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

Review: First Time (Refract Festival 2019)

A funny and frank autobiographical solo-show, First Time (from Dibby Theatre) is written and performed by theatre-maker and HIV activist, Nathaniel Hall and returned to Sale Waterside Centre as part of Refract Festival.

Diagnosed just two weeks after his 17th birthday and only months after coming out as gay to his family, Nathaniel kept his HIV status from almost all for over 14 years.

In late 2017, Nathaniel ‘came out again’, as it were, and is now advocating for better contemporary representation of HIV in popular culture. The show is a vehicle to break down HIV stigma and contribute to the UNAIDS aim of ending HIV within a generation.

With humour, honesty, a great deal of both heart and heartbreak, Nathaniel Hall stood (and danced – nice Ketchup song moves) before us and told us his story.

Like all the best Fringe theatre, the set was simple, tube lighting in the form of a colour changing triangle (my favourite being blue to depict Stockport – that god forsaken pyramid!).

Accompanied by beats and bantz (yes I did that – I just needed a bit of alliteration) we were in his flat, on that bench where he met his first, at his prom, on his holiday when he first fell ill, in his doctor’s waiting room, in the clinic when he got his diagnosis…

The diagnosis that he wasn’t to share with his parents for another 14 years.

Like everyone else who was around at the time (I was very young though, ok?) the AIDS advert was terrifying in itself without me really understanding the substance behind it.

AIDS advert – 1986

We were asked not to die of ignorance – whilst things have improved medically and concerning awareness there is still ignorance surround HIV and AIDS to this day.

  • Whilst not in the realms of Dot Cotton in Eastenders circa 1987 not wanting to wash Colin’s smalls in the launderette because a) he’s gay b) he must have full blown AIDS c) she’ll ‘catch it’ through touching his pants – yes I’m currently OBSESSED with classic Eastenders on Gold – there’s still lots for us all to learn.
  • And so, thank god (or who/whatever) we have people like Nathaniel who having contracted HIV at 16 has dealt/is dealing with his diagnosis in such a selfless, giving (funny and entertaining – no really, First Time is a one-man show of two halves, as it were) way.

    An immersive experience, we took part in an HIV quiz – no we did!

    Speaking of first times, I had one shouting

    I love orgies

    in Sale.

    Like the candlelit vigil in Sackville Gardens at each Manchester Pride, we were shown images of those who had lost their fight whilst we held candles of our own.

    Getting to me good and hard was the picture Nathaniel showed to us of himself in his cream suit at his High School Prom. You see he was waiting to pick up that suit when he met his first time encounter ‘Sam’ on a bench in Stockport in 2003.

    It may be me applying the knowledge of what was to come when I saw that picture (and my failing eyesight) but I saw the little boy at the end of the film Big as he walks down the road in his too big Tom Hanks suit.

    I’m sure Nathaniel’s cream suit fitted perfectly and he looked amazing. You get where I’m coming from.

    I have a copy of the letter in my bag that Nathaniel wrote to his parents and eventually even gave them (not before it was anonymously read to crowds at one candlelit vigil by an actor).

    I’m not crying you’re crying.

    Yes Nathaniel is HIV+, contracting this from his first time (he doesn’t blame ‘Sam’ by the way). But do you know what? He’s a bloody good actor, writer and performer – funny, witty, creative and giving.

    Heading to Edinburgh Fringe, you can go see the show there (thanks to those who contributed to the Crowd-Funder to help take solo show First Time to Edinburgh Fringe).

    If First Time ever returns to Sale Waterside Centre for a third time – go see it there.

    Find out what else is on at the brilliant Refract Festival here…Back with a Bang! Refract festival returns to Sale this Summer and of course here…Refract 19

    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 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
    Bars Events Food and Drink Giveaway Manchester

    Foodies gather – it’s the Manchester Eats festival giveaway!

    I eat, you eat, he eats, she eats, we eat, they eat, Manchester Eats!

    And how.

    Manchester foodies lend me your ears! And your tastebuds.

    There is a brand new Food Festival in town – hold onto your hats, we all have a whole new reason to eat… to be..to love Manchester.

    Manchester Eats festival hits Heaton Park, on the weekend of 7 and 8 July, transforming the park into a food lovers’ paradise.

    What exactly does paradise look like?

    I hear you cry.

    It looks like top celebrity chefs, Marco Pierre White, Ed Baines, Adam Reid, Matt Tebbutt and Mary-Ellen McTague conducting workshops and taking and talking us through our favourite subject. Food.

    For those who like to walk the walk, there will be cooking classes for visitors young, old and somewhere in the middle to take part in, from vegan cooking to a chocolate masterclass.

    I’ll let that just sink in.

    And then say it again,

    Chocolate. Masterclass.

    For those of us who prefer to sit back and let others do the cooking, there will be a global food court, a healthy living zone and lots of Manchester favourites exhibiting their wares including Cottonopolis and Proove Pizza.

    That’s not all. Oh no.

    To pretty much misquote Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction (yes I do reference popular culture that isn’t stuck in the 90s all the time. some of the time), as much as we love the food, we love tasty beverages to wash it all down with.

    And so whilst it’s not in the title, Manchester Eats and also, dagnammit, Manchester drinks too.

    Cocktail lovers (and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a cocktail), will be treated to displays from mixologists, fizz fiends will be in a frenzy over the Prosecco tent, Manchester Gin will be there to indulge our love for mother’s ruin and so much more.

    In addition, official charity partners the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation will be providing an activity zone all weekend, with interactive, accessible sporting activities for both children and adults.

    The family friendly festival will also host a dedicated children’s village with live DJ sets.

    Have I whetted your appetite?

    Does whet even have an ‘h’ in it?

    Well lookie here.

    You could purchase tickets to temptation by visiting the Manchester Eats festival website here..

    But wait.

    This honorary manc is giving you honorary, real, or even just lovers of mancs, the chance to win tickets to foodie heaven!

    With two pairs of tickets to give away, you are so right to be excited.

    To enter, click the link below. Entries close at midnight on Friday 29 June.

    Click here to enter!

    Winners will be whizzed straight onto the guest list before you can say ‘Manchester doesn’t need Michelin stars to rule the world’.

    Categories
    Culture Events Gigs Gigs news Manchester Music News Popular culture preview The Arts

    Manchester Jazz Festival launches

    I like to think of myself as a touch bohemian.

    I’ve been to Matt and Phred’s more than 10 times, I’ll have you know. And not only when the free pizza offer is on.

    To be fair, I’ve also gone international with my fondness for jazz and its clubs, for example paying a visit to New York’s famous Birdland club and last September seeing my birthday in, in a charming little jazz club in Paris, whilst sipping full bodied red and foot tapping and head shaking with the best of them. Get me.

    Last night I attended the launch of this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival, and, whilst there, got talking to one of the lovely trustees about the common misconceptions of jazz and the sheer breadth of the genre.

    I need no convincing, but understand that many perceive jazz in its most abstract extreme (I quite like that extreme), declaring, just like Johnny (once again betraying my age with an 80s popular culture reference), they…

    hate jazz.

    Although to be fair I hate heavy metal, but this declaration is based solely on my very narrow perception of it to be noisy and scary.

    And so, should Manchester hold its own Heavy Metal festival, perhaps I should take my own advice and attend (please don’t, Manchester).

    But for now be swayed by my own tastes and share my excitement for this year’s programme of events.

    Gathering at Brasserie Abode last night, the said gathered were tantalised with tales of what is to come to our great city, 20 – 28 July 2018.

    Manchester Jazz Festival, is indeed the city’s longest running music festival, bringing together contemporary jazz not only from the North West, but from across the UK and, indeed, abroad, including national premieres of original work and international debuts.

    Typically more than 60,000 people in attendance, the festival is a mixture of both paid and free gigs, with the aim to be accessible to all, and funded and supported by Arts Council England, Manchester City Council, PRS for Music Foundation, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Irwin Mitchell.

    Some of the finest talent in jazz will be showcased at an eclectic range of Manchester venues , including Salon Perdu and Festival Square, Night and Day Café, RNCM, The Midland Hotel, Matt and Phred’s Jazz Club, Band on the Wall and St Ann’s Church.

    Highlights of this year’s programme will include:

    • Cross Currents Trio featuring Dave Holland, Zakir Hussain, Chris Potter – three living legends of jazz, uniting in a rare UK performance fusing contemporary jazz and world music virtuosity.
    • The 2018 Irwin Mitchell mjforiginals commission – Esther Swift: Light Gatherer – Esther’s interest in poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s contribution to the arts, and especially the voice she gives to women, has inspired her to deconstruct Duffy’s works and create new texts using the same themes.

    • Hackney Colliery Band – inspired by New Orleans marching bands, Balkan beats, hip-hop, sizzling Latin brass and high-octane rock, with a few unexpected covers of the likes of Goldie, The Prodigy, Kanye West and even (my favourite) Toto, they bring the UK colliery brass band tradition bang up to date.

    This is the tip of the jazzy iceberg (whatever that might be), and the full programme can be found on the Manchester Jazz Festival website here.

    Kindly provided with a brochure of events by the festival organisers at last night’s launch, I have already set about it like any decent person would with their Christmas copy of the Radio Times, ringing and marking off multiple events coming this July.

    With tickets going on sale today, 25 April 2018, at 9am, join me in securing my place at this summer’s hot event, the Manchester Jazz Festival.

    It truly…

    sounds fantastic.

    For all the latest news, tickets and booking information, head to www.manchesterjazz.com