Herding Cats

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Critically acclaimed Play With Fire Productions returned to Hope Mill Theatre this week with their new production, Herding Cats.

The play introduces us to Justine (Kayleigh Hawkins) and Michael (Daniel Bradford) two flatmates for whom life isn’t exactly the barrel of laughs they had wished for. Justine is eternally stressed about work and gets little chance to do much else. Due to her long hours and daily pressures she lives in an almost constant state of rage, where drink becomes her crutch but is often more faux than friend. Michael is her confidant, due to his agoraphobia he struggles to leave their flat, instead earning his living by offering phone sex to men such as Saddo (John Gully), an older man who gets his kicks from twisted fantasies about his own daughter. Michael always there ready to listen to Justine’s latest rant is the one person she feels she can rely on.

As Justine risks showing her vulnerability to her ex hippy boss whom she has unexpectedly grown attached to and Michael realises he perhaps needs Saddo’s calls more than Saddo needs him we start to realise just how fragile and desperately lonely they truly are. Writer Lucinda Coxon does not shy away from the awkward and uncomfortable, this piece is bold and in your face. Directorhas made great use of Hope Mill Theatre’s unique space, every inch of the floor is covered by a pacing and anxious Justine as she dissects her day in order to process the conversations and actions of her boss whom she struggles to understand. The cast deliver each scene with commitment and confidence, there are moments that challenge, do you look on or turn away? The production make you think beyond what you see acted out on stage as you recognise thoughts and feelings played out by Michael and Justine, as those seemingly with the upper hand may actually be the needy and the lonely of this world. Powerful, bold and dynamic theatre.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 3rd June, tickets £12 can be found here http://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/herding-cats/

Thoroughly Modern Millie

TMM - Joanne Clifton as Millie and Company (c) Darren Bell - Copy

Thoroughly Modern Millie arrived in Manchester last night under the strangest and most difficult of circumstances, less than 24hrs before; a horrific act of terrorism ripped through the foyer of the nearby MEN arena and left the city in a complete state of shock and disbelief. There were multiple fatalities and many more serious injuries, even now concert goes remain unaccounted for. Despite this horrendous and cowardly attack on our city, Manchester did not shut down, Manchester did what Manchester does, we carried on, we helped each other, we looked after each other, we were and are, defiant. After careful consideration and advice from the relevant authorities, it was decided that despite the devastation and hurt caused by the terror attack, the show must and would go on.

Taking to the stage just before curtain up cast member Graham MacDuff made a beautiful and emotive speech, he then led the audience in a minute silence which in true Manchester style once the minute was over became a rapturous applause. Theatre goers whilst devastated were determined that fear wouldn’t keep them away and thankfully the cast and company of Thoroughly Modern Millie were the perfect tonic.

TMM - Graham MacDuff as Mr Trevor Graydon, Joanne Clifton as Millie and Company (c) Darren Bell - Copy

Joanne Clifton is without doubt at the top of her game right now, after lifting the 2016 Strictly Mirrorball trophy with Ore Oduba, she is a talent in high demand. Taking on a role made famous by the legendary Julie Andrews can be no mean feat; however Clifton undoubtedly makes it her own, she fizzes with charisma and literally oozes with talent as the sassy and sparkling Millie. Whilst audiences will be most familiar with her dancing skills she also delivers the iconic songs effortlessly and with great style, her acting too is on point as her perky determination to succeed has the audience rooting for her from the off.

TMM - Katherine Glover as Miss Dorothy Brown,, Graham Macduff as Mr Trevor Graydon and Joanne Clifton as Millie (c) Da

Millie arrives from Kansas determined to bag herself a husband and a glamorous new life in the big apple, things don’t quite go according to plan as she ends up broke and bunking in a dodgy flophouse run by an even dodgier Mrs Meers (Lucas Rush) who unbeknown to Millie is a white slave trader, shipping unsuspecting orphan girls across the seas to Hong Kong. The story is delightfully daft and superbly silly allowing for some truly genius comedic moments. Lucas Rush has audiences howling through his exaggerated performance as the menacing Mrs Meers, the switch from faux Chinese maiden to deep voiced convict is hilarious as he tires of the giggly girls he houses. Special mention must also go to Graham MacDuff, his performance as Trevor Graydon is a joy, the scene where Millie and Jimmy (Sam Barrett) find him roaring drunk after he thinks he’s been stood up by Dorothy (Katherine Glover) is an absolute hoot, tears of laughter streamed down my face as this riotous romp unfolded. Clifton and Barrett as Millie and Jimmy make for the perfect coupling, they bounce off each other brilliantly and their dancing is a really beautiful highlight in this great fun production.

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Thoroughly Modern Millie is a delight, funny, feel-good and flippin’ fantastic! With stunning costumes, dazzling dance routines, a beautiful score and brilliant book, quite literally has it all. We must thank and congratulate the cast and company for going ahead with the show in what must have been the most difficult of circumstances, you gave your heart and souls to Manchester last night, bringing joy and much needed laughter, a total toe-tapping treat from start to finish.

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/thoroughly-modern-millie/palace-theatre-manchester/

Breakin’ Convention 2017

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Hosted by founder Jonzi D and local MC and music producer Martin Visceral, Breakin’ Convention is a real celebration of hip hop disciplines, offering audiences the opportunity to see both internationally renowned artists and local talent performing in one evening on the Lowry’s Lyric stage.

Not only is the stage alive with performers but the entire Lowry building is buzzing with activity before, during and after the show, giving a real carnival atmosphere to the nights proceedings. It’s wonderful to see such a diverse mix of theatregoers, as young and old alike gather together to enjoy the thrilling and talented performances and hip hop market place on site as the Lowry comes to life in this festival of movement and artistry.

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Act I sees performances from Fidget Feet, Gianluca Papa, Chad Taylor (Shockout) and Soweto Skeleton Movers. All unique in style and experience each piece is delivered with passion and offers some real crowd pleasing moments for the audience. Special mention must go to Soweto Skeleton Movers, experts in pantsula dance developed by Skeleton Mover pioneer Jabulani, their performance is fast, frentic and utterly fascinating. Their comedic contortion is incredible, at times you can’t quite believe what you are seeing, their level of skill and talent is extraordinary as they thrill and delight with their outstanding and brilliant magical hat tricks, an absolute must see!

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Act II introduces audiences to 01612twelve95, Tentacle Tribe and the incredible Just Dance from South Korea. Each gives an outstanding performance with Just Dance completely blowing the audience away with their utterly mesmerising skills. Their performance features traditional live Korean music delivered brilliantly by a Buddhist monk who compliments the style of the piece perfectly. Just Dance are bold, dynamic and utterly captivating, their performance is technically precise and visually stunning, the talent amongst this crew is staggering.

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Breakin’ Convention is a true celebration, spreading a message of positivity whilst constantly pushing the boundaries, roll on Breakin’ Convention 2018! Read more about the annual festival and see further tour dates here http://breakinconvention.com/

 

Trainspotting – In conversation with director Adam Spreadbury-Maher

 

Credit: Geraint Lewis

Fresh from its phenomenal success on a world tour, the smash hit immersive theatre production of Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle’s iconic, generation defining Trainspotting comes to The Lowry Tue 6 – Sat 10 June.

 

The production captures the passion and the controversy of the famous novel, then globally successful film, and repackages it into a no-holds barred immersive show – the audience are literally part of the action, including the notorious “Worst Toilet in Scotland” scene!

 

Directed by Kings Head Theatre artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher in collaboration with Greg Esplin – the tour follows an eleven-week run at the Vaults and two sold-out seasons at the King’s Head Theatre.

 

Credit: Geraint Lewis

Opening Night got the chance to get up close with director Adam prior to the show coming to Salford.

 

ON: So what can we expect from this production of Trainspotting Adam?

 

ASM: For anyone who knows the film or the book you will know it’s an expansive story and covers a lots of times, places and people. We’ve only got seven actors so some of them do a bit of doubling and tripling up for us. Often we need the audience to become characters for us and sometimes they need to create extra bits of set for us. So, there’s a fair amount of being engaged with the piece and involved. It’s all about lots of fun which you will enjoy.

 

ON: What’s been the reaction from audiences who have seen it?

 

ASM: They loved it, it’s been amazing. You get all the fans of the film and the novel but you also see a completely new generation like 17 and 18 year olds who have just heard about the buzz on twitter and Instagram and are coming to check out what it is. There’s an amazing melting pot of people coming together to experience it.

Credit: Geraint Lewis

ON: How has it been for the actors being involved in such a ‘no-holds barred’ production?

 

ASM: We have a very brave and hard-working troupe of actors. It’s really wonderful to take a piece of theatre out from the proscenium arch where there’s a big gap between the audience and the piece and bring them right up close, I specialise in that kind of thing. For the actors there’s nowhere to hide and you can’t fake it, it’s got to be real.

 

ON: That’s quite a challenge isn’t it…

 

ASM: Yes, because it’s such a show that relies on the audience you never know what kind of show it’s going to be. The kind of audience that is there very much dictates how the it is going to go which is quite exciting but at the same time daunting.

 

ON: Were you a fan of Trainspotting before this?

ASM: I remember watching Trainspotting the film when I was 14 years old, it was one of the most incredible cinematic experiences I can remember from my childhood. Danny Boyle made a beautiful film, with a strong image about a character lying on the carpet in the lounge room just slipping down beneath the floorboards which was quite a toxic memory that has been imprinted on my mind.

 

ON: How do you feel about the show coming to The Lowry in June?

 

ASM: It’s always been my ambition to have my work at The Lowry and I can’t wait until we come there, especially as this marks my debut as a director.

 

We can’t wait for this production to come to Salford too. Choose to get your tickets now!

 

Trainspotting

Date: Tue 6 – Sat 10 June

Time: Tue – Sat 7pm. Fri & Sat 8.45pm.

Tickets: £22 – £27

Website

 

For full tour information, please visit trainspottinglive.com

 

Running time: 75 minutes – no interval

Warnings: Contains nudity, very strong language, heavy drug/needle use.

Age guidance: 16+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herding Cats – Preview

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On Weds 24th May, critically acclaimed Play With Fire Productions return to Hope Mill Theatre with their latest production, Herding Cats.

The black comedy focuses on central characters, Justine (Kaleigh Hawkins), Michael (Daniel Bradford) and Saddo (John Gully), for them life is a challenge, about as easy as Herding Cats; as they battle to navigate life with all the love, loss, trials and tribulations it brings.

The acclaimed play finds dark humour in the loneliness of life while, writer, Lucinda Coxon’s characters will burrow into your brain as you recognise familiar life challenges played out before you.

The creative team behind the production is led by director Lawrence Evans (nominated for an Olivier Award for his work at the National Theatre with Tony Harrison, A Midsummer Nights Dream with the Irish Chamber Orchestra & Storytellers Theatre Company) and designer Elizabeth Wright (Theatre by The Lake).

This will be Play With Fire Productions third visit to Hope Mill after two hugely successful shows Orphans (January 2016) and Sans Merci (September, 2016) which received rave reviews from both audiences and critics alike.

Herding Cats Weds 24th May until Saturday 3rd June at Hope Mill Theatre

Tickets are available now via http://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/herding-cats/

Winter Hill

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Set on Bolton’s iconic Winter Hill, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play explores what could happen if corporate greed was allowed to take over the town’s beloved moorland and the effect of this on a group of feisty local women, not yet ready to bow down to might of the developers. Transforming their reading-group into a powerful political statement where revolution, resistance and rebellion take centre stage the ladies occupy the part-built sky-scraping hotel as they declare themselves to be “Women Against Erection”.

The play is delivered in a series of flashbacks, present day sees Emma (Fiona Hampton) daughter of activist Dolly (Denise Black) meeting with some of the women who occupied the building with her mother to find out the truth about what actually happened that day.

Winter Hill is a real ensemble piece with clear and witty narrative and a cast any production would be thrilled to have, it’s a joy to see such talented female actresses under one roof. Denise Black, is superb as the gutsy and fearless Dolly, she is determined to safeguard the future of Winter Hill for the generations to come to enjoy and explore as she did. Souad Faress takes on the role of Vivian; somewhat mysterious in her background she is quietly confident and utterly committed to the cause. Janet Henfrey delivers a fine performance as wheelchair bound Felicity, weak of body but strong of mind she offers sharp and witty observations of the world as she sees it. Louise Jamerson’s Beth is less revolutionary than her friends but her loyalty to them soon sees her understanding more their reasons for resistance. Attempted voice of reason is local councillor Irene (Cathy Tyson) calm and rational she attempts to talk the ladies out of their action but you can’t help think she like the rest of the Council has been dazzled by the investors as she attempts to justify their approval of the monstrous hotel despite the fact the promised school and social housing seem to have been long forgotten now the developers have moved in.

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Resident Octagon artistic director Elizabeth Newman has delivered a thought-provoking and quality piece of drama, this all female cast shine as they strive to decide what makes a heroine and eventually realise that if they are going to be heroines then they will be heroines for humanity, a sentiment that really strikes a chord in the current unsettling political climate. This is a passionate and spirited piece as we see the underdog fight to make a difference, the women are tired of being suppressed and will go just as far as they need to make sure their voice is heard. They declare that the bullies “…don’t come with machine guns but power points and plans” as they unite to show just how strong and important people power can be, a relevant and powerful reminder to us all.

On at the Bolton Octagon until Saturday 3rd June tickets available here https://octagonbolton.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/winter-hill/

 

 

 

Lowry Competition!

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We are thrilled to be able to offer our reader the chance to win 2 x tickets to Symphonie Dramatique at the Lowry on Tuesday 23rd May!

Presented by French-Canadian company Cas Public, Symphonie Dramatique offers a darkly humorous look at the mythical couple, Romeo and Juliet combining ballet with elements of hip hop and video projections to tell the story of the two star-crossed lovers by award winning choreographer Hélène Blackburn.

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The performance takes place beneath a huge chandelier of wine glasses, alongside a score from Martin Tétreault that evokes Prokofiev, Tchaïkovski and Gounod. Switching suddenly and seamlessly between moments of wild abandon and abrupt stillness Cas Public’s dancers leave no space to get comfortable as you’re hurled from scene to scene. From sections en pointe to popping and locking you won’t know what to expect next.

Competition winners will receive 2 x tickets to Tuesday 23rd May, 8pm performance at the Lowry. To enter simply RT this post and follow us on twitter or like and share on Facebook! Winners will be announced on Sunday evening, good luck!