I’ve been to a basketball game and I really enjoyed it.
A million ‘mehs’ sound out across the land by those who have been to a million games and don’t feel the need to advertise it.
The point is (and there is a point) that I had to go to Brooklyn to do so. And Bill Clinton was there. But that’s another story (it’ll be popping up in a blog post near you, though).
And whilst it’s not technically true that I had to go to Brooklyn to do so, I’m getting a second bite of the cherry a lot closer to home. Urmston to be exact, in the shape of the hugely popular Manchester Giants!
The Manchester Giants reclaimed their place in the professional British Basketball League (BBL) back in 2012/13 after a decade long absence, much to the delight of their large following.
Manchester leads the way, once again, (of course) as the city has the highest number of basketball players and enthusiasts thanks, in part, to a vibrant amateur scene.
Last season, the Giants enjoyed their most successful season since their return to the BBL, winning 19 games and reaching the semi-finals of both the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy.
If you’re not already court-side a’la Jack Nicholson (see, I know the lingo), there’s a great opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.
The club has just launched their ‘Final Six Ticket’ which covers six of the remaining home games for the price of four.
Their next game is a classic Roses Derby (do love a war of the roses), on Sunday 16 February, against B.Braun Sheffield Sharks.
I’ll be there on Sunday 1 March to watch them thrash Plymouth, waving my huge foam finger (not a gross metaphor) in the air (I genuinely have one, I just need to do some creative Manchester ‘rebranding’).
I’ll let you know how I get on (and I might elaborate on Clinton).
To get your Final Six ticket, or indeed any other ticket to see the Manchester Giants in action, head to www.manchestergiants.com
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…
They were to finally give up. And I was to triumphantly reveal the correct answer…
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.
If you haven’t yet heard that Back to the Future The Musical (no less) is coming to Manchester’s Opera House on 20 February 2020, great Scott, you’d better make like a leaf and get outta here!
Yes, I did that homage and I’m very proud of my little self…
Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and and Roger Bart as ‘Doc’ , you’ll have 12 weeks to catch the show and from 17 March they even have Sunday matinees (before then, they sleep in on Sundays…)
As these behind the scenes pictures show, the actors have hit rehearsals at a rate of 88mph (yes it works), with (and this surely stamps quality all over it) original creative team Co-creators and Producers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemekis.
Whilst works, appreciation, opinions and afforded gravitas come in all shapes and sizes, art should be inclusive and HOME is bringing this ethos to life by celebrating the amazing talent of Greater Manchester.
In the first region-wide exhibition of its type, HOME welcomed submissions from all across all 10 boroughs, for the inaugural Manchester Open Exhibition which opens tomorrow, Saturday 18 January and runs until 15 March 2020.
The exhibition sees entries from all levels of experience; established artists, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.
With over 2000 pieces submitted, over 500 works were selected by a special panel which included HOME curator, Bren O’Callaghan and Helen Wewiora, Director of Castlefield Gallery.
The result is a wonderfully eclectic exhibition representing the wonderful people of Greater Manchester, which includes paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, digital and mixed media, video and audio, spoken word, performance and more.
And, in the words of the great Jimmy Cricket (never forget) there’s more…(it was a contemporary reference toss up between him and Columbo)…
20 of the artists have been shortlisted for a Manchester Open Award, and the five winners will each receive an artist bursary to the value of 2000 pounds, in collaboration with Castlefield Gallery, which will be tailored to each individual artist, and may cover such things as travel, materials, studio rent, website development or any aspect of their practice following peer advice. Full details including the names of all finalists can be found HERE
Just one more thing (nobody puts Columbo in the corner), visitors to the Manchester Open Exhibition during the first four weeks will get the chance to vote for the winner of The People’s Choice Award.
All winners will also receive (and I LOVE this) an award made by Stockport’s On The Brink Studio, from Manchester poplar, bog oak and wax from the beehives on the roof of HOME.
So support Greater Manchester by helping support HOME support Greater Manchester and head on over to the Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME from Saturday 18 January.
I’ll be visiting this week and will share what is sure to be my joy and favourites in a further post and pics on here, Twitter and Instagram.
I’m as guilty as the next person at taking our streets of Manchester and Salford for granted.
Focused squarely on not tripping over my own feet (the great tumble of St Annes Square of 2003 – never forget), or striking out straight into the path of a tram, I, alongside many residents, workers and visitors to the area, never think to stop and look around at the many beautiful buildings in our midst, both old and new.
Ready to open our eyes and inspire an appreciation of such, an art exhibition has landed at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, celebrating the beautiful architecture of Collier Street Baths through a collection of paintings by local artist, Ian McKay.
Just off Trinity Way in Salford, the Grade II listed building was designed by the city’s own Thomas Worthington, who designed many of the noted structures including The Albert Memorial and Memorial Hall in Albert Square, and the City Police Courts.
The oldest surviving public baths in Great Britain, Collier Street Baths (also termed ‘Greengate Baths’, opened in 1856 by the Manchester and Salford Baths and Laundries Company, but since closing in 1880, has remained derelict ever since.
The good news is that the building is finally to be redeveloped – watch that Salfordian space!
1856 was the beginning of the golden age for public swimming and the baths were used by 50,000 people a year at their peak. Note Oarsman, Mark Addy, who rescued more than 50 people from drowning in the Irwell (yes, that’s who the pub was named after, not the actor), indeed learnt to swim at Collier Street Baths.
Fascinated by the building’s Italianate architectural aesthetic (Worthington having been inspired by a recent trip to Italy), artist, Ian McKay, spent time on location producing a collection of drawings and colour studies of the exterior of the building, which eventually evolved into a series of abstract paintings.
Collier Street Baths to me is a crucial part of Salford and Manchester’s social history and I felt the building deserved to have its story told visually…the baths played a huge part in the health and wellbeing of people in both cities and gave people a lot of pleasure so i wanted to create this same feeling with an exhibition that is a tribute to this fine building.
Ian also runs Gorton Visual Arts, which teaches new skills to elderly residents, vulnerable adults and residents with learning difficulties, all in a safe studio environment.
The Collier Street Baths exhibition runs until 26 April 2020 at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, is free to visit and open six days a week (excluding bank holidays). A programme of activity will also run to support the exhibition.
2020 heralds 75 years since the liberation of the Nazi death-camps.
On Monday 27 January, Manchester Jewish Museum will mark Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD), with two premieres of musical and theatrical performances, staged at Manchester Central Library.
Songs of Arrival
During the afternoon, music by acclaimed Israeli composerNa’ama Zisser,the first to introduce cantorial music into opera, will be performed together with a premiere of brand-new songs in a free pop-up performance installation, entitledSongs of Arrival,from 4pmin the Music Library.
The Museum’s very own community song-writing group – who have been working with musician and composerJoe Steeleto create original compositions – will also perform. These brand new songs will premiere at the Library, and bring to life the Museum’s oral history collection from where stories of arriving in Cheetham Hill in the 1930s and 40s originate.
Of the four brand new songs written and performed for HMD by the Museum’s community writing group, two are based directly on stories from the museum’s oral history collection. The other two draw on themes of migration and cultural integration more generally; a song created with ESOL students at the Abraham Moss Adult Learning Centre takes as its inspiration the ubiquity of the phrase ‘Thank you, love’, which the students observed after arriving in Manchester, weaving together different translations including Arabic, Portugese and Welsh. Meanwhile, Celebration of Love, written by group member Andy Steele, brings a positive message of ‘making peace, not war’.
Opera SingerPeter Braithwaite,who is also the Museum’sArtist in Residence,concludes this interactive musical installation and line-up with one ofNa’ama Zisser’ssongLove Sick– performed in Hebrew and based on theSong of Songs(Shir Hashirim) a book in the bible which explores love.
In theevening ofMonday 27th, the Museum’s commemoration of HMD continues with theNorthern Premiereof Holocaust Brunchby London based, Canadian theatre makerand performer,Tamara Micner. Fusing and using comedy with beigels, this funny and brave solo show brings to life the true stories of two Holocaust survivors connected to Tamara, and pries open an intergenerational wound to explore why we remember the Holocaust and what it is like to live in the shadows of genocide and displacement.
Holocaust Brunchtells a remarkable true Holocaust survival story. Micner reflects on her experience of growing up as a descendent of survivors, and explores how communities can heal from ancestral trauma. Holocaust Brunch is a dark comedy, recounting a story not typically told, and Tamara Micner serves up beigels and cream cheese as she pries open an intergenerational wound and asks why we remember, and what it might look like to forget.
Created with a team of Jewish and non-Jewish artists, Micner’s moving, funny and thoughtful solo performance invites audiences to reflect how, as the next generation, we can keep memories alive. As part of the creation of Holocaust Brunch, Tamara Micner has collaborated with London-based printmaker Yael Roberts, who has made a series of original prints, The Trauma Documents, which respond to parts of the story and appear throughout the show as video projections. These will be on display at Manchester Central Library alongside the performance of Holocaust Brunch.
The Manchester Jewish Museum is currently based at Manchester Central Library until 2021 whilst work is underway to extend its original Cheetham Hill site.
I’m cough years old but a good pantomime won’t fail to touch even the most jaded, cynical, grown up of adults. And this was no exception.
In fact, and at the risk of over-exuberance (although at the time of writing I’ve had a 12 hour cooling off period) I’d say this was the bar by which pantomimes should be set.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (dwarves isn’t the plural of dwarf – who knew?) at the Opera House, Manchester, is quite simply a masterclass in panto.
Craig Revel Horwood as the Queen was truly Wicked in every sense of the word. Flamboyant, devilishly funny and quite simply screamingly fab-u-lous. What a set of lungs too. Oo-indeed-err.
The Strictly refs came thick and fast but each one landing perfectly (‘out of 10, I’d give him 1…’) and the charisma exuded by this evil queen (indeed) was second to none.
Eric Potts was the ultimate, ultimate Dame! From his cheeky look at the princes’s testimonials, there wasn’t a pun unchecked, a camp aside left unspoken or outrageous outfit left unworn.
Ben Nickless as Muddles barely drew breath during the entire performance and was a triumph as panto Master of Ceremonies.
From 0-100mph the second he took to the stage, the impressions (his Mark Owen just killed me) , cheeky gags, physical comedy and engagement with the audience was second to none. Variety, vaudeville, call it what you want, but it was bloody brilliant.
The three actors together had incredible chemistry and gave us some wonderful laugh out loud moments (I rarely laugh out loud, reader, even the mirthiest of moments will usually lead only to a weird expelling of breath) but I laughed until actual tears came down.
If you’re not belly laughing at the tongue-twister scene or the 12 days of Christmas skit, we cannot be friends.
Zoe George served up a simply perfect princess Snow White as did Joshua St Clair as Prince Harry – pitch perfect and leaving us believing in the love story.
The ‘Magnificent Seven’ had less stage time than expected, but made the most of their scenes, with enough ‘top bantz’ to make you hi-ho-ho-ho (yes, sorry…)
The script also gave great Manchester, with local references aplenty including some saucy refs to a cockatoo on canal street, with nothing in the wider stratosphere was off limits including Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson – the perfect balance of laughs for the kids and under the radar gags for the grown ups.
With such talented cast and performances, the show would be forgiven for resting on its laurels but the production values were spell binding.
The relatively simple sets complimented the magical costumes perfectly and with a couple of surprises literally springing out into the audience, the fourth wall was there to be broken both visually and in the knowing patter throughout.
I think I’ve waxed quite lyrically now and will go have a lie down.
Give yourself an early Christmas present and head to the Opera House immediately, if not sooner. And before Sunday 29 December, 2019.
For some it’s a trip to Dunham Massey’s ever popular lights extravaganza, some a performance of The Nutcracker, for some the appearance of the ‘red cups’ or even seeing Zippy being put together outside the Town Hall (Rest in Peace).
This year I spring-boarded into the season by heading HOME to see The Manchester Project at Christmas.
Brought to us by Monkeywood theatre company, Manchester is the heartbeat of everything they do.
The company ask the questions,
what does it mean to be a mancunian? what is it like to live here?
and just this piece of theatre does a pretty good job of answering, as the project delivers up a ‘theatrical map of Manchester’, with 14 shorts, each focusing on an area (aside from one, which centres on our very own HOME).
With a company of six local actors (Cynthia Emeagi, Zoe Iqbal, Reuben Johnson, Andrew Sheridan, Samantha Siddall and Gurjeet Singh), and each play brought to us by writers from across the city, it really is the ultimate Christmas gift of homegrown talent. I should at this point out that sadly Samantha Siddall was ill (get well soon) and her parts were taken by writer and producer Sarah McDonald Hughes. And brilliantly so.
A little of the production itself, the gallery has been transformed into a theatre space but one which is incredibly relaxed and feels decidedly ‘fringe’.
Take your seat at one of the many tables dotted around, set down your drink, and sit back whilst combinations of the six actors perform on a sparse stage the only props being white boxes adorned with the name of the 14 focal places:
HOME, Little Hulton, Middleton, Strangeways, Crumpsall, Shaw, Hulme, Whalley Range, Chorlton, Cheetham Hill, Moss Side, Wythenshawe, Old Trafford and Timperley.
I’ll never get this review out before Boxing Day if I write about each short, so whilst all were entertaining, touching in their own way, I’ll pull out a couple:
Chorlton – a touching story of a separated couple who we learn meet up annually at the graveside of the daughter they lost when she was 6 years old. In just a few short lines, we quickly discover a warmth between the exes which perhaps was previously destroyed by their shared loss.
Cheetham Hill – a laugh out loud performance by Zoe Iqbal, selling cheap knock-offs the genuine thing like a goodun, working the audience with brilliant timing and wit.
With a Santa hat as a prop and passed round like a baton between the plays, The Manchester Project covers homelessness, crime, immigration, teenage pregnancy, bereavement, Frank Sidebottom and ferret racing. It really does.
And it’s a celebration of not only the Manchester area, Manchester people and the talent we harbour in this fine city, but a brilliant way to kick start your Christmas.
Not only that, you get some extra bang for your buck and a drag dessert to your main on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the shape of Miss Blair’s TV special (celebrating our favourite British icons at Christmas, or the Ho Ho Holiday Comedy Hour on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays featuring the likes of Mrs Barbara Nice.
So what are you waiting for? Your house looks like it’s vomited fairy lights, you’ve begun the ritualistic ‘sod it it’s Christmas’ to excuse bad behaviour and you’ve become afflicted with Twiglet fingers.
Give yourself the early gift of Manchester with The Manchester Project, on until 30 December 2019.