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Review: Insane Animals

It’s true to say that I didn’t always know what I was watching last night.

But I know that I liked it.

Like the camp space landing that it depicted (are there any other kind?), the show launched itself on stage through plumes of smoke and a cacophony of noise, and with the arrival of ‘cult cabaret duo’, Bourgeois & Maurice.

Directed by Phillip McMahon, the premise of the show (you’re best not to question, just accept) is two glam aliens arrive from a faraway galaxy to rescue present-day earth from impending political, environmental and social doom.

Now, of course this show was written, created, conceived of before we all entered the realms of (brace yourself for the c-word) Coronavirus. Yet, I can’t have been the only one in that audience more than aware of the …well not so much irony, more literal coincidence, of the statements delivered to the audience along the lines of ‘we’ve come to save you, you’re all doomed,’. They raised more than a little nervous laughter as we coughed into our elbows, having performed hand-washing duration top trumps with fellow theatre-goers in the toilets beforehand.

Being accidentally reminded of world-wide health crisis aside, the show was a riot, a pure joy.

The best thing with shows such as Insane Animals, is not to attempt to explain it (and with that, she was off the hook), but just to feel it, absorb it, embrace it and really, really enjoy it.

The satirical double-act were joined by 6 other actors and musicians (and self-described misfits) as they sang, played, danced, gyrated, wrestled, gurned and glitter-bombed their way through a story of time-travel and mortality (oh yes, they weren’t messing about).

The songs were catchy (I’m not the biggest embracer of musicals but i was all over this one) and the costumes as extra as the country’s current penchant for stockpiling loo-roll.

At the time of writing, there are four more chances to bear witness to this ‘queer unravelling of past and present, fact and fiction’. Just watch yourself on that front row…

For more details and to book tickets, visit https://homemcr.org/production/bourgeois-maurices-insane-animals/.

Pic credits: Drew Forsyth.

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Preview: Penguin Pride 2019 (part of Pride at HOME)

Last year I shared my immense joy at what was an evening of entertainment, enlightenment, education and laughter (I couldn’t find a synonym for lolz beginning with ‘e’, ok?):

Penguin Pride – less a review, more a tribute

Well it’s back and I’ll be there and you should be too. And I’ll tell you for why…

This year, Penguin Pride will take place on Wednesday 21 August at my own home from home – erm, HOME.

In this, the year commemorating 50 years since Stonewall, Penguin Pride will be looking back and celebrating how far LGBT rights have come, where we are now and what the future may hold.

This year’s line-up includes a mix of old and new Penguins Live faces:

Multi-award winning poet and playwright, Toby Campion, returns as MC and yes, you may have even seen him outside that photo booth in those adverts with his BFF…

Other writers and performers taking part include award-winning Yorkshire poet Andrew McMillan, arts writer and Attitude columnist Paul Flynn, Glasgow based author, Kirsty Logan, Liverpool based writer, Emma Morgan and LGBTQ+ writer roo

For full details and tickets, head to https://homemcr.org/production/penguin-pride/

To read about last year’s event which included performances from this year’s Toby Campion, Paul Flynn, Kirsty Logan and Andrew McMillan, head here to Penguin Pride – less a review, more a tribute

If it’s half as good as last year’s, I’ll run out of superlatives.

See you there…

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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

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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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    Current affairs LGBT LGBTQ+ Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

    Crowd-Funder to help take solo show First Time to Edinburgh Fringe

    Manchester theatre company, Dibby Theatre, is raising funds to help take their hit show First Time to Edinburgh Fringe.

    A funny and frank autobiographical solo-show, First Time is written and performed by theatre-maker and HIV activist, Nathaniel Hall.

    Credit: Lee Baxter

    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.

    Nathaniel says,

    HIV healthcare and prevention has changed, but people’s attitudes to the disease often lag behind fear and stigma are very much alive and well. We now know people with HIV who are on effective medication CANNOT transmit the virus to their sexual partners.

    And you can even take medication after you think you’ve been put at risk, or even pre-emptively to protect yourself and partners. This news, along with the condom and ‘get tested’ messages are the tools we can all now use to help stop HIV for good.

    First Time premiered to critical acclaim last World AIDS Day at Waterside Arts in Sale and will preview there again at Refract Festival on 25 July before heading to Edinburgh Fringe.

    Now Nathaniel wants to take his message even further, and all the way to Edinburgh Fringe.

    Therefore, Dibby Theatre have launched their crowd funding campaign, and need to raise £6000, to help their hit-show become an even greater success in Scotland.

    The crowd-funder is supported by former Ceremonial Lord Mayor, Carl Austin-Behan, who was the first openly gay Mayor to hold office in the U.K. urging Mancunians to support the show by donating,

    Manchester has a proud history of HIV activism. One of the country’s largest and oldest HIV support charities, George House Trust, was started as Manchester AIDS Line by Mancunians in 1985, and we’re now a ‘HIV Fast Track City’ and have committed to work in partnership across the city region with the goal of ending all new transmissions by 2030.

    Chris Hoyle, Artistic Director of Dibby Theatre, adds:

    Ending HIV is everyone’s responsibility and we’re proud to be spreadheading the fight against the disease with First Time, and proud to be showcasing to the world that Manchester is a city that works together to get things done.

    The crowd funding campaign is live until 24 June 2019 and you can donate by visiting:

    https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/first-time-at-the-edinburgh-fringe-festival-2019

    For more information on U=U, PrEP and how to get tested for HIV visit: www.gmpash.org.uk

    First Time at Refract Festival, Waterside Arts, Sale – 25 July – https://www.creativetourist.com/event/first-time-at-waterside/

    First Time at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cairns Lecture Theatre – from 31 July – https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/1297899-first-time/

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    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.

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    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!

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    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’.