Review: Death Drop at the Lowry

Who knew murder could be so fabulous?

It’s 1991, it’s Tuck Island (because of course), it’s Charlie and Di’s 10th wedding anniversary, a storm’s brewing (oh how apt) and the scene is set for a murder mystery so dramatic, so devastating, so…drag.

Starring Ru-Paul US drag legends Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara, Drag Race UK Star Vinegar Strokes, Drag Race Down Under star Karen from Finance and a full cast of leading drag performers including writer Holly Stars, Death Drop is the Smash-Hit, Five Star, Drag Murder Mystery direct from the West End and straight to our Salford Quay’s Lowry Theatre.

With death by Findus crispy pancake, dismembered hands and exploding automobiles, this was no Mrs Peacock in the billiard room with the lead piping.

With running jokes reading the royals with a viciousness like there’s no tomorrow, the library was well and truly open in the Lowry on Wednesday night.

With familiar and a little less familiar faces on stage, each performer brought their own special brand of drag and delight.

And as our guests came (and indeed some, prematurely went) to Lady von Fistenburg’s (Vinegar Strokes) commemorative anniversary evening, they death-dropped like flies.

We had devilish hack Morgan Pierce (Karen From Finance), tory toff Rich Whiteman (Richard Energy), TV wideboy Phil Maker (Georgia Frost), past-it popstar Shazza and the mesmirising meterologist, Summer Raines (top of the bill Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara). All fabulous, all wickedly funny.

However, the stand-out star for me was Holly Stars both on stage and off, given that it was a drag murder mystery wot she wrote (based on an original idea by Christopher D Clegg). Due to a terrible bout of diarrhea, the original actors/supermodels were unable to meet their theatrical obligations so Holly had to play all three Bottomley sisters, Brie, Blue and Spread (names after my own turophile’s heart – yes I had to google it…).

Holly embraced the parts like she’d written the lines herself…

Never had pathos and grief been summed up so succinctly by one such special sob.

But who got to shantay you stay, and who got sashayed away off this mortal coil? Well I won’t spoil the fun, but let’s say that I did find it particularly inkeeping when our darling drummer of a weatherman, Owain Wyn Evans, took his seat behind me for the performance.

If you want feathers, thrills, sequins and spills (and a downright campfest of drag daftness and innuendo), catch Death Drop at The Lowry until Saturday 16 October.

Directed by Jesse Jones and with original songs for Flo & Joan, find all the deets and book your tickets here at https://tickets.thelowry.com/en-GB/shows/death%20drop/events

Photo credits-: Nathan Chandler

Review: The Same Rain that Falls on Me (Greater Mcr Fringe)

I’ve written my love letter to fringe theatre before and my opinion never changes. I love you all, theatre concepts, venues, genres…but fringe is definitely a head turner for me…

Apart from the opportunity for writers to write and actors to act with a no holds barred emotional, brave and raw approach to the subject matter, it also takes you to venues in your city you’ve never been to before.

In this case it was The Peer Hat on Faraday Street. I grow tired of articles listing the ‘hidden bars’ in Manchester that basically are not hidden. They just aren’t the moment you tell us they are. And the moment they become part of said list, their mystique is broken. I get the irony of me writing about one. But I consider my blog to be ‘hidden’ enough to get away with it…

Back to the play (but with a meer soupcon of still signposting to a great venue), The Same Rain that Falls on Me is part of this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe.

Written by Logan Jones, performed Maria Cook (alternate performances from Ella McKeown) and from fledgling company, Autumn Theatre, the press release asked us to ‘witness a powerful and witty monologue about family and grief’.

Well it delivered on every element. I’m slipping into ‘all about me’ territory, but how a piece of art makes you feel is the point. Yes you can appreciate good craftmanship, entertainment, hard work, even, but when it resonates with you and provokes an emotional reaction, it speaks to you on a whole other level.

Here comes the me me me bit but I promise to keep it brief.

When I moved out from my family home to Manchester (the start of my honorary Mcr citizenship, if you like), it coincided with my dad becoming ill. I started work in Manchester in the April, moved officially in the December, lost my dad in the February.

There were journeys home, then journeys to the hospital and finally a journey to the funeral home. I missed my goodbye, something that I’m still coming to terms with, and experienced how we as a family (my mum and siblings) came to terms with our own grief, both collectively and individually.

(Back to the play), Alice receives ‘two calls and a text’ calling her home, where her terminally ill father is ending his battle with cancer.

We go with Alice on the train journey home, the reunion with her mum, brother, sister-in-law and cherished niece, Autumn.

Photo credit: Autumn Theatre, Maria Cook as Alice

Actress, Maria, delivered the wonderfully, witty words on stage with such a natural and heartfelt delivery that I almost forgot to think about myself and the parallels I was witnessing. In fact, I’ll take that back and say that it was because of the natural performance that it took me back 20 years so starkly. Transfixed, I found myself wanting to ask questions, ‘how old is Autumn’, ‘how do you feel about missing the ‘official goodbye’, ‘why did you pick geography over history in your humanities options, I could never get on board…’? and so on and so forth.

With the most simple of sets, a wooden chair serving as an eyeline/substitute for another character and, well, as a chair, there was nowhere to hide in this performance.

In this intimate space, we watched as a young woman struggled with family dynamics, her life choices to date, her regrets, her feelings about being loved and loving others and most of all her pending and actual loss, and we laughed and fell silent in equal measure.

But we left that brilliant little venue tucked away in the Northern Quarter (it may be ‘hidden’ but Google maps will have you there in a jiffy), with much to ponder and appreciate both about the piece and our own lives.

The ultimate gift from the arts to ourselves.

To read more about Autumn Theatre, visit https://www.facebook.com/AutumnSameRain/?ref=py_c

Not falling for telling you exactly where The Peer Hat is…

The full Greater Manchester Fringe programme can be found at https://greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk//

Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – The Lowry

Everybody’s talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

It’s being recommended to me, I’ve been asked if I’ve seen it, asked if I recommend it…

Yes

In short.

In long, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, is an award-winning ‘feel good musical sensation,’ which debuted in the West End and has opened its UK tour at The Lowry.

I write ‘feel good musical sensation’ in quotes purely because I didn’t say it first, but completely agree.

It’s a feel good musical sensation.

me

The show tells the story of an extraordinary lad with what should be accepted as ordinary dreams. Jamie New (a stage-stealing performance from Layton Williams) is sixteen, from a Sheffield council estate and doesn’t fit in.

His careers class dictates that his destiny is to be a fork lift truck driver. His dream is to be a drag queen. And a sensational one at that.

But first, Jamie has to overcome bullies (George Sampson putting in a mean – in every sense of the word – performance as Dean), prejudice and judgement, not least from his own Dad (Cameron Johnson).

Helped along by a solid foundation of love from single mum Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson) and mad mate Ray (Shobna Gulati), the best mate a boy or girl could have in Pritti (Sharan Phull) and an encouraging word and song or two from Sheffield dress shop owner/drag queen (Shane Richie putting in something of a guilty pleasure performance as Hugo/Loco Chanelle), Jamie is able to ‘step out of the darkness, into the spotlight’.

I could do with some tips from Jamie myself, having side-stepped the red carpet and photographer laid out for guests at The Lowry on Saturday night, shyly shimmying sideways like a cowardly crab straight to the bar. What an odd image I conjure.

Anyway.

With an original score of catchy pop tunes by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells, writer Tom MacRae (Doctor Who) and the cast have brought to the stage a high-octane, bouncy, bitingly funny and at times emotionally charged tale of bravery, determination and finding your inner fabulousness.

And by the end, you’ll feel so good and energised, you’ll practically be pirouetting your way out of those theatre doors and onto your tram (if only the red carpet had been available at the end – I would have posed up a storm).

So don’t miss out and join in the conversation.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is on at The Lowry until this Sunday 12 September.

For further details and to book your tickets, visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie/

Pic credits: Matt Crockett.