremy Sassoon.

“This will be the first time I share any of this material with an audience. I’m excited to work in new languages than I’m used to. Expect some surprising imagery, involving music, space to think of your own family.” – says the artist.


We asked Victor about his new piece and the creative process behind it:

Hello Victor, what does it mean for you, to be performing at Manchester Jewish Museum’s historic Synagogue?

It feels so special to perform in this beautiful and important Spanish Portuguese Sephardic synagogue. Some relatives of mine from Lebanon moved to Manchester in the early 20th century, so it feels important to build this link. This and also bringing queer perspectives and centrering the less heard Jewish migrant stories.

Can you please tell us about what inspired you to create The Death & Life Of All Of Us and where you hope to take it?

When I was 19 I was facinated by finding out about a great aunt who had married into a different religion and led a completely differing life than the one I knew in my community. Growing up I thought there was only one way of being and if you didn’t follow it you were going to be miserable. I visited her in Rome and interviewed her for a documentary I wanted to make (I was a film student then). So happened that I never made it and I found out the opposite of my early beliefs to be true. The more unique and true to yourself you live, the happier you might be! So for this I wanted to retrace and reframe those in my family who were hidden from me, either them or their history.
This piece will be developed throughout 2022 and it will open in 2023 when I hope to tour it including with partners to be announced soon.

What is it that motivates you to create your projects?

Being a Jewish-Lebanese Brazilian queer man I often felt outside of what was being talked about or produced. My work seeks to resignify mainstream ”truths” by centring intersectional stories and lives, mainly through my own autobiography, and by doing this change culture, empower myself and others, many many others.

You’ve been working very closely with our song-writing group here at the museum, how has that been and how have you found writing with members from around the community?

It’s been a joy to hear what kind of work they have been doing and have them have a real go at using performance making tools and creating something, getting completely out of their comfort zones. I’m very interested in encouraging people in knowing that we all have interesting stories and lives experiences and we can all be creative in some way or another. In just three sessions they created a beautiful short piece that we filmed in the synagogue which was moving.

Finally, what’s next for you? Where can we find you on the internet? And good luck with the performance.

After April I’ll be working with my partner visual artist Yorgos Petrou in his project Dust & Butterflies, a performance/ art film exploring LGBT+ people from the MENA region and colonisation with the Fitzwilliam Museum. I will continue to develop The Death & Life of All of Us with upcoming work-in-progress performances in Sheffield and London. And lots of other exciting things that will be announced in due time. Do visit my website (not always updated lol) and for most current Twitter and Instagram: @victoresses. See you soon!

The Death & Life of All of Us will be performed for the very first time and is still a work-in-progress, so it is a great opportunity to see and be a part of the creative process behind an artistic performance. We also encourage you to participate in the post-show discussion with the artist.



Holocaust Memorial Day 2022: why do we commemorate?

To launch our year long Holocaust Memorial Day project in partnership with Imperial War Museums, we asked a group of young people "why do we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day?". In response they created a powerful poem and film, inspired by the personal stories in our collection.

Music in our Synagogue: our second Synagogue Nights Season of music this March

Manchester Jewish Museum will be celebrating Jewish music with our new season of Synagogue Nights: intimate performances in our stunning 1874 Synagogue. From Klezmer ensembles to Baroque quartets, musical theatre and pop covers to Hebrew world jazz, we are showcasing Jewish music in all its diversity.

Manchester Jewish Museum launches Holocaust Memorial Day project with Imperial War Museums

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 we will launch a year-long project that will culminate on Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 with a public event and hosting a travelling exhibition sharing lesser known Holocaust and Second World War stories from across the UK. The project is part of Imperial War Museum’s Second World War & Holocaust Partnership Programme and will be working with local artist Becky Prestwich and young people from across Manchester.

Looking back on 2021

As 2021 draws to a close we just wanted to reflect on what an enormous year it’s been for the museum and some of the highlights. We’re excited for what next year will bring and just wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who made it possible.

A more sustainable Manchester Jewish Museum – COP26 update

On Thursday 4 November we were proud to speak at The Carbon Literacy Project's Museum Sector Day as part of the COP26 Conference. We have been working with BuroHappold, Carbon Literacy Project and Museums Development NorthWest to build a more sustainable Manchester Jewish Museum for future generations to enjoy.

Chief Executive Max Dunbar to hand over the new Manchester Jewish Museum

After 10 years and a multi-million redevelopment and reopening, Manchester Jewish Museum Chief Executive Max Dunbar and Chair of the Trustees Andrew Singer QC will step down as they hand over the new museum to someone new, to lead the organisation during the next stage of its journey.