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Theatre Review – Long Day’s Journey Into Night – HOME Mcr

Families, who’d ‘ave ’em?

I think all of us, in on sense or another.

The play is a co-production between HOME and Glasgow Citizens. Their last, Endgame,  I was also fortunate to see, and too was directed by Citz Artistic Director, Dominic Hill:

HOME is where the Art is – Endgame

Back to Long Day’s Journey into Night, classic of American theatres, the 3 hour production introduces the audience to the Tyrone family, taking them from breakfast through until evening, in some of the most highly charged scenes I’ve ever seen on stage.

An autobiographical account, Eugene O’Neill had so much personal investment in the story, that he didn’t intend for it to be performed in his own lifetime.

Give the scenes I bore witness to at  HOME, what was a powerful but difficult watch for a bystander, so to speak, to see what must have been an explosive childhood played out again on stage, must be too much to bear.

Despite this, performed it was in 1956, going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play. And from the story and words alone, I can see why.

All players I watched on stage more than matched the material and gave a masterclass in how to move an audience to the point of breaking point where at one stage, I wanted to rush up on stage. I’m dramatic, but not that dramatic during the normal course of business, you understand.

Set in 1912 Connecticut, the Tyrone Family, headed up by father James (George Costigan), provide the impression for probably a good five minutes that all is well – they are just a normal family, living a normal life.

To paraphrase Prince Charles,

whatever that means

(Incidentally I write this hours after a certain Harry married Meghan – another family who bring the drama – perhaps rivalling that of the Tyrones? Apologies – I promise not to let this event have any further influence on this piece of writing, either consciously or hopefully subconsciously).

I Di gress.

However, it is soon apparent that matters are playing out in the wake of a recently resolved upset concerning the mother, Mary (Brid Ni Neachtain). She’s eating again, and her husband joyously and sincerely happily declares that she’s getting fat, caused titters throughout the audience (as the millenials might say…

husband goals

Seeds are soon sown that the youngest son, based on O’Neill himself, Edmund (Lorn Macdonald) may be gravely unwell,

and the scene is soon set and the questions posed for the audience:

  • What happened to Mary?
  • What is wrong with Edmund?
  • What dynamic does eldest son, James jr, (Sam Phillips), bring to the table – tensions with both his brother and father already showing their colours.

The company is completed by the brilliantly sharp Irish housemaid Cathleen (Dani Heron), who brings moments of mirth much welcome at times, but not out of place.

Secrets unravel, truths are told and faced and the story becomes the ultimate case study in how thin the line between love and hate can be.

The performances both emotionally and physically were astounding. Just when you think all players have given all they can give, their stories told, they again enter the arena to go one more round (in some scenes, quite literally).

This production of Long Day’s Journey into Night left this theatre-goer and plus 1 feeling exhausted, tense, emotional, anxious and indeed feeling like one of the family.

There’s one more adjective; privileged.

One final note.

George Costigan?

I thought ‘e were great

(Forgive me, I couldn’t have gone the whole review without a reference to Rita, Sue and Bob Too, try as I might).

On at HOME until Saturday 26 May, you have a week’s opportunity to experience for yourself this classic play and wonderful production.

https://homemcr.org/production/long-days-journey-night

Watch the trailer

Production photography credit: Tim Morozzo

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The Northern Chamber Orchestra – Mozart and Elgar and Beethoven – Oh my!

My late father was a musician and, at 16, the youngest at that time to be accepted into the Royal College of Music in London.

We were blessed with many stories and anecdotes from my Dad’s life as a professional musician, over the years, but I remember two life tips he gave me in particular:

Never learn to drive – you’ll never stop paying out on cars

Done.

And

At some point in your life, move to London.

I have, thus far, not adhered to this. He’d clearly not spent enough time in Manchester ☺️

Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary Season Finale at the beautiful Stoller Hall.

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Set up in 1967, the Orchestra not only presents an annual series of 8 concerts a year at the Heritage Centre in Macclesfield, it is also the ‘orchestra in residence’ at Buxton Festival, and of course now plays too at Manchester’s Stoller Hall – the scene of the aforementioned Finale.

A word on the Stoller Hall, I hang my head in ignorant shame and admit that not only had I not attended any concerts at this venue previously, I didn’t even know of its existence and had only attended classical music concerts in Manchester at the Bridgewater.

I could be forgiven slightly (oh go on, forgive me massively), when research tells me that the Hall only opened its doors last year in April.

Part of the School of Music that requires little introduction, Chetham’s, the Concert Hall can be found opposite the steps to another great musical concert institution, the Manchester Arena, and across from Victoria Station.

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Audiences take their seats below ground level, in a hall which is architecturally breathtaking and, I understand,  acoustically astounding.

I’m no acoustician (yes, it’s a word), but every stroke of the violin bow, every note of the woodwind, every percussionist’s ‘beat’, indeed didn’t feel as though it stopped at the listener’s ears but resonated throughout the body, immersing you in the music played before you.

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And so to the music played before me and my plus 1 that afternoon.

The pieces played were:

Overture Zauberflote – Mozart

Cello Concerto – Elgar

Symphony No. 5 – Beethoven

The highlight, it must be said, was the Cello Concerto, the centre of such being internationally renowned cellist and, indeed, the Orchestra’s President, Raphael Wallfisch.

A beautifully toned instrument alone, we were taken through a captivating and deeply expressive performance by Mr Wallfisch, the mood of the piece clearly felt throughout this wonderful musician, his body language and facial expressions anticipating and matching each strain.

Speaking of wonderful musicians, whilst the Cellist took literal centre stage, the rest of the Orchestra more than shared the limelight and reasons for myself and fellow concert-goers’ captivation and awe.

Bookended by the overture to Mozart’s Magic Flute and the forceful, rousing Beethoven’s C minor Symphony, the concert and indeed 50th season came to a rapturous end, with the applause pushing the acoustics to their limits (I’m basically saying it was loud).

I’m sure my Father would agree that not all roads need lead to London, and that Manchester more than holds its own in all matters of culture, not least in the wealth of opportunities to hear such musicianship both in the City Centre and across the region.

Speaking of which, your next opportunity to experience the Northern Chamber Orchestra is on Friday 25 May, in West Didsbury – more details here.

And so, added to my list of why Manchester is Everything, is the Northern Chamber Orchestra and the Stoller Hall.

I’m still with my Dad on the not driving thing. I mean, where would I want to go?

www.ncorch.co.uk

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Restaurant Review – Ibérica’s new seasonal menu

Whenever I go for tapas I’m reminded of a probably not that amusing exchange I overheard about 12 years ago in the Living Room, Deansgate.

Two, I’m sure lovely, gentlemen were discussing life and loves (although talking about one lady they met on holiday the word ‘love’ may or may not have been used:

Salt of the earth she is, she’ll ‘love’ anything

Anyway, talk turned from this down to earth lady to where they were going to go for dinner .

Clearly inspired by the talk of all things Spanish, one gentlemen declared

I’ve got the perfect place. I know this lovely little Spanish place…

Us earwiggers were filled with visions of a lovely hidden gem, Spanish eatery, known by only the in the know Mancunians, kept secret by loyal diners who wanted to preserve their discovery at risk of it being too popular. We strained our ears further, ready to commit to memory this wonderful little gastronomic tip-off.

Turns out he was talking about La Tasca next door.

Now no offence to La Tasca, but it was pretty much the only ‘little Spanish place’ anyone knew in Manchester in the 2000s (save El Rincon).

We are now spoilt for choice. Spoilt being the word and very much so when describing a recent evening at Iberica, Spinningfields.

Invited to an evening to launch their new Spring Menu, I wondered if the aforementioned gentleman had been. Perhaps he was quietly introducing those in his trusted inner circle to a lovely little trattoria he found, Bella Italia.

I digress (and wish to add my digressive digs are not at the chains I’ve mentioned – there is a place for all).

Now back to the lovely place that is Iberica. A grand venue, the decor and interior was light and spacious which perhaps isn’t what the usual Spanish restaurant aesthetic is but made for an immediately different feel to the tapas experience.

A true celebration of Spanish cuisine, we were introduced to the upcoming evening’s fayre by Nacho Manzano, the Executive Chef for Iberica Restaurants.

And our menu for the evening was thus

Reading like a who’s who (and who we didn’t know was who, but definitely left knowing who they were) of Spanish delicacies, what was to follow didn’t disappoint.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to immerse yourself in this gallery of Iberican delights…

Jamon Iberico Juan Pedro Domecq

Contemporary Spanish Tapas

Beef tomato and salmorejo

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Pear and spinach salad

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Cod brandada

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Cantabric tuna salad

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Poached hake

Much Loved Classics

Patatas Bravas

Chorizo

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Albondigas

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An Iberica Icon

Pluma

Desserts

Torrija

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Carmelised Spanish rice pudding

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Dish after dish, the combination of the beautifully thought out details and aesthetics were a treat for the senses.

To pick a favourite would be like picking my favourite child. If my child were a Spanish dish, that I’d set upon with just enough dignity to avoid a patatas bravas disaster down the front of my white top.

A weird analogy all round.

But highlights for me from the Contemporary section were the Pear and Spinach salad:

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and the Cod brandada:

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From the Classics, the Chorizo:

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The aptly named Iberica Icon, Pluma – here I must add that I’ve never eaten pork like it. In a good way, of course:

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…and last but not least, from the Desserts, the Torrija:

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In summary, I urge all to head to Iberica this summer and try for yourself their astounding line-up of dishes, both classic and contemporary alike.

Just keep it down when discussing it in The Living Room – we don’t want everyone finding out…

http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-spinningfields-manchester/

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Theatre Review – DollyWould at HOME

And people say she’s just a big pair of tits.

(David Brent).

Yes, I’ve said tits in a blog post. But there’s no point being polite as the Theatre Company I had the good grace to see perform this evening are called Shit Theatre. Although for polite publications it’s written Sh!t Theatre.

I’ve already written tits and not t!ts. So I may as well write Shit and not Sh!t.

And it’s my blog so ner.

Childish comments and profanities done with, it’s time to speak of the wonder that is DollyWould at HOME theatre.

The themes of this performance are Dolly Parton, Dolly the sheep, Cloning, Originality, Sexuality and Death. With much crossover to boot.

Following their sell out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Louise Mothersole and the marvellously named Rebecca Biscuit (sorry, I’m going to be obvious and allude to it as it’s just too wonderful not to), take us on a journey both metaphorical and literal to Dolly Parton’s life and theme park (literal in that they went and showed us their holiday snaps, although I’m sold and planning my own literal, literal trip).

Dressed part Dolly Parton, part Dolly the Sheep, we learn through video, song, interview extracts, slide and performance art just what makes Dolly so unique and original. And Dolly the sheep so unique and original – the latter somewhat ironically due to being cloned.

But then we hear of the time Dolly Parton experienced cloning of her own. She entered a Dolly Parton Drag Competition, exaggerating all her famous features including making her

rhinestones rhinier

Predictably she didn’t win. Her uniqueness was done better by others.

There’s much to enjoy from DollyWould. I tittered (or t!ttered) much at the device where we hear the dulcet tones of American interviewer extraordinaire Barbara Walters asking Dolly (Parton) in a 1977 interview where she wanted to be, what she wanted to achieve, Mothersole and Biscuit (is the surname thing ok? I always feel a bit rude) replicating the answers through the medium of song.

Through an audio montage which bizarrely left me feeling quite emotional (granted I’ve not had much sleep this week) we hear a long list of questions and comments from interviewers past (including our own growly nation’s sweetheart Michael Parkinson) about her appearance and weight.

We don’t hear the retorts but we don’t need to.

Dolly’s got a theme park and a gift shop.

Dolly the Sheep will live on through her clones. Dolly the Parton will live on through her merch and her Drag army.

They are both the same as they are both unique.

There is also the giant mammary glands, descriptions of cadaver rotting and tattoo shop philosophy but even if you believed me, I still want you to see it for yourself.

I believe it’s sold out but there is still hope and a waiting list for cancellations.

DollyWould is at HOME until Saturday 5 May – click here for info and ticket queries.

I Would. Well I did.

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Theatre Review – Kindertransport, Opera House

This is a tale of mother/daughter relationships.

Of course it is set against a backdrop of one of the most important and harrowing world events in history.

However,  Diane Samuels’s play is,  I believe,  a story of human relationships, specifically between mothers and daughters; both biological and nurtured.

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2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, (German for ‘children’s transport’) which saw thousands of Jewish children ferried from Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Free City of Danzig, in an organised rescue effort to safety, 9 months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 children.

2018 also marks 25 years since the play was first written and performed.

Showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until Saturday 5 May, the story is set almost simultaneously during a period between 1938 -1947, in addition to that of 1980.

Granted this sounds confusing (and this could well be down to my description), but it is testament to the direction, writing, sets and choreography that Kindertransport is creatively clear enough to keep its audience exactly where and when it needs to be, during the play’s narrative.

Beginning in 1938’s Hamburg, we’re introduced to nine-year old Eva (Leila Schaus) and her mother, Helga (Catherine Janke), as they prepare for the former to travel to family in Manchester, England, .

We’re then introduced to Manchester in 1980 as Evelyn (Suzan Sylvester) is going through boxes in the attic looking for items for her daughter Faye (Hannah Bristow), who is preparing to move out of home.

We’re immediately presented with two situations which are similar in nature yet opposing in dynamics.

Both situations present daughters preparing to leave home; their mothers with mixed feelings:

  • Helga is sending the 9 year old Eva away for her own safety, but not through absolute choice. Eva doesn’t want to leave Eva asks her mother for help in sewing a button onto her coat – this help is rejected.
  • Faye does want to leave; mother Evelyn wants to help by passing on her own household items to help her on her way. This help is rejected, Faye insisting that she wants to buy her own.

As Evelyn and Faye quarrel, we are introduced to a further character; Lil (Jenny Lee); mother to Evelyn and grandmother to Faye.

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It is when Lil is taken into 1938 to receive a young Eva into her home in Manchester, the audience realise that she is the connection between the two narratives playing out.

The play takes us through parallel relationships as we see the impact that the loss of her mother has on the young Eva and the difficulties of forging a new relationship with a mother figure.

We also see the struggles between Evelyn and Faye, as the former struggles to let go of her daughter.

The themes taken from this, almost, study of human feelings is almost certainly that of loss and (perceived) rejection.

How mothers and daughters can struggle to find a common ground as they deal with their feelings and personalities as individual women, whilst battling against those brought by their roles of nurturer and receiver.

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The audience is taken on a journey which examines these relationships and the love which undoubtedly drives all tensions and upset between the main players, and the circumstances which tie their stories together.

In addition, a mainstay throughout is the story and concept of The Rat Catcher (or Der Rattenganger), a mythical creature from a story told to Eva as a young child. The Rat Catcher is depicted as both a terrifying and evil character, both in the short passage we hear read out to a young Eva, and physically depicted throughout the play on stage, appearing as a dark figure, swathed in rags in the shadows (Matthew Brown), seemingly at points of high fear.

Symbolic meaning to the figure can be easily attributed; rejection, loss, Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust and ultimately death itself.

But as the story is told out, and secrets are revealed, Diane Samuels brings to  the audience a tale of both the fragility of human relationships and the strength that can ultimately be harnessed by understanding each other’s journey.

To book tickets, please visit ATG Tickets on the Opera House website.

Director – Anne Simon

Designer – Marie-Luce Theis

Lighting Designer – Nic Farman

Sound Designer – Adrienne Quartly