Fantastic Mr Fox

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Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, amazingly written 47 years ago, has aged well in this stage adaptation by Sam Holcroft for the Nuffield Sothampton Theatre and Curve Production. Although not originally intended to be performed on stage, and certainly not as a musical, this production bravely combines song, live music and a strong, funny script to re-tell the tale of Mr Fox, his motley crew and his arch enemy farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

The personification of Fantastic Mr Fox (played convincingly by Greg Barnett) and his fiercely loyal crew of woodland creatures contrasts colourfully with the hapless, selfish and at times dark characters of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, those mean-spirited farmers determined to put a stop to Fox’s antics.

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Mr Fox, a literary version of Robin Hood, who steals from the rich to give to his hungry comrades, has no faith in those friends, despite losing his tail (and balance along with it), and refuses to rely on them in his time of peril.

Despite the obvious challenges faced in staging this production, the creative team cleverly rejected the temptation to recreate wildlife scenes, and instead used modern day set and funky materials, giving the staging a contemporary feel. The costumes similarly drew on more modern materials including sportswear, headbands and fluffy leg warmers

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The cast worked hard, with Richard Atwill, Raphael Bushay, Gruffurd Glynn and Kelly Jackson all playing 2 roles, and completing some speedy costume changes. Although laced with humour, there were some ‘comedy gold’ moments provided by the excitable Rabbit (played by the very funny Sandy Foster) and Mole, played by Gruffud Glyn.

As well as being a story about good winning over bad, the audience is taken on a journey of discovery as Mr Fox realises that that with true friends around you, anything can be achieved and no problem is insurmountable. With tension building throughout the production, there were lots of laughs for the younger audience, and a few jokes too, to benefit the parents. Overall this is a perfect family show with a strong moral content, which will ensure that everyone is talking about it long after the curtain falls.

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On at The Lowry until Sunday tickets available here http://www.thelowry.com/events/fantastic-mr-fox

Reviewed by Margot Power

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes

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Due to popular demand and for the 1st time in New Advenutres history, Matthew Bourne’s Olivier award winning production, The Red Shoes returns to the Lowry next week for the second time during its current season, offering audiences one final chance to catch the visually stunning and technically sublime production which has captivated audiences since its World Premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in November.

Based on the academy award winning film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and of course the much loved Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Red Shoes tells the story of “Victoria Page”, the girl who yearns to become the greatest dancer in the world.

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New Adventures favourite, Ashley Shaw, most recently seen across the UK and internationally as “Aurora” in Matthew Bourne’s critically acclaimed Sleeping Beauty, takes on the role of Victoria and has enchanted audiences with her exquisite and breath-taking talent. The Red Shoes is an utterly captivating and timeless piece, a tale of heartbreak, passion and love as Victoria becomes Principal dancer in the new ballet ‘The Red Shoes’ but finds herself torn between two men, resulting in the most beautifully intense and incredibly emotive performances.

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Lifting this already superb production to an even higher level is the stunning new score arranged by New Adventures Associate Artist, Terry Davies using the magnificent music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann. The combination of this exquisite theatrical score and breath-taking performances from the New Adventures Company make this a show not to be missed.

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After it’s sell-out visit to the Lowry last December The Red Shoes returns for one week only from Tuesday 11th until Saturday 15th July tickets available here www.thelowry.com/events/matthew-bournes-production-of-the-red-shoes

 

Flare17 Launch & Double Bill

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Flare International festival of new theatre launched in spectacular style at HOME Manchester last night with a blistering performance from all girl rock band PINS followed by an address and recital from Manchester poet Tony Walsh’s now legendary ‘This is the place’ familiar to many after his emotional reading at the recent Manchester vigil.

Flare17 Artist Director Neil Mackenzie, announced to audiences how putting together the festival had reminded him of how extraordinary an art form theatre can be and reminded us all of the importance of celebrating the good of what not only theatre can be but also what it can offer to each of us. The festival which features 65 different artists from 7 different countries is an opportunity for audiences to invest their belief and trust in new experiences and absorbing performances.

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The first performances of the festival took on the form of an intriguing and absorbing double bill. Firstly One by BOG from the Netherlands, an award winning solo by Lisa Verbelen, in which she uses the melody of her own voice to examine everything around her, time, space, light, sound, people, thoughts, feelings, actions and demonstrates to audiences how everything which comes and goes is ultimately connected. With a rolling screen delivering the score for this four-voiced one woman choir, Verbelen engages the audience beautifully as she builds layer upon layer in this simple yet effective piece, proving both visually and audibly that movement is both constant and all consuming .

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The second piece of the double bill in stark contrast to One by Bog is the Leopard Murders by K.U.R.S.K. The piece recalls the story of George Ebrecht, grandfather of K.U.R.S.K. director Timo Krstin and former Nazi SS officer who post WWII joined the peace movement. Ebrecht as a failed artist found his forte as a hate speech writer and soon rose amongst the ranks of Hitler’s men achieving the status and success he had long desired. K.U.R.S.K examine the drive and ambition of Ebrecht and look at how this need for success and recognition can manifest itself in each of us, they cleverly examine the pushing of political arguments whether it be for the left or the right wing and how our own personal agenda can steer us down paths which seemingly offer the most rewards and recognition. There is an interesting element to the piece examining the genetics of families, can the opinions and passions of our forefathers be passed down through the generations and if so is there anything we can do to stop the unstoppable? Thought-provoking and engaging theatre.

Double Bill – One and Leopold Murders can be seen again this evening Wednesday 5th July at HOME for more information head to www.flarefestival.com

 

Waiting For God

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The new stage adaptation of the BAFTA nominated 1990’s BBC series is a slick, and frequently hilarious production that looks at growing old disgracefully in Bay View Retirement Village.

The most popular characters from the original series are here, reimagined for 2017, in an all-new script penned by the sitcom’s creator Michael Aitkens. Nichola McAuliffe as Diana and Jeffrey Holland as Tom Ballard steal the show with multi-dimensional and generous performances. McAuliffe in particular shows amazing range as she transforms from a crotchety and bitter ‘senior citizen’ to a passionate and wickedly naughty character and everything in between, with excellent support from Ballard as her love interest.

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There was plenty for the audience to enjoy with frequent snappy one-liners which were also balanced with a surprising depth of insight and depiction of tragedy which  were related in a very human way by the lead characters. Samuel Collings and Emily Pithon as Harvey Baines and Jane Edwards made a humorous double-act, if veering a little close to the farcical at times. The other supporting characters of Sarah Chase played by Joanna Bending and Geoffrey Ballard played by David Benson were presented with gusto and professionalism, each made a meaningful impression. Bending was particularly hilarious during the birth scene, and Benson showed excellent acting chops particularly masterfully during final tragic/comic speech depicting his wedding and marriage in a piece of acting that was both hilarious and moving.

Daft but laugh-out-loud funny moments in the chapel at the end of the play were a fitting end to a very enjoyable evening.

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On at The Lowry until Saturday 8th July http://www.thelowry.com/events/waiting-for-god

Reviewer – Margot Power