FilmFear festival returns to Manchester – tickets now on sale

It’s back. FilmFear returns to HOME this Hallowe’en and this year, slightly beyond, with an extended programme of chills, thrills and downright blood spills.

Running from Wednesday 28 October to Thursday 5 November, Film4 and HOME have co-curated a line-up (coined Scream Now, Think Later) of modern genre classics that sink their teeth into politics, race, sexuality, social issues and more. But most of all scare the pants off you (put them back on though please, nobody needs that – we’ve enough going on).

Included in the fright fest (oh come on, it was only a matter of time before I used the alliterative scary mainstay of ‘fright fest’ – 3rd paragraph, not bad), this year is:

Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs, a savage slice of Regan-era urban gothic (oh yes) and Philip Kaufman’s 1978 sci-fi thriller, the classic Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, starring Donald Sutherland and legend in his own lifetime, Jeff Goldblum.

Parasite Oscar winner, Bong Joon-Ho brings The Host, an aquatic creature feature (I love that phrase, wish it was mine), and there’s a London Underground creature feature (not quite the same ring to it) from the 1972 film Death Line, starring Donald Pleasence and Christopher Lee. And you thought you had it bad having to wear a mask on the Metro.

Whilst the remake should have hit cinemas this month (you’ve gone too far this time Covid), the classic Candyman, will be playing, all restored, pretty and downright polished.

The programme also crosses over with HOME’s Viva! Spanish and Latin American Festival with a celebration of Spanish horror maestro, Chico, including a double bill of El asfalto and La Residencia.

Tickets and full details of FilmFear 2020: Scream Now, Think Later can be found here.

Interested in FilmFears gone by? Check out my reviews and write-ups below:

https://honorarymancblog.com/2018/10/22/home-its-where-the-filmfear-is/

https://honorarymancblog.com/2018/10/28/mandy-home-mcr-as-part-of-filmfear/

https://honorarymancblog.com/2019/09/10/filmfear-and-chills-film-festival-returns-to-home-mcr-this-halloween/

https://honorarymancblog.com/2019/11/03/filmfear-at-home-mcr-the-reviews/

An Escape to Freight Island for Headstock opener

It feels like there’s precious little to look forward to or enjoy at the moment (yes Debbie Downer at your service), but much of what we have had to look forward to in Greater Manchester has been courtesy of the brilliant platform United We Stream.

And so, this Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 October, Headstock Weekender storms into our lives with a two day programme, marking World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10 October).

The event will feature two days of live music, including the likes of UK chart-topping rock band Nothing But Thieves along-side some of Greater Manchester’s most exciting bands including Larkins and The Slow Readers Club.

There are also exclusive talks, and immersive wellbeing experiences. Anyone can access the event for free, with donations encouraged to raise much needed funds for Headstock’s charity partners Help Musicians and Manchester Mind, as well as raising awareness for text support service Shout 85258.

Additionally a cracking night of comedy will be streamed, curated by Nodding Dog Comedy, as recorded at Escape to Freight Island on Tuesday night, which is where I found myself – and readers, never has a night out felt more escapey.

Escape to Freight Island near Manchester Piccadilly, is Manchester’s brand new open air entertainment space at Mayfield Depot. Due to its alfresco set-up, the venue is certainly as near perfect for socialising as dammit. Cue being able to see two friends outside (as permitted) not only safely, but comfortably. And happily!

Out in the open air, there’s a myriad of different seating areas and bars; picnic benches, booths, all canopied and covered where one can happily recline and watch the torrential rain come down from our wonderful Manchester skies. Masks adorned once you leave your seat, there is sanitiser aplenty, a one way system for the many loos and basins, and what I deem to be one of the few good things to come out of this whole sorry mess – an app ordering system for food and drink.

Speaking of which, behold the largest pizza known to mankind from Voodoo Ray’s (and bloody good to boot). We really are blessed with great pizza in this fair city we call Manchester.

An old freight depot, the place has a real festival feel (again – in a non-crowded non-covidy way) and along with the theatrical lighting around the venue, non-moreso than the showstopper installation in the middle, there’s a sense that you’re not only there for the food and drink, but a real event of which hopefully will become realised sooner rather than later as live performance fully returns.

There’s still much to open up at Escape to Freight Island but for now, this, the first stage (called Platform 15 – get it?) shows a little light at the end of the tunnel for somewhere to relax, meet friends (groups of 6 people, groups of 6) and remember what it was like to feel a little normal.

And to Tuesday night, and the jokes, ‘lols’ and ‘bantz’ were free-flowing, sharp, witty and top drawer. And that was just our booth (oh how you laugh).

Nodding Dog Comedy brought us two hours of stand up comedy from the likes of Brennan Reece (Live at the Apollo), Mike Newall (BGT – no not the acclaimed 90s Blackburn Rovers player, you sillies – don’t tell anyone but he was my favourite. The comedian, not the footballer. Maybe both), Bexie Archer, Isma Almas and Vince Atta. Freddy Quinne, Lindsey Davies, Phil Chapman, Matt Stellingwerf and Hayley Ellis.

There’s always that fear that you’re going to be ridiculed, picked on, flogged, hung drawn and quartered when you attend a live comedy gig. Well, you lucky people, as you’ll get to see this two hours of comedy online this Saturday night from the comfort of your own homes, you’re safe from the spotlight.

Freddie Quinne

In fact from my well positioned booth at the back at ‘Island (yes, this is what we’re calling it now, deal), I too was safe from torture to listen and laugh along as I negotiated a pizza box that was too big for the table.

For the full programme of events during the Headstock Weekender which culminates Sunday night with a four-hour party from seminal night club series The Warehouse Project, click here.

Viewers can tune in to the event for free on United We Stream HERE.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to buy a virtual ticket for the event or donate an amount they can afford HERE.  Alternatively viewers can donate £5 by texting HEADSTOCKLIVE to 70085. All proceeds from the event will go to Headstock’s charity partners Help Musicians and Manchester Mind.

Donations will help support vital emotional and practical services for young people and musicians.

HOME Comforts – live performance returns on 13 October

It’s been a cruel cruel spring and summer for us all but you don’t need my take on all that’s going on, (if you do, I’ll create a bespoke ‘my take’ just for you – brace yourself…).

I’ve missed the arts, the thrill of live theatre, music, performance, just life in general playing out without constant (but necessary) mention of the C word (the one I don’t have a closeted fondness for).

But as we all mask up and get ready for the winter ahead, there are occasional rays of sunshine breaking through and things that remind us of a life currently on pause but will and even is beginning to exist again.

And so to HOME Mcr who are welcoming their first live event to the theatre since March.

Part of Black History Month, this one-off special event on October 13, will see acclaimed poetry and spoken word collective Young Identity launching their new book, Working from HOME (so many levels of aptness at play here), with an evening of emceeing, poetry and performance.

Young Identity

Having worked with the likes of Lemn Sissay, Saul Williams, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Kae Tempest, Young Identity are HOME‘s resident artists and the book showcases their creative responses to work performed at HOME across three of their artforms – theatre, film and visual arts.

Since reopening in September, HOME‘s 500-seat Theatre 1 has been reduced to a capacity of just 120 to allow for social distancing, but despite this, tickets will be priced at just £10 to ensure that as many as people as possible have the best opportunity to return to the theatre.

Director and CEO, Dave Moutrey said

Much has changed since we closed in March, but we must do all we can to bridge the potential growth in social inequality as a result to this pandemic.

Copies of Young Identity‘s book will also be on sale at the vent, and tickets which include the purchase price of the book will also be available.

For more information and to purchase tickets, head to https://homemcr.org/production/working-from-home/

To read more about the Empty Seats campaign at HOME, here.

Music: Denise Johnson’s final gift with posthumous release of debut album, Where Does it Go

The world of music, in particular our own very special part of that world, here in Manchester, was recently rocked and hugely saddened by the news that hugely acclaimed, simply stunning, vocalist, Denise Johnson, had passed away.

Best known for the two albums she recorded and toured with Primal scream in the 90s, Screamadelica and Give Out But Don’t Give Up, Denise’s work with other greats such as New Order, Johnny Marr, The Charlatans, Michael Hutchence, 808 State, Electronic, Bernard Butler, Ian Brown, The Waterboys and A Certain Ratio, certainly ensures a legacy that will keep her in the hearts of music lovers both in Manchester and indeed the world.

However, Denise leaves one further gift with the bittersweet news that her debut album, Where Does it Go will be posthumously released on Friday 2 October.

Pic – Danny Bird

Featuring just Denise’s vocals accompanied by Manchester-based guitarist, Thomas ‘Twem’ Twemlow, the mostly acoustic album provides the perfect platform for listeners to experience once again her stunning voice.

Pic – Tony Woolliscroft

With the exception of lead track, Steal Me Easy, co-written by Denise and former collaborator, French guitarist Fabian Lefrancois, the recording of the album is completely live and untouched by studio tricks or computer wizadry.

Pic – Danny Bird

First meeting Denise in 2003 when she sang on a couple of his tracks, guitarist and, indeed, album producer Twem says,

Denise got back in touch a few years after we’d first worked together, asking if I’d play acoustic guitar for her. We set about doing our own version of her favourite songs from various Manchester acts. One of the first she asked me to play was True Faith: my first thought was ‘how the hell can I make an electronic track work on acoustic?’ But, to be honest, when you’ve got someone like Denise singing, you can make anything work.

Recorded in Ancoats at Hope Mill Recording Studios, one of the songs that Denise wanted to include on the album is her version of Ellie Greenwich’s Sunshine After the Rain, performed by Denise in her role as Mary, in the BBC’s incredible live staging of The Manchester Passion, back in 2006. Denise had cited this event as one of the highlights of her career, for the simple reason that she knew it had made her mother incredibly proud.

Tim Burgess will be featuring the album on Monday 5 October (9 pm UK time) on Tim’s Twitter Listening Party with producer Twem and you can find the full tracklisting below:

  • True Faith (New Order)
  • I’m Not In Love (10CC)
  • Nothing You Can Do (Denise Johnson)
  • Evangeline (Cherry Ghost)
  • Sunshine After The Rain (Ellie Greenwich)
  • Well I Wonder (The Smiths)
  • Steal Me Easy(Denise Johnson / Fabien Lefrançois)

In addition, Denise also features on the new A Certain Ratio album, which comes out a week before her own, on Friday 25 September.

Out Friday 2 October, Where Does it Go.

Thank you Denise Johnson.

Pic – Danny Bird

Physical formats: Limited vinyl & CD will only be available from Piccadilly Records: https://www.piccadillyrecords.com/counter/product.php?pid=134933

Radio track WAV: Steal Me Easy https://we.tl/t-yhQDDaBbWo

Digital/Streaming: on all platforms  https://cdbaby.lnk.to/WhereDoesItGo

Tim’s Twitter Listening Party: Tim Burgess is featuring the album on Monday 5 October (9 pm UK time)

Tracklisting:

  • True Faith (New Order)
  • I’m Not In Love (10CC)
  • Nothing You Can Do (Denise Johnson)
  • Evangeline (Cherry Ghost)
  • Sunshine After The Rain (Ellie Greenwich)
  • Well I Wonder (The Smiths)
  • Steal Me Easy (Denise Johnson / Fabien Lefrançois)


Film Review: Tenet

This was my first visit to the cinema in months and since lockdown.

As it was a sole visit in a reviewing capacity, it mattered not that I was socially distanced.

Other measures taken were a groovy one way system and hand sanitiser stations.

Elbows flailing to their hearts content, I settled down (extra points for the reclining chairs in screen 1 of the Vue Cinema at The Lowry).

Now.

The facemask.

It was going to take a special kind of film to distract me from the facemask. At 150 minutes, this was going to be a whole lot of facemask.

Up for the challenge was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, a palindromic promise of international action, espionage and time-travel. But not as you know it…

credit: Melinda Sue Gordon, Warner Bros

Read my full review of Tenet on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw –

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/review-tenet/

On general release in cinemas across Greater Manchester from Wednesday 26 August including

Vue: Manchester Quayside Cinema

A welcome HOME on 4 September?

There’s light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, my friends.

We all know the worries and concerns for the theatre, and indeed arts and entertainment industry as a collective.

But as 4 July becomes some sort of D-day, a heralding of freedom, venues who have been left out of the loop have started to look ahead to their own release, so to speak.

What joy to see an email from HOME Mcr in my inbox with a cautious date for reopening.

No, you’re crying…

Mark your calendars, digital and otherwise – HOME hope to thrown open their doors and welcome us back 4 September to their cinemas, bars and restaurants, with hope for their galleries and theatres to open later that month.

Can’t cinemas open in July?

I hear you cry?

Well yes, there’s your multiplexes, and that’s fine (and exciting), but as HOME Executive Director, Jon Gilchrist explains, it may not be quite time for the indies…

While we are aware that the Government has stated cinemas may reopen from 4 July, this is not the best option for many independent cinemas like ourselves, whose programmes do not focus on the Summer blockbusters.

Instead we want to take the time to ensure that we have time to make the necessary adjustments to the building, and to speak to our audiences about how they can be involved in our plans.

So there you have it.

The cultural sector has, and continues to, feel the huge financial impact that lockdown has had, but there is hope.

And that hope comes in the shape of a date on your calendars, at least for HOME – 4 September 2020.

In the meantime, HOME continues to work with colleagues from across the country to make the case to Government for more support to help the sector recover, and supporting initiatives including the GM Artists Hub and the National Freelance Task Force.

Also check out their ongoing series of online commissions, in the shape of their Homemakers programme.

I look forwarding to ringing more dates on my calendar from other theatre venues both in the Greater Manchester region, and across the country.

I miss you all. Even the wonky seats.

For more information, visit their website at homemcr.org

Review: Henry V, the Barn Theatre – and, live stream theatre its very self

We’re sick of the C word. I know. And we’ve all got things and people we’re missing. Some are obviously more up the priority list but we mustn’t dismiss the little things in life that keep us going and, to put it bluntly, sane.

I miss my family.

That goes without saying, But we all miss our little pleasures in life too. The arts and culture enrich our lives and if we didn’t realise it before, we’re sure as hell realising it now.

Residing in Manchester, my blog of course is Manchester focussed – write what you know and, of course, what’s relevant to your life and those around you. But in the world of lockdown and isolation, we’re entering a virtual world, now more than ever before. And so our entertainment, ‘social’ lives and soul food now has a geographical irrelevance.

And it is with thanks to the Barn Theatre, Cirencester, for my first virtual press night and live streaming theatre experience. I know I’m probably lagging behind the times on this one, but being so lucky to have so many theatres, galleries, music venues and just places on my doorstep in Manchester, I’ve never tapped into the concept.

I wanted to review the production but also the experience itself.

The way it worked with the Barn Theatre is they used their social channels to host a link to the ‘live’. I should point out, at this point, that all the creatives are on lockdown too so this was a live stream of a performance filmed in May 2019. No flouting of the rules here.

Sat in my living room, I had my drink in hand (my theatre tipple of choice tends to be a glass of red, but this was a celebration – champagne was absolutely necessary) and sat through the countdown.

And you know? I was back in a theatre. I mean obviously not, but a play cannot be confused with a television programme, a film, because the very constructs are different, they’re in real time, they’re more ‘raw’ and whilst you yourself are not with the players in front of you, you’re still feeling the theatrical magic.

And so to the production itself…

Friday 27 March was World Theatre Day and so the perfect choice for the Barn Theatre to stream their past production of Henry V. And it is at this point that I want to emphasise that the stream is still available so if you like what you read, check it out yourself (links at the bottom).

Directed by Hal Chambers, the production stars Aaron Sidwell (Eastenders , Wicked, Ghost) and Lauren Samuels (Bend it Like Beckham, We Will Rock You, Grease) and is a modern take on Shakespeare’s Henry V in all but text (although I did note a couple of diversions, notably a chorus of ‘It’s coming home, it’s coming home…’

Henry V in a nutshell tells the story of Henry V who assumes the throne after the death of his father (yep you guessed it), Henry IV.

After he’s insulted by the heir to the throne of France, Henry invades France to claim the throne he believes should be his.

Whilst preventing an assassination plot, Henry’s rousing speeches to his troops rally them to victory, against all odds. Next stop marry the Princess of France and both nations brought together.

This highly stylised version keeps matters fairly simple on stage in terms of props and scenery allowing the acting to literally take centre stage, but it is the technology, the lighting, the music that elevates it to a new and interesting place.

Rolling news has pretty much got us by the proverbial (and literal, dependent on your dna) balls, during this time of lockdown and our old mate pops up early on when we see ETV projected at the back of the stage bringing news and reaction of the death of Henry IV (later we see FTV reporting on the battle – you get the idea).

The famous text tells of the early life of the soon to be crowned Henry V living his best life with friends at the local tavern. This production brings this screaming to our attention as it flashes to him engaged in a rave and all that comes with it (including flashing lights and some of the fantastic and original composition by Harry Smith.

In fact in an interview shown during the ‘interval’ of the live stream conducted by Barn Theatre Artistic Director, Iwan Lewis, Aaron Sidwell tells of the cast’s preparation by way of a method night out of drinking and general cavorting (all very PG and professional, mind) whilst all in character.

With on-screen graphics (I can’t be sure how this translated to the physical production in the theatre) and overheard voxpops commenting on events, the production really does give an established text an exciting injection of post-modernism and relevance.

And speaking of, Henry V’s rallying speeches really can be said to resonate as we tune into our daily briefings with the government and their aides during this time of difficulty and crisis.

Who can forget the infamous

Once more unto the breach…

As we’re urged by ‘our leaders’ to fight the war against Corona and stay in our houses.

And so, whilst I applaud this original production itself from all players and creatives involved from the Barn Theatre, I equally applaud the live stream itself put together so early on in our ‘new world’ bringing wonderful theatre and artistry into our homes.

You can live stream Henry V for free by using the Barn Theatre social channels :here on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter.

You can also download a free copy of the interactive programme and exhilarating soundtrack by visiting http://barntheatre.org.uk/

During these tough times, the theatre is looking at a £250,000 loss and potential permanent closure and so any donations to the #saveourbarn can be made through their website.

And so as one of our oldest forms of culture is brought bang into the 21st century by both the approach to the production itself and the concept of live theatre, join me in supporting our arts and, indeed our own sanity, by continuing to feed our souls during this new (and hopefully temporary) normal.

Review – Cellist Matthew Sharp and the Northern Chamber Orchestra

I last wrote about the wonderful Northern Chamber Orchestra when I visited the rather lovely Stoller Hall for the first time, back in May 2018 – https://honorarymancblog.com/2018/05/18/the-northern-chamber-orchestra-mozart-and-elgar-and-beethoven-oh-my/

Yes I was rather taken with the acoustics of the environment and hall, and I’m not going to pretend to go down the ‘but was it the location and the acoustics that provided such a pleasurable experience’ path, because that would be ludicrous and frankly condescending to the orchestra (even though the answer is a formidable

NO!

Although I should probably add…

AS LOVELY AS THEY WERE!

The Northern Chamber Orchestra is the Northern Chamber Orchestra, is the Northern Chamber Orchestra. And this time they brought their beautiful talent to the rather charming venue of the Focus Theatre in Romiley, Stockport.

Blink and you’ll miss it, it would be easy to overlook this venue by the precinct, but find, go in and enter the auditorium and it’s just, well, charming! And being fortunate enough to be a regular theatre-goer, I have sat in many a seat and that red velvet seat was one of the most comfortable I have ever relaxed in.

And relaxed was the word, that evening as the Orchestra and guest soloist, Matthew Sharp, took us on a musical journey which soothed, delighted and almost sent this writer into a glorious slumber (on my signed Uri Geller bent spoon, this is a compliment).

For what is music if not to take us out of ourselves, our busy lives, our worries and woes (blimey do forgive the drama – I write this amidst the litany of Coronavirus concerns, updates and world-wide stresses – you get the picture).

And so after a wonderfully rousing rendition of the Overture from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (full disclosure, I’ve seen The Marriage of Figaro but my heart belonged to the opening of the film Trading Places – forgive me Amadeus), we were introduced to cellist, Matthew Sharp.

Internationally recognised not only as a cellist, but also as an accomplished actor, Matthew definitely brought a presence and energy to the stage even before he picked up his instrument, engaging the audience in the tale of why he was sporting a t-shirt to perform in (backstage wardrobe malfunctions of the ripped shirt variety).

The audience instantly on his side before a note played, after which you could have heard a pin drop as those glorious sounds that can only eminate from a cello (granted you have to be able to play too) filled the theatre. Stoller, Schmoller (just kidding Stoller Hall – see you again in May…) The Forum Theatre held its own.

Performing Antonio Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor. This is one of the most performed cello concertos of all time with many of the world’s greatest cellists recording it, including Jacqueline du Pre (who Sharp performed for at the age of 12).

As the world’s ills evaporated around us, Matthew Sharp, along with the orchestra, had our full attention and awe, not least that of some of the students who he had been working with all week in the area, as part of education and outreach programmes.

With the audience in the palm of his hand, his modest attempts to quietly leave the hall after his performance were met with a crowd of people wishing to shake his hand, say hello and even capture a quick selfie with the talented musician.

And so we were then treated to an upbeat end to the concert from the orchestra with Hayden’s Symphony no.101 subtitled The Clock and finally the last two sections of Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo: Saturday Night Waltz and Hoedown which left us all feeling like we’d left Romiley for the deep Wild West of America.

And so, there are plenty of opportunities to see and hear this wonderful orchestra.

And you simply must. Find them here at https://www.ncorch.co.uk/concerts/

Review: Back to the Future – The Musical

I can remember the first time I heard those ticking clocks.

It was a friend’s birthday party at her house and we all sat round as the video was put on.

The excitement was real as those clocks ticked and the camera panned across the Doc’s home and workshop in a garage in the fictional Hill Valley.

Some 30 odd years later and those tick-tocks were back as we took our seats in the circle of the Opera House, Manchester, a countdown taking place on stage, the atmosphere feeling as electric as the currents that crackled above our heads.

And so for years and years my brother and I have been quoting lines from the Back to the Future (BTTF) trilogy (mostly the first two actually – Soz cowboy BTTF.

Run for it Marty!

Good night Future boy!

Well you’re right, Biff, you’re right!

Not too early, I sleep in Sundays

Joey just looooves being in his playpen

You’re my m…you’re my m….

Ha a a a a a a a a a a a a he always says that…

And so it was with intrigue, fear and nerves that I approached the concept that is BTTF the musical.

Full disclosure – I’ve never been the biggest fan of musicals. I can cast an objective eye towards them and recognise talent and what is good about them (I hope), but as a genre of entertainment they’re not necessarily my favourite.

Would it be all…(a 5,6,7,8)

🎶 Gigawatts! 1.21 Gigawatts! They are Gigawatts! And there are 1.21 of them, that’s 1.21 of them…

No matter. If BTTF is involved and importantly the original creatives, co-creators and producers Bobs Gale and Zemekis are on board, you go, go, go.

Robert Zemekis in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And blimey – I am so glad I did (we did need roads).

Bob Gale in rehearsals (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and Roger Bart as The Doc, the show takes us through the first film and story in a way that is fully faithful, and abridged where necessary.

Olly Dobson and Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

The dialogue is there as the actors riff on the old favourites, with lines delivered to cheers, laughter and the pure joy of recognition.

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

This was never more the case than when loveable old George McFly (Hugh Coles) was on stage. The show didn’t necessarily demand carbon copy imitations of the characters, but boy did we all marvel with open-mouthed glee (picture what that looked like) as the loveable old and original ‘slacker’ manifested before our very eyes.

Olly Dobson and Rosanna Hyland (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

And it was a very similar story with Rosanna Hyland as Lorraine, from the moment she poured out that vodka, through to pointing out her hope chest, to parking with a boy.

Olly Dobson took on the incredibly difficult task of asking us to imagine a Marty McFly who isn’t Michael J Fox (yes, I know, Eric Stolz for about 5 mins, fellow hardcore BTTF tribe members), and he smashed it.

(Pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Darting, skateboarding, jamming his way round the stage in his life preserver, Dobson was a joy to watch down to the smallest of inflections – don’t get me wrong though, he made future boy his own.

We need to talk about the Doc, played by Roger Bart. I was never about to make like a tree and get outta there but for the opening strains of a song and dance routine as he shimmied round the DeLorean with his back up dancers, I was in a small state of shock.

Roger Bart (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

But then, Great Scott, I got it. And it was everything.

Christopher Lloyd is the Doc, we all know this. But Roger Bart is musical Doc. A Doc that delivers the 1.21 gigawattsness with the same breathy, incredulity, but with a hammy quality and campness that is simply perfect.

If you’re gonna be musical Doc, go big, go extra, or go home (with the aid of a bolt of lightening, perhaps).

Glor.i.ous.

And so to our dear time machine, the DeLorean. There it was in all its glory. Forget Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, this car is its own star which brings me to the special effects which were out of this world.

Believe me, this pic does not do the sfx justice (credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

How do you demonstrate time travel on a lovely old theatre in the middle of Manchester? I don’t know but thanks to the genius of the special effects, they did, and then some in a way that got the heart rate racing upto 88mph.

With a musical score that was the perfect balance of the original and the new (with a healthy dose of Huey and his veritable News thrown in (nice nod, naming a new character after his Lewisness), it even got Miss ‘musicals aren’t necessarily my thing’ on her feet.

If you put your mind to it, you can indeed achieve anything. And blimey o’reilly, has the world premier outing of this show achieved everything.

Hugh Coles and Aidan Cutler (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)
What a voice – Cedric Neal (pic credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes)

Go, introduce your kids and bask in the brilliance of this new show. Buttheads.

Showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until 17 May 2020.

For further details and tickets, head to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

Review: Insane Animals

It’s true to say that I didn’t always know what I was watching last night.

But I know that I liked it.

Like the camp space landing that it depicted (are there any other kind?), the show launched itself on stage through plumes of smoke and a cacophony of noise, and with the arrival of ‘cult cabaret duo’, Bourgeois & Maurice.

Directed by Phillip McMahon, the premise of the show (you’re best not to question, just accept) is two glam aliens arrive from a faraway galaxy to rescue present-day earth from impending political, environmental and social doom.

Now, of course this show was written, created, conceived of before we all entered the realms of (brace yourself for the c-word) Coronavirus. Yet, I can’t have been the only one in that audience more than aware of the …well not so much irony, more literal coincidence, of the statements delivered to the audience along the lines of ‘we’ve come to save you, you’re all doomed,’. They raised more than a little nervous laughter as we coughed into our elbows, having performed hand-washing duration top trumps with fellow theatre-goers in the toilets beforehand.

Being accidentally reminded of world-wide health crisis aside, the show was a riot, a pure joy.

The best thing with shows such as Insane Animals, is not to attempt to explain it (and with that, she was off the hook), but just to feel it, absorb it, embrace it and really, really enjoy it.

The satirical double-act were joined by 6 other actors and musicians (and self-described misfits) as they sang, played, danced, gyrated, wrestled, gurned and glitter-bombed their way through a story of time-travel and mortality (oh yes, they weren’t messing about).

The songs were catchy (I’m not the biggest embracer of musicals but i was all over this one) and the costumes as extra as the country’s current penchant for stockpiling loo-roll.

At the time of writing, there are four more chances to bear witness to this ‘queer unravelling of past and present, fact and fiction’. Just watch yourself on that front row…

For more details and to book tickets, visit https://homemcr.org/production/bourgeois-maurices-insane-animals/.

Pic credits: Drew Forsyth.