Manon

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

This week sees the arrival of English National Ballet to the Opera House in Manchester with Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, first performed in 1974 and rarely seen outside of London.

The ballet, set to a score by Jules Massenet and reworked by Martin Yates, is based on Prévost’s Manon Lescaut, and tells the tale of Manon (Alina Cojocaru) who when being traded by her brother Lescaut (Jeffrey Cirio) meets and runs away with idealistic young student Des Grieux (Joseph Caley).

Their romantic idyll is soon shattered when Manon’s head is turned by the furs and diamonds laid on by the sleazily menacing Monsieur GM (James Streeter) and she abandons Des Grieux for him.

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They are later reunited, but they pay the price for their defiance and, somewhat inevitably, it all ends tragically in a swirling, confusing, Louisiana swamp.

Dangerous Liaisons indeed.

The powerful production is packed with extraordinary performances.

As the young lovers Cojocaru and Caley (both making their debuts in the roles) are irresistible. Their Act I playful and shy courtship pas de deux making way for a more physical pairing the following morning. And their hypnotic and heart-breaking final dance together deserved the cheers.

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As the sinister Monsieur GM, Streeter rose above being a cut-out villain, his height, combined with costume, make up and beautifully controlled body language sent a real shiver down my spine. Not a man who would take being left lightly.

Crowd pleasers were Ciro’s infectious Lescaut – his drunk dancing clearly delighted the appreciative Opera House audience – and Katja Khaniukova as his mistress, displaying both passion and control.

Artists of the company play a variety of roles from courtesans and their customers to both extremes of society – powdered faces and rouged cheeks contrasting with dirty smudges and ragged clothes, coiffed wigs with tousled hair.

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The female artists clearly had great fun in Act II in particular, inside a den of iniquity. Their romantic dresses belying their competitive nature when it came to landing a customer – behind the smiles they were all sly shoves and sharp elbows.

Mia Stensgaard’s stunning design coupled with Mikki Kunttu’s lighting brought modernity to the production. An abstract prow of a ship and an incongruous modern large scale period painting that set the scene in Act 1 brought an interesting twist to proceedings.

Indeed the scope and scale of the production is so vast that at times it seemed a little restricted on the Opera House stage – but with another literary heroine in residence down the road at the Palace, perhaps this couldn’t be helped and really is a minor reservation.

Manon truly is a stunning production that will delight and devastate in turn and again reinforces why ballet companies should be congratulated for stepping away from the more familiar tales, and enabling regional audiences to experience the rarer works.

The Vyrll Society

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“Any Scousers in?” lead singer Mike Ellis nonchalantly asks the rather snug audience members at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen venue. This is a question that never really goes down well in most Manchester venues, (pretty much the same way asking if any ‘Mancs’ are in if you were in a Liverpool venue) however this questions isn’t met with the usual customary boos; the response is met with a few cheers and no animosity. There are two reasons for this. Number 1, The Vyrll Society have developed a loyal fan base after years of honing their craft live, which has seen them creating quite a buzz. The second is that not everyone is brainless dickhead and inner-city rivalries take a back seat to decent music!

The constant touring of pubs, clubs and festivals has certainly paid off for the band, as stated they have a developed a loyal fan base, and with their debut album, Course of the Satellite going into orbit this August, you can but only see big things for this five piece from Liverpool.

Opening with live favourite Shadow of a Wave, the band work their way through a set that include singles Flight and a Perfect Rhythm. It’s easy to see why the band have garnered so much interest, filled with catchy baselines and killer licks: this is dreamy psychedelia, that will have you tapping your feet , sure there are no sing-along anthems but there plenty of tunes where you can a grove on too. The stand out track was the Thriller-esque Inner Life.

The band have drawn obvious comparisons with The Zutons and The Coral, mainly due to their association with the late Alan Wills, founder of the Deltasonic label, but for me there’s plenty of early Pink Floyd, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and the criminally underrated The Music.

The band look the part, they sound fantastic and are developing a great visual show, as a host of shapes and a kaleidoscope of colours are projected out though out their set . It would appear they’ve fully embraced the rock ‘n’ roll life style slower track Soft Glue dedicated to the band’s tour manager who is suffering from pneumonia.

This was a great showcase for a hugely talented band, which is quite rightly getting the praise they deserve. Their tour continues in Leeds tonight and wraps up on Friday with a huge hometown show at the O2 Academy in Liverpool Academy. They’re back in Manchester in February and will almost certainly and quite deservedly be playing bigger venues, catch them and join the society whilst you can because the sky is the limit for these lads.

Vyrll Society Play Liverpool O2 Academy on the 19th October tickets can be bought here.

Tags: The Vyrll Society, The Soup Kitchen. Live Music, Guitar, Course of the Satellite,

The Pride

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Using Alexi Kaye Campbell’s debut play to mark their own debut production, new theatre company Green Carnation present The Pride, an affecting, powerful and poignant piece of theatre.

Focusing on two separate Britain’s, that of the repressive 1950’s and the supposedly liberal 2008. Three central actors, (Gareth George, Simon Hallman and Joanna Leese) play the identically named but hugely different characters of each era with a forth actor (Alex Thompson) playing a trio of strong supporting roles.

Designer Frankie Gerrard centres the action during both eras within a sitting room setting, a slight shift of furniture and a roll of the clouds via simple hanging drapes indicating the changing days.

We firstly meet 1950’s Phillip (Gareth George) an unfulfilled, middle-class, married estate agent who gets introduced by wife Sylvia (Joanna Leese) to well-travelled, articulate yet lonely Oliver (Simon Hallman) for whom she is illustrating his most recent children’s novel. An immediate attraction is felt between the two men as secrets are kept and truths lie unspoken, Phillip’s true self being denied and suppressed with devastating consequences.

In 2008 Oliver is so free sexually it is damaging the one person he truly loves resulting in him losing partner Phillip due to his need for risqué sex with strangers and posing the question is 2008 Oliver just as detached from his true-self as 1950’s Phillip?

Sylvia shifts from 1950’s actress turned illustrator whose mental health problems are hinted at to forthright friend whom both Oliver and Phillip both turn to, an ally and advocate in both era’s.

Simon Hallman excels as Oliver, while rigid and desperately lonely in the 1950’s he transforms into a sexually liberated yet painfully shambolic character come 2008. Hallman adds emotional depth to the outrageously promiscuous Oliver and a heart-felt desperation to 1950’s Oliver who yearns to feel love.

Gareth George’s 1950’s Phillip convincingly bubbles with violent frustration while his 2008 self is calm and composed, at complete contrast to hedonistic partner Oliver.

Joanna Leese impresses as Sylvia giving an emotional and committed performance, the scene where she gently confronts her husbands lover heartbreaking in its honesty. Elsewhere Alex Thompson injects some great comic relief in his three varying roles of rent boy, wide-boy magazine editor and 1950’s aversion therapist, his superb comedic acting changing the tone of an early scene entirely.

Director Dan Jarvis along with co-director Dan Ellis have succeeded in bringing this thought-provoking revival bang up to date. As Campbell’s script cleverly weaves history together the characters although hugely different feel on many levels connected as the heartbreaking fears of loneliness resonate in both era’s. There are moments when the pacing could improve slightly with Act I feeling much longer than Act II but this is a minor quibble.

Shifts in attitudes from the 1950’s to 2008 while abundantly clear cannot remove the fear of being unloved as this insightful drama explores not just what it is to truly be yourself but that cost at which for many this comes.

With beautifully poignant writing and impressive performances The Pride examines and explores without sugarcoating.

Important, rewarding and impressive theatre.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 20th October more information can be found here.

Disney on Ice | Dream Big

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Created in the late 1980s and seen in over 65 countries around the world, Disney on Ice as a brand is now a firmly established part of the Disney family. And the current tour – billed Dream Big – is indeed a  bit of a dream for fans young and old.

Produced by live family entertainment specialists Feld Entertainment, Dream Big is a lavish all-twirling, all-jumping show that packs in more than enough Disney princes and princesses, songs (and special effects) to keep audiences in a Disney dreamworld.

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For those who are unfamiliar with a Disney on Ice production. Minnie and Mickey act as hosts and introduce segments devoted to various iconic movies – this time round including Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled, Cinderella (complete with coach) and recordings of the soundtracks are played that the skaters perform and mime too.

With a stunning set backdrop and literally dazzling costumes and perfect wigs – we really do see our favourite heroes brought to life in front of our eyes. (It was particularly lovely to see them all regularly waving at audience members throughout the show). The skating was stunning – and for some of the performers (Maui and Sebastian the Crab – I’m looking at you) some in what must be quite tricky costumes.

A real highlight was the (new for this tour) Moana section – the solo skating routine performed by ‘Moana’ to How Far I’ll Go was a perfect example of music, performance and skating combining perfectly. I had goosebumps and a large lump in my throat – just stunning! It was as it had always been on ice!

Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast was a big company number, and a real crowd pleaser, as was Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid.

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Another favourite was the extra-long segment donated to Frozen, that was basically a mini version of the movie. Yes we’ve all heard Let it Go a million times, but it was pretty special seeing a version on ice! With twirling! Yet more goosebumps.

My 3 year old was admittedly a little scared of Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid and the fire-breathing dragon from Sleeping Beauty (we took the opportunity to beat the loo queues and later on get an ice cream when it got a bit too scary for him), but he loved the Genie from Aladdin, Mickey and Minnie, Belle and (of course) seeing Elsa. He genuinely did not want to leave when the house lights went up.

Cynics begone – if there’s a more magical and uplifting way to spend an autumn evening, well…..I’ll get my skates on!

Nothing but the Roof

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

Writer: Adam Colclough

Director: Adam Colclough

Back in 1962, the Drifters sang about heading to the roof to get away from the cares and troubles of the world: alas, the same cannot be said of three characters at the heart of Adam Colclough’s latest play Nothing but the Roof.

The action opens with Warren (JP Smith) clutching a letter standing near the edge of a rooftop on a rundown block of flats, he is coincidentally joined by childhood friends Step (David Hyde) and Millsy (Peter Thompson). The pair are dressed as Fred and Barney from The Flintstones: Step has roped Millsy into a father’s for justice protest; however, a mix up with the sign puts paid to that.

As the three friends get reacquainted with each other, they laugh, they fight, they reminisce as they discuss what hand life has dealt them: grief, unemployment, debt, and abuse are some of the hardships the three pals have faced, but can they come out of it the other side?

Despite the weighty subjects covered, the script is exceptionally funny indeed, with some stingy one-liners: it certainly has that lad’s night at the pub feel, as the friends point out each other’s faults, failings and generally just ‘rib’ each other to huge comic affect.

The production does however try to pack too much in with our three friends facing just about every disaster you could possibly think of; the play bounces from one tragedy to another, skimming the surface of these subjects rather than tackling them. Sometimes less is more and the play would certainly benefit from a trim, and as well as a few pauses here and there as the dialogue is delivered at such a breakneck speed that it could do with allowing the audience time to breathe.

The cast despite a few early missteps are on great form, you firmly believe friendship and the chemistry between all three is fantastic. The setting of the rooftop looks the part and allows the actors to fully express themselves.

This is an important play which raises some interesting points about modern Britain and one that should be seen by as many people as possible, it will certainly make you laugh and offer some food for thought, it just needs to iron out it’s kinks and it’ll be a great piece of work.

Tags: Nothing but the Roof, Hope Mill Theatre, Adam Colclough, JP Smith, David Hyde, Peter Thompson, Drama, Theatre

Macbeth

Macbeth a

Opening night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Rufus Norris’Macbeth is dark, compelling and visually stunning. A long civil war has raged and now anarchy rules as the fight to survive in a place where the stench of fear and rebellion fills the air.

Designer Rae Smith has created an epic and imposing set which acts as the perfect backdrop for this gloriously gritty production. Critics were harsh when the production opened on the Southbank earlier this year and this reworked offering recast for the touring production has taken note of that with tweaks and changes ensuring Macbeth engages from the off.

Michael Nardone is an excellent Macbeth, his glee at the witches prophecies exposing his vanity as he chases his predicted outcome with obsessive compulsion. He portrays the conscious stricken rugged warrior with much skill, one minute the goading warrior the next a crumbling man haunted by the horrors of the night.

Stirring and strong is Kirsty Besterman’s Lady Macbeth, calculating and cold she gives her all to the performance and convinces entirely as the ambitious and ruthless purveyor of power.

The three witches are hauntingly brilliant, phantom-like and gruesome as they thrust and twist high above the stage on poles, kudos to Elizabeth Chan, Evelyn Roberts and Olivia Sweeny for their delivery of these deeply physical roles.

Deka Walmsley adds depths in his role as the Porter, offering forewarning and commentary as Macbeth’s murderous acts escalate.

There is some chopping down of the text which does at times move the action on a little quicker than expected losing some of the depth of character in the early scenes however this is not done so ruthlessly to affect the essence of the story. We see less of the three witches than we should resulting in their influencing of the action stopping more or less at their opening prophecy. The cast however drive this atmospheric piece through their absorbing performances and prove that the human need for power is as ruthlessly cruel now as it was back in 1606 when Shakespeare first penned the Scottish play. While some may feel the battle feels more for a civil war than a Kingdom this for me resonated strongly and felt a timely reminder of the ever-present prosperity to attack we seem to be surrounded by today.

Gritty, gruesome and visually captivating theatre. Catch Macbeth at the Lowry until Saturday 6th October tickets available here.

Interview | The She Street Band

She Street

Writer Matt Forrest

Seemingly every summer, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band make their way across the pond for a series of sell-out stadium gigs, however with ‘The Boss’ treading the boards on Broadway how will the Springsteen ‘diehards’ get their fix? Well look no further than The She Street Band: a group of super talented ladies who just happen to be the world’s first all female Springsteen covers band.

Made up of players from the UK, Ireland, Sweden and the United States, who are: Jody Orsborn (bass) Calie Hough (drums), Mara Daniele (guitar), Lynn Roberts (keys), Clare McGrath (glockenspiel), Isabel Lysell (lead guitar) and Yasmin Ogilvie (sax). Opening Night caught up with founder Jody Orsborn to find out about the band, their upcoming tour, and just what makes Springsteen so special.

Opening Night: You played Latitude festival this summer. How was it?

The She Street Band: We played a 4,000 person tent which was pretty surreal. It was interesting because there were definitely people there that knew Bruce and all the lyrics but there were also a lot of younger folks who didn’t seem to know the songs but still danced along the whole time. We thought that was really cool.

ON: Who’s idea was the band? How did it come about?

Jody Osborn: I went to see Bruce Springsteen play at Wembley in 2016 for The River tour. Needless to say, it was a bit of a life changing experience. I just had such an incredible time at the gig that when I left, I said, I need more of this in my life…and the idea for the band just popped into my head. Luckily 6 other super talented ladies also thought it was a good idea and The She Street Band was born.

ON: What can fans expect from the tour?

JO: We aren’t a traditional cover band. There is no one Bruce (4 different ladies take lead vocals throughout the set) and as such, we aren’t trying to be him. What we try and do is to portray the energy and spirit of his music, with a female twist. The shows are definitely good fun, at least for us!

ON:There is such an extensive back catalogue  of songs to choose from, how do you choose the set list?

JO: There are a few songs that have to be played like Thunder Road, Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run but we also try and throw some surprising ones into the mix like Jackson Cage or Stolen Car, ones that you might not expect. All of the band members have a vote in which songs we add and we actually put a poll out to our Instagram followers recently to break a tie (Cover Me was victorious!).

ON: Do you or any of the band members look up to draw inspiration from a particular E- Street band member?

JO: They are all incredible! How can you choose just one? Personally, as the bass player, I look to Garry Tallent. He’s such an incredible bass player. He’ll take a relatively simple song and just do this stunning bass part that adds so much depth and feeling to it. I think he’s amazing. Plus we’re both from Tennessee so his nickname Tennessee Terror can apply to me as well.

ON: The band share vocal responsibilities which is a unique dynamic, is it a case of you all picking your favourite song and belting them out?

JO: A bit! But each of the singers sort of represent a different side of Bruce. We have party Bruce, rock Bruce, brokenhearted Bruce, so some songs naturally fit in better with one vibe or vocal style than another. It all works out!

ON: What has been your favourite or most memorable experience you’ve had since joining the band?

JO: Can I say three?

1) At our very first gig, walking out into the room towards the stage and not being able to get through because it was so packed and thinking…what have we done?!).

2) The 1-2-3-4 moment in Born To Run at Clapham Grand. They had a confetti cannon and it was just so epic.

3) Garry Tallent rocking our merch.

ON: How does the experience of performing Springsteen’s songs compare with seeing them performed by the man himself?

JO: There isn’t anything that compares to seeing Springsteen live but it is so incredible to play the songs and have a roomful of people dance and sing along with you. The songs are so powerful and being able to create that environment where everyone can come together and enjoy them is a pretty amazing feeling.

ON: Aside from Springsteen what else is on the She Street band juke box in the tour bus?

JO: We all have super eclectic tastes! We listen to a lot of classic stuff like The Kinks, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and then newer artists like Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Courtney Barnett, Snail Mail, Adult Mom, Shannon and the Clams, Seinabo Sey, King Tuff and Lykke Li.

ON: Do you or any of the other band members have any other music projects we should know about?

JO: Yes! Mara Daniele, the rhythm guitarist, has her own solo project and is about to release some singles. Isabel Lysell, the lead guitarist, is in a duo called Smoke Rivers. Lynn Roberts, the keyboardist, is in the band Joe Innes and the Cavalcades. Clare McGrath, the glockenspiel player, is acting in a play until the end of the month in London called Eris, which we went to last week and was brilliant. Yasmin Ogilvie, the sax player, is in an all-female horn section called Apex Horns. Calie Hough, our drummer, plays for a number different projects. She was actually just doing percussion for a play at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. And I’m a DJ. I’ve DJed for the likes of Secret Cinema, Lacoste and more. So we keep busy!

ON: We were lucky enough to Steve Van Zandt  play the Cavern Club, he was on great form and looked ecstatic, What would be your dream venue to play?

JO: The Stone Pony in New Jersey of course! Gotta play at the Springsteen mecca, right?

ON: Do any of your shows involve plucking an audience member out of the crowd like the Dancing in the Dark video?

JO: We play it by ear a bit. At out February gig, a fella actually jumped on stage from the audience. The bouncer thought it was a normal stage invader and started to come over to pull the guy off. Luckily, Ally who runs the venue, Clapham Grand, was side stage and knew what was happening and whisked the bouncer off so we could have a good dance! At our May gig, the stage was too small so I actually jumped into the audience! So…I suppose folks will just have to see what I do.

ON: Have you or any of the band managed to catch the ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ and can you get any tickets? (Only joking)

JO: I wish! Sadly none of us have made it out there but a lot of friends have and I am massively jealous.

ON: What informs your music/songwriting?

JO: Springsteen! As a cover band, we didn’t have to write the songs but as women, we do try to put our own unique spin on them. The songs are so full of depth and real, raw human emotions. They are incredible to work with and play and to think about how the meanings can change when they’re from a woman’s voice.

ON:How have you evolved as a artist evolved over the years?

JO: When we first started the band, we stuck really closely to playing the songs as is. But as we’ve gone on,   though we play some of the songs quite straightforward, we’ve also gotten more comfortable playing with the layers more and putting more of our own mark on them, while hopefully staying true to the original. For example, all of the girls in the band can sing so we focus on adding a lot of harmonies in.

ON:What are you up to at the moment artistically?

JO:We are about to go on tour across the UK and Ireland. It’s our first proper tour and we are really looking forward to heading out on the road and meeting Springsteen fans across the country! We’ll be heading to Brighton, London, Glasgow, Dublin, Liverpool and Manchester.

ON:What’s on your rider?

JO: Nice wine! We’re classy ladies. And gin.

ON:Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.

JO: At our gig in March, we were doing a song for the first time, “Candy’s Room”. I play bass and sing on it. I was rocking away on the bass and singing and was super stoked when I made it through this whole thing without messing up… only to be told after that the bass had gotten unplugged right at the beginning and I couldn’t be heard the entire time.  Shame as I thought the non-existent bass sounded great!

ON:What song do you wish you’d written?

JO: Born To Run. It’s such an epic anthem! And the feeling that the “1-2-3-4 moment” gives to people when you hear it live, it’s really a moment like no other.

OP: What’s your worst lyric?

JO: Now don’t get me wrong, I love this song. One of my favourites in fact. But the lyric “hey little girl is your daddy home” from I’m On Fire….oh no no no.

The She Street Band are on tour throughout October and will be playing locally in both Liverpool and Manchester, tickets are available here.