• Image shows someone wathcing an old black and white film depicting two policeman
    Image: STEPHEN, film still, Watching Thomas Goudie
  • Image shows a white woman with blond hair standing with her nhands on the shoulders of a white man with dark hair and beard
    Image: STEPHEN, film still, Tom & Max at poker
  • Image: STEPHEN, multi-channel video installation at The Exchange

04 May — 02 Nov 2024

The Exchange


A hybrid narrative fiction/documentary structured as a film-within-a-film, STEPHEN is presented in galleries as a multi-channel video installation. The film’s cinema release in April 2024 will be followed by a nationwide tour of the installation across five venues in the UK, launching at The Exchange on 4 May 2024.

Melanie Manchot’s film and installation bring together a small cast of professional actors with 20 participants from a Liverpool addiction recovery centre, including the lead actor Stephen Giddings. The art gallery presentations include an installation of multiple CRT televisions introducing the characters, and the people who play them, through a series of monologues and auditions, before entering the cinematic screening of STEPHEN, with a 78-minute running time.

SCREENINGS AT 10:30 / 12:00 / 13:30 / 15:00 though you may enter the film at any point, if you wish.

FRI 5 JUL, 18.30


Scripted and shot cinematically as a fiction film, STEPHEN is shaped by the raw and moving energy of one young man’s quest to transform his early life of violence and addiction and of his desire to both act and live differently. The film is centred around Stephen Giddings (Ste), who, growing up on the Quarry Green Estate in Kirkby, Liverpool, was confronted with addiction from an early age – both in the lives of those around him, and eventually in his own. At just 26 years old he was giving up on life. What follows is an intimate journey as Stephen auditions for and takes on a role in a movie, questioning whether he can fulfil his ambitions and realise one of his big dreams: to become an actor.

Combining original archive material, interviews and narrative drama, STEPHEN brings together  a unique cast of four acclaimed British actors alongside a support cast drawn from a group of 20 participants in active addiction recovery. Director Melanie Manchot began working with the Liverpool recovery group in December 2019, through a series of workshops and screen tests. All the members of the support cast have experience in front of and behind the camera. Some come with substantial skills as theatre or screen actors – yet all their lives have been marked deeply by periods of isolation and alienation caused by their experiences of substance and alcohol dependency.

At its core, STEPHEN shines a light on urgent social issues, exploring the UK’s fastest rising addiction, gambling. References to the first police crime reconstruction, filmed in Liverpool in 1901, are a reminder that addiction has long existed within the fabric of our culture. Emotionally charged scenes reveal inner truths and turmoils, which gain additional power when the people playing the roles are, in some sense, playing themselves.

Visually striking, STEPHEN is also about the process of filmmaking, about stories and staged realities, about the thin line between fact and fiction. It explores with unflinching honesty the complexities of desire, ambitions, hopes and dreams as well as the power of creativity as a motor for change. Across the arc of the film, we follow the true progress, the successes and failures as our main character takes on a fictional role – his big chance to show his skills as a charismatic actor. Following Ste’s journey offers viewers a cathartic experience as his story speaks to all of us, to our all-too-human desire to make the best out of our lives – whatever that may be.

SCREENINGS AT 10:30 / 12:00 / 13:30 / 15:00

Screenings are timed throughout the day, though you may enter the film at any point, if you wish.
Families should be aware that the film has a cinema 15 rating. Look out for information about children’s activities during school holidays.

If you are affected by any of the issues in the film STEPHEN, click here for a list of agencies that can provide support.


London-based artist and filmmaker Melanie Manchot employs photography, film, video and sound to form a sustained enquiry into how we form ideas about our individual and collective identities. Performance-to-camera, reconstruction and participation as well as location-based research are recurring methodologies. She makes films for cinematic and art world distribution and her moving image works have been shown in galleries and museums across the world. These video works – both single screen and multi-channel installations – operate on the cross section of documentary and narrative fiction to investigate how fact, fiction and observation offer strategies for speaking about our shifting place in an increasingly mediated world.


STEPHEN is Manchot’s first feature film, commissioned by Liverpool Biennial. Her work is held in many public collections and was recently presented in a major survey show at museum MAC/VAL, Paris. In 2023, STEPHEN premiered at film festivals internationally as well as being a headline presentation at Liverpool Biennial from June to September 2023.



Stephen was born in 1985 in Kirkby, Liverpool. He met Melanie Manchot when first going into rehab in early 2013 as he joined a group of people in recovery working with Manchot towards her video installation Twelve. This is where he discovered his desire and talent for acting. He briefly worked with acting coach Mark Hudson at the Manchester School for Acting. He is passionate about exercise and uses this as his own form of therapy, whether that be running, weight training, boxing, jiu jitsu or climbing the peaks in Lake District.

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Venue: The Exchange
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Open: DAILY, 10.00 - 17.00

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