Out Of Order

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It’s not often you begin a review at the end of a performance but in this case it’s worth making the exception. Following the closure of Out of Order, Shaun Williamson thanks us all for coming and expresses sorrow on behalf of the entire crew at the tragic events that unfolded just over a week ago. It’s a nice a touch and a gesture of class that certainly doesn’t got unappreciated by the audience at the Manchester Opera House

On to the matter at hand: Ray Cooney has an impressive 70- year career in the theatre with Out of Order certainly being one of his best loved offerings. It began life as a play called Whose wife is it anyway? in 1990 and has lost none of its charm in the last 27 years.

Set in the Westminster hotel, Richard Willey (Jeffrey Harmer) is a Tory junior government minster, intent on having his wicked way with the luscious Labour secretary to Jeremy Corbyn, Jane (Susie Amy). Unfortunately, things do not go to plan for Willey and the rather macabre killing of a burglar by a sash window, sets the cogs rolling for the impending chaos which ensues. Titters abound as the web of lies draws them in deeper. How will they get out of their predicament?

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According to Ray Cooney, ‘the characters must be truthful and recognisable’ and farce is all about ‘ordinary people who are out of their depth in a predicament which is beyond their control’. Updated to include timely comments about our impending election, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and the inevitable squabbling which happens behind the scenes of an election, this play remains as relevant as ever. There are even a few shots at Boris and UKIP too!

The cast is simply fabulous. Everyone has their favourites, whether it’s the hapless, yet cunning waiter (James Holmes), the ‘dolly-bird’ figure of Jane (Susie Amy) or the sweet natured private secretary George Pigden (played with excellent comic timing by Shaun Williamson). For my money the stand out performance of the night goes to Harmer, despite the slimy, oily nature of Willey you can’t help but route for him.

The cast contains some familiar faces to British ‘Sitcom’ including “Allo Allo” Arthur Bostrom who is on good form as the Hotel Manager, as is Sue Holderness from Only Fools and Horses. If anything Holderness is somewhat underused in her role as Pamela Willey the junior minister’s wife.

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As with all great farces and comedies, the set is simple and is used well: it is rare that part of the staging gets its own round of applause (in this case, a rather sneaky sash window)! Characters bound in and out of doors, windows and cupboards – comedy theatre at its finest. Every character has their comedic part to play and although the action was sometimes predictable, it was charming and no less funny for that.

In these turbulent times, just over a week after the tragic atrocity at the Manchester Arena, Out of Order was a perfect opportunity to raise our spirits,’ and is testament to good, traditional British comedy. It’ll certainly make you think about climbing out of a window for some time to come!

Out of Order is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 3rd of June tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/out-of-order/opera-house-manchester/

Writer: Ray Cooney

Director: Ray Rooney

Reviewer Matthew Forrest

Marshmallow Laser Feast presents ‘IRIS’

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Probing, enlightening, hypnotic and playful, ‘IRIS’ – the unique digital art installation – is a mesmerising sensory experience that visitors to the Lowry are going to ADORE! Last night was our first opportunity to see it, FEEL it, and to fall in love with it at the world premiere, as well as to meet the Director of this laser and robotic feast, Ersin Han Ersin.

Fresh from a win at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival for the virtual reality experience ‘Treehugger: Wawona’, Ersin had completed a successful ‘IRIS’ rehearsal earlier in the day; yet as VIP guests filtered into The Quay Club – swooping up cocktails that were as inviting as the day’s blissfully sunny skies – Ersin admitted to feeling (understandably) a little nervous: “I want people to find it spectacular,” he confides. “Usually, our production company, Marshmallow Laser Feast, designs for the stage. In this case, the commission was to create something for the auditorium that responds to the architecture of the Lyric Theatre.


‘The theatre is always the theatre. We have tweaked and played with the architecture – shrinking it and expanding it using laser lights. It’s abstract, ephemeral; there’s no clear narrative. People create that through their own response to it. We wanted to take people to a space that is changing and then leave them with that space – and hopefully breathless.”

It’s a hope that The Lowry’s Chief Executive Officer, Julia Fawcett OBE, shares: “Contemporary art, digital art… these can be a challenge. Our Digital Programme is about finding ways of opening up people, so that they bring no prejudgment; they haven’t already decided it’s not for them.

‘Our usual programme is planned two, even three years ahead, and artists approach us all the time with wacky ideas. We could never get our clocks in sync to exhibit them. That’s what our biennial commissioning festival Week53 is all about – stopping the clock and saying: ‘Our building is available’.”

‘IRIS’ is The Lowry’s Week53 commission for this intervening year. The Digital Programming Team were looking to work with artists who were at home with the challenge of working in the elliptic-shaped theatre; an empty space that isn’t truly empty. Previous collaborators – and internationally-renowned pioneers – Marshmallow Laser Feast were selected. Julia shares her delight at discovering one of the founders is from Salford, exclaiming: “They’re from around the world and around the corner!”

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‘IRIS’ exists in two free formats: as a ‘Black Box’ experience you can enjoy as a piece of digital art, or as a surprise piece of pre-theatre before selected shows.

“It’s dynamic – a completely different experience that changes whether you are in the circle or the stalls,” says Julia, who challenged Marshmallow Laser Feast to create a digital art piece that would sit comfortably before every kind of show, from comedy to opera to drama.

“As it’s free, people can come back again and again. What happens isn’t like anything else that you usually experience when you sit in a theatre. You are a participant as much as an observer. You’re inside something – the void of the building – encapsulated by the sound and music-scape.”

With our appetites well and truly whetted, we head into the Lyric Theatre itself for a short introductory speech by Julia. It is only four days since a terrorist atrocity took 22 lives and caused injuries to 119 others at the Manchester Arena, so it is with loving respect that Julia pays tribute to all those affected. From the initial feeling of helplessness, she says, came a resolve to: “Do what we do: to carry on delivering the programme and great art.” It echoes Ersin’s earlier comments that the show will give us breathing space, and that “they [the terrorists] can’t win.”


After this moment of reflection, ‘IRIS’ begins… The bowels of the Lyric Theatre are plunged into darkness and is punctuated by mechanical, industrial noises, which are interspersed by strains of classical music. With my heart pounding, I feel for my husband’s hand – uncertain of what to expect next. Overhead, robotically-controlled lasers now pierce red beams of light through the darkness – stretching long, searching fingers down from the ceiling to slowly probe the audience below.

The movie reel of my mind digs out ‘Blade Runner’ as a cultural reference – it feels dystopian… a disembodied presence extending tendrils of light to prod and provoke.. yet as the light columns begin to encircle us – caging us in – I desperately want to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ who are ‘touched’ by the criss-crossing lights that stain faces and hands red for a fleeting second. When I finally ‘catch’ one, it ribbons through my fingers – leaving a smile of pleasure on my face.

Pulsating… growing and shrinking… ‘IRIS’ now changes – the soundtrack becoming ethereal and yearning. We have entered a time of enlightenment, similar to Aldous Huxley’s ‘doors of perception’; there is a feeling of a new dawn of knowledge and connectivity. The lasers are a friend and an educator – showing their intelligence with increasingly intricate patterns that suspend, swoop and play.

Then – after six all too short minutes – it ends abruptly; the hypnotic trance is broken. Julia Fawcett’s ardent wish that ‘IRIS’ will leave you curious – and with a burning resolve to return – is fulfilled.

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Spilling back out into the still brilliant daylight, it’s now time to nurse a drink and muse over what we’ve experienced in ‘IRIS’, while the ‘Tim Peaks Diner’ experience takes residence at Pier Eight below us. Strains of overhead conversation echo Julia and Ersin’s promise that this ethereal being, ‘IRIS’, will be interpreted uniquely by all. No two opinions are the same, but there are surprised and curious grins of pleasure all around.
It’s the perfect precursor to The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, who is joined by guests TEAR and a bevy of DJs for an uplifting mini-festival that feels communal and comforting after the week’s events.


Hi Resplendent in a gold glittery cardigan, which he later peels off to reveal a ‘A Different Day’ T-shirt, the indie legend serves up an acoustic set of the ‘songs we know, but done different’ – treating us to crowd-pleasers like ‘The Only One I Know’, ‘Just When You’re Thinkin’ Things Over’, ‘Tellin’ Stories’ and ‘North Country Boy’. It is hot on the heels of the launch of The Charlatans’ new album, ‘Different Days’. Touted as ‘the best Charlatans album in 20 years’, it features a plethora of special guests – including Smiths’ legend Johnny Marr, who plays on three tracks. After the ‘Tim Peaks Diner’ experience, Opening Night will be snapping it up!


Audiences can experience ‘IRIS’ before selected performances in the Lyric Theatre and on the following additional dates:

Saturday, 27 May – Sunday, 28 May: 11am to 4pm

Saturday, 10, 17 and 24 June: 10.30am to 11.30am

Saturday, 8 July: 10.30am to 11.30am

The artwork will last for approximately seven minutes and will be shown every 15 minutes.

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

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/