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Preview: HOME is where the People’s Art is – the first Manchester Open Exhibition

Whilst works, appreciation, opinions and afforded gravitas come in all shapes and sizes, art should be inclusive and HOME is bringing this ethos to life by celebrating the amazing talent of Greater Manchester.

In the first region-wide exhibition of its type, HOME welcomed submissions from all across all 10 boroughs, for the inaugural Manchester Open Exhibition which opens tomorrow, Saturday 18 January and runs until 15 March 2020.

Justine Le Joncour – Newton Street

The exhibition sees entries from all levels of experience; established artists, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.

Ben Goring – Rich
Gwen Evans – Ar Lan Y Mor (By the Seaside)

With over 2000 pieces submitted, over 500 works were selected by a special panel which included HOME curator, Bren O’Callaghan and Helen Wewiora, Director of Castlefield Gallery.

The result is a wonderfully eclectic exhibition representing the wonderful people of Greater Manchester, which includes paintings, prints, photography, sculpture, digital and mixed media, video and audio, spoken word, performance and more.

Kat Preston – An Ode to Willendorf

And, in the words of the great Jimmy Cricket (never forget) there’s more…(it was a contemporary reference toss up between him and Columbo)…

20 of the artists have been shortlisted for a Manchester Open Award, and the five winners will each receive an artist bursary to the value of 2000 pounds, in collaboration with Castlefield Gallery, which will be tailored to each individual artist, and may cover such things as travel, materials, studio rent, website development or any aspect of their practice following peer advice. Full details including the names of all finalists can be found HERE

Just one more thing (nobody puts Columbo in the corner), visitors to the Manchester Open Exhibition during the first four weeks will get the chance to vote for the winner of The People’s Choice Award.

All winners will also receive (and I LOVE this) an award made by Stockport’s On The Brink Studio, from Manchester poplar, bog oak and wax from the beehives on the roof of HOME.

Jen Orpin – It’s the Manc Way – Safe Passage

So support Greater Manchester by helping support HOME support Greater Manchester and head on over to the Manchester Open Exhibition at HOME from Saturday 18 January.

I’ll be visiting this week and will share what is sure to be my joy and favourites in a further post and pics on here, Twitter and Instagram.

More details can be found at https://homemcr.org/exhibition/manchester-open/

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Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

The Fisherman’s Table – pull up a seat as Marple favourite introduces sister restaurant to Poulton-le-Fylde

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that I wasn’t born and bred in Manchester (and surrounding areas).

I mean, the clue’s in the name.

Growing up on the Fylde Coast until moving to Manchester in 2000, I was excited to find my two worlds colliding in the form of a fabulous fish restaurant.

Marple has hosted The Fisherman’s Table since late last year and the restaurant, offering all locally sourced produce, has enjoyed high praise in the short time it’s been open.

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And so, like little old me (because this and everything else is about me), the restaurant is straddling the two counties and has opened its second in Lancashire’s Poulton-le-Fylde. Like my good self once upon a time (all about me), owner and fishmonger, Jamie Barrett, lives in the area and couldn’t wait to bring his fine fare back home.

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Throwing its doors open proper tonight, Saturday 7 September, I attended last night’s launch to test out the fixtures, fittings, fizz and, most importantly, the fish.

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The stylish space is classically furnished in dark wood, with open brick walls adorned with photography, paintings and sculptures depicting the restaurant’s raison d’etre; the sea and all who stem from it.

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The assembled Fylde Coastians , a title I’m still entitled to, were treated to (and it was a treat) a selection of teaser canapés and starters from the menu to salivate over. I was going to say ‘and salivate we did’, but this is starting to conjure up a bizarre and frankly unpalatable image.

They were delicious, is what I’m clumsily saying.

We first tried the smoked haddock croquettes with tartare sauce…

Deliciously seasoned, these almost little fishcakes were crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and with a smoky heat beautifully offset by the fresh, light tartare sauce. I could have popped them all night.

Also on offer was the crispy chilli calamari with harissa aoili. With a light batter, the chilli didn’t overpower and provided a tang to the melt in the mouth squid rings.

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A new canape on me was the crispy haddock skin with oyster mayonnaise. At the risk of doing it a disservice, it was like a lovely fishy crisp (and I love crisps, to the point of disgrace), with a delicate dip to boot and touches like this are a strong indicator of a kitchen and restaurant which is keen to mix the traditional with the innovative whilst staying faithful to everything that is wonderful about fish and seafood.

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Oysters and fizz are one of those classic combinations like cod and lemon, cockles and mussels erm…Vic and Bob. Whilst in the early 19th century, oysters were actually cheap and seen as one of the almost staple foods of the working classes, they are now a sign of decadence and never more so when taken with a glass of sparkling wine. The selection of Pacific Rock Oysters on offer last night typified the establishment’s approach to dining – classic, stylish but, most of all, delicious.

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A launch is intended to provide a taster, a suggestion, a spoiler, even, of what’s to come from something new be it a restaurant, bar, festival or hotel. And from my couple of hours spent at The Fisherman’s Table, they have me hooked.

Pun, fully intended but heartfelt.

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The menu proper is select but a perfectly balanced deep dive into all the glories to be found in our seas. Importantly, step forward one Irish Sea, from which local Fleetwood fish is rightly represented in dishes such as Fleetwood Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder on the starters and Seared Fleetwood  Skate Wing with Clams, Samphire and Capers on the mains.

The menu also draws on neighbour Morecambe, as the Bay’s famous Brown Shrimps make an appearance in the selection of sides.

I look forward to drawing up a seat at The Fisherman’s Table proper and for those in Greater Manchester, hotfoot it into Marple quick smart.

For those on the Fylde Coast and surrounding areas, head over to the gastronomic stretch that is Breck Road, to this fantastic addition to the area’s dining scene.

For me? I like to think of myself as having dual citizenship to the two counties, something I now have in common with The Fisherman’s Table. Whilst I would never dare suggest I’m an asset to either, I would venture that to Greater Manchester and Lancashire, The Fisherman’s Table is a great catch.

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To be one of the first to book in at The Fisherman’s Table in Poulton and to see full details of the menu, head to https://www.thefishermanstable.co.uk/poulton/.

You can also book at the inaugural Marple restaurant here, and see why in 10 short months, the Fisherman’s Table has been nominated for two awards at the http://foodanddrinkfestival.com/awards/

 

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Review: Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can (Greater Manchester Fringe)

I won’t repeat my love for fringe theatre all over again (I’ll just casually leave this here – Review – Talk to Yourself at The Kings Arms and actually probably will repeat it in this review anyway).

One reason for my love of fringe theatre which I’m not going on about again (am) is the creative use of space – the departure from the traditional curtains/stage/theatre experience.

Last Sunday I found myself watching a play in a church which was slightly meta – Review: Studio ORKA’s Tuesday (Manchester International Festival). This Sunday I found myself watching a play in a pub cellar.

Now Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can was intended to be performed in the beer garden of the Kings Arms, Salford. But our delicious British Summer had other plans…

This was a slight disappointment as it was to be my first play in a beer garden (although not my first in the great outdoors). Disappointment quickly turned to happiness as we were directed down the stone steps into the bowels of the pub into the cellar – my first play in a cellar and I do love a good cellar (it is not for us to question why).

I really do like the title of the play but for lazy reasons I shall, going forward, refer to it simply as ‘Can. Although I could have written the full title several times over for the time it’s taken me to write this explanatory paragraph.

Anyway, ‘Can, written and directed by Joe Walsh and performed by Paul Tomblin (Barney), Leah Gray (Sarah), Craig Hodgkinson (Derek), Owen Murphy and Ella Fraser.

We meet the trio as they fantasise about where they’d take a holiday (in case you’re wondering, Southport – I get it, fun times had at Pleasureland in the 80s…). To do so, means to put on a street gig armed only with a guitar, a, yes, tin can of frozen peas (freaky dancing a plenty) and a pan and wooden spoon.

It made me ‘chuckle’ (great gag) and genuinely ‘laugh out loud’. Not like when you acknowledge that something is funny and you want to outwardly indicate that you appreciate ‘what they’ve done there’ by making a noise and smiling. There was actual involuntary laughter.

But of course there was a serious message being delivered here.

By the old school friend of Sarah’s we had the voice of ignorance, the homeless should be helping themselves, they’re lazy etc and so on. And we also had the back stories as to why these three people were out on the street living in the ‘fort’.

Sarah had lost a sister to cancer, Barney had unravelled when his grandad had died, smashing up his place of employment, Curry’s’ as a final act with debts and fines sending him straight to the streets, and Derek…

Now this was a bold device and if my deduction is knee-jerk and massively wrong, I apologise but Derek is a paedophile. Caught by his wife, he tells us, looking at images on the computer, who immediately called the police sending me to prison.

Derek is an affable chap, caring for the other two with an honesty and affection. But as an audience, what do we do with this information? Squirm, feel uneasy, shocked but also slightly impressed by that the writing took this brave leap which perhaps took away what could have gone down a fairytale, whimsical tale of twee togetherness on the streets.

So, bravo.

Culminating in a singalong as we, the play’s audience became audience to Derek and The No Homes to Go (thank you for the rustic karaoke lyrics scrawled on cardboard – I’m shocking with a lyric), the production was immersive, heartfelt and even fun.

So as ‘Can made us laugh, sing, give money to the cause both in the play and in reality afterwards (details below), that hour in the pub on Sunday was brilliantly well spent (most fun I’ve had sober in a pub since I was granted that hallowed second packet of Quavers when I was 8).

Loved it.

Ps Barney’s crying over Barry Chuckle here

Epilogue

Now for a touch of reality, any of us who live, work, visit Manchester will be no strangers to the growing issue of homelessness.

Doorways, pavements, canalside, underneath the arches, the problem cannot be avoided both conceptually and in actuality.

As the programme notes shocking point out, sleeping rough has increased by 102% in the U.K. since 2010.

To learn more about Shelter and to donate, please head to Shelter.org.uk

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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.

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Food and Drink Manchester preview Preview/review Restaurants

Restaurant Review: Sapporo Teppanyaki

It is here where I would love to show off about my travels around Japan, the food I’ve eaten, the sights I’ve seen, the cherry blossom I’ve been beguiled by…

But I have not been.

But I have this, and it’s mine…

My late father was a musician and musical director. Amongst those he musically directed were The Nolans.

I’m getting to my tenuous link.

As a youth I used to weep in butchers’ shops  dwell in West Yorkshire. And so we get to it. I was 3 the day that I went with my mum to little Batley train station to wave off my father.

where’s Daddy going?

asked that little girl, on that lowly platform, in that small, Yorkshire town…

Daddy is going to Japan

And so he was. To musically direct the Nolans in a music festival (of course). And this is all I have (I also have two child-size kimonos and a pair of wooden clogs).

So that’s Japan.

I was invited to Sapporo Teppanyaki which can be found on Liverpool Road, Manchester, and find it, I recommend.

The experience is akin to theatre, and fear not, the food does not rest on a gimmick. In fact I can wait no longer. The egg fried rice is the finest I’ve ever tasted.

Each communal table seated round two cooking stations, orders are taken and drinks delivered.

Small aside on the drinks menu – there is  champagne on there for £7 a glass – and it is a lovely champagne. Fellow fizz fanatics, take note.

The menu features sashimi, maki, omakase, soups and salads, yakisoba noodles, small plates and of course Teppanyaki. Whilst small plates emerge from a kitchen via a friendly server, the Teppanyaki is cooked right there in front of you.

And guess what? It’s not awkward!

Now it might just be me who loves/loathes a chef’s table. I love to watch the magic of cookery, but I’m beyond scared of whether I’m supposed to talk, not supposed to talk, is it rude to ask questions, is it rude to not ask questions? What do I do with my face? Do I make mmmm noises?

No, it was all fine. It’s a form of theatre to go to Sapporo Teppanyaki.

Now, I’m dying to get to the main event but I can’t overlook the starters enjoyed by myself and my plus 1.

I had the smoked chicken rolls – oak smoked chicken, beansprouts and mixed vegetables wrapped in a light pastry.

I do enjoy a vertical food. I can’t think of any other examples – oh does a hanging kebab count? But regardless of the attractive presentation, smoked chicken is a rare offered thing and it’s a shame. Because each roll was delicious.

My plus 1 chose the Black Pepper Akami – seared tuna loin served with a chilli sauce.

Another attractive dish, matched by the flavours. Now, I’m not a tuna fan. I pretty much abhor it. I tried this dish as I’m nothing if not dedicated to the cause of food-tasting in the name of Manchester and all those who sail in it. I liked it. This is high praise, given my tuna issues.My plus 1 loved it. The dish gave off heat but without masking the flavours.

Now, to the teppanyaki theatre.

When I describe this, know that I’m one of the most socially awkward beings on earth – I spent the entire evening at an event last year in Manchester ( Theatre Review – Now or Never by Circa Tsuica – aka what did I just see?) making myself as small as possible to avoid being picked to go up. The word ‘immersive’ sends chills to my very bones.

Now listen how I found myself trying to catch a sauteed potato in my mouth like an over-zealous seal, at one Sapporo Teppanyaki.

It’s that kind of place – happy diners laughing, eating, ‘ooohing’, ‘ahhing’ – and I don’t mean in a terrible way. As two chefs stood in front of us chopping, flipping, setting things on fire, it was truly an enjoyable experience to watch them work.

I chose the lamb rump teppanyaki, my plus 1 choosing the beef fillet. Each comes with stir fry vegetables, egg fried rice, sauteed potato, a sauce of choice and a ring-side seat at their realisation. Yes, realisation.

The chef will take the time to talk to you about how you would like your meat cooked so fear not, it’s not one for all and all for one. Your dish is still being prepared for you, to your specifications.

That’s all very well, but what does it taste like?

Well, imaginary voice/reader/subscriber, truly delicious. Remember the egg fried rice? Well everything was cooked to perfection. My lamb succulent and plentiful, the beef fillet pink where it should be (as requested), seared, seasoned and cooked with fresh garlic and chilli.

I have a thing for my food being piping hot (my drinks, erm, piping cold?). Served straight to your plate in front of you, I was in temperature obsession heaven.

It’s basically a really happy place. Everyone seated round the grills in a kind of horse shoe (but one with sharp edges – I literally can’t think how to describe the shape), you’re akin to each other’s evenings but without ever feeling like your evening is compromised by a lack of privacy. If someone’s having a birthday, you’ll, again, have a ring side seat without having to strain your neck (I do this), but it’s ok. I promise.

And so I will be going once more to Sapporo Teppanyaki. And whilst sadly I won’t be hopping on a train to Japan as quickly as I’d like (I should point out an airport did get involved further down the line), this will do me for now.

www.sapporo.co.uk

 

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

Theatre review: Rebus at the Opera House

The word ‘typecast’ must be as abhorrent to actors as the word ‘Macbeth’ is to…erm, well actors.

Having worked with a few actors on soaps in a past life, I’m aware of the frustrations some may feel when interviewed about previous roles, future roles, that many can’t see past the character they portray in living rooms, sometimes as many as six times per week. This is, of course, can be testament to their acting and three dimensional portrayal of said role.

To play a larger than life character – one whose accent and dialect is oft-quoted by even the most amateur of impressionists (yes, me) – surely the challenge is laid bare.

In last night’s performance of Rebus: Long Shadows, that challenge of diverting theatre-goers from his infamous Coronation Street incarnation,was more than met by Charles Lawson.

I hold my hands up and admit that I have never read the Rebus novels or seen the television series and so was coming at the character fresh. However, I don’t think that matters as that could only help me to come at the ‘actor Charles Lawson’ ‘fresh’.

No matter how I like to think I wouldn’t come at a production with pre-conceived ideas of how the characters were to be played, in the run up all I could think of was ‘Big Jim, Big Jim, Big Jim – I love Big Jim!’. And I think that’s quite fair enough. It is an actor’s previous role(s) which puts them on an audience’s radar and (assuming they’re an admirer of their work, of course), brings them to the next production they appear in.

All as long as you don’t attend a production/watch a programme/see a film expecting the actor and their infamous role to be one and the same thing.

However, if there had have been a danger of this last night (no matter how unconscious), it was quickly put paid to by the end of the first half.

The character John Rebus was created in the novels written by Ian Rankin, who, together with playwright Rona Munro, wrote Long Shadows especially for the stage.

Now retired, Rebus (Lawson) the Scottish, former detective is back to right the wrongs of crimes not yet solved, in particular the ‘cold case’ of the murder of 17 year old Maggie (Eleanor House), with crossovers to the more recent murder of teenager Angela (Dani Heron) – both actresses giving captivating and impassioned performances.

Nods to the past by way of the ethereal appearance of both victims on stage to represent the inner workings of Rebus’s mind, are moving, smartly executed and really quite chilling at times (apt given the time of year).

Charles Lawson gives phenomenal detective. The traits of the character and their portrayal range between troubled, angry, caring, sarcastic, jaded, passionate and funny…all perfectly complimentary to each other and each engaging and believable. It’s like he’s been playing this character all this life.

Along with the imposing yet charismatic portrayal of ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty by John Stahl and Cathy Tyson’s  Siobhan Clarke; a role performed with a clever balance of non-nonsense attitude along with a subtle but clear affection towards her former colleague, the entire ensemble work well together.

This is a great example of a whodunnit which is perfectly crafted towards the stage, both in terms of plot and set design, and assisted by the captivating performances of the actors who create an immediate engagement between the audience and the crimes to be solved, which lasts right upto to final curtain.

And just a thought – Charles Lawson, please reprise this role.

Rebus: Long Shadows is showing at the Opera House, Manchester, until Saturday 3 November. Please click here for more details.

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School for Scandal hits First Street

It was back to school for me this week.

I wish I was young enough for that to be true in the traditional sense but for every realisation that you’re not getting any younger, there is a silver lining.

To be over the age of 18 is to have your name on a more important register – that which granted me access to new bar and bistro, School for Scandal on First Street.

Whilst resisting the urge to lean on the obvious links to education and squeeze everything out of this analogy, I’ll introduce a direct link – that of it sharing its name with the Richard Brinsley Sheridan play, first performed in 1777. The play ‘satirised the behaviour and customs of the upper classes through witty dialogue and an intricate plot, with comic situations that expose characters’ shortcomings’.

And just like the play, this dining spot satirises the behaviour and customs of the…

Just kidding.

To the crux of matters.

I attended the launch of this bar last night and was educated (soz) in fine cocktails, sharp edgy décor and fine samples of its gastronomic fare.

Previews of their food included the tasty pulled pork tacos, the frankly fantastic margherita pizza (I always say there’s nowhere to hide with this classic and this went straight to the top of the class), tempura prawns and mini burgers in brioche.

To achieve the full experience, I shall return, but for now, my assignment is to share the news that this latest addition to First Street, and indeed Manchester, is smart and sassy, and I predict that the future is bright…

Click here for more details and to enrol…

School for Scandal, 13 Jack Rosenthal Street, First St, M15 4FN

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New menu, same high quality from Malmaison – gastro gallery

To get an invitation to try the new menu at Malmaison Manchester is to be filled with trepidation and anticipation.

Trepidation because how could it match up to previous experiences:

Fall fork first into autumn at Malmaison

Malmaison brings the Millennial touch to Afternoon Tea 

It did and it was fabulous.

Tried and tested for organic mancs, honorary mancs, visitors to manc, new additions to this summer menu at Malmaison include the rather wonderful…

Pan fried sea scallops, red pepper puree, tapenade, samphire and sauce vierge…

Seared soy glazed salmon, crunchy hot and sour salad, toasted cashew nuts, red chilli, pousse and crisp gem lettuce (shhh my favourite and I’m not even a big salmon eater)…

Summer stew of grilled Merguez sausages, cannellini beans tomatoes, parsley, garlic and grilled Altamura bread (those sausages pack a punch – spicy, hot but nothing heavy about that dish)…

Burgers on offer are –

  • Ayrshire bacon and gruyere cheese
  • Chez Mal breaded buttermilk chicken, tangy tomato chutney, melted Reblochon cheese and pomme frites
  • Mushroom chestnut and field mushroom, grilled Romano pepper, pommes frites and mushroom jalapeno marmalade.
  • Selection, slider-style below:
  • Steaks from the josper grill:

    Chez Mal’s exclusive UK 28 day aged beef, all served with whole baked vine tomato, onion rings and green salad:

    450g T bone

    450g Bone in sirloin

    450g prime rib (tried, tested and pictured below)…

    Chez Mal still brings afternoon tea to the table, the sweet side bringing seasonal cheesecake, salted caramel chocolate brownie, Bakewell tart, double chocolate cupcake & seasonal fruit shake, along with fruit or plain scones, clotted cream & strawberry jam

    For all details including menus and reservations, please visit the Malmaison Manchester website.

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    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

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

    Theatre review – The Winslow Boy

    Coming home from The Lowry theatre last night, my designated plus 1 in theatre and basically life, told me the story of the snail and the ginger beer.

    It’s a little like the owl and the pussycat. Well actually nothing like it.

    The snail and the ginger beer was the court case Donoghue v Stevenson, which was heard in the House of Lords. In summary (more details can be found here), in 1928, Mrs Donoghue was quietly drinking her bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley. In a departure from the classic ‘waiter there’s a fly in my soup’, Mrs Donoghue fell upon a dead snail in the bottle.

    Upon seeing the decomposed snail float out of the bottle into her glass, Mrs Donoghue duly felt ‘ill’ from the sight, complaining of stomach pains. A subsequent diagnosis was given by Glasgow Royal Infirmary of gastroenteritis and shock.

    In short, the case went to the highest court in the land and became a legal first when Mrs Donoghue successfully sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson, in that he owed a duty of care to her which was breached. To quote lovely old Wikipedia , ‘this was an evolutionary step in the common law for tort and delict, moving from strict liability based upon direct physical contact to a fault-based system which only required injury’.

    And so from here a thousand hot apple pies did scald a thousand fast food consumers, resulting in a thousand court cases. You get the general idea.

    My plus 1, whilst generally a font of all knowledge, did actually have a point to this molluscesque (the word is patent pending), account. It was the tale of a seemingly insignificant occurrence leading to a landmark case and legal judgement, which brings us to Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy.

    Playing at The Lowry Theatre until this Saturday 14 April, the play tells the story of young Ronnie Winslow (Misha Butler), who has been expelled from the Royal Navy College, for stealing a five shilling postal order. Set in 1910, his parents Arthur (Aden Gillett) and Grace (Tessa Peake-Jones) are devastated by events.

    His father is determined to clear his son’s name and, risking his family’s reputation – financially and socially – and with significant consequence to the lives of both his daughter Catherine (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and eldest son Dickie (Theo Bamber), enters the realms of national scandal along the way.

    Based on the real-life landmark case – Archer-Shee v the King (1910), the play is a snapshot of Edwardian London and the social and political landscape of the time.

    Daughter, Catherine (Bennett)is a delightfully intelligent force to be reckoned with, references to her membership of the Suffragette movement displayed both explicitly through the dialogue and demonstratively through her steely determination, and progressive thinking and attitude to both the case and in her relationships.

    Stylistically, the set is simple yet attractive, all acts playing out in the family’s drawing room, the subject matter and action punctuated with humour (special mention to Soo Drouet’s Violet the maid)…

    and, what may not have been written as knowing nods to how society was to evolve, some humorous moments found from scenarios such as the novelty of a female journalist turning upto the house (Miss Barnes played by Sarah Lambie) – who, there to write about the case, becomes distracted by the finer details of the curtains hanging in the drawing room (it should be worth noting that this was the press night performance, one or two female journalists seated in the audience – the scandal!).

    What was mostly an ensemble cast (although look out for the delightfully and seemingly dastardly Sir Robert (Timothy Watson), the play kept me captivated by its clever, rapid and witty dialogue and delivery, and I would recommend you book for what is an evening of historical and social insight (and, not least, top notch theatre).

    For full cast details and how to book, please click here