Aspects of Love | Cast and Creatives announced


An exciting cast and creative team has been announced for Hope Mill Theatre and Aria productions hotly-anticipated, intimate revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love, which runs as the award-winning Ancoats theatre from Thursday 5th July until Thursday 9th August.

The talented company of 10 includes both Olivier Award nominees and West End regulars as well as young talent making their professional debuts will be directed by Jonathan O’Boyle whose recent credits include Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/ Southwark Playhouse, London), Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults, London) and Resident Director of An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre, London).

Making up the cast is Kimberly Blake (Half a Sixpence, Barnum) who plays Giulietta, Jason Kajdi (Our House, Assassins), in the role of Hugo, Felix Mosse (The Rocky Horror Show) as Alex, Julia J Nagle (An American in Paris) as Elizabeth/ensemble, Minal Patel (The Secret Garden, Bend it Like Beckham) as Marcel, Jerome Pradon (Jesus Christ Superstar, Pacific Overtures – Olivier Award Nominee 2003) as George and Kelly Price (That Day We Sang, A Little Night Music – Olivier Award Nominee 2010) in the role of Rose. Making their professional debuts in the production are Rosie Cava-Beale, ensemble, Jack Churms, as Jerome/ensemble and Eleanor Walsh as Jenny/ensemble.

Following Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre is The Return of the Soldier that runs from Thursday 6 to Saturday 29 September and A Christmas Story The Musical that runs from Friday 26 October to Saturday 1 December.

Tickets available here.


Interview | Natasha Hodgson | Kill the Beast


Lowry associate artists Kill the Beast return to the Salford venue next week with their new show Director’s Cut before they head off to Edinburgh Fringe for a summer of hilarious and a teeny bit haunting comedy japes.

Opening Night caught up with one fifth of the ‘Beast’s’ Natasha Hodgson to hear a little more about their latest offering and what exactly Lowry audiences can expect from the award-winning troop when Director’s Cut opens in the Aldridge Studio on 7th June.

Welcome to the worst film never made. Thankfully, there’s only one scene left to shoot… 

The fire has been contained, the wigs have been sterilised, and the star has been replaced after “The Accident”. Surely, nothing else can be waiting in the dark…

Director’s Cut, a madcap mash-up with a generous sprinkling of spoof horror introduces us to a 1970’s lead actress determined to take her revenge from beyond the grave, will she manage to stop filming on the most truly terrible and blisteringly bad movie she ever made?

Natasha Hodgson described to us where the idea for Director’s Cut came from. “We were chatting in a lovely sunny garden one day about our favourite horror films (classic sunshine chat) and how amazing, iconic films never seem to manage iconic sequels. We started talking about Rosemary’s Baby (one of our favourites) and imagining what a terrible sequel to Rosemary’s Baby – Rosemary’s Toddler? – might look like. And what if, whilst filming this terrible sequel, the spirit of the original film came back to wreak vengeance on this terrible follow up!”

Like previous shows The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, He Had Hairy Hands and Don’t Wake The Damp, Kill the Beast’s signature style of fast-paced action, original music and brilliantly bonkers comedy will lend itself perfectly to this silly yet sinister escapade. Natasha explained “I play a couple of characters, but my favourite is an older actor called Judy Goose, she’s been in the industry forever, and although she’s done a whole host of arthouse films, she’s always most excited about her adverts for Simpkin’s Soapy Scrubbers (“for wives and for mothers”) because of their big, fat pay-cheques. You’ll also learn that she’s a dab-hand at dealing with a dead body. But you’ll have to see the show to find out which one…”


Here at Opening Night we are enormous fans of Kill the Beast’s deliciously dark humour and inventive staging, Natasha confirmed while the humour remains there will be some new and rather exciting changes to the staging of this new production, “Our hearts belong to ridiculous, dark and silly jokes, and that’s always going to be at the forefront of everything we make. However, we’re ditching the projections this time around, in favour of actual AV screens – it makes ghost trickery a lot more fun. We’ve done three shows with projected sets, and this time around we wanted to build something solid from scratch – we’ve got a real life 70s film set on stage, and we can’t wait to cause catastrophes within it.”

Now in their sixth year as Lowry associate artists Natasha explained just how important the support from The Lowry has been, “We feel so, so lucky to be supported by them, and if more theatres provided the sort of 360 care and help that they do, the emerging theatre scene would be able to take a lot more risks, and make a lot more fantastic stuff. But hell, it’s a hard time for the arts. It’s a hard time for a lot of stuff. Best thing we can recommend? Come see a silly, fast-paced comedy about a vengeful, opinionated ghost. That will probably sort everything out.”

Director’s Cut opens at The Lowry on Thursday 7th June and runs until Saturday 9th tickets priced at £12 (£10 for concessions) can be found here. here.




Play Your Gender


Writer Matt Forrest

The Doc ‘N Roll festival is well under way this bank holiday weekend, and we were fortunate to attend one of the 11 documentary film premiers being held this weekend: Play Your Gender from  Canadian director Stephanie Clattenburg. Arguably more intriguing than the film, was the Q & A after the screening with film/theatre producer Alison Surtees, musician Jaheda Choudhury, Dr Katie Mikestone (a sociology lecturer at MMU), and sound engineer Yvonne Ellis.

The film takes a look at the under-representation of women in the music industry: from producers to sound engineers, there is a clear discrepancy between men and women with just 5% of women working as producers today.

Award winning producer Kinnie Starr aims to find out what the barriers are preventing women succeeding in this area. The film offers a great deal of insight into this area, with interviews from various female musicians who offer their opinions and what they are doing to change this.

A key scene in the film is a moment when the line-up of various festivals are shown and then decimated when only the female singers/musicians are shown. The film certainly has good intentions and hopes to engineer change. It is well worth catching for anyone with not just an interest in music but also a passion for equality.

However, for me, the highlight of the night was the Q & A with the panel who offered their experience on subject matter. They discussed and challenged aspects of the documentary which led to a lively, engaging and insightful discussion.

This has certainly set the bench mark high for the festival and if all the other sessions live up to this high standard, then those lucky enough to attend are in for a treat. Thought provoking, insightful and highly entertaining, you really couldn’t find a better way to spend your bank holiday.

Ticket details can be found here:


Doc’n Roll Festival

Writer Matt Forrest

The Bank holiday weekend is upon us once more: with the inevitable heavy bank holiday traffic threatening to spoil our precious long weekend, it may be worth avoiding the jams and going for a different sort of ‘jam’ by taking in some great films packed with killer tunes!

From the 23rd May through to the 28th May, the great city of Manchester will host the Doc’n Roll film festival for the first time ever. This is a film festival like no other as it highlights some tremendous music documentaries from across the globe, regardless of your taste in music, the festival promises something for everyone.

Boasting 11 premiers at three venues across the city, this festival will provide music lovers not only with a chance to see some insightful and groundbreaking films, but also offer opportunities to quiz the musicians and directors behind the projects with several post screening Q & A sessions.

Unlike most music festivals, there are no headliners here, just an eclectic mix of films and artists spanning various musical genres: from Ella Fitzgerald to Badly Drawn Boy, Iranian Techno to Heavy Metal, the festival promises to leave you informed and entertained. There are also films taking a look at the vibrant 1960’s Liverpool music scene which gave birth to The Beatles, as well as a look at the infamous Ealing Club in London, a venue nicknamed “The Cradle of British Rock”.

Opening night will be attending several screenings throughout the weekend, one that we are certainly looking forward to is Play Your Gender, an insightful look at the lack of female representation in music production.

So this bank holiday why not get yourself down to HOME, Gulliver’s, and Plant Noma and catch some amazing films featuring some interesting stories, talented musicians, and some great music! Here is a full list of the all the events and where they are happening:

19:00 WEDNESDAY 23RD MAY – 3MT – 39 Oldham St, M1 1JG

** Manchester Premiere **

Walking In The Opposite Direction: Adrian Borland & The Sound

Director Marc Waltman, Netherlands, 2016, 96 mins


** Manchester Premiere **

L7: Pretend We’re Dead

Dir. Sarah Price US, 2016, 82 mins

18:30 FRIDAY 25TH MAY – PLANT NOMA – Dantzic St, M60 0AB

** Manchester Premiere **

Raving Iran

Dir. Susanne Regina Meures, 2016, Switzerland, 84mins



** Manchester Premiere **

Play Your Gender + Q&A Your

Dir. Stephanie Clattenburg, Canada, 2017, 80mins

Q&A (music industry panelists TBA)


*** World Premiere ***

About A Badly Drawn Boy + Q&A

Dir. THE MITCHAM SUBMARINE, 2018, UK, 72mins

Q&A with the director


** Manchester Premiere **

Manchester Keeps On Dancing + Q&A, plus After-Party

Dir. Javi Senz, 2017, UK, 90mins


** Manchester Premiere **

Suburban Steps to Rockland: The Story of The Ealing Club

Dir. Giorgio Guernier, 2017, UK, 89mins


**Manchester Premiere**

The Doom Doc

Dir. Connor Matheson, UK, 2017, 90mins


** Manchester Premiere **

DEATH by Metal

Dir. Felipe Belalcazar, 2016, Canada, 109mins

16:00 MONDAY 28 MAY – HOME

** Manchester Premiere **

Pure Love: The Voice of Ella Fitzgerald

Dir. Katja Duregger, 2017, Germany, 52mins

Tickets for all shows available at:

Brighton Rock

BR 1

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s 80 years since Graham Greene’s novel Bright Rock first saw the light of day. It spawned two film adaptations, one in 1947 launching the career of Richard Attenborough and the other coming in 2010 featuring Helen Mirren. It has become something of a cult classic and a much-loved staple of British literature and film.

Director Esther Richardson and the Pilot Theatre company have brought a fresh and unique version to the stage, that despite a few plot niggles, is hugely entertaining and well worth a watch. The plot focuses on the murder of Charles ‘Fred’ Hale, who arrives in Brighton on a special assignment from a newspaper. It’s in the resort that ‘Fred’ bumps into local gangster Pinkie, a teenage sociopath with a grudge to settle. As Fred tries to survive the day in Brighton, he encounters the kind-hearted Ida Arnold, who takes a shine to Fred, however Pinkie catches up with his prey and soon Fred is no more.

BR 2

However what Pinkie doesn’t reckon on is not just the determination of Ida to find out the truth, but also the involvement of Rose, a sweet natured, innocent waitress who holds the key to Fred’s demise. An encounter between Pinkie and Rose leads to a somewhat unconventional love and eventual marriage but will this be enough to save Pinkie from the long arm long arm of the law, but himself as well.

There is a great deal to admire in this production. Jacob James Beswick, is outstanding as Pinkie; he has a swagger full of menace, as he prowls around the stage like a Jackal and his performance really anchors the production. In addition, he is supported by a fine cast with Sarah Middleton as Rose, and Gloria Onitiri as Ida, with the latter demonstrating a beautiful singing voice.  In addition, there is a hard working ensemble cast who play various roles and work their socks off.

BR 4

The play explores numerous themes including right and wrong, as several characters’ moral compasses go off in various directions. What is interesting is the relationship between Rose and Pinkie, and how they try to remain truthful to their Roman Catholic upbringings. However, one plot strand that I feel is underdeveloped is the relationship between Ida and Fred, this isn’t explored nearly enough for you to invest and believe in Ida’s crusade to seek justice for a man she hardly knew.

What stood out for me was the look and feel of the show. The set design by Sara Perks looks fantastic, this in conjunction with a truly atmospheric musical arrangement from Hannah Peel, adds a sense of danger to proceedings. In addition, the production contains some intricate fascinating choreography from movement director Jenifer Jackson, which again leaves a feeling of menace, as various cast members linger around the pier and emerge from the shadows, it really does create an intimidating foreboding atmosphere.


This is a bold, slick production that certainly looks fantastic with a central performance that will linger in the memory for some time to come.

Brighton Rock part of the Week 53 festival is on at the Lowry till 26th May tickets available here.


After debuting their verbatim piece about the extraordinary Martyn Hett last October, Hope Theatre Company return on the anniversary of the Manchester bombing with a reworked and powerful piece of theatre that celebrates this special men and also asks the question, what does #BeMoreMartyn mean?

Eight of Martyn’s closest friends were interviewed by Hope Theatre Company for this celebratory piece of theatre, the exact words spoken were then constructed into a compelling and insightful piece offering a real and in depth view into the life of Martyn Hett whose exceptional life was cut short a year ago today when he was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing.

The show is littered with heart-warming and hilarious stories of Martyn’s antics including wild nights out on Canal St, Martyn’s annual Eurovision party which he took VERY seriously and stories of his joy at all things Coronation Street including a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Gail Platt which lived in his in-house bar The Frig.

These up-lifting and joyful memories are beautifully intertwined with more reflective and at times deeply emotional recollections. Director Adam Zane pacing the piece perfectly allowing each character time to share emotive stories before breaking into another outrageous or hilarious tale that will leave you belly laughing and a little bit more inspired once again by this incredible man.

Each section is cleverly interspersed with video clips featuring or made by Martyn including the hilarious Audrey Roberts noise, his appearance on Tattoo fixers getting his infamous Deirdre Barlow tattoo and a hilarious appearance on Couples Come Dine with Me with boyfriend Russell.

The content of the entire piece is so well judged by creative Adam Zane and Mike Lee ensuring each audience member gains a real knowledge and understanding of just why Martyn meant so much to people. The generosity of his friends in sharing their memories and private thoughts a real credit to the friendships they all had. Hope Theatre Company haven’t painted Martyn as an untouchable angel, this is a real, honest, inspiring and increadibly funny piece of theatre, an entirely fitting tribute and the perfect way to continue the legacy of Martyn Hett. The strong cast deliver the words of Martyn’s friends with sensitivity, real emotion and undoubtedly love.

The #BeMoreMartyn message is powerful and generously open for interpretation by each individual whose lives he touched and continues to do so. Have the courage to live for the moment, be fabulous, have fun, make a positive difference, laugh hard, be fearless and proud of what and who you love and most of all always and unashamedly be yourself.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 26th May tickets available here.

*Photo credit Lee Baxter


Shrek 1

Reviewed by Casey Gwilliam

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shrek came bounding into the opera house this week (literally) stealing the audiences hearts along the way.

In his quest to win back the rights to his swamp, Shrek encounters fairy-tale creatures, princesses and even a talking donkey. Following the same narrative of the 2001 Shrek movie, the stage musical includes many of the iconic lines you’ll remember from the movie, like ‘Not my gumdrop buttons’ and ‘that’ll do, Donkey.’

Shrek proves to be brilliant family entertainment as children were grinning from ear to ear, laughing along with their parents, as well as a few subtle nods to the innuendos Dreamworks are famous for, Shrek proves to be just as popular on stage as it was in cinemas.

Shrek 2

Among audience favourites were Marcus Ayton as the iconic ‘Donkey’ whose performance had everybody in stitches with his incredibly witty portrayal. Samuel Holmes as Lord Farquaad provided comic relief for the adult audience, with references to Brexit and Blackpool that raised more than a few smiles.

‘Story of My Life’ performed by the talented ensemble, was a real stand out moment, with the fairy-tale characters expressing their disappointment at their lot in life, expressing that being a creature “sucks” and dancing around in comical costumes around the swamp.

Shrek 4

‘Morning Person’ was also a huge audience favourite, as the dazzling tap and vocals wowed the audience even featuring some fabulous dancing rats.

The costume and set transported the audience into Shrek’s fabulous fairy-tale world taking every audience member on a magical journey watching Shrek run down the aisle to save his bride, Fiona, had everybody saying , I’m a Believer!

Shrek is a monster hit for all the family, creating just the perfect mix of fairy-tale and real life lessons we could all learn from.

On at the Blackpool Opera House until Sunday 27th May tickets available here.