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

Review: Ghost Stories at The Lowry aka fright night

Ghost Stories finally hit The Lowry on Tuesday and oh how it did.

To whet the appetite, a couple of weeks ago a group of us were treated to a Ghost Walk round the Quays by Manchester writer and historian, Jonathan Schofield, all in anticipation of the arrival of acclaimed stage show, Ghost Stories, written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman.

Do treat yourself and read all about it again at Ghost Walks and Stories and Pig heads. Oh my…

In a quick sit-down with the great Jeremy Dyson himself, we ‘carefully’ talked about the show, inspiration and a horror-ride he took (like a ghost walk less but walkey) in Transylvania: Ghost Stories at The Lowry – a moment with Jeremy Dyson

Well now I’ve come out the other side. Of the show, that is. Not the interview, he was really nice. I mean I did come out of the other side of that too.

Basically, I’ve now seen the show for myself, It’s everything you want it to be.

Details of the show are and should remain shrouded in secrecy, in order to get maximum enjoyment. The show has been frightening audiences since its first London run, 10 years ago.

Since then, it has travelled all over the world and of course been made into a film.

Therefore, this review must remain spoiler-free but what I can do, is tell you that I haven’t jumped out of my skin as much since Metrolink put their prices up (it doesn’t matter how much I prepare myself, never fails to surprise…love you Metrolink 😉

Without giving anything away, even if there are elements of the narrative you remember from the film, attending the stage show brings the immersive experience, touching the senses in ways that are truly novel, surprising and ultimately gratifying (once the goosebumps have died down, you’ve stopped clinging to the stranger in the seat next to you, and your heart rate has returned to normal).

Never have I felt so at one with my fellow theatre-goers in a packed out theatre, an almost solidarity as we watched, held our collective breaths and tried to steel ourselves for the next jump-fright (impossible).

And so in the most non give-away review I think I’ve ever written, Ghost Stories gives every step of the way – the anticipation of what’s to come, the fright when it does, and the takeaway chills and, indeed laughter, of a bloody good night at the theatre.

With two more performances to go, don’t miss out and head to https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ghost-stories/

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Events History Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review salford The Arts Theatre

Preview: Ghost Walks and Stories and Pig heads. Oh my…

Friday nights can get a bit samey, don’t you think?

Don’t get me wrong, they definitely remain my favourite night of the week.

Ever since my school days when even the best telly was on on a Friday when you got home – Scooby Doo was on on a Friday. Byker Grove was on on a Friday. Scooby Doo, pop and crisps. My pop might have taken on a more let’s say…complex composition, the crisps a bit more restaurant or Chinese takeaway like, but the thrill of the Friday pm is here to stay.

But sometimes you want something a bit special. And last Friday was that something a bit special.

Would you like to attend a ghost walk?

asked The Lowry.

Yes please.

Around the Quays?

Absolutely.

In honour of the forthcoming successful stage play ‘Ghost Stories’, as written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman?

Christ yes.

And added to this was the news that said Ghost Walk was to be hosted by noted Manchester writer, author, tour guide, Jonathan Schofield which was the, erm, novelty straw in the lemonade of my prospective Friday night. It wasn’t my first Jonathan Schofield walking tour rodeo, you see (Check out the Altrincham Pub Tour on my sister blog).

And so it was on that chilly (bloody freezing) Friday night, did a group of us gather at The Lowry, ready to be taken on a tour of the surrounding Quays. A ghost stories amuse bouche to Ghost Stories, if you like.

If you are accustomed to Jonathan Schofield’s tours, you won’t need me to tell you that you are given not only a history lesson of the city (in this case we officially straddle two cities – Salford and Manchester) you love, but one that is peppered with dry asides and anecdotes which keep you captivated and laughing as you learn a little more about the locality (including, in this case, the more dark and dangerous dimensions to boot).

Most noted in this particular area is the tragic tale of 20 year old Lavinia Robinson, who, in 1813, went missing from her sister’s home in Bridge Street, just before Christmas after a furious row with her fiancé, William Holroyd.

It was a particularly cold winter that year, causing the River Irwell to freeze over (see Ciara’s not that bad). And so it was a terrible find for one lock keeper when several weeks later, the river thawed and Lavinia’s body was discovered, perfectly preserved in ice…

The funeral took place at St. John’s Manchester and buried in the gardens there. Where I used to eat my sandwiches when I worked at the old Granada Studios on Quay Street.

Nice.

But it never was determined whether Lavinia’s tragic end was at her own hand, or that of another, namely her betrothed.

If you take a walk over the bridge towards the new Coronation Street set, you can see the locks where her body was found, hair frozen to what was the river bank, where work had begun to turn it into a canal.

However, it is on Bridge Street on the anniversary of her deaths where the ghostly goings-on took place…

As Jonathan explains (better than I could…)

And what of the pig head?

Well you’ll have to take one of Jonathan’s tours to find out (I know, I’m a swine. And I know, that’s a terrible joke).

And if your appetite is whetted for a good old Ghost Story, over by the Quays, there’s more to come in the shape of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s massively acclaimed stage show.

In part 2 (yes, and there’s a part 3), I’ll share more, including a few words from the man himself when I spoke to Jeremy Dyson about the ghostly tour he took himself, and what inspires him to write such fiendly good horror…

To find out more about Jonathan Schofield’s Manchester walking tours, please visit https://www.jonathanschofieldtours.com/

For details of Ghost Stories, coming to The Lowry 18 – 22 February, including booking information, please visit https://thelowry.com/whats-on/ghost-stories/

To be continued…

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Culture Events Festivals Manchester News People Popular culture salford The Arts

News: The Lowry offers 20 Salfordians chance to headline WEEK 53 Festival

It’s something we’ve known for a long time – there’s a lot of talent in our region but it’s not just the household names I’m talking about.

Thanks to a project called The Twenty, people who dwell in the city of Salford will be provided with the exciting opportunity to turn their creativity into a reality by submitting event ideas on the theme of POWER, the theme of this year’s WEEK 53 Festival.

The Twenty, (credit: The Lowry)

The project developed by The Lowry in conjunction with Salford CVS is encouraging people to unleash their inner artistic talent and come up with events from graffiti battles to knitting groups, with each of the 20 successful submissions provided with a grant of 500 pounds to make it a reality.

The first rule of The Twenty is you do not talk about The Twenty you must live in Salford.

The second rule of The Twenty is you must be over the age of 18

Organisers are keen to stress that this opportunity is for everyone, especially those without previous experience in the arts.

Lynsey O’Sullivan (credit: Nathan Chandler)

Lynsey O’Sullivan, director of learning and engagement at The Lowry, and creative lead for The Twenty says

Everyone has the capacity to come up with a crazy idea for an event – but life can so easily get in the way, be that time, money or space. This project is designed to break down those barriers.

But how does one submit one’s proposal? I hear you cry.

There are three ways:

The deadline for proposals is Friday 14 February at 12noon.

More information about The Twenty can be found at www.thelowry.com/whats-on/week53-the-twenty

WEEK 53 is a biennial cross-arts festival which will take place from Friday 24 April until Sunday 3 May. More information can be found at https://thelowry.com/about-us/festivals-projects/week-53-2020/

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Culture Manchester Music preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Review: Opera North’s Giulio Cesare at The Lowry

Some years ago, I visited the site where Julius Caesar was said to meet his maker.

The Curia in the Theatre Of Pompey is not only a place of significant historical importance but much to my total and utter glee, a colony for feral cats. Cat lovers this is your Mecca, cat not-lovers probably give this a miss and spend more time in the Coliseum (actually cats live in there too – maybe go to Madrid instead).

Handel’s Giulio Cesare comes with the wonderful tagline…

Cleopatra would die for the throne. But she’d rather kill for it.

And so tells the story of Cleopatra and her brother Tolomeo, as they compete for absolute power over Egypt.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Julius Caesar has chased his enemy Pompey to Egypt where he falls into the murderous hands of Tolomeo.

As Pompey’s widow Cornelia plots with son Sesto to get their revenge, Tolomeo is seemingly more concerned by an ‘enemy’ closer to hand…

Credit: Alastair Muir

Well they do say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose…etc and so forth.

Whilst Cleopatra could be lauded as a symbol of a strong independent women, some may take issue with her tactics to secure her position – that is with feminine wiles and good old ‘female of the species’ straightforward seduction of Caesar.

Credit: Alastair Muir

Nobody’s coming out of this registering strong on the moral compass so, moving on…

Sung in Italian, Tim Albery’s production of Handel’s sweeping and passionate operatic tale is accompanied by a wonderful orchestra conducted by Christian Curnyn.

The set is simple, allowing for the marriage between the voices and the music to flourish and entertain without distraction.

Forgive me for perhaps lowering the cultural tone here but I couldn’t help but equate the spirited, competitive and sometimes downright troubling relationship between brother and sister, Tolomeo and Cleopatra, to that of, what for it, the ice-skating, scheming siblings in the very deep and seminal film…Blades of Glory. Even aesthetically.

DO forgive me – I mean this without any of the slapstick but with all of the heart, passion and downright devilment of both pairs.

It’s a pocket of time that is revisited, referenced and paid tribute to both in the history books and in popular culture repeatedly. But whilst time moves on, human passion, ambition and indeed ruthlessness remains.

And with a wonderfully talented cast and production (a statement which will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the work of Opera North), Giulio Cesare delivers on this age-old story of tyranny and passion in spades.

Cast:

  • Giulio Cesare – Maria Sanner
  • Cleopatra – Lucie Chartin
  • Cornelia – Amy J Payne (special mention who stepped in for Catherine Hopper)
  • Sesto – Heather Lowe
  • Tolomeo – James Laing
  • Noreno – Paul-Antoine Bruno’s-Djian
  • Curio – Dean Robinson
  • Achilla- Darren Jeffery

Opera North continue at The Lowry this week with performances of La Boheme tonight (15 November) and The Greek Passion tomorrow (16 November) at The Lowry.

Have a thousand questions on Opera-going that you never dared ask? Find out more here at https://www.operanorth.co.uk/your-visit/new-to-opera/.

My reviews of previous Opera North productions can be found below:

Review: Aida at the Bridgewater Hall

Theatre review: The Magic Flute at The Lowry

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Theatre review: Trial by Laughter at The Lowry

Following their previous stage success The Wipers Times, which sold out both in the West End and across the country, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman are back to entertain us with their latest sharply observed stage production, showing this week at The Lowry theatre, Salford.

Author’s own

Inspired by real life events and based on the critically acclaimed original BBC4 drama of the same name, Trial by Laughter, takes us back over two centuries to 1817, and tells the tale of bookseller, publisher and satirist William Hone (engagingly and energetically played by Joseph Prowen), who stood trial for parodying religion, the despotic government and the lustful monarchy.

Author’s own

As Ian Hislop himself highlights in the programme notes. he’s been the defendant in a number of libel trials in the past in his capacity as Editor of Private Eye.

Political, satirical and let’s add hysterical cartoonist Nick Newman, is equally qualified to tell this tale of whether humour sees off libel when it comes to press freedom.

 

The play is fast-paced, snappy and as, you might expect, wondrously witty.

The stage is set up so that for courtroom scenes (frequently and cleverly interspersed by rapid location changes which punctuate the play), Judge, prosecution and defence face us, the audience, who find ourselves in the position of jury and public gallery.

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This device works well although it should be noted that any reaction displayed to proceedings will be assisted by the brilliantly funny retorts from unseen attendees as piped through from the back of the theatre.

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This historical romp takes us through Hone’s three separate court hearings held over three consecutive days, such is the insistence of Prince Regent (depicted brilliantly by Jeremy Lloyd – each of his scenes a living, breathing satirical cartoon) to have Hone punished for ridiculing his somewhat rotund appearance. publishing satirical versions of texts heard in church.

A charge of blasphemous libel is brought against Hone which carried potential sentences of a lengthy prison sentence or deportation to Australia.

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It was even more impressive, therefore, that William Hone represented himself in court to fight off such weighty accusations.

Now, I went to see this fine play during the same week that I concluded a journey down the rabbit hole that is the Netflix Conversation with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.

Stay with me.

The only parallel I am drawing here is the wish for an accused to provide his own legal defence. History books and a visit to the theatre will tell you who was the more successful…Oh and Netflix.

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In a post-Leveson Inquiry era, filled with super-injuctions and fevered attempts for the law to catch up with social media, this brilliant tale begs the question, can laughter outweigh libel (and should it)?

(I think yes, but don’t listen to me. I bring Bundy into everything.)

Trial by Laughter is showing at The Lowry until Saturday 2 February. For tickets and more details including cast and production, visit The Lowry website.

Photo credit: Philip Tull (unless specified otherwise).

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

Theatre review – War Horse at the Lowry

A (by no means exhaustive) list of popular films and programmes that traumatised me as a child:

  • Dumbo
  • E.T.*
  • Born Free
  • Dot and the Kangaroo
  • Watership Down

They all have one thing in common – creatures and animals in challenging and sad situations. *Ok, technically E.T. was an alien but he’s pretty much in that category.

The last title (I can’t bear to even type it out again), is top of the trauma list. ‘That’ song (the name of which I cannot type lest it lead to floods of tears), used to send me behind the sofa to cry when I was little. It still would.

A (by no means exhaustive) list of popular films and programmes I have vowed never to watch, becoming aware of them when I was old enough to know better:

  • Tarka the Otter
  • The 9 Lives of Thomasina
  • The Lion King
  • Marley and Me
  • War Horse

See, I came to it.

Troubled as I am by my sensitivities to our furry, hairy, scaled, feathered…erm tusked and hooved friends, there is no way on this earth I will sit down with a bag of maize based onion rings (popcorn is literally not my bag) and subject myself to the film War Horse. The title screams out sad animal.

And I have to say, I allowed my ridiculous drama sensitivities to influence my thoughts on going to see the stage play.

However, the theatre-lover in me allowed myself to be taken in by the promise (yes promise – you know who you are) that puppets couldn’t possibly invoke woe and despair in me (that person obviously didn’t know me when Animal from The Muppets was my number 1 fear in life).

Furthermore, they didn’t reckon with South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, Puppetry Director, Matt Forbes, and the wonderful actors bringing Joey to life in front of our eyes last night.

The National Theatre’s production of War Horse first visited The Lowry in 2013 and so I had managed five years of stubbornness and resolve.

The heart-warming/wrenching story centres on the character of Albert Narracott (Thomas Dennis), his horse Joey and their journey throughout the First World War.

Thomas Dennis as Albert Narracott, with Joey

It’s certainly no spoiler to say that this journey is not a smooth one, the narrative taking audiences to the brink with its highly emotive highs and lows along the way.

Jo Castleton as Rose, Gwilym Lloyd as Ted

And is not a stretch to suspend your disbelief (more’s the pity) at all. I gave it my all I’m telling myself it was a mechanical puppet, it was a mechanical puppet, it was a mechanical puppet.

No use – I was in tears by the second scene and nothing ‘sad’ had even happened.

The attention to detail in bringing Joey and the other horses to life (yes, you have more to contend with) is just staggering – a subtle swoosh of the tail, a flicker of the ears; the senses are even tricked into seeing and hearing the horses breathe.

And then there’s the goose. Thank goodness for the comedy goose – watch out for the goose!

Billy Irving (Goose)

The goose and indeed the sergeant major bring the laughs and light relief and to be fair there are many moments where sadness gives way to smiles, particularly with the boyish innocence of Albert who by the end of the production is indeed a man whilst managing to retain a wonderful air of vulnerability and warmth.

Thomas Dennis as Albert Narracott, with Joey

The actors, lighting, sound and set design take you straight to the battlefields of the First World War, and horses aside (yes, I managed to tear my focus away from those woe-inducing creatures), the production is truly an assault on the senses and emotions – and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

Special mention must also go to our musical ‘narrator’, Bob Fox who, as ‘Songman’ takes us from one period of time and scene and into the next. And beautifully so.

Bob Fox as Songman

Stock up on your resolve and tissues, and don’t (I swear the phrase came to me before realised the abomination that is this pun) look a gift horse in the mouth, by not taking advantage of War Horse’s glorious return to Salford.

On a two week run until Saturday 30 June, head to the Lowry website here for all information and booking details.

If I can do it, you can…

and I’m so glad I did.

Dumbo can still do one though.

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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

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

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.

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

All aboard for Brief Encounter – destination West End, first stop Salford…

I’ve been commuting since I was 12 years old, getting the bus to school, 2.9miles away (that 0.1 is very important given that it disqualified me from the free bus pass that the elusive and illustrious 3 mile commute brought you).

Buses gave way to trains once starting uni and then work, and I seriously think after daily commutes including Leeds, Liverpool and Wigan from the Manchester ‘burbs, I should be decorated with some sort of honour – bravery through adversity or something…

These days I’m back working in Manchester city centre, delivered there through the medium of tram.Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love them, they are not without their issues and, as with most commutes, the issues are the other people Recognise the Tram Tribes?

And so, we come to Brief Encounter, one of my favourite stories and films.Noël Coward’s story and 1945 film directed by David Lean, tells the story of two commuters who meet by chance in a station waiting/tea room.

In roles made famous by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, He a doctor, removes something from her eye. She, a housewife, lets him.

And so, a love affair begins, made ever more powerful that…(Spoiler Alert – scroll below the train if you haven’t seen the film)


***…it remains unconsummated before both parties go their separate ways, back to their spouses, children and lives; she in 1930s surburbia, he in a hastily yet convenient decision and opportunity to work out in South Africa.***


Now don’t get me wrong, very happily paired up with my plus 1, I’m not seeking out my own station tea room tryst (aka Starbucks), but there is something romantic about the train station (stop picturing Piccadilly Station, naysayers). People being reunited, saying goodbye…and, in this case, meeting for the first time.

If you haven’t already, go forth and watch the film.

But enough of the original source and basic premise, this week (20-24 February 2018), the North West is being treated to an original take on Brief Encounter as brought to the Lowry Theatre, Salford by company Kneehigh Theatre.

Like nothing I’ve seen before, the award-winning production, is adapted and directed by Emma Rice, and produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, Jenny and Steve Wiener and The Old Vic.

It brings together a stellar cast who deliver energetic performances non-stop, from their interactive relationship with the audience from before curtain up (keep your ears open and your eyes peeled) to curtain down.

(Jim Sturgeon as Alec and the full cast, credit: Steve Tanner)
(Dean Nolan as Fred and Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

Between them they bring the music, the singing, the acting, the props, the almost tongue in cheek special effects, and the laughter.

(Jos Slovick as Stanley & Beverly Rudd as Beryl, credit: Steve Tanner)

You may be surprised about the laughs. Admittedly there are more than in the more emotive film version of the story, but it’s important to remember the light relief brought by characters Albert Godby, Myrtle Bagot and Beryl Walters on the big screen.

It is perhaps in all of the supporting characters (but by no means supporting cast) that this production excels – the story of Laura and Alec almost providing the bridges to the next scene involving the other characters. At the very least, the footing feels equal.

(Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit: Steve Tanner)

This is absolutely no slight on the scenes involving the central players, more a compliment to the production that the limelight was shared so well between all characters in a story where this would be thought impossible.

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, Jim Sturgeon as Alec, credit: Steve Tanner)

The final station tea room scene (no spoilers, fear not) is no less powerful and moving than that of the film (anyone seated next to me – I just had some grit in my eye, is all).

Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit Steve Tanner

The original music by Stu Barker, and performance of said music, is jaunty and humorous, moving and sometimes melancholy- all as appropriate.

(Katrina Kleve, Lucy Thackeray & Beverly Rudd, credit: Steve Tanner)

Cue outcry from those, who like me, insist that in Brief Encounter there are three in that affair; Laura, Alec and Rachmaninov.Fear not, the stage production brings those powerful strains to the table as well.

At 90 minutes, without an interval, the audience is kept captivated by constant switches between music and word, live action and projected images, costume changes and the aforementioned ingenious props (look out for the toy train).

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

With three more performances at The Lowry before the show moves to a run in the West End, jump on board and don’t miss your chance to see this original take on a classic story.

Failing that, there’s always the Pendolino, but watch out for those lurking in Starbucks whilst you wait…

All the Deets.

ps thank you for retaining my two favourite lines…Funny

Oh mummmyyyy

And heartbreaking

Thank you for coming back to me

Categories
Celebrity Culture Football Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Sport The Arts Theatre

the King’s Speech – ooh, ahh, an evening with Eric Cantona

Against an apt backdrop of much controversy and mirth, Eric Cantona brought his Evening with… show to The Lowry Theatre this week. 


Prior to taking my red husband (in football supporting terms, you understand, his blood pressure is normal) last night (Thurs 23 February) for his Valentine’s treat, we were treated to a cacophony (about 4) of reports about the catastrophe that was the Bournemouth show.

Auctions! Late Arrivals! Inappropriate Comedians!

…screamed the press, in the biggest  controversy since a footballer Kung fu kicked a man. 

Quicker than you can say trawlers (bet you thought I would go with seagulls didn’t you), reference was made to the Bournemouth Bloodbath in the opening moments by the (very good) local knowledge in-joke laden stand up, and there wasn’t an auction in sight.

Our tickets meant that not even my old reliable iPhone could take a non-blurry photo of the stage and the man (I’ll have you know that £55 applied to every seat – even ours in the Gods, so I definitely wasn’t in the cheap seats here), and so I  have a series of loud, shouty videos depicting hero-worship in all its glory.

He was everything you’d want him to be. The man basically gave good Cantona.

To sum up: great night – we laughed, we chanted and we collectively winced when, during a question on mental health support for retiring players, a woman shouted out 

Ere y’are, what did that ‘ooligan say to make you kick ‘im?!

Together with an oscar-worthy reenactment of the great quote itself and a couple of nuggets which included hearing of Cantona’s upcoming Chinese project (nothing involving £1 million weekly wages) and his love for Loach, worth the pennies.
All the deets 

 
Keegan, Trump, FIFA and Liverpool fans – best you swerve Sunday’s matinee.

C’est magnifique