Categories
Culture Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

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

Categories
Culture dance Events Gigs Giveaway Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Back with a Bang! Refract festival returns to Sale this Summer

Those who have already discovered this award-winning arts festival will be thrilled to hear that Refract is back for its third edition in and around Sale, this July.

Those who haven’t yet discovered Refract – you’re in for a treat.

Running from Thursday 18 July to Saturday 27 July, this unconventional 10 day festival, curated by Waterside Arts, promises the best in live comedy, music, dance, experiential performance and theatre, with something for everyone.

Highlights at Refract:19 include:

  • Japanese rope art from Lumo Theatre in Wiredo

  • A preview of one-man show First Time, as Nathaniel Hall drops in on the way to Edinburgh Fringe (ironically, the second time Nathaniel has brought his show to Sale – read my preview here)

 And, of course, so so much more…

Competition!

To celebrate the return of this wonderfully different and exciting festival to our very own Greater Manchester, I’m running a competition to win a pair of tickets to see Frisky and Mannish in their Poplab – bringing their wildly popular brand of musical infotainment right from BBC Radio 1, BBC2, BBC3 and ITV3, straight to the streets of Sale (well not strictly the streets – just one – Waterside Plaza.

With two pairs up for grabs, for your chance to to see the Pop PhDs themselves on Saturday 20 July, click the link below and follow the instructions (oh it’s nothing sinister, I promise):

The great Refract:19 giveaway!

Entries close Sunday 7 July and winners will be selected at random.

For the full rundown,dates, tickets and to essentially plan your cultural journey into all that is right in the wonderful world of artistic endeavour, visit the Waterside Arts Refract:19 website now.

Categories
Culture LGBT LGBTQ+ Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: All I See is You

Bank Holiday Monday and I was whisked back to the 1960s last night.

A time when Woolies was still a thing, Donovan was number 3 in the charts and who you loved or even just fancied could consign you to a prison cell and a place of deep shame and castigation in society.

All I See is You is first and foremost a love story.

It’s also a two hander, starring Ciaran Griffiths as Bobby and Christian Edwards as Ralph, both gay, both living different lives.

Bobby, gregarious yet inexperienced, soon embraces his sexuality, albeit in a society where homosexuality was a criminal act and measures must be taken. This is largely aided by acceptance in his family (Dad dealing it with through denial) and guidance from his also gay boss on the record counter at Woolies.

Ralph, however, while more experienced, is retreating further into society ‘norms’; his chosen career as a teacher and his more strait-laced family, leading to common measures of that cruel era, from typically taking a girlfriend to the more extreme of aversion therapy.

Written by Kathrine Smith, this two hander about concealing love and sexuality ironically leaves nowhere to hide.

In the 70 minute performance, all eyes and literal spotlight is on the actors. Aided only by brief insertions of musical memories from the era and simple yet effective lighting, the acting is the thing.

No props, just a stage and its actors.

There is a mix of inner thought monologue to the audience and performance between the two actors. In short, it is a privilege to bear witness to such talent in the intimate setting that fabulous fringe theatre allows.

The silences saying as much as the dialogue, the actors connect with the audience to the degree that you’re with them down ‘The Trafford’ as they enjoy a drink together in the shadows, in Ralph’s bedroom as his father appears at the door, on the hospital ward as…I’ll leave it there.

The contrast between the two characters’ lives is akin to their demeanours and personalities on stage.

Bobby (Griffiths) brings the passion, the comedic, the unabashed enthusiasm, the physical…Ralph (Edwards) brings the maturity, the considered, the pathos, the…passion.

Together the characters and indeed the actors bring smiles and tears, joy and heartache and a reminder of how far the lgbt community has had to come and what they’ve had to battle – all just to be in love.

Written in response to the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, I urge you to go and be entertained, moved, and reminded that while the U.K. has come this far, many countries (and indeed individuals) still have not.

Visit https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/all-i-see-is-you/ for more information and to book.

On until Saturday 1 June, don’t miss out.

Categories
Celebrity Culture Events LGBT Literature Manchester News People Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

*Preview* Penguin Pride comes to Manchester

Penguin Pride is winging its way to Manchester next week, with a wonderful line-up of LGBTQ+ writers, poets and performers to celebrate the city’s incredible diversity.

Taking place at Z-Arts on Thursday 23 August, poet and playwright Toby Campion hosts this special event which will showcase some of the UK’s most exciting queer talent.

img_8198

Presented in partnership with GAY TIMES and Manchester Literature Festival, the line-up includes:

  • Kate O’Donnell, an award-winning, transgender theatre maker, activist and artistic director. She’s currently touring the autobiographical show You’ve Changed.
  • Paul Flynn, an acclaimed arts journalist and columnist for Attitude. His book, Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride, has been praised as ‘one of the most important books about gay culture in recent times.’
  • Kirsty Logan, a Glasgow based writer whose books include The Gloaming, The Gracekeepers and A Portable Shelter. Her short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, was awarded the Polari First Book Prize and featured twenty tales of lust and loss, lascivious queens, paper men and island circuses.
  • Andrew McMillan, an award-winning Yorkshire poet. His new collection, Playtime, explores the different ways we grow into our sexual selves and our adult identities.
  • Manchester-based performance poet Ella Otomewo, who is a member of Young Identity and M(.)IST Collective, a collective of queer female artists working across various art-forms. Her work is feminist, personal, powerful and candid.

Each ticket sold will include a £1 donation towards the great work done by The Albert Kennedy Trust, a national LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity.

So what are you waiting for? For further info and to p-p-p-pick up a ticket (I’m really sorry Penguin Pride), visit www.penguin.co.uk/pride

Doors open 6.30pm. The event will run 7.30-10pm including intervals.

If I haven’t been banned for that appalling pun, I’ll see you there!

Categories
Culture Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – The Fishermen at HOME Mcr

It’s always an exciting thing to attend a world premiere production of…well anything, really.

Not least when you get to see it before it hits Edinburgh Fringe audiences. Certainly not least when you’re not getting to Edinburgh Fringe yourself (although, fear not as there is plenty to entertain on our good own Mancunian doorstep of course).

And so HOME Mcr is hosting the rather wonderful theatre company New Perspectives and their pretty brilliant production of The Fishermen, until Saturday 28 July, 2018.

The play is adapted by the award-winning playwright Gbolahan Obisesan, from the much celebrated 2015 Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel of the same name, by Nigerian author, Chigozie Obioma

In summary, the story tells of two brothers in Nigeria – Ben, actor, Michael Ajao, and Obembe, actor Valentine Olukoga, who, along with their two older brothers, defy their commanding father, by secretly taking up fishing at a forbidden river.

However, their carefree capers are one day interrupted by the visitation of a ‘madman’ who delivers a terrifying prophecy, leading to life-changing consequences.

img_7505
Valentine Olukoga (Obembe) and Michael Ajao (Ben) – photo by Pamela Raith

Shown in HOME’s intimate Theatre 2, theatregoers are immediately immersed into the play before being fully seated, the lights lowered and the doors closed.

A simple set is revealed (and given the electricity of the performances by the two actors, anything else on stage would be unrequired, unwarranted and a mere distraction), sounds of river wildlife emanate throughout the space, and even a character is noted in the shadows, already in place towards the rear of the stage, sat quietly, back to the audience.

img_7509-2

Ajao and Olukoga give highly energetic and eclectic performances throughout the 80 minute production.

They take us through this intense tale of family misfortune in a free-flowing and essentially uninterrupted singular scene, whilst portraying multiple characters and timelines seamlessly whilst never provoking confusion.

One minute the snappy dialogue and mimicry of various family members has the audience laughing, and the next –  stunned and shaken by scenes of fear, terror and violence.

Valentine Olukoga (Obembe) and Michael Ajao (Ben) – photo by Pamela Raith

Throughout, the metaphorical light and shade in the story are mirrored, accompanied and indeed heralded by the subtle yet brilliant lighting direction.

And I should note (this is going to sound very ‘theatre-darling’ ), I have only had the privilege of seeing an actor cry on scripted cue twice in my life – the first was Sir Kenneth Branagh in the Manchester International Festival performance of Macbeth (and that was because it was a close-up on the big screen in a carpark – it’s ok, we were allowed to take in picnics)…and the second time was last night, mere feet from my seat.

Don’t miss this short opportunity to bear witness to this powerful and breathtaking performance of African storytelling. At very least you’ll have bragging rights over that lot up in Edinburgh 😏😁).

For full details and tickets, visit HOME Mcr – The Fishermen

Categories
Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain at the Opera House

I’m going to start with a sincere apology to Liza Goddard.

She has such a wealth of stage experience behind her, that for me to bring up the Give Us a Clue theme tune seems very wrong.

I know I shouldn’t mention it but it’s like a scratch I have to itch. Please forgive me reader and theatre-goer (and do pity me with my full permission) but I’m afraid I’m unable to hear Liza Goddard’s name without the jazzy joy that was the intro music to charades based celebrity TV spectacle Give Us a Clue, bursting into life in my very soul.

Click here for perfection itself

Such is the mark on me, that I’m equally unable to hear Liza Goddard’s name without immediately thinking

and Lionel Blair!!!!

But to many this odd memory of mine is merely serving to delay the crux of the matter – the play that is Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain – showing at the Manchester Opera House until this Saturday 28 July, 2018.

Starring  the both immensely talented and respected Liza Goddard and Lionel Blair!  Robert Powell (I’ll spare him any clichéd reference to a specific role – again sorry Liza), the two actors have proven once again what a dream team they are, this being their third stage production together.

And so we move swiftly on from the strange word of my childhood TV memories and to, eventually, the infamous Baker Street in the post-war 1920s.

Simon Reade’s play introduces us to a Sherlock Holmes (Powell) who is now in his dotage and living in Eastbourne. It is somehow funnier than it should be that he has elected to evade detection of himself by declaring himself to be ‘Sherlock Smith’.

In the week where Manchester’s Bee in the City has seen lots of the little fellows popping up all over the centre, it is apt that bee-keeping is somewhat central to the plot.

The play certainly ticks all the Sherlock Holmes boxes:

Pipe ✅

Drugs ✅

Baker Street ✅

Numerous mentions of ‘arch-nemesis’ Moriarty ✅

Dr Watson ✅

In fact the latter, warmly and humorously depicted by Timothy Kightley is, in a sense, our narrator for the evening, embracing new technology and appearing on BBC radio to take listeners through one of Sherlock Holmes’s casebooks – the tale we then see unfold.

It is no spoiler that a dead body on Sherlock’s private beach (no less) kick starts matters and heralds the arrival of Watson’s now estranged wife Mary (Goddard) who commands the stage and indeed story with a certain authority.

Bringing tales of visions of the Watsons’ deceased son, James, into the mix, Holmes (or ‘Smith’) is encouraged by Mary to return to Baker Street where she and Dr Watson are now co-habiting – the latter having moved into psychoanalysis.

Scenes of a seance caused me a wry smile, given my attendance at one of Derek Acorah’s shows in this same theatre some years back.

Let’s say this show was more successful at ‘conjuring’ up the spirits than poor Derek that night.

The play doesn’t necessarily provide any stand-out moments. It ambles along and tells its tale, the actors delivering well the material in hand.

I was, however, fascinated by the role the ‘title’ player ‘the curtain’ holds throughout. As each time the curtain swept from stage left to right (and vice versa) the scenery and actors would have changed by the time it reached its destination.

In fact it became somewhat of a game for me to try and catch a glimpse of the sorcery going on behind (I managed one pair of feet – bravo all in involved!).

And so whilst I would say there is nothing here to astound, perhaps there doesn’t need to be. It’s a quintessential English story that entertains. Whilst the first half may not quite leave you yearning for more, the second half picks up the pace.

There’s even an ‘elementary’ thrown in, for good measure.

For more details, times and tickets, visit The Opera House/ATG tickets website.

Categories
Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Greater Manchester Fringe – Into The Deep

There is a lot being done to raise awareness of male mental health at the time of writing, which is both joyous and tragic.

Joyous that those afflicted or potentially afflicted are being offered support, reassurance, an outlet, and above all else, a message that they are not alone.

Tragic that the above is all required.*

I was unfortunately only able to attend the last performance on Inside The Deep’s three night run, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe, and so unable to point towards the next performance in Manchester.

However Camden Fringe is the next lucky host of this play and indeed Bristol-based outfit, Popcorn Productions.

Showing at Leaf in Portland Street…

(fantastic space downstairs – check it out for future events)

…the four hander written by and starring Ed Lees along with actors Chris Alldridge, Ned Costello and Polly Wain, tells the story of Fisherman Thomas Lewin (Lees), his teenage son Marlon (Costello) daughter Carla (Wain) and father William (Alldridge), in rural Cornwall.

During the play, scenes may be geographically static, set around a kitchen table throughout, but the movement is provided by its ever changing timeline, shooting seamlessly back and forth from the present day, to scenes from Thomas’s youth to eventually a little time in the future.

Fear not…

True that when I first watched Pulp Fiction at the tender age of … in my teens, I was confused. I knew I loved it. But I was confused. 10+ watches down the line I eventually had the linear timeline down in my head.

Into the Deep used a more subtle device which was arguably more clever (soz Tarantino).

To take us from one time period to another, the constant sounds of the radio in the scenes, acted as an effective device in telling the audience just where we were all at.

However, soon into the 60 minute play, I stopped taking conscious notice of the radio and instead took my lead from the actors and characters themselves who appear in both timelines.

The difficult relationship between Thomas and his father William, Ed Lees and Chris Alldridge, was often the focus and both were captivating in their performances.

In fact, at times, the scripted words were a mere support to the body language, facial expressions and movement displayed in their performances as they portrayed a tale of mental anguish, familial tensions, and abuse – both physical and emotional.

Throughout 60 minutes you bear witness to crushing disappointment, pressure, fear, worry, heartbreak, confusion, pride, devastation, as the narrative takes us through how as humans, our relationships in our youth can continue to affect us, even when thought ‘buried’ and that chapter closed.

As we see Thomas’s children Marlon and Carla both go from sparky, outgoing, cocky characters in the opening scene to ones which start to unravel as a reaction to their circumstances (powerful performances by both actors), it is difficult as witness not to fast forward and fear that history may repeat.

It is mention of the opening scene that reminds me to stress that whilst I have extolled the production values and physical performances of all involved, the written words should by no means be relegated to supporting artist.

Whilst indeed powerful, the dialogue is also subtle, witty and yes even funny. Who’d a thought Jeremy Paxman could be a punchline!

Back to the point,

Loss is a theme threaded throughout; a partner, a mother, work, money, a home, an opportunity…

And it is through a combination of such that the audience sees Thomas unravel before our eyes in his memories of, and cutaways to, the past – for the most part, his pain is internalised.

It is hard to believe that in a relatively small space, and within a modest set and timeframe, the production can take an audience through such an intense emotional journey in the storytelling, acting and smart production devices (the sounds signifying Thomas being taken to a place of mental anguish are chilling and effective).

It soon filled up – I panic and get places early

In short, all players made you believe in them and the story they were telling, and the overall performance was the perfect example of how bearing witness to a fringe production can feel such a privilege.

With such intimacy that is lost in the larger venues and shows, the actors and indeed whole outfit involved in Popcorn Productions had nowhere to hide and how fortunate for us that they didn’t.

Manchester – check out what else is showing as part of Greater Manchester Fringe..

Camden and surrounding areas – you’re in for a treat in August – check out the details

Rest of the world – take note of Popcorn Productions – quick sharp: Get clicking

*…and for anyone who may wish to, please visit my friend’s page. She is raising money for Mind and thus all those with mental health difficulties: Sponsored Sky Dive

Look after each other x

Categories
Celebrity Culture Events Manchester Music Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – The Last Ship at the Lowry

Billed as Sting’s personal, political and passionate musical, this was a ship that I wasn’t prepare to let sail by without an inquisitive look.

On a tour of UK and Ireland, The Last Ship sailed into the Quays last night, making its debut at The Lowry theatre.

I have already used two puns both based on the word ‘sail’ and we are but two sentences into this post. I do apologise.

Spoiler there’s a third towards the end.

img_6622

Inspired by Sting’s childhood experiences and featuring his Tony-nominated original score and lyrics, the show is set against a backdrop of the demise of the shipbuilding industry in the North East, and hones in on the story of childhood sweethearts and their personal journeys together and as individuals.

Be reassured that there is no schmaltz on stage – the story isn’t tied up with a red ribbon, no eyes will be rolled (I’m an eye-roller – they stayed unrolled), and the issues laid bare of the workers’ struggles during this time, by no means romanticised.

Despite the image I’ve chosen to use below.

img_6605

The cast is impressive and stellar, featuring Richard Fleeshman (Gideon Fletcher), Charlie Hardwick (Peggy White), Joe McGann (Jackie White) and Frances McNamee (Meg Dawson).

It should be noted that last night, Peggy White was played by Penelope Woodman who I have to say was, indeed, one of the stars of the show with her rousing vocals and passionate movements.

But how to separate one member from the others, really.

The Last Ship is an energetic, heartfelt, literal foot-stamping/air punching musical from start to finish.

At the start of each half, the cast even break through the 4th wall – especially after the interval.

I won’t say how and why, other than to say, don’t worry if you’re having a chat in your seat and suddenly look up to see the cast assembled on stage looking and waving at you. You won’t be thrown out for flagrant abuse of theatre etiquette.

It’s fine

Not a natural lover of musicals myself, I hope my words hold some weight (if never before or ever again), when I say that the songs were catchy, moving and engaging at first ‘hear’. There was a fine balance of word and song, any musical interlude feeling natural and instrumental (pardon the pun) to moving the narrative forward.

img_6598

With Sting’s style literally written all over them, the songs and music took in sea-shanties, strings, acoustic guitar, piano and even electrica strains as the audience were also treated on brief occasion to Sting’s back catalogue. It’s no tall order to perform an established legend’s songs whilst said legend is in the building (yep, Sting was In.The.Building), but Richard Fleeshman owned every note and word.

Indeed, the music was equally matched by the rest of the vocals on stage, a mix of dialogue, song, impassioned shouts and humour (I particularly enjoyed the gritty and witty asides from Frances McNamee as Meg and Kevin Wathen (Davey Harrison)).

Equally breathtaking to the music and acting, was the set design.

With not a prop touched or moved, we were seamlessly taken from from ship yard, to a terraced house, to the local pub, to the docks, to a protest march to waves crashing; all with the clever use of screens, projections and sound and lighting effects.

With any piece of theatre which brings with it ‘political’ amongst its adjectives, there is a risk and a fear from the audience that they are about to encounter an angry rant and lecture (whichever way you lean). Fear no such thing.

And the Baroness in the royal blue suit is, I’m sure, based on nobody. Nobody at all.

This is an honest, non finger-wagging, moving yet entertaining piece of theatre which I enjoyed – and that was before Mr Sting appeared in all his unassuming glory (no scene-stealing, mic grabbing antics here) at curtain call.

Showing until Saturday 7 July, I urge you to give this show a go, and don’t let that ship sail. sorry.

Visit the The Lowry’s website for all details, including tickets.

Categories
Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – War Horse at the Lowry

A (by no means exhaustive) list of popular films and programmes that traumatised me as a child:

  • Dumbo
  • E.T.*
  • Born Free
  • Dot and the Kangaroo
  • Watership Down

They all have one thing in common – creatures and animals in challenging and sad situations. *Ok, technically E.T. was an alien but he’s pretty much in that category.

The last title (I can’t bear to even type it out again), is top of the trauma list. ‘That’ song (the name of which I cannot type lest it lead to floods of tears), used to send me behind the sofa to cry when I was little. It still would.

A (by no means exhaustive) list of popular films and programmes I have vowed never to watch, becoming aware of them when I was old enough to know better:

  • Tarka the Otter
  • The 9 Lives of Thomasina
  • The Lion King
  • Marley and Me
  • War Horse

See, I came to it.

Troubled as I am by my sensitivities to our furry, hairy, scaled, feathered…erm tusked and hooved friends, there is no way on this earth I will sit down with a bag of maize based onion rings (popcorn is literally not my bag) and subject myself to the film War Horse. The title screams out sad animal.

And I have to say, I allowed my ridiculous drama sensitivities to influence my thoughts on going to see the stage play.

However, the theatre-lover in me allowed myself to be taken in by the promise (yes promise – you know who you are) that puppets couldn’t possibly invoke woe and despair in me (that person obviously didn’t know me when Animal from The Muppets was my number 1 fear in life).

Furthermore, they didn’t reckon with South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, Puppetry Director, Matt Forbes, and the wonderful actors bringing Joey to life in front of our eyes last night.

The National Theatre’s production of War Horse first visited The Lowry in 2013 and so I had managed five years of stubbornness and resolve.

The heart-warming/wrenching story centres on the character of Albert Narracott (Thomas Dennis), his horse Joey and their journey throughout the First World War.

Thomas Dennis as Albert Narracott, with Joey

It’s certainly no spoiler to say that this journey is not a smooth one, the narrative taking audiences to the brink with its highly emotive highs and lows along the way.

Jo Castleton as Rose, Gwilym Lloyd as Ted

And is not a stretch to suspend your disbelief (more’s the pity) at all. I gave it my all I’m telling myself it was a mechanical puppet, it was a mechanical puppet, it was a mechanical puppet.

No use – I was in tears by the second scene and nothing ‘sad’ had even happened.

The attention to detail in bringing Joey and the other horses to life (yes, you have more to contend with) is just staggering – a subtle swoosh of the tail, a flicker of the ears; the senses are even tricked into seeing and hearing the horses breathe.

And then there’s the goose. Thank goodness for the comedy goose – watch out for the goose!

Billy Irving (Goose)

The goose and indeed the sergeant major bring the laughs and light relief and to be fair there are many moments where sadness gives way to smiles, particularly with the boyish innocence of Albert who by the end of the production is indeed a man whilst managing to retain a wonderful air of vulnerability and warmth.

Thomas Dennis as Albert Narracott, with Joey

The actors, lighting, sound and set design take you straight to the battlefields of the First World War, and horses aside (yes, I managed to tear my focus away from those woe-inducing creatures), the production is truly an assault on the senses and emotions – and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Special mention must also go to our musical ‘narrator’, Bob Fox who, as ‘Songman’ takes us from one period of time and scene and into the next. And beautifully so.

Bob Fox as Songman

Stock up on your resolve and tissues, and don’t (I swear the phrase came to me before realised the abomination that is this pun) look a gift horse in the mouth, by not taking advantage of War Horse’s glorious return to Salford.

On a two week run until Saturday 30 June, head to the Lowry website here for all information and booking details.

If I can do it, you can…

and I’m so glad I did.

Dumbo can still do one though.

Categories
Celebrity Culture Events LGBT Manchester People Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Theatre review – Diamond – HOME Mcr

I have two things in common with performance artist, David Hoyle; we’re now both Manchester based and we both grew up and spent our formative years on the Fylde Coast – he in Layton, me in Thornton-Cleveleys, both a pebble’s throw away from Blackpool.

Oh a third – we were both in Theatre 2 at Manchester’s HOMETheatre tonight at the show Diamond; he on stage, me mesmerised and enthralled in the audience.

Born in 1962, Hoyle David (I feel distinctly uncomfortable just using surnames – I know it’s standard practice in writing to do so, but I feel rude. Hopefully ‘David’ isn’t being too familiar although after being invited into his fascinating life this evening, I’m laying claim to knowing him somewhat)…

And so Ladies und Gentlemen

and those clever enough to transcend gender

(see show for details) I shall continue.

Born in 1962, David has been at the heart of the LGBT scene for decades and more than qualified to wear the crown of subject matter expert.

His one-man show, Diamond, takes the audience through a 60 year period (the last 60 years, incidentally), interweaving his own experiences, from gay adolescent in Blackpool to Divine David, the ‘anti-drag queen cult phenomena’ on Channel 4, with important and documented events in gay history such as the 1957 Wolfenden Report (recommending the decriminalisation of homosexuality).

During the show, whilst literally centre stage, David shares the spotlight with other significant gay figures and ‘happenings’, from Manchester’s own Alan Turing to Manchester’s own protest and demonstration against Section 28 – ‘Never Going Underground’.

ManGaychester- a chapter of the book and indeed show, (and the point at which I also want to pay tribute to the wonderful Lip Sinkers) gave us my favourite musical interlude and costume (not withstanding David’s fabulous charity shop ensemble midway through):

Nipple tassels swirling hypnotically to a distinctive Manchester beat.

How was your Monday?

With passion and humour blunt and biting, and nostalgia weaving between the gritty (the grim devastation of losing friends to AIDS in the 80s) and the affectionate (memories of working in a 70s BHS – staff meetings held round the coleslaw), light and shade runs throughout the 75 minute production.

As David says;

The show is a celebration of survival against overwhelming odds. We have a LGBT history we are proud of.

And so whether lesbian, gay, bi, transgender or indeed straight, I think we all left feeling a little more educated and a little better about ourselves this evening.

With only two more dates left (12/13 June), don’t miss your opportunity to bear witness to this wonderful journey.

For more details including tickets, please visit the HOME website.

ps To my fellow Fylde Coastian turned Honorary Manc, David…

I see your ‘going to watch the entire cast of Are Young Being Served in a Blackpool show’ and raise you ‘ going to see the entire cast of Hi-de-Hi on stage at the Winter Gardens’.