Categories
Culture Current affairs Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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.

Categories
Culture Manchester Music preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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/

Categories
Culture dance film Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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/

Categories
Culture LGBT LGBTQ+ Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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.

Categories
Culture Interview Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Ghost Stories at The Lowry aka fright night

Ghost Stories finally hit The Lowry on Tuesday and oh how it did.

To whet the appetite, a couple of weeks ago a group of us were treated to a Ghost Walk round the Quays by Manchester writer and historian, Jonathan Schofield, all in anticipation of the arrival of acclaimed stage show, Ghost Stories, written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman.

Do treat yourself and read all about it again at Ghost Walks and Stories and Pig heads. Oh my…

In a quick sit-down with the great Jeremy Dyson himself, we ‘carefully’ talked about the show, inspiration and a horror-ride he took (like a ghost walk less but walkey) in Transylvania: Ghost Stories at The Lowry – a moment with Jeremy Dyson

Well now I’ve come out the other side. Of the show, that is. Not the interview, he was really nice. I mean I did come out of the other side of that too.

Basically, I’ve now seen the show for myself, It’s everything you want it to be.

Details of the show are and should remain shrouded in secrecy, in order to get maximum enjoyment. The show has been frightening audiences since its first London run, 10 years ago.

Since then, it has travelled all over the world and of course been made into a film.

Therefore, this review must remain spoiler-free but what I can do, is tell you that I haven’t jumped out of my skin as much since Metrolink put their prices up (it doesn’t matter how much I prepare myself, never fails to surprise…love you Metrolink 😉

Without giving anything away, even if there are elements of the narrative you remember from the film, attending the stage show brings the immersive experience, touching the senses in ways that are truly novel, surprising and ultimately gratifying (once the goosebumps have died down, you’ve stopped clinging to the stranger in the seat next to you, and your heart rate has returned to normal).

Never have I felt so at one with my fellow theatre-goers in a packed out theatre, an almost solidarity as we watched, held our collective breaths and tried to steel ourselves for the next jump-fright (impossible).

And so in the most non give-away review I think I’ve ever written, Ghost Stories gives every step of the way – the anticipation of what’s to come, the fright when it does, and the takeaway chills and, indeed laughter, of a bloody good night at the theatre.

With two more performances to go, don’t miss out and head to https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ghost-stories/

Categories
cinema Culture film Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts

Film Review: Greed

As a child i was terrified of the poem, The Lion and Albert, by Marriott Edgar.

Set at a ‘famous seaside place called Blackpool’, it was all literally a bit close to home for me (growing up in a small village about 3 miles out….)

It still haunts me. Anyway, I’ll just leave that here for now.

Michael Winterbottom’s Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire, Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), whose retail empire is in crisis.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

What better way to save his flailing reputation and dwindling finances than the 60th birthday party to end all parties on the island of Mykonos.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

Go big or indeed go home (that lion though…)

Read my review of Greed on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw – https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/review-greed/

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 21 February 2020 including:

https://homemcr.org/film/greed/

https://www.myvue.com/film/greed

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/greed

Categories
Celebrity Culture Interview Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Preview: Ghost Stories at The Lowry – a moment with Jeremy Dyson

As mentioned in last week’s blog post, Ghost walks and Stories and pig heads. Oh my Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s massively, hugely, other superlatives-ly acclaimed Ghost Stories comes to The Lowry this Tuesday 18 February and lurks until Saturday 22 February.

Details of the show are understandably shrouded in mystery, in order for audiences to get maximum enjoyment, a’la Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (shh please don’t divulge, I’ve still not see it!).

And so it was a cryptic but lovely meeting with Jeremy Dyson ahead of the show – me careful not to ask too many of the details, him careful not to say.

As a punter hoovering up as much horror and dark comedy as I can, I’ve always thought that it must be incredibly difficult for some to get the genre right, without straying in to a diluted version of either, or coming out the other side with pure parody, such as the Scream anthology (no offence Scream anthology).

Therefore, as one quarter of The League of Gentlemen, four writers who lead the way in this genre (in addition to Andy Nyman, of course), I was keen to ask Jeremy Dyson a little about the writing process. What comes first, the horror or the comedy? He explained…

‘It’s not actually thought about in that way. The comedy emerges quite naturally; I’ve always thought that and horror go quite naturally together and something we bonded over as friends.

For myself and Andy, one of our absolute touchstones for Ghost Stories is the film, An American Werewolf in London, which came out during the year we first met each other. It’s a brilliant film, one loved by a lot of people of our age and generation, and a brilliant piece of writing too. As you say, it’s not a parody, it’s a proper story.

It’s in the way you can take sharp left turns between a scary moment and a funny moment, and vice versa. That can be very entertaining for an audience as you don’t know what to expect.’

Fresh off the back of our Ghost Walk around the Quays (fresh being the word, I still hadn’t thawed out), I was also interested in how much of a ‘horror tourist’ Jeremy was.

Under my own morbid belt includes the house and street where the original ‘Hallowe’en’ was filmed in LA, and, of course, Hadfield – the living, breathing location transformed into Royston Vasey, home to The League of Gentlemen. He had. And then some…

‘A few years ago, I went to Transylvania for a travel piece I was writing about the real route taken by the fictional Dracula.

We brilliantly met this guy who claimed to be the real Count Dracula. His family came from Transylvanian Royalty who had fled the area from the nazis. He’d come back to reclaim his birthright and due to his family having since made a lot of money, he was able to return and basically buy this village, ancestral castle and all!

But the best part was getting a carriage, just like Jonathan Harker, up the Carpathian Pass, where the castle sat on the top.

Halfway up we saw this shepherd sat on his own and he may as well have been from the Middle Ages! The whole thing was creepy but brilliant.’

But back to the matter in hand, having seen the film Ghost Stories, I was nervous (and not just because of the official warning of ‘extreme shock and tension). Had I already spoiled my own theatre-going experience? How similar to the film is the theatre production?

‘It’s a completely different experience and very different tonally, for a start. Whereas the film has a very melancholy air to it, the stage show is a lot more energetic.

The great thing about the theatre is that it’s happening before your very eyes which is a very magical thing.

Whereas in the film everything must be literal, you have to have everything pinned down and know what it looks like, part of the magic of theatre is the audience contributes to and becomes an important part of the atmosphere…’

I await my part in proceedings with both excitement and extreme trepidation.

See you on the other side…

Ghost Stories opens at the Lowry on Tuesday 18 February until this Saturday 22 February. For all details including tickets, please visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ghost-stories/

Categories
Culture Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Shangri-la at Hope Mill Theatre

The press release promised a run-down B&B which doubled as a swinger’s club, a gambling man, a fortune teller and an elderly deviant.

My immediate thoughts turned to Benidorm. It’ll be leopard print, ‘bosoms’, nudge nudge wink winks, Carry On Abroad (at home), that glorious feature length film that took the cast of Are You Being Served abroad (but again, at home) and so on and so forth.

Full disclosure – I actually love all those things when all’s said and done.

So I’d definitely get something from this play but perhaps it would be as a kind of tribute? Homage?

Wow, it was so much more. The release also promised a dark comedy and as the narrative moved forward, boy did it bring the dark.

Said it before, many times, will say it again. Fringe theatre has nothing to hide behind – no elaborate sets, special effects, ‘big name’ draws or anything else that hides weak scripts, cliched narratives or lazy acting in seemingly plain sight.

And that’s what makes it so special and even more so when you’re blown away by a production.

Written by BAFTA ‘breakthrough Brit’ Gemma Langford and directed by Joel Parry, the lines were both funny but often poignant, pitched perfectly by the cast who delivered an engaging performance throughout. But the themes, messaging all the way upto the final uttered line

Keep your eyes closed

clearly came from a place of deep understanding of the workings of life and human behaviours, and how ‘normal life’ – ‘spag bol’ and all, can sometimes deeply and dangerously mask the inner truth of who someone truly is and what they actually want.

I grew up in a village just a couple of miles outside of Blackpool (hence the ‘honorary), and so have a deep, genuine affection for proms, tower ballrooms, 2pence slot machines and the deep melancholic feel of a seaside town in the depths of winter.

Therefore as the play progressed and turned a darker shade of flashing neon, I was already fully immersed in the environment. Oh, not the swinging I hasten to heavily add…

As some characters covered up and some laid bare, both metaphorically and practically physically, the old adage ‘things aren’t always what they seem,’ never rang more true.

I genuinely encourage you to see this play so whilst I always steer clear of a spoiler anyway, I’m being even more cryptic than ever.

But head along to the wonderful Hope Mill Theatre, and all its charms, and catch a performance of Shangri-la from Broken Biscuits Theatre Company, whilst you can (you have until 20 February).

Do watch out for the soul-searching on the tram journey home though…

For full details including cast, creatives and booking details, head to https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/welcome-to-shangri-la

Categories
Celebrity Culture Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel – HOME Mcr

Charlie Chaplin.

He was instrumental in my phonics education.

He was. And clearly on my cultural radar, and thus important to me, at a very young age (thank you mum and dad).

5 years old and engaged in a word game with my parents. The rules being thus – say the initials of a famous person and the others have to guess who it is.

That’s it – a simple game. Certainly no Johnny Go Go Go Go (one for the League of Gentlemen fans).

However, the way I played it threw quite the spanner in the works when after hours (probably ten minutes actually) of my parents trying to guess my…

T.T.

They were to finally give up. And I was to triumphantly reveal the correct answer…

Tyarlie Tyaplin.

Quite.

Still what I lacked in phonics, I clearly made up for in taste and so it continues to be that Charlie Chaplin is one of my heroes.

And so onto the review.

As told by erm Told by an Idiot and Theatre Royal Plymouth , The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel is a curious (read brilliant) story of a time when two icons of early Hollywood came together as part of the infamous Fred Karno music hall troupe.

Setting sail for New York in 1910, Charlie and Stan shared a cabin and were to spend two years together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s less successful understudy.

Whilst Charlie was to become one of the most famous people in the world within three years, Stan returned home. However, as we all know, fate decreed that he would meet Ollie, thus producing arguably, the greatest double act of all time.

There is a sad epitaph to the tale of Charlie and Stan. Whereas Stan talked about Charlie all his life, in return, Stan didn’t even warrant a footnote in Charlie’s detailed autobiography.

There is a nod to this fact in the production, in two clever opposing scenes set in 1957 when we see the two friends happily reunited (only for the scene to be repeated with the reality…)

In fact this is what the production so well. The Strange tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel brings in the ‘strange’ with wonderfully colourful and imaginative scenes adding layers of fiction upon the fact, in order to bring the best of silent, slapstick imagery worthy of their films and the music hall tradition of their beginnings.

The four members of cast blind you with their talent, be it mime, song, musicianship, comedy and pathos.

Turning their hands to anything, the show keeps you spellbound as 1hr 40mins flies by as the tale is told by whatever means at their disposal (a simple set doubling up for a ship, stage, Hollywood mansion, London hotel, you name it.

Clever yet simple devices such as luggage emblazoned with names tell you all you need to know, other dialogue replaced with movement, music and song and good old silent cinematic devices such as a projector screen.

But surely the little moustache would tell you who’s just entered stage left?! I hear you cry.

Well no, because even though Amalia Vitale who plays Chaplin comes to epitomise Chaplin from the beginning, the ‘Little Tramp’ costume isn’t relied on. So scarily like Chaplin is Vitale, false moustaches aren’t required to carry her; she becomes the icon purely via inflections and movement (that cane does creep in though, but that’s ok – the job’s done and he does get older throughout the show after all).

The other members of the cast – Nick Haverson, Jerome Marsh-Reid and Sara Alexander – play multiple characters (and instruments) and together the outfit brings a multitude of varied talents to the tale throughout including a whole lot of laughter from the audience.

There’s even some audience participation but if like me you’d rather hide under a rock, please don’t worry. Just don’t admit to being able to play the piano or sit on the front row. And to be fair? They all looked like they were enjoying their brief cameos in the show!

I did wonder why the production hadn’t been weighted equally between the title characters but then again, there is a clue in the production poster when ‘Stan’s face is covered by a bowler hat.

I would garner that this is all symbolic of their relationship and mentions of thereafter – Chaplin never acknowledging Stan, Chaplin’s success as a solo artist and therefore the production echoing this in its narrative.

Who knows. But what I do know is that I, and I’m willing to bet my fellow theatre-goers all loved the very different but very entertaining show that is The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel is on at HOME Mcr until this Saturday 8 February 2020.

More information including booking details can be found at https://homemcr.org/production/the-strange-tale-of-charlie-chaplin-and-stan-laurel/

Tyeck it out.

Categories
Culture Events Festivals Manchester News People Popular culture salford The Arts

News: The Lowry offers 20 Salfordians chance to headline WEEK 53 Festival

It’s something we’ve known for a long time – there’s a lot of talent in our region but it’s not just the household names I’m talking about.

Thanks to a project called The Twenty, people who dwell in the city of Salford will be provided with the exciting opportunity to turn their creativity into a reality by submitting event ideas on the theme of POWER, the theme of this year’s WEEK 53 Festival.

The Twenty, (credit: The Lowry)

The project developed by The Lowry in conjunction with Salford CVS is encouraging people to unleash their inner artistic talent and come up with events from graffiti battles to knitting groups, with each of the 20 successful submissions provided with a grant of 500 pounds to make it a reality.

The first rule of The Twenty is you do not talk about The Twenty you must live in Salford.

The second rule of The Twenty is you must be over the age of 18

Organisers are keen to stress that this opportunity is for everyone, especially those without previous experience in the arts.

Lynsey O’Sullivan (credit: Nathan Chandler)

Lynsey O’Sullivan, director of learning and engagement at The Lowry, and creative lead for The Twenty says

Everyone has the capacity to come up with a crazy idea for an event – but life can so easily get in the way, be that time, money or space. This project is designed to break down those barriers.

But how does one submit one’s proposal? I hear you cry.

There are three ways:

The deadline for proposals is Friday 14 February at 12noon.

More information about The Twenty can be found at www.thelowry.com/whats-on/week53-the-twenty

WEEK 53 is a biennial cross-arts festival which will take place from Friday 24 April until Sunday 3 May. More information can be found at https://thelowry.com/about-us/festivals-projects/week-53-2020/