Behind the Scenes of Flashdance – The Musical – Part 1 Joanne Clifton

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Starring Strictly Come Dancing Champion Joanne Clifton and A1 heartthrob Ben Adams, Flashdance – The Musical based on the classic film arrives in Blackpool next week as part of a UK & Ireland tour.

Telling the unforgettable story of determined welder Alex, who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, Flashdance promises to be an unforgettable night of entertainment. With phenomenal choreography all set to an incredible score including the smash hits Maniac, Gloria, I Love Rock & Roll and of course the famous title track Flashdance… What a Feeling, Flashdance will have you dancing in the aisles as sparks fly and love blossoms.

We caught up with Joanne Clifton ahead of Monday’s opening night to hear all about the show plus her thoughts on returning to Blackpool and taking to the Opera House stage.

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Opening Night (ON) : You have received rave reviews for your performance, what can we expect from this show?

Joanne : I absolutely love the show and I think that comes across to audiences, I think they can see and feel that, it’s such a different role to the last musical I did playing Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Alex in Flashdance is a tomboy, quite serious, sexy, a really strong woman. I’ve always played lots of comedy characters so I didn’t know how much I’d like playing someone so different but I absolutely love it. The only thing I can’t do is ride a bike and the first thing I do in this show is come on stage and ride a bike, I’m having regular lessons, every day after warm up I’m on there practicing, it’s so much harder than it looks!

ON: Flashdance is such an iconic dance film, everyone who knows Flashdance immediately thinks of THAT water scene, it the water hot or cold?

Joanne: It’s actually cold, I did ask could it be slightly warm as the first few times when it was coming down it was actually shocking me, but if it’s warm it affects the mechanics of the machinery, but I soon realised it’s actually ok as I have been dancing just before that happens so it’s actually quite refreshing.

ON: Is there an additional pressure to deliver something so iconic?

Joanne: Definitely, I felt a similar pressure with Millie especially as Julie Andrew’s had played it, but what I tend to do is I’ll watch the film once then I’ll kind of try and forget about it, so yes I have a link to that character but I’m playing it in my own way. So there is pressure but I enjoy the challenge of doing something my own way and creating my own take on that character.

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ON: You’ve played Marylin Monroe in Norma Jean The Musical, Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie and now you take on the lead role of Alex in Flashdance, do you feel you have silenced any critics who may only associate you with Strictly?

Joanne: I do like the fact people may come to the show not realising that as well as being able to dance I can also sing, it’s nice to read reviews where people have been pleasantly surprised. I love to show people that I can do other things; I’ve been so lucky and enjoyed such great success with my dancing career that it’s wonderful to be able to show people that as well as dancing I can also act and sing and act.

ON: We have heard they may be a single in the pipeline with your co-star Ben Adams could a pop career be on the cards?

Joanne: It’s actually a song from the show, it’s the duet we do together in the show, we’re recorded it, Ben’s produced it so it’s a little bit different from how we sing it on stage, and we’re also filming a little video for it, all very exciting but I think I’ll leave the pop career to Ben and stick with musical theatre.

We’ve heard recently that you’ve signed up to appear in Top Hat during your Christmas break from Flashdance, you are literally the hardest working woman in showbiz!

Ha ha I’ll tell you something I literally haven’t stopped working since the 1st August last year, the 1st of August was when Strictly started so we had all our pro rehearsals and then the show started in September, then two days after the Strictly final was Thoroughly Modern Millie, then Flashdance rehearsals overlapped the final week of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Top Hat overlaps Flashdance, Flashdance then is back so my next week off is the 5th of March, I’m gonna take myself off on a plane somewhere warm and sleep!

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Not only do you ride a bike on stage but you also get a soaking each night, how do you look after yourself to ensure you’re fighting fit?

I think just the sheer amount of dancing I do in this show keeps me fit, I love it coz I really do dance a heck of a lot in the show, when we have two shows a day by the time I go to bed I’m really tired, I make sure I get plenty of sleep but the great thing is I can literally eat what I want, which is brilliant coz I love my food, sausage and mash, pie and mash, I literally can eat anything I want coz it all comes off!

Are you excited to be returning to Blackpool?

Definitely, it’s one of my absolute favourite places in the whole world and has been my whole life because I’ve danced there since the age of about six, from my ballroom dance career then Strictly it’s been a really important place for me and now going back as a musical theatre star, it’s really special for me.

You’ll be in Blackpool for Halloween; do your cast members play any tricks on each other?

Joanne: I’m rubbish at playing tricks because if I’ve done something you can tell, my face just gives it away but I’m hoping if anyone plays any tricks on me they don’t put anything in the water!

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Now you have committed into 2018, are there any other venues you’re particularly looking forward to?

Joanne: I think we’re going to Ireland which I’m really excited about as I’ve never done anything like this over there before so it will be a real adventure.

ON: Finally who would be your dream partner once Ben Adams finishes his run?

Oh heck, it’s going to be really hard to think of anyone else in that part because I get on really well with him so I’m secretly hoping that he will continue with us into 2018 because we have so much fun together, it’s literally a laugh a minute with him, he’s amazing to work with and I feel really lucky that I’ve found someone like that to be my leading man, I would really love him to stay.

Flashdance opens at the Blackpool Opera House on Monday 23rd Ocotber and runs until Saturday 4th November for tickets head to www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk/events/flashdance/

Tango Moderno


Following on from the success of Midnight Tango, Dance ‘Til Dawn, and The Last Tango, Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace bring their latest offering to Manchester with the much anticipated Tango Moderno.

Sadly we learn at the very start of the show that due to injury Vincent will be unable to join us tonight but of course the show must go on so we have not one but two additional dancers taking his place in the form of Italian pro Pasquale La Rocca and Argentine Tango expert Leonel Di Cocco.


Fusing elements of Latin, Ballroom and Contemporary Flavia and partner dance their way through modern day scenes featuring the ‘unlucky in love’ spreading their fairy dust Cupid style allowing love to blossom. Flavia as always is sublime, she sizzles and scorches her way through each routine, all eyes undoubtedly fixed on her every time she takes to the stage, she truly is the most beautiful of dancers. Both Pasquale La Rocca and Leonel Di Cocco do a superb job of filling Vincent’s shoes, each dances exquisitely, both are strong, sharp and commanding.


The narrative however (yes you could argue that’s not what the audience are here for) is clunky and lacks any depth. Singer Tom Parsons tries his best to give the production pace with clever lyrical rhyme between songs which he delivers with style but each piece feels very disconnected. Accompanying singer Tom Parsons is singer/dancer Rebecca Lisewski, who too delivers some stunning vocals. Special mention also goes to violinist Oliver Lewis who gives a note perfect performance. The dancers who make up the Company work hard delivering some intricate and imaginative routines but at times often feel cluttered as the set takes up a large part of the stage, reducing the amount of available floor space.


As this is a Tango Moderno modern themes are introduced in the form of internet dating, selfies and smartphones, does this work? In parts, yes, there’s a really inventive ‘Tinder themed’ dating routine where dancer are swiped out of frame and unsuccessful dates are portrayed hilariously with some great character acting but on the whole and judging from the audience reaction when Flavia and partner deliver a traditional and absolutely faultless Argentine Tango during the finale it is clear what the audience came for. While there is absolutely a place for hip hop and more modern themes can you really improve on the classic when that is exactly what your audience loves you for? What we really wanted was some good old razzamataz, big band show stoppers that sizzled and wowed, that sent us away with that warm fuzzy feeling, ready to dig out our sequin gowns. When your average audience member (me included) would rather tango than watch Towie, it’s better to leave the tinder and the texting at home.

Tango Moderno on at the Opera House until Saturday 21st November www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester/shows/tango-moderno

 

Matilda announce tour cast

25 - Royal Shakespeare Companys Matilda The Musical. Credit Manuel Harlan

 

Today, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced the full adult casting for the first five venues of the Matilda The Musical 2018/19 UK and Ireland Tour, which includes a visit to Manchester’s Palace Theatre from Mon 18 September – Fri 24 November 2018.

Craige Els will reprise the role of Miss Trunchbull, having received rave reviews playing her in the West End for three years between 2014 and 2017. Craige will be joined by Carly Thoms as Miss Honey and Sebastien Torkia as Mr Wormwood as well as former West End cast-mate Rebecca Thornhill as Mrs Wormwood.

The rest of the adult cast are Joe Atkinson, Peter Bindloss, Oliver Bingham, Emily Bull, Matthew Caputo, Samara Casteallo, Matt Gillett, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell, Sam Lathwood, Steffan Lloyd-Evans, Charlie Martin, Anu Ogunmefun, Taylor Walker, Adam Vaughan and Dawn Williams.

The tour of Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly’s award-winning show will begin at Leicester Curve on 5 March 2018 before heading to Dublin, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. Further dates will be announced in due course.

Tickets can be booked for Manchester dates here www.atgtickets.com/shows/matilda/palace-theatre-manchester/ Tuesday 18 September – Saturday 24 November 2018

The Threepenny Opera

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Opening with a snarling and solo rendition of the much loved Mack the Kinfe, David Thacker’s version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1928 anti-capitalist ‘play with songs’ packs a re-energised and impressive punch.

Set in the near future where Queen Elizabeth is dead the country is awaiting the coronation of King Charles III, the powers that be work together to oppress the poor. Corrupt police are in cahoots with criminals while ruthless capitalists getting richer by the day by keeping the working classes down, making fat profits from the work they tie them to. Macheath (David Birrell) runs rings around both the corrupt authorities and the ever plotting underworld, with women, his only weakness in life seemingly being the only people who might be able get the better of him.

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James Cotterill’s set is industrial and inventive; levels of scaffold add height to the Octagon’s performance space offering the actor/musicians full involvement in the production.

The themes in David Thacker’s version resonate deeply as corrupt police, dodgy politicians, seemingly inexplicable fires and benefit cuts all get a mention bringing this Threepenny Opera bang up to date. Macheath’s treatment of women mirrors the injustice and exploitation seen so frequently in society, no more so than this last two weeks, it is a production which speaks powerfully about the times we’re living in. As always where there is social commentary there is sophisticated satire as the cast deliver this script with genuine wit and great style.

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Birrell is exceptional as Macheath, dangerous and manipulative; his brooding presence has just the right amount of menace about it, his voice rich, strong and powerful. Eric Potts as the odious Jonathan Peachum is superb, full-on and incredibly funny his paring with wife Celia (Sue Devaney) offers genuine laugh out loud moments throughout. Anna Wheatley as Polly Peachum is outstanding, sassy and strong she throws herself heart and soul into the character and has the audience in the palm of her hand.

Packed full with live music and incredibly clever and catchy lyrics The Threepenny Opera is a show that will entertain hugely yet send you away contemplating life and the injustices within it, powerfully politically and enormously entertaining David Thacker has got the balance just right in this slick, snarling and incredibly entertaining production.

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On at the Bolton Octagon until Saturday 4th November https://octagonbolton.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/the-threepenny-opera/#tickets

Behind the Scenes of Elf – The Musical, Part 2

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Ben Forster as Buddy in Elf – The Musical

In the first part of our behind the scenes we chatted to the lovely Liz McClarnon who stars as Jovie in Elf – The Musical, which comes to The Lowry from 24th November 2017 – 14th January 2018.

Opening Night also got the chance to grab the ‘Elf’ man himself, Ben Forster, who takes on the lead role of Buddy.

Now you might remember Ben from winning the ITV talent show Superstar back in 2012 when he beat off thousands of hopefuls to play the role of Jesus in a revamped version of Andrew Lloyd Webbers Jesus Christ Superstar. In this show however Ben casts off the Jesus robes and instead dons an elf costume. It’s a part he made his own playing Buddy in the West End and now is taking it on the road with a short stint in Plymouth before spending Christmas at the Lowry.

At the show’s launch Ben gave us a festive treat, singing a preview of one of the key numbers, ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ (you can still watch that back on our Facebook page if you missed it). We grabbed him afterwards for a lowdown on what it’s like to star in a show based on one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time…

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Ben sings ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ from Elf – The Musical at the show’s press launch

ON (Opening Night): So Ben what did you think when you were first approached about Elf – The Musical?

Ben: “What I really first thought was it’s going to be an awful pantomime version and I’m gonna be standing there singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen in an elf costume. Then I was sent the script and the music and I realised it is an incredible show. The musical score is unbelievable, it’s really big band Broadway music complete with a 16-piece orchestra in the theatre.  It’s really classy and it’s also really beautiful. I think after that I was just like ‘Oh my god I’ve got to try and give a version of what everyone loves about Will Ferrell’! The pressure to make around two thousand people laugh and deliver all those one liners that are so famous everyone has already laughed at them 100 times is a difficult thing but as soon as we got in front of a crowd I was like ‘Ah this is gonna be fine, the audience is so welcoming.’ It’s such a brilliant show, people love it and the movie has been in their lives for so many years it’s like a firm Christmas classic.

ON: Have you been tempted to watch the movie a few times to remind yourself of what it’s like?

Ben: I’ve consciously not watched the film since getting the part, it’s really important for me not to do an impression of Will Ferrell because it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. If you were watching the show and thinking he’s doing a good ‘Will’ impression then it’s not as fun or heartwarming plus you don’t connect fully to the character. I look at it as a part I have to act and take the honesty out of it. Essentially Buddy is a man who would have grown up with elves, lives in the North Pole and thinks it’s Christmas every day. If anyone would have had that reality and then come into normal life it would be hysterical, so I just play it like that – open and honest.

ON: Can fans expect a carbon copy of the movie though?

Ben: There’s a few tiny differences, but the story is exactly the same as it is in the movie – the moral, the message – it’s all there. It will still make you laugh, and it will still make you cry at the end because you’ll feel the Christmas spirit plus it reminds you what Christmas is about. For most people Christmas is about being with your family, travelling wherever you might be just to have that one special night with people you love to give them a present. To feel the love, to give love – that is what the musical is all about.

ON: With you doing this tour over Christmas will you miss out on seeing your family?

Ben: No not at all, just the opposite as I’m from the North East and my Mum and Dad now live in the North West. As soon as I finish the show at Christmas I’m gonna do exactly what Buddy did and trawl across the country and be back with my family. I want to be with my nephews and see them all opening their presents because that is the magic of Christmas time.

 

Well after that sneak preview and chat we can’t wait for Ben and the cast to arrive in the city for Elf – The Musical at The Lowry…is it too early for mulled wine and mince pies?? 

Grab yourself a ticket whilst you can as this show is guaranteed to make even Ebenezer Scrooge feel in the Christmas spirit!

https://www.thelowry.com/events/elf-the-musical

 

 

 

The Wipers Times – Ian Hislop & Nick Newman interview

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By Matt Forrest

It’s hard to imagine that one of darkest days and bloodiest conflicts the world has ever known could lead to the creation of something as funny as The Wipers Times. Born from the trenches of the Somme this satirical swipe at army life was produced during the 1st World War and helped thousands of serving soldiers smile on whilst all around was going to hell.

However, upon till now little was known of ‘The Wipers’ until writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman 2013 BBC film about the magazine. Based on this film the two have adapted their script for the stage bringing The Wipers Times to the Manchester Opera House, as part of its current nationwide tour, following huge acclaim and sell-out shows on the West End.

Ahead of opening on 31st October,  Opening Night met up with Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to discuss the origins of the play, the writing process,  what the audience can expect, as well as the state of satire, Trump and Ian’s multitasking running the Private Eye office.

Opening Night (ON): How did the idea come about for the play?

Nick Newman: “Ian discovered this story about 15 years ago doing a documentary for Radio 4: we’re always on the lookout for new ideas and he came back with this trench newspaper he had discovered, which we knew nothing about, which is amazing because it looked and had the same feel of an early version of Private Eye.”

Ian Hislop: “I thought how do we not know this? I mean Nick and I are meant to know about our own industry, and I’m meant to know about the First World War, I’ve done programmes about it, but I’d never come across the story and I thought that this A) fantastic, and B) if no one knows this, this is for us. Here is a great real-life story that you don’t have to make anything up and a magazine which is so funny, we could take loads of it and put it on stage.

Nick: Because I come from a military background, I was familiar with squadron newspapers and things like that (Nick’s Father was a serving officer in RAF). All units have their own version of the Wipers Times, but they’re all full of in jokes, “its Pongo did this”, and full of jokes about people in the unit: whereas these are timeless jokes that work today as they did a hundred years ago.

ON: Would the Wipers Times have worked during more modern-day conflicts?

Ian: There is an army website called ARSE, amusingly Army Rumour Service, which is pretty funny, and the spirit of that still goes on today. But the thing about ‘Wipers’ was that it was so popular and probably the first time that anyone had seen that, which makes it so distinct.

Nick: It also turned on its head our experience of what First World War literature was all about: because up until we read ‘The Wipers Times’, you just thought that nobody laughed ever, there was no jokes. You can watch All Quiet on the Western Front, Journey’s End and it’s sombre, it’s about loss and futility. These chaps were living it on a day-to-day basis. ‘The Wipers’ was produced throughout the war as they were moving around France, and were in Flanders actually fighting, going ‘over the top’, surviving the Somme, being sent back to the Somme, going over the top at Passchendaele, they did this and still managed to keep their sense of humour and that is an amazing story in itself.

Did any of the copies make it back to the UK?

Ian: Yes. They started off producing just 100 and then producing more and more, as it became very popular on the front. And then copies started getting back home and there were reports that they featured in The Tatler of all papers, by 1918 someone had put together a collection to be published, so it’s all the more amazing that this has been forgotten. So yes they did make it back home.

ON: So when I was reading the synopsis for ‘The Wiper Times’, it reminded me of Ripping Yarns. Is that something that has influenced the writing process?

Ian: (Chuckles) Yes

Nick: We’re greatly influenced by everything we’ve seen. We did feel there was a real ‘pythonesque’ element to all of this. There’s a joke which we haven’t used but it could be a Spike Milligan joke: an officer sees a soldier digging holes in No Man’s Land and he thinks he’s sending signals to the Germans by aerial reconnaissance and he says to the soldier, “What the hell are you doing?” and the soldier says “I’m trying to save you money sir…the way I see it, the artillery fires a shell which costs £5 and all the shell does is make a bloody big hole. If I just make the bloody big hole, then they don’t have to fire the shell.” And that’s just a fantastic Spike Milligan joke.

Ian: So your answer is yes. Milligan, Goons, Python, there’s a lot of it in them. But I think it may well be because “they” did it first and that sort of British comic tradition, I think they’re firmly in it. We got Michael Palin to be in the film, which is about as good as it gets if you’re fans of all that, which we are.

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ON: Being friends and writing partners for such a long time, do you argue over jokes etc?

Nick: We both share the same sense of humour so if one of us finds it funny, the chances are that both of us will. I don’t think we had any disagreements about what material from the Wipers Times should go in. We generated much more stuff than could possibly go in and left it to others to decide. There were odd snatches of the Flammen werfer sketch and things like that where we thought it was that or that; let somebody else decide. Luckily we have a good producer, a good director whose judgement we trust. So where it’s a question of we’re just undecided what would work better on stage…

Ian: But if we’ve agreed something when we write the script, we say this is what we think it should be, it’s because we’ve agreed it already so we can argue it; rather than argue for your own stuff. Look, we both think this is funny, there’s lots of stuff which will have fallen along the way. With either Nick going “well that’s not very funny”, or me going “you’re kidding, that’s pathetic!”So we edit quickly as we’re going. And that’s the benefit of old friends.

So it’s not a case of being precious?

Ian: No, maybe when we were nineteen!

Nick: I’ve worked in writing rooms where the star of the show will dissect your joke and publicly humiliate you in front of other people. Luckily we don’t do that with each other – it either hits, or it doesn’t!

Ian: And because Nick’s a cartoonist, I always say that he has a very strong visual sense, which helps hugely.

Nick: I do keep saying, what are we looking at? (Laughter) It’s tough to know, even with The Wipers, even though you’re restricted by the set and the locations, there are visual elements to it all the time and you have to think, how can we make this more interesting for an audience?

Ian: I mean, two people talking in a room, great, the dialogue’s great, what else? That’s the dimension that you mustn’t forget.

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To create the right aesthetic, are there high production values for the play?

Nick: It’s astounded us. When we first wrote it, we imagined it’d be done on a bare stage and people would conjure up the world by their acting. But little did we know that our producers had other plans in mind and would bring in Dora, a brilliant production designer, Dora Schweitzer who has created this magical set which is trenches, dugout, it’s a sort of fantasy land beyond No Man’s Land. It is quite magical; there are stars in the sky, there are moving images and all kinds of things. The production values are much higher than we ever anticipated.

Ian: It’s rounded off with a soundscape, which makes you feel in the middle of it – the bombs are going off nearly the whole way through. As the audience, you just have to get used to that. It’s inescapable. And all that is great because it means you’re stuck like they were.

I suppose you want it to be as realistic as possible?

Nick: Yes. Steve Mayo, our sound engineer has created these enormous base amplifiers so that your seat shakes. You’re ear drums aren’t going to bleed, don’t worry about that! Hopefully you’ll get a sense of, and the reviews so far agree, what it might have been like in the trenches.

Ian, did you not fancy treading the boards after your acting debut?

Ian: I fancied it hugely, however unfortunately I’m very bad! Which is a drawback as an actor, so no!

Nick: Also Ian is far too old to be brutally honest! Mitford’s Granddad! He’s too old to even play a general!

Ian: Even the generals were in their forties! No I’m completely past it!

Nick: Our cast is about the right age. Most of them are straight out of drama school, so it’s their first job in their early twenties.

Ian: And you believe it. Our lads have spent a lot of time together on tour, they feel like a platoon.

Like a Pals Regiment?

Ian: Exactly that.

(ON) With all that is going on in the world at the moment and with you both being satirists: Is difficult to come up with material that isn’t dated an hour later?

Nick: There are various people saying that satire is dead because you can’t beat the real world: well we can jolly well try.

Ian: If the world gets more ridiculous then you have to try harder. I think the thing with someone like Trump , yes you can say he’s got stupid hair and he’s funny a colour, that’s a start. In the end he’s quite used to that, but if you can say your businesses all failed and the one thing you claim to be good at your absolutely useless at, that hurts, and there are things that do undermine him and wound him. I l love the fact that he tweets about Saturday Night Live, it’s not clever it’s not funny. Good they’ve got you.

British politics is pretty bonkers at the moment, but that’s not new either.

Nick: You always say that Juvenal was saying that satire is dead.

Ian: Yes, 1st century AD Roman satirist: well what can you do you exaggerate how ludicrous Rome is, anyway he made a perfectly good living out of it. We’re an old game.

(ON) I think more than ever it’s so important with all that’s going on in the world you need something to have a good laugh at I suppose. I don’t know if you saw about an hour ago someone handed Teresa May a P45 at the Tory party conference? With people doing stuff like that it must be quite difficult.

Ian: Yes someone landed her a perfectly good joke: I think we have done it. I think we did what would make me more popular… just resign. We had done the joke I don’t mind the public getting a bit late. (laughing)

ON: Finally it would be remissive if I didn’t mention this: My Girlfriend’s Dad is a subscriber to Private Eye. I don’t see him that often but whenever I meet up with him he always tells me that he once rang the Private Eye office because his subscription was late, and when he did he got you on the phone. He was made up. He’s dinned out on that story for years.

Nick: (Laughs) You didn’t say fuck off to your readers.

ON: He didn’t say that he said you were more than polite.

Ian: (Laughs) You see, wish him my best and that’s the sort of organisation we are. The editor deals with the subs, and we can’t afford staff.

Nick: Ian is the designer, chief journalist, sub writer.

ON: I don’t know how far back that goes, but he loves that story

Ian: That’s very funny, well say hello. Thank you.

ON: Well it’s a pleasure meeting you both and can’t wait to see the show.

Nick: On the 31st (October) we’re doing a Q and A come along to that if you’ve not bored of hearing us.

ON: I will do it would be my pleasure.

Directed Caroline Leslie, produced by Bob Benton and David Parfitt. The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House from the 31st October till 4th November.  In addition the play is touring the UK throughout the autumn.

Tickets for Manchester can be purchased here: www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acosta Danza – Debut

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By Nikki Cotter

Internationally acclaimed star of the ballet world Carlos Acosta bring his ballet company Acosta Danza to the Lowry this week as part of the new Cuban Companies first ever UK tour. Under his artistic directorship, Acosta Danza offers audiences an opportunity to experience an engaging mixture of the finest ballet and contemporary dancers Cuba has to offer.

Act One opens with a revival of Marianela Boán’s The Crossing Over Niagara, inspired by the tightrope walker Charles Blondin who famously crossed Niagara Falls carrying a man on his back, this is a breath-taking and astonishingly controlled piece. Two male dancers move slowly and perfectly together, seemingly naked their measured flow and symmetry allows audiences to see the stress and strain such controlled movement places on the human body in this hypnotising piece. Accompanied by the music of Olivier Messiaen, the two male dancers capture the intensity of the experience perfectly, their stretch, balance and absolute trust in each other is mesmerising.

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Next comes New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck’s Belles-Lettres, performed largely en pointe the four pairs are dislodged from their loving duets by a lone figure, enigmatic and impish he disrupts the status quo forcing couples to let loose and shake off the uniformity. The piece showcases the most beautiful of classical ballet techniques, technically brilliant the dancers move effortlessly with grace and polished elegance.

Act Two opens with Award-winning Spanish choreographer Goyo Montero’s new work Imponderable inspired by Cuban folk musician Silvio Rodriguez, known colloquially as the Cuban John Lennon. Imponderable is a bold and lively abstract piece created for twelve dancers. Making full use of the Lowry’s expansive Lyric stage, the dancers, back-lit, immerse themselves in dry ice as they writhe and thrash in the mist, showing a real strength and power in their movements, later in the piece they add torch light, which allows each dancer their own spotlight as the stage lights dim.

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Next we have the much anticipated arrival of Carlos Acosta on stage. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist has created a classic duet, Mermaid, especially for Acosta who is joined by contemporary dancer Marta Ortega. The two glide beautifully across the Lowry’s lyric stage in this mesmerising and enchanting piece as we see Acosta fall in love with the mythical sea creature, Ortega largely en pointe is deeply expressive as she displays delicately her discomfort at being a ‘fish out of water’ while Acosta reminds the audience of his strength and sublime dance ability in a powerful and moving performance.

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Final piece of the evening is UK-based Spanish choreographer Jorge Crecis’ ‘Twelve’ This is a fun and immensely physical piece as dancers move athletically whilst throwing water bottles to each other from all corners of the stage, at some points incredibly frenzied yet at all times perfectly measured. This is a astonishing piece showcasing not only the talent and discipline of the company but also their incredible fitness and agility.

Acosta Danza deliver a disciplined and daring evening, undoubtedly a debut to be proud of.

On at The Lowry until Saturday, for tickets head to https://www.thelowry.com/events/-acosta-danza