Shirley Valentine 2017 tour


In celebration of Shirley Valentine’s 30th Anniversary, Willy Russell’s heart-warming comedy will embark on a UK tour in 2017, arriving at The Lowry on Monday 19th until Saturday 24th June, starring fans favourite, actress Jodie Prenger as our Shirley.

Undoubtedly one of the UK’s most successful playwrights, Russell’s award-winning work including Educating Rita, Blood Brothers, Our Day Out and Shirley Valentine has been performed all over the world. Talking about the new tour Russell says; “It’s now thirty years since Shirley Valentine first walked onto the page, into my life and the lives of so many others. Shirley cooked her first meal of egg and chips on the stage of the Everyman Theatre Liverpool before then hoofing it down to London where along with the cooking and talking to the wall she started picking up the string of awards she’d win in the West End, on Broadway and in the film that earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award Nominations.”


Talking about the reasons for deciding to take Shirley on tour now on her 30th anniversary, Russell explained, “The one thing Shirley Valentine has not done of late is extensively tour the UK. There have been approaches and plans mooted but, somehow, it’s just never quite felt right and so I’ve resisted such efforts – until now! When producer Adam Spiegel introduced me to Jodie Prenger I knew in an instant that here was a formidable actress, one who possessed the grit and the warmth, the drive and the vulnerability, the energy and the heart to make Shirley Valentine really live again. How could any playwright resist that or deny the whole of the UK the chance to see Jodie bring Shirley to life?”

No stranger to the theatre having appeared in numerous West End productions, UK tours as well as being a regular on our TV screens and radios, Prenger will no doubt relish the challenge of bringing to life such a beloved and treasured character, warm, witty and at times achingly vulnerable, Jodie is the perfect choice for the role.

The tour will be directed by Glen Walford who directed the original production and produced by Adam Spiegel Productions (Motown, The Last Tango, The Producers, Dance ‘Til Dawn, Midnight Tango, Love Me Tender, The Mousetrap on Tour). Tickets are on sale now via the link below


To a Simple Rock’n’Roll … Song – Michael Clark


Commissioned by the Barbican, London, To a Simple Rock’n’Roll … Song is a three act work showcasing Michael Clark’s signature choreography, precise, clean and always meticulous.

Act I: Satie Studs/Ogives Composite is set to the piano music of Erik Satie. The dancers execute the intricate choreography well and the piece flows as individuals contort themselves into complex and arresting positions. Each chord is matched by uniform movement complemented by the body hugging white and black bodysuits adorned by each dancer.

In Act II: Land, Clark sexes things up with PVC flares and pelvic thrusts all set to the Punk tunes of Patti Smith. The piece is sharp and sassy, with the strength and agility of the dancers on full display. Gritty and suggestive, fully of confidence and swagger, Act II is greeted with whoops and cheers from the audience.

Set entirely to the music of David Bowie titled, “my mother, my dog and CLOWNS!” (lyrics from the much loved Life On Mars), Act III is vibrant, exciting and a fitting climax to the works. Dancers dash around the stage in firstly gleaming gunmetal bodysuits to the sounds of Bowie’s last work Blackstar then later fiery vibrant orange ombre suits to the iconic 1973 sounds of Aladdin Sane. The piece is packed with energy, the choreography bold and engaging, a befitting end to the night.


All or Nothing – The Mod Musical


We’ve been celebrating Mod culture for well over 50 years: the influence this movement has on music and fashion still prominent today. You only had to look at the Lambretta scooters outside the Manchester Opera House or take a look at the nifty threads some of the audience members were wearing to see how apparent this is. Clearly there is a great appetite for nostalgia and a trip down memory lane so it seems right that one of the leading lights of the Mod scene get the musical treatment.

The Small Faces were a seminal band during the mod movement, members Kenny Jones, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and lead singer Steve Marriot formed the group in 1965, and went on to have chart success in the UK and the States: All or Nothing – The Mod Musical, not only charts the bands rise and fall but celebrates the music and culture of the swinging sixties.


The story opens with the bands demise at an infamous gig on New Year’s Eve at Alexandra Palace. It is here we are introduced to an older middle aged and tragically deceased incarnation of Marriot (Chris Simmons). Older Steve is our guide through the ups and downs of the band. Simmons is in full cheeky chappy cockney geezer mode, he is outstanding in the role of the beer socked narrator. His energy and enthusiasm shine through when the band is on the rise, which makes his decline all the more poignant, as we see the drink and drugs take hold.

Simmons performance is mirrored by Tim Edwards, who play the young Marriot, full of zest, but then with the wheels falling off begins to spiral into his own madness matching Simmons tortured performance. Edwards is ably supported by Joshua Dowen, Josh Maddison, and Drew-Levi Huntsman: fully encapsulating the spirit of being in a band, all talented musicians in their own right.


Carol Harrison, who plays Steve’s Mum also wrote and produced the production, a self confessed Mod this certainly is a love letter to this period in history; the story of success/failure being a well-worn path, the script certainly has more than enough pathos to keep you engaged. Despite the tragic tale at the heart of the production there are also some moments of comic brilliance, the sending up of Juke Box Jury and Top of the Pops being the highlights.

This is an ambitious production well matches its own lofty ambitions. From the offset the Small Faces back catalogue including All or Nothing and Tin Soldiers, as well as numbers by artists including Dusty Springfield and PP Arnold are performed with so much life and energy it’s difficult to single anyone for particular praise as they all work their socks off: however special praise must go to Daniel Beales and Russell Floyd who seem to relish playing the multiple roles done with great comic timing.


Overall this relatively new production has the perfect blend of humour and nostalgia to make for a fantastically fun night out. The show draws to a close with the cast performing a medley of The Small Faces greatest hits: which had the audience dancing in the aisles and a few lucky punters up on stage. The “Mod” culture was certainly alive and well at the Manchester Opera House tonight!

All or Nothing – The Mod Musical is at the Manchester Opera House till 22nd October.








Relatively Speaking


Relatively Speaking copyright: Nobby Clark

Alan Ayckbourn delivers a rip roaring comedy of errors in one of his early plays, Relatively Speaking. Currently on tour around the UK, the King of Farces work is a genius piece of writing that doesn’t fail to amuse almost 50 years after it first took to the stage.

The latest production stars famous faces Robert Powell and Liza Goddard as middle-class husband and wife Phillip and Sheila whose leisurely Sunday afternoon gets interrupted by a young man with a huge case of mistaken identity.

Set in the 60s the play opens to reveal a cramped bedsit where we find new lovebirds Ginny (Lindsey Campbell) and Greg (Anthony Eden).  Ginny is busy getting ready to visit her parents, whilst boyfriend Greg becomes increasingly annoying as he quizzes her over mysterious phone calls she has been getting, along with deliveries of flowers and chocolates.


Ginny and Greg copyright: Nobby Clark

Lindsey Campbell and Anthony Eden are superb as the young couple both creating well rounded characters and delivering huge dualogues with ease. It’s often hard to keep the audience’s attention when there are only two actors onstage for such a lengthy time but Campbell and Eden manage to keep you transfixed and eager to find out what is going to happen next.

Peter McKintosh does a great job of the set design, capturing the period with garish yellow print wallpaper that wouldn’t look out of place on a sixties record sleeve and posters highlighting the popular films of the time like Breakfast at Tiffany’s and A Hard Day’s Night. There is an awkward scene change when we move from crammed city bedsit to the picturesque countryside involving a full curtain closure and music for at least a couple of minutes, so much so you feel it might be an early interval. It’s quite a dramatic move for director Robin Herford to make and does jar the action. However, as the curtains eventually re open, you can appreciate why this is necessary as there’s an impressive backdrop of a detached house complete with French doors, patio, and garden furniture.

This signals the action moving to the upmarket home of Philip and Sheila who are enjoying reading the Sunday papers in the garden.

On press night Liza Goddard was unable to play the role of Sheila so understudy Sarah Simpkins stood in for her, doing a sterling job. It’s not often nowadays to see productions that have understudies for every role but Relatively Speaking does just that with a full set of actors available should the need arise. Simpkins facial expressions are priceless as she tries her best to fathom why young Greg has turned up on their doorstep and even more so when Ginny follows soon after. The laughter from the audience is constant, especially as you move into the second half of the play and the farcically action reaches its heights. Robert Powell demonstrates his acting prowess playing the ageing businessman who delights in winding up both his wife and those around him with dry wit and amusing frustration. There’s a moment when it looks as if Powell will corpse at the hilarious antics on display but the Salford born actor shows his professionalism and manages to hold it together.


copyright: Nobby Clark

Watching Relatively Speaking was the most fun I have had at the theatre in ages. Prepare to leave with sore sides from all the laughing you do during the two hours it is on stage. Thoroughly enjoyable, the play runs at The Lowry until Saturday 22nd October.


The Wanted star joins Grease UK Tour


From the pop world to treading the boards…The Wanted’s Tom Parker is set to embark on his first ever theatrical role as heart throb Danny Zuko in Grease. 

The original West End production of the iconic musical Grease heads out on tour next year, opening at the Palace Theatre Manchester on Friday 10 March 2017.

The original high-school musical features everyone’s favourite characters- Sandy, Danny, the T Birds, Pink Ladies and the whole gang at Rydell High – plus all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word and Summer Nights.

Pop star Tom joins the cast of Grease after amassing worldwide success with his band The Wanted, achieving three platinum albums, two sold out arena tours, and 3 million singles sold in America. After The Wanted split in 2014, 28 year old Tom continued his music and more recently reached the final of Channel 4’s The Jump. Grease will be the word for Tom as he starts rehearsals for the 2017 UK tour of the musical with further casting to be announced soon.


For more information, visit

Or follow them on twitter @greasemusical

For Palace Theatre tickets go to :


Interview with Kill the Beast’s Natasha Hodgson


Ahead of Multi-award winning Kill The Beast’s (no doubt) triumphant return to the Lowry with the deliciously dark and brilliantly balmy Don’t Wake The Damp, we spoke to Natasha Hodgson, 1 fifth of the team and all round comedy genius, about competitive pumpkin carving, comedic inspirations and the sheer terror of the Silent Singer.

–          Your return to The Lowry around Halloween seems perfect timing for the show, are you a fan of Halloween? If so how will you be marking the occasion?

I’ve always been a massive Halloween fan – it’s essentially an international competition to see who can look the stupidest and who can eat the most teeth-meltingly terrible sweets. There’s nothing not to love about it. Pumpkin carving is probably on the cards this year – Lidl do an absolutely barnstorming deal on pumpkins, and I get very competitive about creating a pleasing design. I’ll probably do a couple of practice pumpkins, just so that when I get to Pumpkin 2.0, I don’t embarrass myself. Or Lidl.

–          How did your partnership with The Lowry come about?

We first approached The Lowry back in ye olde 2011, with a small, horrible children’s book called The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. We explained that we wanted to adapt it, as it ended with a small boy being impaled by spikes and then getting eaten to death by rats. Naturally, they had to have it. They offered us a position on their amazing ‘Developed With’ programme, and the rest, as they say, is getting eaten to death by rats.

–          As well established performers at the Fringe how did you find the transition to performing in theatres?

Actually our first ever performance as a group was on The Lowry theatre stage – so we’ve been very spoilt from the off! It’s ruined us, really. The strangest place we’ve ever performed was probably underneath a railway tunnel – you had to try and time your lines so that they didn’t get drowned out by the (extremely) regular trains overhead. It really added an interesting atmosphere (the atmosphere being that of many, many trains). 


–          You’re sometimes labelled as one of the darker comedy collections, who would you say were your key influences?

All five of us grew up adoring dark comedy, and it probably still makes up about 95% of our conversation (the other 5% is The Apprentice, which thinking about it is just another type of dark comedy) – we grew up devouring The League Of Gentlemen, Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, Nighty Night, The Mighty Boosh, I Am Not An Animal, Monkey Dust, The Office – all wonderful food for our dreadful little souls. The films of people like Ben Wheatley, Alice Lowe and Richard Ayoade are also massive inspirations – long may they reign.

–          As huge fans of The League of Gentleman and Psychoville, your work is right up our street, if you could beam any comedy character into your work which would you chose?

For me, personally, it would be the Silent Singer from Pyschoville – never has a character with absolutely no lines filled me with both pure terror and pure joy. You wouldn’t even need to do anything else to the scene. Just a couple of people having a normal conversation about trams or gout or chess or something, whilst in the background, Silent Singer writhes. What a creation. What dreadful people they are.

–          Following on from this, would you ever consider inviting guest performers? If so who would be your dream person to work with?

We’re far too insecure to allow anyone else on-stage with us. Please don’t try. If I absolutely had to, I’d say probably Julia Davis, creator of Nighty Night and Hunderby, among other things. She has a dark, genius brain and I would take any opportunity to see it up close.


–          Do you write collectively as a group?

We do, it’s both highly enjoyable and extremely inefficient. We all go off and write first drafts of scenes on our own, bring em to the group, read them out and then we let battle commence. The good lines stay – there is usually about 3 good lines in any given draft, unless they’re written by me in which case every line is absolute gold – and everything else gets tossed out. We talk and talk and endlessly argue. And then the process begins again. You’d think there’d only be so much conversation you could have about the word ‘pamphlet’ and whether it is comically superior to the word ‘leaflet’. You’d be wrong. And it is.

–          Do you consider yourself primarily as an actor or comedienne?

I think I’d consider myself primarily a writer, who for financial reasons has to read out her own lines on-stage whilst wearing an imposing wig. I think that’s the technical situation we’re in. I enjoy creating comedy more than any other type of performance, though whether that enjoyment makes you a comedian or an actor I’m not sure. I think there’s an in-between space somewhere that we’re all happy to wriggle stickily into.

Only one of us trained formally as an actor (I’ll let you guys guess, answers on a fairly hurtful postcard please), the rest of us just really enjoy messing around, bellowing and creating horrid stories about dreadful people. 

–          As performing as a group works so well for you all do any of you ever perform alone?

Kill the Beast is getting really busy, which is lovely, but means we don’t have loads of time for other performancy commitments. Dave performs solo as his amazing drag character/beat poet Cheryl Dole (who you should check out, she’s incred) and I also perform as a backing singer in a theatre/rock band called Felix Hagan And The Family –we’re actually about to go on tour with Frank Turner, come along! Ollie and Clem also performed a duo show at the Edinburgh fringe last year, a series of comedy poems called The Tale Of The Twiddly Widdlies – in fact, what am I talking about, we do loads of stuff outside Kill the Beast, am I even in Kill the Beast?


–          After a great 2016, what can we expect to see from you all in 2017?

 We’re hoping to do a bigger run of our new show Don’t Wake The Damp (though not sure we’ll bring it back to Manchester, so this Halloween is your last chance!) and we’re looking forward to starting a couple of new projects – a podcast, and a theatre project that DOESN’T involved projection screens (we can’t wait to leave the projector at home for a while). I don’t want to say too much, but currently Kill the Beast’s 2017 will involve detectives, bananas, lifeguards, estate agents and an inevitably high body count. We can’t wait.


Kill The Beast will be performing Don’t Wake The Damp at The Lowry, Wednesday 26th-Saturday 29th October, if you haven’t seen them before then what the hell is wrong with you? If you have you’ll already have your tickets and be feeling delightfully smug about it.

Tickets are selling fast so be quick, available from the link below…


Michael Clark Company – ‘to a simple, rock ‘n’ roll…song.’ £15 ticket offer!


Co-produced by the Barbican, Michael Clark Company and Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, Michael Clark Company returns to The Lowry on Wed 19 October with a new work ‘to a simple, rock ’n’ roll . . . song.’ the third act of which is set to the music of David Bowie, including the title track from his final album, Blackstar.

The performance, which will also feature Future Legend, Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family and Aladdin Sane is the Company’s first at The Lowry since 2013. Steve Cowton, head of theatre operations at The Lowry, said:

“Michael Clark has an excellent reputation for collaborating with artists, designers, writers and musicians to help introduce dance to new audiences. He’s also no stranger to Bowie, whose music his company has performed to many times before. Blackstar is already part of music history and I am proud that The Lowry is able to bring this new work to North West audiences for this one-off performance.”

On at The Lowry, Salford Quays, Weds 19th October, 8pm, follow the link below and enter BOWIE in the discount/promo code box for £15 tickets!