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

Preview: Ghost Walks and Stories and Pig heads. Oh my…

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.

Yes please.

Around the Quays?

Absolutely.

In honour of the forthcoming successful stage play ‘Ghost Stories’, as written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman?

Christ yes.

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.

Nice.

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…

To find out more about Jonathan Schofield’s Manchester walking tours, please visit https://www.jonathanschofieldtours.com/

For details of Ghost Stories, coming to The Lowry 18 – 22 February, including booking information, please visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ghost-stories/

To be continued…

News: Manchester Giants basketball – Final Six season ticket on sale now

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

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.

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/

Film Review: Queen & Slim

Queen and Slim is Crash, meets Bonnie and Clyde, meets True Romance.

But most of all it’s Queen & Slim.

Copyright: Universal Pictures

Read my view of Queen & Slim on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw –

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/01/30/review-queen-and-slim/

Copyright: Universal Pictures

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 31 January 2020 including

https://www.myvue.com/film/queen-and-slim

Home MCR

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/queen-slim

Pics: Rehearsals in full flow for Back to the Future The Musical

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…)

Oh yes.

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.

Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Bob Gale in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Robert Zemeckis in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Hugh Coles and Cedric Neal in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)
For full details visit http://backtothefuturemusical.com/

Buy tickets here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

News: Croma to treat Manchester to 2000 prices to celebrate 20th year in the city

Gourmet pizza restaurant Croma and I have two things in common.

The first is that pizza is an incredibly important part of our lives.

The second is that this year marks our 20th year living in Manchester!

To celebrate, I’ll be justifying ever single trip out and drink drunk with ‘it’s my 20th anniversary’.

For Croma, with November seeing 20 years since it moved into their central Manchester location on Clarence Street, the restaurant kick-starts celebrations this month by turning back time and releasing a menu with our favourite dishes sold at prices like it’s 2000.

‘The Croma Chonicle’ will take us lucky diners through the history of the restaurant with a generous serving of nostalgia in the shape of some tasty retro prices.

The restaurant was founded by Andrew Bullock, Kirsty Marshall and Bob Dunn and has since opened further restaurants in Didsbury (check), Chorlton (on to do list) and Prestwich (ditto).

Andrew Bullock said,

20 years has flown by, we feel lucky and proud to have been in at the beginning of the flowering of our city’s restaurant and bar culture…

(Me too, Andrew, me too…)

…and we can’t wait to see what the next 20 years bring to ourselves and our extraordinary birthplace.

Back to the menu, I’ve flirted and developed a deep passion for the Garstang Blue and Goats Cheese pizza in recent times, but my first love from 2000 onwards will always be the Inglese which is basically a full English breakfast pizza and as brilliant as it sounds. £5 flipping 80 pence for that little delight under this offer.

With pasta dishes from £5.45 and garlic balls at £1.45 (you literally can’t buy anything from £1.45 anymore. Well not literally but almost), an excuse was never needed to dine at Croma. But if one was needed, this is it.

Head to cromapizza.co.uk and marvel.

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Dickens, eh?

Have you ever noticed the sheer amount of old English pubs which boast the accolade that Charles Dickens once drank there?

It’s a wonder he got anything done.

Well done he did and one of the things wot he done was David Copperfield. And now Armando Iannucci did done it too.

Read my review of The Personal History of David Copperfield on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw –

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/review-the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield/

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 24 January 2019 including

https://www.myvue.com/cinema/manchester-printworks/whats-on

https://www.myvue.com/cinema/manchester/whats-on

https://mobi.odeon.co.uk/cinemas/manchester_great_northern/225/

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/members-the-personal-history-of-david-copperfield

Preview: HOME is where the People’s Art is – the first Manchester Open Exhibition

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.

Justine Le Joncour – Newton Street

The exhibition sees entries from all levels of experience; established artists, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.

Ben Goring – Rich

Gwen Evans – Ar Lan Y Mor (By the Seaside)

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.

Kat Preston – An Ode to Willendorf

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.

Jen Orpin – It’s the Manc Way – Safe Passage

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.

More details can be found at https://homemcr.org/exhibition/manchester-open/