Review: Forgotten Voices at Hope Mill Theatre

Forgotten Voices is something special.

To listen to the story of somebody’s life experiences is already a privilege. For that story to be written by that person’s grandson, moreso. But when that story is important, powerful, heartfelt, beautifully written and acted, it’s a whole other level.

Written by David Moorhouse, directed by Margaret Connell, and brought to Hope Mill Theatre as part of October’s Black History month, Forgotten Voices is a one woman show inspired by the life of Eva Moorhead Kadalie, the widow of South Africa’s first national black trade union leader, Clements Kadalie – known as the father of black trade unionism and the man who shook South Africa.

The play covers the turbulent years from 1919 to 1956 in South Africa including the 1919 Cape Town Harbour strike, the creation and of the Industrial and Commercial Union and its swift rise to prominence, the 1927 passing of the Native Administration Act (making it illegal to criticise the whites) and the subsequent court case and the role of the media in silencing the black voice.

It’s 1956 and Eva is on board the boat ready to take her away from South Africa, and over to England for a new life.

The next 70 minutes are a self-reflection of the last three decades as Eva contemplates her lives already lived, and where the next chapter should take her.

The voices are the people who have come and gone, those who remain, the memories and the moments (those buried a little deeper than others) which have made Eva the woman stood before us on deck.

credit: Hope Mill Theatre

Passionately played by Manchester actress, Shareesa Valentine, Eva takes us through three decades; her childhood as a mixed race girl growing up in South Africa, the challenges this brought to her and her brother, the abandoment by her white Father, the deep love and and even deeper losses shared with husband Clements Kadalie, along with the deep pride and passion they had in their fight for freedom.

Not to mention Barbara…

credit: author’s own

Sharing a stage with only a pile of suitcases, lifebelt and bench, Shareesa commanded the space as she delivered an impassioned and energetic monologue with a spirited and charismatic performance which left us laughing, smiling, sorrowful and at times deathly silent as she took us through the life of a woman who was more than the sum of her parts (as moving as each part individually was).

And as Shareesa lived out those parts and a final hidden voice revealed Eva’s fate (lost 1974) and final journey back to South Africa in 2010 as her ashes were taken to the grave of her late husband Clements (lost 1951), I felt in that short space of time, in that wonderful little theatre, that I had just witnessed an incredible life flashing before my eyes and a consequential sense of loss. The standing ovation (no mean feat in our huddled sell-out seated space), told me I wasn’t alone.

To read more about Forgotten Voices, visit https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/forgotten-voices

More details can be found about Black History Month here.

I’ll leave with the speech that Eva she gave to workers when a factory went out on strike in 1947…

From the very beginning women have played an important part in the long struggle for freedom, right from the days of slavery where Negro women helped their men folk to break their chains of bondage. I would like to mention that most of these women were not of the intellectual class, but ordinary slaves.

I feel certain, that if I had space to do so, I would name hundreds of women doing  similar work which we are doing in different parts of the world. The names of the those women are scarcely known outside of the communities in which they live and labour, but the value of their services they have rendered is greater than can ever be fully measured or known. We had hard problems, it is true, but instead of despairing in the face of difficulties we should, as a race, thank God that we have a problem.

Eva Moorhead Kadalie

Review: Hold Me Close at Salford Arts Theatre

I LOVE going somewhere new and nothing takes me more places than fringe theatre.

Last Friday night it was the turn of Salford Arts Theatre and Two in a Bed Theatre Company’s Hold Me Close.

The theatre company, isn’t new to me having seen their work before at The Kings Arms a couple of years back: Review: Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can (Greater Manchester Fringe)

Wow, isn’t it weird how thanks to COVID any past event is pretty much a couple of years ago+.

And so to Hold Me Close.

“Back in his childhood home in Bolton after several years, David (named after Mr Essex himself) finds himself realising he’s a lot more like his mum than he ever thought he was. While drinking whiskey, peeling potatoes and playing dominos, can they both rekindle the mother and son love they once had back when he was just a little kid?”


Written and directed by Joe Walsh, produced by Owen Murphy and performed by Deborah Sekibo (Coronation Street) and Jake Talbot (Drowning), the two-hander is 60 minutes of real-time tussling between mother and son at the kitchen table with occasional departures to make a ham butty or dance to Brotherhood of Man.

You’re already getting kitchen sink drama aren’t you (don’t tell the other genres will you, but that’s my favourite).

And it was.

Reading the premise, I braced myself for accusation, counter-accusation, bitterness, barracking, regret, counter-regret, and whilst ready to lap it all up, wondered if a Friday night out was about to feel a whole lot more…I don’t know, Tuesday (which to be fair are fine too, just a bit dark).

But thanks to the authenticity of the writing and performances, Hold Me Close was more than your average parent vs offspring back and forth . Ding ding, round 1…

I love you

I hate you

You did this

Because you did that

No, it was a tapestry of the light and dark. And it was funny with touch-points of the contemporary too.

You see, David’s not just been away from home, he’s been living his best reality show TV life in Ibiza, bagging himself the holy trinity of cash prize/shortlived showmance and rehab stint to boot.

David’s vices lived out on TV, mum’s drinking lived out behind close doors.

She doesn’t drink anymore (of course she drinks anymore), but together mother and son drink, dance and domino together as they fondly recall scenes from a childhood and less fondly scenes from a drug overdose.

And we laughed until we suddenly didn’t. And you could have heard a pin drop in Salford Arts Theatre.

Because just as I was thinking, this has been 50 minutes of fantastically acted dialogue between mother and son which has resisted hysteria and over the top melodrama whilst retaining depth and doses of darkness, all the while heading to a quiet resolution (yes I think in overly long descriptive summaries) …things were taken to another level.

And I’m tussling over whether I go over all spoiler.

Results are in. I won’t (message me and I’ll tell you if you like) because when performed again I want you to see it for yourself and feel the sucker punch I did.

Standing ovation deserved.

To read more about Two in a Bed and all projects past, present and future , head to their Facebook page.

More information on Salford Arts Theatre can be found on their website.

Production/rehearsal photo credits – Shay Rowan

(Others – author’s own)

Review: Death Drop at the Lowry

Who knew murder could be so fabulous?

It’s 1991, it’s Tuck Island (because of course), it’s Charlie and Di’s 10th wedding anniversary, a storm’s brewing (oh how apt) and the scene is set for a murder mystery so dramatic, so devastating, so…drag.

Starring Ru-Paul US drag legends Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara, Drag Race UK Star Vinegar Strokes, Drag Race Down Under star Karen from Finance and a full cast of leading drag performers including writer Holly Stars, Death Drop is the Smash-Hit, Five Star, Drag Murder Mystery direct from the West End and straight to our Salford Quay’s Lowry Theatre.

With death by Findus crispy pancake, dismembered hands and exploding automobiles, this was no Mrs Peacock in the billiard room with the lead piping.

With running jokes reading the royals with a viciousness like there’s no tomorrow, the library was well and truly open in the Lowry on Wednesday night.

With familiar and a little less familiar faces on stage, each performer brought their own special brand of drag and delight.

And as our guests came (and indeed some, prematurely went) to Lady von Fistenburg’s (Vinegar Strokes) commemorative anniversary evening, they death-dropped like flies.

We had devilish hack Morgan Pierce (Karen From Finance), tory toff Rich Whiteman (Richard Energy), TV wideboy Phil Maker (Georgia Frost), past-it popstar Shazza and the mesmirising meterologist, Summer Raines (top of the bill Willam and Ra’Jah O’Hara). All fabulous, all wickedly funny.

However, the stand-out star for me was Holly Stars both on stage and off, given that it was a drag murder mystery wot she wrote (based on an original idea by Christopher D Clegg). Due to a terrible bout of diarrhea, the original actors/supermodels were unable to meet their theatrical obligations so Holly had to play all three Bottomley sisters, Brie, Blue and Spread (names after my own turophile’s heart – yes I had to google it…).

Holly embraced the parts like she’d written the lines herself…

Never had pathos and grief been summed up so succinctly by one such special sob.

But who got to shantay you stay, and who got sashayed away off this mortal coil? Well I won’t spoil the fun, but let’s say that I did find it particularly inkeeping when our darling drummer of a weatherman, Owain Wyn Evans, took his seat behind me for the performance.

If you want feathers, thrills, sequins and spills (and a downright campfest of drag daftness and innuendo), catch Death Drop at The Lowry until Saturday 16 October.

Directed by Jesse Jones and with original songs for Flo & Joan, find all the deets and book your tickets here at https://tickets.thelowry.com/en-GB/shows/death%20drop/events

Photo credits-: Nathan Chandler