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All aboard for Brief Encounter – destination West End, first stop Salford…

I’ve been commuting since I was 12 years old, getting the bus to school, 2.9miles away (that 0.1 is very important given that it disqualified me from the free bus pass that the elusive and illustrious 3 mile commute brought you).

Buses gave way to trains once starting uni and then work, and I seriously think after daily commutes including Leeds, Liverpool and Wigan from the Manchester ‘burbs, I should be decorated with some sort of honour – bravery through adversity or something…

These days I’m back working in Manchester city centre, delivered there through the medium of tram.Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love them, they are not without their issues and, as with most commutes, the issues are the other people Recognise the Tram Tribes?

And so, we come to Brief Encounter, one of my favourite stories and films.Noël Coward’s story and 1945 film directed by David Lean, tells the story of two commuters who meet by chance in a station waiting/tea room.

In roles made famous by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, He a doctor, removes something from her eye. She, a housewife, lets him.

And so, a love affair begins, made ever more powerful that…(Spoiler Alert – scroll below the train if you haven’t seen the film)


***…it remains unconsummated before both parties go their separate ways, back to their spouses, children and lives; she in 1930s surburbia, he in a hastily yet convenient decision and opportunity to work out in South Africa.***


Now don’t get me wrong, very happily paired up with my plus 1, I’m not seeking out my own station tea room tryst (aka Starbucks), but there is something romantic about the train station (stop picturing Piccadilly Station, naysayers). People being reunited, saying goodbye…and, in this case, meeting for the first time.

If you haven’t already, go forth and watch the film.

But enough of the original source and basic premise, this week (20-24 February 2018), the North West is being treated to an original take on Brief Encounter as brought to the Lowry Theatre, Salford by company Kneehigh Theatre.

Like nothing I’ve seen before, the award-winning production, is adapted and directed by Emma Rice, and produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, Jenny and Steve Wiener and The Old Vic.

It brings together a stellar cast who deliver energetic performances non-stop, from their interactive relationship with the audience from before curtain up (keep your ears open and your eyes peeled) to curtain down.

(Jim Sturgeon as Alec and the full cast, credit: Steve Tanner)
(Dean Nolan as Fred and Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

Between them they bring the music, the singing, the acting, the props, the almost tongue in cheek special effects, and the laughter.

(Jos Slovick as Stanley & Beverly Rudd as Beryl, credit: Steve Tanner)

You may be surprised about the laughs. Admittedly there are more than in the more emotive film version of the story, but it’s important to remember the light relief brought by characters Albert Godby, Myrtle Bagot and Beryl Walters on the big screen.

It is perhaps in all of the supporting characters (but by no means supporting cast) that this production excels – the story of Laura and Alec almost providing the bridges to the next scene involving the other characters. At the very least, the footing feels equal.

(Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit: Steve Tanner)

This is absolutely no slight on the scenes involving the central players, more a compliment to the production that the limelight was shared so well between all characters in a story where this would be thought impossible.

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, Jim Sturgeon as Alec, credit: Steve Tanner)

The final station tea room scene (no spoilers, fear not) is no less powerful and moving than that of the film (anyone seated next to me – I just had some grit in my eye, is all).

Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit Steve Tanner

The original music by Stu Barker, and performance of said music, is jaunty and humorous, moving and sometimes melancholy- all as appropriate.

(Katrina Kleve, Lucy Thackeray & Beverly Rudd, credit: Steve Tanner)

Cue outcry from those, who like me, insist that in Brief Encounter there are three in that affair; Laura, Alec and Rachmaninov.Fear not, the stage production brings those powerful strains to the table as well.

At 90 minutes, without an interval, the audience is kept captivated by constant switches between music and word, live action and projected images, costume changes and the aforementioned ingenious props (look out for the toy train).

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

With three more performances at The Lowry before the show moves to a run in the West End, jump on board and don’t miss your chance to see this original take on a classic story.

Failing that, there’s always the Pendolino, but watch out for those lurking in Starbucks whilst you wait…

All the Deets.

ps thank you for retaining my two favourite lines…Funny

Oh mummmyyyy

And heartbreaking

Thank you for coming back to me

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the King’s Speech – ooh, ahh, an evening with Eric Cantona

Against an apt backdrop of much controversy and mirth, Eric Cantona brought his Evening with… show to The Lowry Theatre this week. 


Prior to taking my red husband (in football supporting terms, you understand, his blood pressure is normal) last night (Thurs 23 February) for his Valentine’s treat, we were treated to a cacophony (about 4) of reports about the catastrophe that was the Bournemouth show.

Auctions! Late Arrivals! Inappropriate Comedians!

…screamed the press, in the biggest  controversy since a footballer Kung fu kicked a man. 

Quicker than you can say trawlers (bet you thought I would go with seagulls didn’t you), reference was made to the Bournemouth Bloodbath in the opening moments by the (very good) local knowledge in-joke laden stand up, and there wasn’t an auction in sight.

Our tickets meant that not even my old reliable iPhone could take a non-blurry photo of the stage and the man (I’ll have you know that £55 applied to every seat – even ours in the Gods, so I definitely wasn’t in the cheap seats here), and so I  have a series of loud, shouty videos depicting hero-worship in all its glory.

He was everything you’d want him to be. The man basically gave good Cantona.

To sum up: great night – we laughed, we chanted and we collectively winced when, during a question on mental health support for retiring players, a woman shouted out 

Ere y’are, what did that ‘ooligan say to make you kick ‘im?!

Together with an oscar-worthy reenactment of the great quote itself and a couple of nuggets which included hearing of Cantona’s upcoming Chinese project (nothing involving £1 million weekly wages) and his love for Loach, worth the pennies.
All the deets 

 
Keegan, Trump, FIFA and Liverpool fans – best you swerve Sunday’s matinee.

C’est magnifique

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Culture Manchester The Arts Theatre Uncategorized

Home is where the art is

I’m often outraged by things. It’s my favourite go to emotion. Question Time – outraged, Making a Murderer – outraged, someone getting on the bus and passively aggressively closing a window without thought of whether already present passengers were happily enjoying the cold relief it was bringing – outraged.

When I heard that the Cornerhouse was closing in place of a brand new art space housing cinema, theatre and creative and visual events and all round art – outraged. I stopped sulking, got over myself (truth be told I’d been to the Cornerhouse twice and one of those was just for a meeting in the bar) and booked tickets to a play at Home.

 

arriving home

The tickets were to see Coronation Street (I can’t do the calling it Corrie thing, just can’t) stalwarts Chris Gascoyne and David Neilson (I interviewed him once about Roy Orbison but that’s a weird tale for another time). The play was Endgame, the playwright Beckett, the performances, brilliant.

But that’s almost by the by. I was thrilled to realise that Home is housed on Tony Wilson Place. I’ve naturally been outraged for some time about the lack of Wilson statue in Manchester (I once interviewed him about David Beckham’s haircut and wearing sarongs whilst following him round the newsroom at high pace, West Wing style – but that’s a weird tale for another time).

 

man ruins pic by incessantly wandering into shot. i eventually decide it’s a better thing

I’ve often banged on about how you can have about 6 different nights in Manchester, based on the different quarters (6 of them?), areas, and parts of the town. The one I haven’t bothered with since circa 2000-2001 is the area approaching Deansgate Locks (no offence the Locks, every offence, the tribes who do bother). I’m excited that Home brings a new evening out to that part of town (but not too that part of town).

 

street life

I do love a good plaza and it gives good plaza. On the other side of the railway arches, everything seems big, stylishly bright and, well, cool. There a couple of restaurants, including Street and good old staple Pizza Express (please keep peddling those 241 offers and garlic dough balls until you’re sick – or whatever it is…) and the soon to be opened Dockyard – the original housed at Media City on the Quays, giving justification to its name. Here not so much but no mind.

come round the back

All in all I’m excited to go Home once the dry weather and summer arrives (ha!) as the surrounding offices and restaurants give good shelter leading to good al fresco drinking and dining.
Back to Home itself, on a housekeeping note, picking up tickets at the box office is a swift, friendly and informative affair and I didn’t have to get out my birth certificate and have my fingerprints taken to get the tickets. My word was my bond. Much as I love the old place, comparatively, I’m still scarred by desperate attempts to get hold of my Withnail and I film tickets at the Stockport Plaza box office. Eyed with suspicion by a Mrs Blennerhassett type, in a scene something akin to the Penrith Tea Rooms affair, it took quite some convincing that I wasn’t committing a most heinous fraud and that I was indeed, the genuine purchaser of the tickets.

There’s a charming bar on the ground floor for pre theatre, cinema, all round art drinks and, a restaurant on the 1st floor.

 

low level lighting and industrial inspired fixtures – check

We had a drink before the play, 15% of the time discussing what we were about to see, the other 85%, it has to be said, marvelling at a man who looked like Frank Butcher.

 

he actually doesn’t here but he did

 

The theatre reminds me of when I first went to the Lowry. It’s obviously very modern (well it’s new so why wouldn’t it be) and intimate.

 

sit down, take the weight off

More a post about the venue, but the play itself was fantastically claustrophobic, darkly amusing, horribly bleak and you’ll walk away with a weight on your chest, desperate for air. And i mean this as high praise. At the time of writing, there are still performances so go. Or not. I would. Well I did.

 

yes. this is the back of a cubicle door – my commitment to photography knows no bounds

To summarise, it’s one of those additions to the city that seemingly pops up, making you feel lucky to live amongst the ever evolving cultural landscape of Manchester. I’ve barely scratched the surface and so already looking at the forthcoming season and looking forward to returning Home. Signed up homies, we are (I did that).

 

leaving home

 

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