I will be honest, and I don’t mean this to be offensive to any film that is based on a true story about real people, with real life events and feelings, but I generally, and admittedly cynically, run a mile from anything that has a whiff of ‘feel-good’.
But I’ll happily (yes i can do happy) admit upfront that this film actually made me feel good. Very good.
Starring the wonderful Sharon Horgan alongside the equally wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas, Military Wives is inspired by the true story of the world’s first military wives choir, and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Peter Cattaneo.
I’ve only been to the basketball once in my life before (I know, shame.on.me.)
Started off low-key at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, with the Brooklyn Nets. I had no clue what was going on. Not entirely helped by being in the nosebleed section. See, I know basketball words.
One minute there was seemingly some basketball being played, next we were being alerted to the presence of a beaming Bill Clinton smiling and waving to us on the big screens (I could just about make him out in the arena – a tiny dot, waving his tiny dot hand), the next t-shirts being fired out of a sort of t-shirt gun at what appeared to be a frightening rate and speed, the next some rapping.
I mean it was all very exhilarating and exciting but anything could have been going down in that court, I only knew it was basketball because it said so on my ticket.
Mind, I did accomplish one of my finest purchases that day. A foam finger in all its glory.
And so when I was kindly invited to a basketball game last Sunday on home turf; that of the mighty Manchester Giants!
Told the game against Plymouth Raiders was a sell-out, with tip-off at 5pm (yes, tip-off! Think kick-off but with fewer feet), we arrived at George H Carnall Leisure Centre, Urmston, about 40 minutes early, assuming plenty of time to have our pick of the bleachers and seats. I had my eye on court-side – if it’s good enough for Jack Nicholson, it’s good enough for me.
Oh how naive I was. As we approached the sports hall, we could hear balls bouncing and beats ringing out from the sideline DJ and as we entered, it was clear that there was to be no court side for me today, no siree!
The atmosphere was electric and the players were still only warming up! As we found our way to the end of a row – not courtside yet not quite ‘nosebleed section’, the beauty of going to see your local team is that you don’t need to be courtside to be engaged with what’s going on.
A brief rundown of the rules (that I will pretend I already knew…
Basketball is played by two teams who score points by throwing a ball into an opposing team’s basket. The team with the most points are the winners.
Each team has a squad of 12, with 5 players on the court at any one time.
You can move the ball round by passing, tapping, throwing, rolling or dribbling.
The game consists of four quarters of 10 minutes each with a 15-minute break at half time. There are also two-minutes interval between the first and second periods, and between the third and fourth periods.
If the game is tied after the fourth period, it continues with an extra period of five minutes, then as many five-minute periods as are necessary to break the tie.
Points are scored for shooting the ball through the hoop – 2 points for a goal within the 3 point semi-circle and 3 points for goals scored from outside.
Free throws, taken from the free-throw line and awarded after a foul, are worth one point.
BBC Sport website
An immersive and seemingly collaborative experience, the MC (?) is on it throughout, helping to whip the fans into a frenzy, encouraging cries of
DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE, DE-FENCE
And of course…
GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS, GI-ANTS
I started off chanting to fit in with the crowd, ending up chanting because, reader, I was willing defence to block that shot (is that the correct terminology?), passionately wanting the Giants to get the ball in the net.
It really does get you.
And then I espied the merch. Was there a Manchester Giants branded foam finger?
And it was pretty.
My Brooklyn Nets finger was all fine and dandy but the most miserable shade of grey you could imagine.
This finger was green, of course. Bright green. And it was mine.
I also pondered the many rubber ducks I could see on sale, but the finger was the thing, and I returned to my seat triumphant, noting the slightly tortured look on my face of my partner as he recalled the constant foam jabbing he endured on our last trip to the basketball.
Half-time came and did the action calm down? It did not and suddenly the abundance of rubber ducks became clear as what felt like hundreds starting whizzing past from every direction towards the centre of the court, launched by grinning children, teens, adults alike. What was this sudden onslaught? It was the ‘Chuck a Duck’ challenge, it transpired; closest duck to the centre got its thrower a signed ball!
At one point it seemed like there were as many people on the court as off, as local children and teens lined up to take part in a penalty shoot-out session.
As people returned to their seats and rubber ducks were swept away, it was time to return to the action proper.
Time flies when you’re having fun, as the whole adage goes and it really did feel like the second half flew just flew by as my eyes only momentarily left the court to check that my foam finger wasn’t intruding on someone’s personal space (only happened the once – my partner’s personal space does not count).
Excitingly, the fourth period ended on a draw and so time was played for one team to secure a win. On our feet, we cheered, whooped, chanted with all our might. Sadly it was not to be as Plymouth Raiders narrowly secured the win.
However, and forgive the cheese, we were all winners really (I know the Giants may argue that point), as we’d all enjoyed a brilliant Sunday afternoon.
It really is such an inclusive and immersive experience. And whilst some sporting events and fixtures can feel quite intimidating, I would recommend that parents especially considering getting your children into the game as it’s such a fun and exhilarating sport, and this is coming from a grown woman (yes, foam-finger withstanding – now I own two, I’m ready to set up as a Kenny Everett tribute act – google it..!).
A match report this was not in the sporting sense, but as a new experience and event, the Manchester Giants triumphed.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Friday nights can get a bit samey, don’t you think?
Don’t get me wrong, they definitely remain my favourite night of the week.
Ever since my school days when even the best telly was on on a Friday when you got home – Scooby Doo was on on a Friday. Byker Grove was on on a Friday. Scooby Doo, pop and crisps. My pop might have taken on a more let’s say…complex composition, the crisps a bit more restaurant or Chinese takeaway like, but the thrill of the Friday pm is here to stay.
But sometimes you want something a bit special. And last Friday was that something a bit special.
Would you like to attend a ghost walk?
asked The Lowry.
Around the Quays?
In honour of the forthcoming successful stage play ‘Ghost Stories’, as written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman?
And added to this was the news that said Ghost Walk was to be hosted by noted Manchester writer, author, tour guide, Jonathan Schofield which was the, erm, novelty straw in the lemonade of my prospective Friday night. It wasn’t my first Jonathan Schofield walking tour rodeo, you see (Check out the Altrincham Pub Tour on my sister blog).
And so it was on that chilly (bloody freezing) Friday night, did a group of us gather at The Lowry, ready to be taken on a tour of the surrounding Quays. A ghost stories amuse bouche to Ghost Stories, if you like.
If you are accustomed to Jonathan Schofield’s tours, you won’t need me to tell you that you are given not only a history lesson of the city (in this case we officially straddle two cities – Salford and Manchester) you love, but one that is peppered with dry asides and anecdotes which keep you captivated and laughing as you learn a little more about the locality (including, in this case, the more dark and dangerous dimensions to boot).
Most noted in this particular area is the tragic tale of 20 year old Lavinia Robinson, who, in 1813, went missing from her sister’s home in Bridge Street, just before Christmas after a furious row with her fiancé, William Holroyd.
It was a particularly cold winter that year, causing the River Irwell to freeze over (see Ciara’s not that bad). And so it was a terrible find for one lock keeper when several weeks later, the river thawed and Lavinia’s body was discovered, perfectly preserved in ice…
The funeral took place at St. John’s Manchester and buried in the gardens there. Where I used to eat my sandwiches when I worked at the old Granada Studios on Quay Street.
But it never was determined whether Lavinia’s tragic end was at her own hand, or that of another, namely her betrothed.
If you take a walk over the bridge towards the new Coronation Street set, you can see the locks where her body was found, hair frozen to what was the river bank, where work had begun to turn it into a canal.
However, it is on Bridge Street on the anniversary of her deaths where the ghostly goings-on took place…
As Jonathan explains (better than I could…)
And what of the pig head?
Well you’ll have to take one of Jonathan’s tours to find out (I know, I’m a swine. And I know, that’s a terrible joke).
And if your appetite is whetted for a good old Ghost Story, over by the Quays, there’s more to come in the shape of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s massively acclaimed stage show.
In part 2 (yes, and there’s a part 3), I’ll share more, including a few words from the man himself when I spoke to Jeremy Dyson about the ghostly tour he took himself, and what inspires him to write such fiendly good horror…
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.
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 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, 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.