I love a good kick-start to the festive season.
For some it’s a trip to Dunham Massey’s ever popular lights extravaganza, some a performance of The Nutcracker, for some the appearance of the ‘red cups’ or even seeing Zippy being put together outside the Town Hall (Rest in Peace).
This year I spring-boarded into the season by heading HOME to see The Manchester Project at Christmas.
Brought to us by Monkeywood theatre company, Manchester is the heartbeat of everything they do.
The company ask the questions,
what does it mean to be a mancunian? what is it like to live here?
and just this piece of theatre does a pretty good job of answering, as the project delivers up a ‘theatrical map of Manchester’, with 14 shorts, each focusing on an area (aside from one, which centres on our very own HOME).
With a company of six local actors (Cynthia Emeagi, Zoe Iqbal, Reuben Johnson, Andrew Sheridan, Samantha Siddall and Gurjeet Singh), and each play brought to us by writers from across the city, it really is the ultimate Christmas gift of homegrown talent. I should at this point out that sadly Samantha Siddall was ill (get well soon) and her parts were taken by writer and producer Sarah McDonald Hughes. And brilliantly so.
A little of the production itself, the gallery has been transformed into a theatre space but one which is incredibly relaxed and feels decidedly ‘fringe’.
Take your seat at one of the many tables dotted around, set down your drink, and sit back whilst combinations of the six actors perform on a sparse stage the only props being white boxes adorned with the name of the 14 focal places:
HOME, Little Hulton, Middleton, Strangeways, Crumpsall, Shaw, Hulme, Whalley Range, Chorlton, Cheetham Hill, Moss Side, Wythenshawe, Old Trafford and Timperley.
I’ll never get this review out before Boxing Day if I write about each short, so whilst all were entertaining, touching in their own way, I’ll pull out a couple:
Chorlton – a touching story of a separated couple who we learn meet up annually at the graveside of the daughter they lost when she was 6 years old. In just a few short lines, we quickly discover a warmth between the exes which perhaps was previously destroyed by their shared loss.
Cheetham Hill – a laugh out loud performance by Zoe Iqbal, selling
cheap knock-offs the genuine thing like a goodun, working the audience with brilliant timing and wit.
With a Santa hat as a prop and passed round like a baton between the plays, The Manchester Project covers homelessness, crime, immigration, teenage pregnancy, bereavement, Frank Sidebottom and ferret racing. It really does.
And it’s a celebration of not only the Manchester area, Manchester people and the talent we harbour in this fine city, but a brilliant way to kick start your Christmas.
Not only that, you get some extra bang for your buck and a drag dessert to your main on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in the shape of Miss Blair’s TV special (celebrating our favourite British icons at Christmas, or the Ho Ho Holiday Comedy Hour on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays featuring the likes of Mrs Barbara Nice.
So what are you waiting for? Your house looks like it’s vomited fairy lights, you’ve begun the ritualistic ‘sod it it’s Christmas’ to excuse bad behaviour and you’ve become afflicted with Twiglet fingers.
Give yourself the early gift of Manchester with The Manchester Project, on until 30 December 2019.
For more details of the production and to buy tickets, head to https://homemcr.org/production/the-manchester-project-at-christmas/