Sleeping sci-fi beauties, sofa superheroes, racist neighbours and a spaceman are just some of the characters you’ll find at this year’s 24/7 Theatre Festival.

In the eight years since its inception, 24/7 theatre festival has become a mainstay of Manchester’s arts scene; going from strength to strength each year with the support of the city’s writers, actors and most importantly; theatre fans.

The idea behind the festival is simple. Brand new chunks of bitesized theatre performed in non-theatre venues. It’s theatre, but not as we know it. It’s lunchbreak theatre. It’s after work theatre. It’s both theatre for people who don’t have time for theatre, and theatre for people whose appetite for new writing is so voracious that they want to gobble up as much of it as they possibly can.

Festival producer David Slack has worked tirelessly to cultivate some truly stunning plays over the years, and 2011 is no exception. This year the festival will premiere 13 original new plays, handpicked by judges from over 100 submissions.

The plays are produced with little budget, relying on powerful writing and passionate actors to deliver that magic and energy that 24/7 is known for.

This year’s plays cover a variety of genres and subject matters, from dark comedy to drama, from romance to racism and sci-fi to sex. And with all thirteen plays coming in at under an hour and tickets costing no more than the price of cocktail, there’s no excuse for not catching at least one or two shows.

So what’s looking good this year? Well, frankly everything.

‘Future Shock’ is a romantic drama by Richard Stockwell about a woman who slept 800 years to be with her lover but was woken up in 2879 – 100 years too early.

Steve Pearce’s comedy ‘The Crimson Retribution’ meanwhile sees Amy, in the midst of a failing relationship, faced with the prospect of a guy in a mask sleeping on her sofa and claiming to be seeking retribution.

Matthew Dunster adresses racial tension and secrets hidden at the heart of a small Northern community in the powerful drama ‘I Know Where the Dead are Buried’.

And if you’ve got little-uns, Joyce Branagh returns to 24/7 with ‘Peggy and the Spaceman’ – the festival’s first children’s drama, which will run every afternoon at 3.30pm.

And of course these are just a handful of the plays appearing at the festival. For the full listings visit the 24/7 Theatre Festival website where you’ll find something for every taste and every mood.

Venues this year are The Midland Hotel, Sachas Hotel, and New Century House. Tickets are all under a tenner, with four for the price of three when you book in advance.