Wuthering Heights at The Lowry

I didn’t know what to do expect from this production.

I mean I was aware of the story – it’s all love and hate and death and windy moors. But the description of this production told me it was…

Shot through with music, dance, passion and hope…

and I was admittedly reticent. This could be very good, this could be very bad. What did this mean, what level of interpretive dance could this be, will passion and hope serve us well and translate into an entertaining evening out at the theatre?

I was still pondering these questions as I arrived at the Lowry and settled into my seat. It had been a long day, this was a relatively long production (160 mins total plus interval) and I was fighting an internal voice telling me that under no circumstances should I reference Kate Bush or any Alan Partridge scenes in my coverage (and with that, I guess I win, internal voice).

To sum up…

Rescued from the Liverpool docks as a child, Heathcliff is adopted by the Earnshaws and taken to live at Wuthering Heights. He finds a kindred spirit in Catherine Earnshaw and a fierce love ignites. When forced apart, a brutal chain of events is unleashed.

The production brought by Wise Children theatre company had me at the first scene. It’s funny and it’s charismatic and it’s powerful. It’s a whole lot of things. The funny offsets the death, a whole lot of death to be honest and I feed off the macabre, but that’s on Emily Brontë.

The Yorkshire moors was/were the narrator. The dancing, singing narrator passionately led by Nandi Bhebhe. Stay with me, it really worked.

There was puppetry, a feature of a few productions I’ve seen, most recently The House with Chicken Legs, song, dance and a smart and efficient use of props, most notably the good old fashioned door which served as an entry (I know, shocking) and introduction to many a compelling scenario requiring little else other than perhaps a chair or two and a cast of incredibly talented performers, many taking on multiple roles.

Lucy McCormick as Cathy was quite simply spellbinding. Even when (spoiler) dead and a silent, spooky presence on stage, bearing tortured witness to life continuing to play out in the wake of her passing, you couldn’t take your eyes off her.

I found myself wishing that young Cathy had grown up much earlier in the depiction, such was Stephanie Hockley’s performance. As bouncy, childlike, energetic, devastating and heart-tugging as McCormick’s Cathy senior; a delight.

There were strong, steely and uncomfortably dark performances (and I only mean this positively) from Liam Tamne (Heathcliff) and Tama Phethean (Hindley Earnshaw/Hareton Earnshaw).

Offsetting all the dark and the death and the downright depressing was the comedy.

Craig Johnson in his guise as Dr Kenneth had my attention with his wonderfully biting and camp asides and bridging monologue, provided a much needed side of mirth to the bodies racking up.

Sam Archer gave a typically brilliant performance as Lockwood (and Edgar Linton) with perfect comic timing both verbally and physically.

However left, centre and right stage (all over the show in fact – I wish I had that energy) was Katy Owen (Isabella Linton/Linton Heathcliff). I have never wanted a (spoiler) character to hurry up and die as much as one Linton Heathcliff. Serving Frank Spencer realness, that snivelling, whining wretch bedecked in green ribbons about his neck and shoes (I need closure don’t I) was delivered on point and we hated him, oh how we hated him. And also laughed.

And bravo to those musicians, those talented musicians in the back right corner of the stage, those unsung heroes bringing everything to life with their celtic, folky strokes and strains (composed by Ian Ross). I see and hear you Sid Goldsmith, Nadine Lee and Renell Shaw.

And so Emma Rice as writer, director and all-round hero has gifted us this production, not least rousing me from my Wednesday night slump to boot.

That’s a huge compliment (I need to work on my praise, I know).

It was Wuthering Heights but not as we know it. But also as we know it. Just when we thought it was descending into full spoof, it smacked us round the chops with a dose of revenge and redemption as Ms Brontë intended.

But don’t take my humble word for it. You have until Saturday 7 May to see for yourselves. Visit the Lowry for tickets and details by clicking here without delay.

Photo credits: Steve Tanner

Last night of the Sea Power tour, Manchester’s own Albert Hall

Saturday 23 April was Sea Power appearing at Albert Hall, Manchester day. It was also St George’s Day.

The two things are somewhat very tenuously related. They really are, stay with me.

Last August, Sea Power announced that they were dropping the ‘British’ from their name. The reasons I completely understand, the fact that the reasons even exist are tragic.

As posted on the band’s website last August,

In recent times there’s been a rise in a certain kind of nationalism in this world – an isolationist, antagonistic nationalism that we don’t want to run any risk of being confused with. It’s become apparent that it’s possible to misapprehend the name British Sea Power, particularly if someone isn’t familiar with the band or their recordings.

We’ve always been internationalist in our mindset, something made clear in songs like Waving Flags, an anthem to pan-European idealism. We always wanted to be an internationalist band but maybe having a specific nation state in our name wasn’t the cleverest way to demonstrate that.

We very much hope the band’s audience won’t be affronted by this adjustment to the name. We’d like to make it clear that removing the word “British” does NOT indicate any aversion to the British Isles whatsoever.

https://seapowerband.com/news

You see, it is for similar reasons that the Union Jack or, indeed the English flag, immediately bring up negative connotations. Ones that I try to fight against but the terms, the flags, any sense of nationalistic ideology or iconography have been hijacked by people and organisations that are, put simply, and colloquially, the worst.

Last Saturday, I disappointingly yet automatically winced and then, in turn, winced at my wincing when seeing mention of St George’s Day and the flag in my timeline that day. I wish that knee-jerk reaction would leave me as there’s an inferred victory for the far right.

But for now, sadly, those negative connotations just aren’t going anywhere.

Let’s talk about going out in Manchester to a gig! Yeah!

The venue, a firm favourite. That vantage point, those stain-glassed windows, those fairylit pews – too good. Plus there’s always the chance Godfrey Parkes will rock up (Derek Acorah, RIP).

For those who have never been to the Albert Hall, I strongly recommend you see something, someone, anything there. If you don’t mind taking several hours to get to and from the basement loos, and eventually get the hang of the layout of the building and those staircases, it’s an absolute gem of a venue.

From the Charlatans, to John Cooper Clarke, to a screening of Psycho with live orchestra, to Jarvis Cocker, whatever I’ve seen here, it gives great backdrop.

Picking up my tickets, I was offered a giant chocolate button. Yes I was. They had me at giant chocolate button.

The drinks prices aren’t foolish either and if you find the secret bar (hiding in plain sight), you’ll have one person at most ahead of you.

And so, playing host to two great bands on Saturday, one established since 2000, one some 20 years later.

Pale Blue Eyes took command of the stage from their opening gambit, From Devon (me too, Pale Blue Eyes, me too!), I’ll throw some classic comparisons to Radiohead, early Smiths, at you.

Definitely ones to watch and listen to, perhaps starting with their single, the superbly named Dr Pong – Listen here.

For the main event, a whole lot of foliage started to build up on the stage. So far, so Sea Power.

From a band who have had a past reputation for surreal visuals, frenetic stage antics, Saturday was, I’d say, by contrast, still waters. By that I mean full of energy but no trips to A&E by band members or giant bears. Still making a splash, the band had the gig-goers in raptures, there was a fine dose of crowd-surfing, causing a magical manifestation of twitchy but responsible stewarding.

In case you missed it, that was my paragraph of sea and water puns.

But it was, as they say,

a good crowd.

they

With representation from the earliest album to the latest, Everything Was Forever (Feb 2022), there was much to enjoy and appreciate for those hardened Sea Power fans to those who simply appreciate great music at a venue that just won’t quit.

The band opened with It Ended on an Oily Stage, lead single from 2005 album, Open Season, right through to big hitter Carrion from debut album, The Decline of British Sea Power, back in 2003, and taking in new single Two Fingers along the way. The set finished with a hat-trick encore of Remember Me, Waving Flags and The Great Skua.

Setlist.fm

Britannia may annually rule the waves at the Royal Albert Hall, but at its commoner counterpart in Manchester, Sea Power were riding them high.

https://seapowerband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/paleblueeyesmusic/

https://www.alberthallmanchester.com/

Preview: Head HOME for film this spring…

So we’re all about 50 stone heavier having thrown ourselves while-heartedly into the apparent food festival that is Easter.

A blur of hot cross buns, simnel cake and chocolate, we’re tired and all need something a little more…stationary.

A little less feeding frenzy, a little more ‘feet up (oi metaphorically, not on the seats), lights down, eyes forward.

Both classic and contemporary, HOME Mcr has been bringing a whole raft of film seasons and screenings to audiences over the last month, and there’s still so much to come…

Apr/May film seasons to come include:

  • Resistance and Protest (Sat 30 Apr – Mon 2 May): In celebration of International Workers’ Day HOME presents a season of films focused on the theme ‘Resistance and Protest’.
  • Hollywood Blacklistees in Europe (Sat 14 – Tue 31 May): A season of films from directors and writers who were blaacklisted in Hollywood (and beyond), but who managed to continue making fantastic film against the odds. Season includes one of the greatest war films of all time The Bridge on the River Kwai (Sun 29 May) and classic British film Zulu (Sun 22 May), as well as a special One Hour Introduction (Sat 14 May) to the season 
  • Cult Films (Ongoing): Our Cult Films strand continues with screenings of taut plastic surgery thriller Eyes Without a Face (29 Apr) and Horror Express (Fri 27 May)starring genre icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

One-off events and screenings:

  • THIS MUCH I KNOW TO BE TRUE (Wed 11 May): Andrew Dominik’s new feature documentary captures Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ exceptional creative relationship as they bring to life the songs from their last two studio albums, Ghosteen and Carnage
  • Firebird Q&A (Fri 22 Apr): Based on a true story, Sergey and Roman first meet in basic training for the Soviet Air Force, where homosexuality is illegal. The films screens on general release from Fri 22 Apr, with a Q&A on the opening evening with director-producer Peeter Rebane and lead actor Tom Prior
  • Sexuality Summer School: Rebel Dykes + Q&A (Mon 23 May): University of Manchester’s annual Sexuality Summer School public events programme returns to HOME with a screening of Rebel Dykes, followed by a Q&A with producer Siobhan Fahey and directors Harri Shanahan and Siân A. Williams.

New release highlights:

Other highlights:

To find the whole programme and to book tickets, visit https://homemcr.org/cinema/

Also, fine there’s snacks. They still have snacks.