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Review: Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

My mum told me this story of being at the cricket at Old Trafford.

Frank Sidebottom had made a glorious appearance (actual Frank – there were many pretenders to the papier-mâché head aesthetic with ‘hilarious’ consequences…)

In fact in Being Frank… John Thomson tells us of Chris Sievey getting out a scrap book he kept at home, of pictures of fan tribute Franks. Terrible, terrible, brilliant tribute Franks.

Some with square heads.

There was only one Frank and that was Chris Sievey (on this occasion, being ejected from Old Trafford for causing a distraction, prompting the ground to erupt in a chant to get him back).

It’s not even my anecdote.

Another is when a friend of a friend went to see Frank perform in a pub, leaving a bag of CDs out on the table (it was the 90s, we bought bags of CDs), only for Frank to casually swipe them on his way past. Said friend of friend never saw them again (it’s ok, it was a cold day in hell when HMV didn’t have a cheap offer on, on CDs).

Again not my anecdote.

They’re not even salacious, exciting, dramatic anecdotes. Just normal ones. But they’re mine (well, not mine).

If you want some others, look to Director and Producer, Steve Sullivan, and the family, friends and acquaintances of one Chris Sievey – the man beneath (in?) the head.

Chris Sievey passed away in 2010 and left behind not just memories of some brilliant, silly, smart, daft, wonderful performances as Frank, but an attic full of notebooks, records, tapes, art and home movies.

I went to see Being Frank previewed at HOME Mcr a few weeks ago and spent 100 minutes that Thursday morning, catapulted into the world of Frank Sidebottom and, indeed, the somewhat lesser known but equally if not more ludicrously fascinating world of Chris Sievey.

Punctuated by previously unseen footage of home videos, art, music and memorabilia, we hear people speak with love, warmth, raw honesty, sometimes sorrow but mostly with laughter, of the person who was a one-man band of creativity and energy.

I sat there and laughed until I cried. Fancy crying on a Thursday morning in t’pictures. Pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

Frank Sidebottom was and is legendary in these here parts of the North West. And getting to know the brilliant Chris Sievey more only enriches your love for Frank.

Find out:

  • What scuppered Chris getting on TOTP with band, The Freshies,
  • Why his ex-wife ended up having to take the home phone off the hook,
  • What Chris and Bob the Builder have in common; and
  • Just what happened to the head of Little Frank’s girlfriend…it’s dark (it’s not)

By the time, the first time (and only time) we see Chris emerge from within ‘the head’ you won’t be shocked.

Oh hi Chris

(If you know, you know)

You’ll have come to know them as one of the same (although I must be the only person on earth not to have figured out the method behind the voice…)..

With contributions from Jon Ronson, John Cooper Clarke, John Thomson, Johnny Vegas and some other people not actually called John or variations thereof (Mark Radcliffe), it’s a poignant, brilliant, silly, moving, wonderful journey into the head of Frank, the mind of Chris and, well, Timperley.

I do declare it to be the antithesis of bobbins.

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is out this Friday 29 March, at HOME Mcr and in cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland.

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Review: JB Shorts Reloaded at 53two

The ideal short – film, story, play should leave the audience wanting more without needing more.

Celebrating 10 years of theatre production and story telling, 20 sell-out seasons and 120 world premieres, JB Shorts have brought something extra special to those glorious arches of 53two.

On until 30th March, JB Shorts Reloaded brings six JB Shorts classics back to the stage, featuring both original and new actors to the productions.

Six shorts, I could write a lengthy blog post about each. And wax lyrical about each. And other such clichés. Individually and as a collective, JB Shorts Reloaded brought 90 minutes of laughter, sorrow, shock, captivation and overall entertainment to the table. And indeed the arch.

And come the interval, I was already wishing each short was a long.

Each play so different to the last, as each cast took their bows, I was left wanting (not needing) more, yet within minutes I was already transfixed and enraptured by the next…(In the spirit of the subject, I’ll try keep this short – and no spoilers)

  • At the End of the Day – originally playing March 2009

Featuring Alexandra Maxwell, Philip Shaun McGuinness, Callum Sim, Peter Slater and James Quinn (also writer and director) – please do forgive me Mr Quinn…

to the regiment!

with Aileen Quinn as assistant director, this took us into the familiar world of Premier League post-match coverage, as the action jumped from the studio to the post-match interviews with players and managers alike – each character strangely familiar to us all, each bringing their own brand of wrong.

A joyous 15 minutes of knowing clichés from the footballing world, a laugh out loud start to proceedings. Bawdy, well-observed and, importantly, very, very funny.

  • Banal Encounter – originally playing October 2009

Featuring Andrew Bentley and Laura Littlewood, written by Peter Kerry and directed by Chris Bridgman, in scenes reminiscent of, of course, Brief Encounter, two chippy commuters meet on the platform, time taking them further into each others confidences, swapping pithy stories about each others domestic lives.

So far, so quaint. Until it isn’t.

And as the mood takes a turn for the worst, this short and the talent on stage will leave you thoughtful, moved, shocked…transfixed.

But then there was barely time for recovery as the first half was brought to a close by…

  • Blind Date – originally playing March 2013

Talk about mood shift. Featuring Susan McArdle and Will Travis, written by Dave Simpson and directed by Alice Bartlett, we were catapulted into the heady world of online dating.

Six years from its original debut, the principles of hidden identities on online profiles continues to apply through all social media – intended or not.

Self-promotion is the name of the game but there’s no time for a deep analysis of society today. Because I need to tell you what a riot this short was. Physical, character comedy at its best, I screamed as the two misfits met and their disguises began to unravel.

I didn’t actually scream – that would be mental and I’d probably be asked to leave the arches, forthwith. Anyway, bloody funny and a slight almost twist in the tale.

Now I could, at this point, review my interval drinks but why make my review about shorts into an even longer post than it ironically already is (nice drop of red).

  • Snapshots – originally playing March 2011

Now this was very special in the clever construction of the narrative. Featuring Glenn Cunningham, Julie Edwards, Beth Nolan and Sean Ward, written by Diane Whitley and directed by Rachel Brogan, this short takes us straight into a couple’s anniversary party, hosted by their granddaughter, Zoe. and her (somewhat reluctant) boyfriend.

Laying on a surprise photographic slideshow of their marriage, the latter couple then take on dual roles as the grandparents during their younger years. The different chapters of their relationship are punctuated by each photo, as the elder ,present day, couple add an inner monologue narrative to each picture and its era.

It’s insightful, sad, smart, funny and if my clumsy description of how the play was constructed has you confused, then that’s another reason why I urge you to get tickets. It’s on purpose, you see.

  • The  Outing – originally playing November 2015

Featuring Richard Hawley, Jeni Howarth-Williams and Kerry Willison-Parry, written by Lindsay Williams and directed by Miranda Parker, this short sends us down a path of nostalgia, sentimentality, sweet and safe story-telling as two middle-aged people meet on a coach trip to Conway. Chips, seagulls, castles, paddling, it’s all very seaside postcard.

One word, well ‘name’, wlll make you sit up and take notice as the short sends you down a more sinister path all together and start you thinking, ‘are the parents always to blame?’

Thought-provoking, sensitively done and clever.

But thoughts put on hold, it was time for the final short. What was left to pull out of the bag?

  • Can We Stop it There? – originally playing October 2009

(deep breath) Featuring Arthur Bostrom (yes, it’s really him – I’ll spare you and him any predictable catchphrases – I’m still feeling bad about Mr Quinn), Lucienne Browne, Martelle Edinborough, Darren Jeffries, Emily Spowage and  Rob Stuart-Hudson, written by Trevor Suthers and directed by Brainne Edge (or was it…), this truly was an ensemble piece.

Self-referential, meta, however you want to term it, this wonderful farce in the finest traditional sense, was a cacophony of red herrings, accents, wry looks, bum steers, theatrical nods and in-jokes. It was frantic, funny, riotous and the perfect way to end what was an epic evening of fringe theatre from JB Shorts.

I truly love this form of theatre as I wrote in my post Review – Talk to Yourself at The Kings Arms only a couple of weeks ago.

We’re truly spoiled in this neck of the woods by the accessibility to such talent and with six wonderful shorts each as rich in narrative, production, acting and entertainment as the one it follows, this is your opportunity to see a wealth of talent in a wonderful space, for a wonderful price.

In short, go.

For further details and tickets, see JBShorts.co.uk

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Theatre review: Romeo and Juliet – Moscow City Ballet

I love Prokofiev’s score, Shakespeare’s story, and I love going to the ballet. So with all ingredients in place, it is natural that I have seen multiple ballet productions of Romeo and Juliet in the past and either because of or despite this, I happily wanted to see the latest brought to Manchester; this time by the Moscow City Ballet at the Palace Theatre.

And so what would this production of the infamous star-crossed lovers bring to the stage?

The Company were in town for two nights, bagging a brace of big production ballets, accompanied by a live orchestra, the  Hungarian Simfonieta Orchestra, conducted by Igor Shavruk.

The second was Swan Lake, the first; this the most famous of love stories.

The costumes were something to behold, the colours dazzling, the flowing fabrics of the female dancers as graceful as the steps performed in them, and the sets simple yet vibrant with curtain backdrops depicting Verona including the infamous balcony and the church where the short-lived marriage took place.

I can’t speak of the aesthetics and costumes, designed by Natalia Povago, without mentioning the challenge posed to principle dancer, Kseniya Stankevich, who, as Juliet, not only stole the show with her heartfelt, honest and moving performance, but even did so for quite some time with a dress which hadn’t quite been zipped up during a scene with her nurse. The tension!

Speaking of the nurse, special mention must be given to Ekaterina Lebedeva who gave a perfectly pitched comedic performance, an almost slapstick affair, as she stomach-juttingly stomped across the stage, gurning away providing a laugh out loud moment and the perfect light relief. And let’s face it, I shouldn’t think I’m giving much away when I point out that whilst Romeo and Juliet is a love story, it is one shrouded in sorrow and devastation.

In fact the production provided perfect light and shade throughout. The shade, whilst most expected, had added dark dimensions by way of the dancers bedecked in swathes of black fabric, depicting pending and eventual death. None more so than in the final scene of the production when the four victims of death, two Capulets, two Montagues, are held aloft in formation – almost symbolic of crucifixion.

But let’s get back to that light – the marriage scene where Juliet and Romeo (Dzimitry Lazovik) charmingly, naively and sweetly steal frantic kisses at the altar behind the Friar’s back, was again a welcome injection of humour to a story that even the least experienced in the texts of Shakespeare knows will end in heartbreak.

In summary, the entire Russian company put on a spirited performance, bringing an oft-told tale of young love and family rivalry alive once again, adding artistry and a touch of beauty, to what would normally be another dark and dreary January night in our dear old city.

For dates of future performances by Moscow City Ballet throughout the UK, see http://www.pmbpresentations.com/

For all upcoming productions at the Palace Theatre, visit https://www.atgtickets.com/venues/palace-theatre-manchester/

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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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HOME – it’s where the FilmFear is…

The third annual horror fest, FilmFear, returns to Manchester’s HOME this week – in association with Film4.

From 26 – 31 October, residents, visitors and all round horror fanatics from Manchester can enjoy 6 days of cult films, extreme cinema and an all round fright fest on the big screen.

With a mix of new and classic, audiences will have the chance to attack the Hallowe’en season like a Michael Myers attacking a babysitter, a bloodied prom queen attacking her classmates or a Jack Nicholson attacking a bathroom door.

Highlights from the new stable includes:

  • Everybody’s favourite human Nicolas Cage, sharing the screen with Andrea Riseborough and Linus Roache in Mandy, a story of love, revenge and the supernatural (head back to the blog for my review of the film in the days to follow);
  • British film Possum, starring Sean Harris and  Alun Armstrong, which debuts the work of film-maker Matthew Holness who will be signing books before the screening and then returning afterwards to take part in a Q&A with audiences,
  • St. Agatha, the latest in a possibly one of my favourite ever named genres – Nunsploitation – as brought to us by filmmaker, Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV; and
  • Swedish title Videoman; a mystery thriller which, again, this blogger will be reviewing like a good’un shortly after the screening.

Audiences can also expect to revisit or even discover for the first time three vintage spine-tinglers (where have you been?), including:

  • The Fog from the puppet-master of horror, John Carpenter; and
  • The Evil Dead (possibly the most horror film title of all time).

For those not fortunate enough to have access to the cultural Manchester mecca that is HOME, the FilmFear season will also be returning to Film4, with a season of premieres and favourites, running for six nights from 26 – 31 October, including:

  • The Witch;
  • The Visit; and
  • Kaleidoscope – the psychological chiller which featured in last year’s programme at HOME.

For full details of FilmFear at HOME Mcr, including titles, dates and tickets, head to www.homemcr.org/filmfear

For details of the Film4 line-up, head to www.film4.com

See you on the other side…

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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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Theatre Review – DollyWould at HOME

And people say she’s just a big pair of tits.

(David Brent).

Yes, I’ve said tits in a blog post. But there’s no point being polite as the Theatre Company I had the good grace to see perform this evening are called Shit Theatre. Although for polite publications it’s written Sh!t Theatre.

I’ve already written tits and not t!ts. So I may as well write Shit and not Sh!t.

And it’s my blog so ner.

Childish comments and profanities done with, it’s time to speak of the wonder that is DollyWould at HOME theatre.

The themes of this performance are Dolly Parton, Dolly the sheep, Cloning, Originality, Sexuality and Death. With much crossover to boot.

Following their sell out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Louise Mothersole and the marvellously named Rebecca Biscuit (sorry, I’m going to be obvious and allude to it as it’s just too wonderful not to), take us on a journey both metaphorical and literal to Dolly Parton’s life and theme park (literal in that they went and showed us their holiday snaps, although I’m sold and planning my own literal, literal trip).

Dressed part Dolly Parton, part Dolly the Sheep, we learn through video, song, interview extracts, slide and performance art just what makes Dolly so unique and original. And Dolly the sheep so unique and original – the latter somewhat ironically due to being cloned.

But then we hear of the time Dolly Parton experienced cloning of her own. She entered a Dolly Parton Drag Competition, exaggerating all her famous features including making her

rhinestones rhinier

Predictably she didn’t win. Her uniqueness was done better by others.

There’s much to enjoy from DollyWould. I tittered (or t!ttered) much at the device where we hear the dulcet tones of American interviewer extraordinaire Barbara Walters asking Dolly (Parton) in a 1977 interview where she wanted to be, what she wanted to achieve, Mothersole and Biscuit (is the surname thing ok? I always feel a bit rude) replicating the answers through the medium of song.

Through an audio montage which bizarrely left me feeling quite emotional (granted I’ve not had much sleep this week) we hear a long list of questions and comments from interviewers past (including our own growly nation’s sweetheart Michael Parkinson) about her appearance and weight.

We don’t hear the retorts but we don’t need to.

Dolly’s got a theme park and a gift shop.

Dolly the Sheep will live on through her clones. Dolly the Parton will live on through her merch and her Drag army.

They are both the same as they are both unique.

There is also the giant mammary glands, descriptions of cadaver rotting and tattoo shop philosophy but even if you believed me, I still want you to see it for yourself.

I believe it’s sold out but there is still hope and a waiting list for cancellations.

DollyWould is at HOME until Saturday 5 May – click here for info and ticket queries.

I Would. Well I did.

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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

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New Music Launch! Manc favourites Jess Kemp & David Gorman to hit The Deaf Institute

Fans of singer/songwriters Jess Kemp and David Gorman will be thrilled at this double bubble news that they will be co-headlining a gig at top city venue, The Deaf Institute, on 18 May 2018.

Each will be individually taking to that iconic stage with a full band, to launch some brand new music to treat the senses!

Jess Kemp

Readers of this blog will be familiar with Jess’s work, having recently sold out The Whiskey Jar.

From her debut single Stars, to her debut EP Camden, Jess went onto headline small spaces round the city such as Manchester Academy 3.

However it was the release of VondelPark last year, which catapulted Jess to stages such as Kendal Calling and Bluedot, as well as recently picking up ‘Best Songwriter’ at the Unsigned Music Awards.

Clint Boon said

I was knocked out the first time I saw Jess Kemp perform live.

She’s not just a world-class songwriter, she’s a fantastic performer.

Who are we to argue with Clint?! Head over to hear Jess’s new singles No Shouting and On the Ground on the 18th.

http://www.jesskemp.co.uk/

https://www.youtube.com/user/JessKemp94

https://spoti.fi/2I7ePvb

David Gorman

If you’re a fan of Mumford & Sons, Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Sunday mornings, David Gorman is most definitely for you.

David has already enjoyed a fantastic year so far, starting with a nomination from the Bolton FM Unsigned Show for the ‘Best Male Solo Act of 2017’ and having his latest release Another Midnight long-listed by The Unsigned Music Awards for ‘Best Produced Record of the Year’.

Having already played gigs around the country including London, York, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, he’s back to Manchester and taking to The Deaf Institute stage on 18 May to launch brand new single Chicago is Calling, featuring the beautiful harmonies and finger-picking style style synonymous with his music.

https://davidgormanmusic.weebly.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaToPrKr1pz2E3fKYTwQmeQ

https://spoti.fi/2I5B3xC

All the deets

So what are you waiting for Manchester ?

To book to see both amazing talents on 18 May 2018 at The Deaf Institute, click on the link below:

https://www.seetickets.com/event/jess-kemp-dave-gorman/the-deaf-institute/1200292

Doors open at 7pm and tickets are on sale for £6 each.

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Madama Butterfly 🦋 Fatal Passions and Attraction

I last wrote about this topic (in more detail)in my dissertation in the year cough cough etc.

You understand my entire dissertation wasn’t based on Michael Douglas but a small portion of it. I don’t have a degree in Michael Douglas.

I focussed on the femme fatale on film and how feminist theory has been applied on celluloid.

Have that, eh?

It was the lovely Glenn Close in the fantastically, ferocious Fatal Attraction who my attention was focussed on in part of my fancy pants essay. And whilst there are both implicit and hugely explicit parallels to be drawn and homages to be noted between Fatal Attraction and Madama Butterfly, I think that a little of the huge sympathy audiences have for our female protagonist in the latter should also be reserved for her or the former.

I’ll get to it.

Madama Butterfly is my favourite opera. Hands up I haven’t seen ALL of the operas. I work full time and have two cats to deal with. But it is a story and a score I’ve returned to theatres to see multiple times – once through the medium of ballet (those on stage, I mean, I didn’t go pirouetting off to the Opera House).

Last Tuesday I was invited to the opening night of Madama Butterfly at The Lowry Theatre.

My heart leapt in anticipation of what I knew would be a roller coaster of emotions throughout the performance from drama queen over here.

Opera North did duly take me on that ride and tears did duly flow.

You can read more here but, to summarise, Madama Butterfly 🦋 is a tale of the romance between Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese girl and geisha who falls for the promises made, by visiting American naval officer Pinkerton, and agrees to marry him. This is to the chagrin of her family who are horrified that she is prepared to sacrifice her ancestral religion and embrace Christianity.

Pinkerton is going into the marriage for what he can’t be sure is love or a whim ‘someday I will take a real American wife’, but worries not, given that he is returning to American for an undisclosed period of time.

Three years pass and Butterfly still waits for her husband, and it is revealed that her marriage brought her a son. Together they wait for Pinkerton to return. Return he does, but with the ‘real’ American wife he always intended, here for the child, not Butterfly.

Devastated, Butterfly agrees, with what would be her penultimate sacrifice, the final being her life, using the dagger which took her own father’s life.

With a rousing score by Puccini which devastates me as much as the story playing out, there isn’t a performance goes by of this wonderfully sad story that doesn’t leave me in tears and as said Opera North’s was no exception, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by Martin Pickard.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, the production was set in the home of Cio-Cio San (Ann Sophie Duprels) which was simply designed with what you might describe as typically Japanese minimalism, allowing the eye to focus on the players and drama ensuing within – not that you would need encouragement to do so.

Along with Merunas Vitulskis (Pinkerton) and Ann Taylor (loyal maid Suzuki) and all the players, I was mesmerised by the passion and emotion displayed through the vocals, body language and even periods of abject silence (the devastating scene as Cio-Cio San waits at the harbour with her son, to no avail).

The audience’s heart strings are tugged to breaking point by Cio-Cio-San’s sorrow and so I return to Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest, in Fatal Attraction.

There are immense parallels, as said some obvious (Alex playing Madama Butterfly at her home as she cooks newly acquainted married lover Dan Gallagher (Douglas) dinner, later trying to make nice by buying them two tickets to said opera.

There is even a nod (bow?) to Japanese culture in early scenes where Dan and Alex’s paths first cross at the launch for a Japanese self-help book.

Everything in Alex’s home is white, crisp, clean simple lines. Her father is dead (there is a double bluff where she proclaims him to be dead from a heart attack when Dan feigns collapse, only to then reveal she is joking and he is very much alive – Dan later learns he is in fact dead). She is spurned by her lover who has an American wife and child (to be fair to Dan, Alex knew of this from the off). However it’s the role that Alex doesn’t have, hers being that of the other half of a two night stand whilst Dan’s wife is at her parents.

There is a child (unborn) that Dan rejects upon being given the news that Alex is pregnant (immediately offering her money to abort). The (unsuccessful) suicide attempt as Alex slashes her wrists when realising that Dan is going to immediately return to his family set-up, their ‘love’ affair lasting only a weekend.

Alex is spurned by her lover but he is not her husband. He belongs to another and was never hers to begin with. Cio-Cio-San was lead to believe Pinkerton was hers and whilst both women are spurned, the latter is wholly more naive to reality than the former.

However, who can fail to be moved by the scene in Fatal Attraction where on the night of the opera performance that Alex had tickets to, she sits on the floor at home turning the lamp on and off rhythmically to the desperate strains of Puccini’s score, face frozen in an expression that is both despair and rage.

It’s terrifying and we’re all cheering Alex’s downfall in the end (not in support of Dan, it has to be said, but his ever so lovely wife Beth (Anne Archer). But shouldn’t we reserve a little of our sympathy for Alex?

She may not have had the naivety of Cio-Cio-San and her reaction to rejection may have been somewhat more outwardly facing than self-destructive, but there are definite parallels to be drawn.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Or as originally written…

Heav’n has no Rage, Like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d…

We all focus on the fury but rarely the scorn. In both stories, both women scorned suffered fatal consequences, one more directly, one indirectly, by their one hands as a result of their reactions.

Madama Butterfly, a beautifully sad story that must be seen and also heard, not least by Opera North.

Part of the Fatal Passions season at The Lowry there’s that F word again), you can see further Opera North productions such as Saloma at the theatre through to April.