Toast | Rehearsal images released

First look images from the rehearsal rooms of world premiere stage adaptation of Nigel Slater’s Toast have been released today.

Toast, which is a Week 53 commission adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett and directed by Jonnie Riordan will vividly tell the story of Nigel Slater’s childhood through the tastes and smells he grew up with. Audience members will be invited to sample dishes and tastes which played a large part in Nigel’s life growing up in 1960’s suburban England.

From making the perfect sherry trifle, waging war over cakes through to the playground politics of sweets and the rigid rules of restaurant dining, this is a moving and evocative tale of love, loss and…toast.

On at The Lowry from Wed 23 May to Sat 2 June tickets available here.

Karl Marx comes to Manchester!

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Karl Marx reincarnated for Manchester audiences in one-man show, Marx In Soho.

The 5th May marked in an incredible two hundred years since Karl Marx was born, marking the occasion, renowned historian and activist Howard Zinn’s brilliant, timely one-man show, described as a passionate, funny and moving defense of Karl Marx’s life and political ideas will head to Manchester following a successful run in New York.

Marx In Soho, a play dedicated to the revolutionary thinker will embark on a six-week tour of the UK opening at Brighton Fringe 2018 on the 17th May before heading to Manchester for performances at Manchester, Chetham’s Library on June 2nd and the King’s Arms on June 9th and 10th.

Zinn reincarnates Marx and lands the prominent thinker for one night only in present day Soho, New York, where, during the course of the play, he confronts issues such as American education, the super rich ruling class, corporate mergers, prisons, and the media.

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Celebrated actor Bob Weick (Terra Nova, Circle Mirror Transformation) takes on the role of Marx, a part he has played for the past 7 years performing the piece over 300 times across the United States from Maine to California. The two-time Barrymore nominee is excited to be finally bringing the production to UK audiences:

“I’m delighted MARX IN SOHO is coming to the UK as it is a place where both Marx and his philosophic collaborator Engels spent most of their lives. They walked these streets, studied in the libraries, drank in the pubs, and learned of the struggles of the working poor and dedicated their lives to doing something about it.

“It will be exciting that we will be addressing these issues on the tour, especially in Manchester and London, around places they even frequented themselves.”

 

UK TOUR DATES:

Brighton Fringe, May 20-28

Manchester, Chetham’s Library, June 2 tickets available here

Manchester, King’s Arms, June 9 and 10 tickets available here.

London, The Space, June 12

London, Etcetera Theatre, June 17

London, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, June 20-22

Titanic the Musical

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One of the most infamous disasters of all time where a heart-breaking 1517 men, women and children lost their lives may not seem like the most obvious choice for a musical makeover, however this Broadway originated production and winner of 5 Tony Awards has its sights firmly set on disproving that.

Thom Southerland has stripped back the original Broadway production which was first seen on British shores at the Southwark Playhouse in 2013 before a critically acclaimed 11 week run at the Charing Cross Theatre in 2016. David Woodhead’s two-tier set with metallic proscenium arch has been upscaled to take in the large venues on this new tour to great effect; immediately transporting audiences to the decks of the doomed ship.

Howard Hudson’s atmospheric lighting reflects the changing mood and emotion of the story perfectly as bright, brilliant optimism is replaced with a chillingly dark desperation. Further adding to the authenticity of the piece is Mark Aspinall’s band who provide an evocative soundtrack of strings & percussion, sweeping magnificently from joyful light-hearted optimism to the dreaded fear of impending doom.

Maury Yeston & Peter Stone’s award-winning musical fills the Lowry’s Lyric Theatre with its soaring score and impressive 25 strong cast whose ensemble pieces are note perfect, packed full of power and quite simply breath-taking. Based on the real stories of passengers aboard the ill-fated ship the ending is one we are all familiar with the characters however perhaps not. The hard-working cast slip effortlessly from one role into another, portraying passengers of all classes to great effect, a nod perhaps to the fact that once you take away the riches & finery of this world we’re all the same.

The plight of the 3rd class is particularly poignant in this production, they are in effect seen the same as the rats that inhabit the lower decks. Their hopes and dreams however soar high, perfectly portrayed in the song Lady’s Maid where burning ambitions are revealed as excitement builds for the new lives each 3rd class passenger yearns for unaware of their tragic fate. The Proposal/The Night was Alive also offers a touching opportunity to delve into the backstories of characters Barrett and Bride, beautifully delivered by Niall Sheehy and Oliver Marshall it is a real stand out moment within Act I.

While the production is visually impressive and the cast one of the most talented ensembles you’re likely to see the depth of characters is somewhat lacking. There are so many stories going on that you never really get the opportunity to connect or care about anyone, leaving the final scenes much less emotional than they should be. Characters while portrayed well aren’t given the time to develop or grow leaving the audience disconnected to their plight. It feel like quite a marmite production, while some audience members around me mumbled that it was too slow, many leapt to their feet at the end.

I wanted so much to love this production, the cast are outstanding, their delivery faultless, the set, costumes, songs and score all beautiful the emotional connection however was lacking for me, sadly this production never fully set sail.

Titanic the Musical on at The Lowry until Saturday 12th May tickets available here.

Kindertransport

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Timely and relevant, Diane Samuels’ absorbing play Kindertransport opened at Manchester’s Opera House last night.

Focussing on the remarkable time when child refugees were welcome on our shores as thousands of frightened Jewish children were forced to flee Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940 to the safety of Great Britain.

In this Anne Simon directed production we focus on one such child, a young Jewish girl named Eva who is sent to the safety of Manchester by her desperate mother Helga, to live a hopefully free life under the protection of foster family Mr & Mrs Miller. As Eva matures she moves further and further away from her past, changing her name to Evelyn and locking away every reminder of her tragic origins in the attic. One day Evelyn’s daughter Faith discovers the documents, uncovering the truth about her mother’s complex beginnings and forcing Evelyn to face up to her past and relive her haunting nightmares.

There is a recurrent figure brought to life in Evelyn’s evocative memories, the Ratchatcher, a creeping, lurking and terrifying child catcher portrayed by Matthew Brown to interesting effect. He is a haunting reminder of Evelyn’s childhood fears and now adult guilt, he is however in large parts unseen as he fails to creep far enough into vision on many occasion, a great element that could have been exceptional sadly poorly orchestrated.

Leila Schaus makes for a compelling and believable Eva, she fully embodies the role of frightened, frustrated child while portraying beautifully the shattered innocence of a young evacuee whose childhood is gradually destroyed by the horrors of war.

Jenny Lee is excellent as the vociferous Lil, as the Mancunian Mother she brings some welcome laughter to this poignant drama.

Suzan Slyvester and Hannah Bristow in their roles as Evelyn and Faith portray a difficult and cold mother/daughter relationship. Lacking in warmth, they are spiky and cruel to each other, as Evelyn wallows in her misery and Faith lacks the compassion to empathise with her mother’s plight.

Past and present appear on stage simultaneously to great effect with Nic Farman’s atmospheric lighting gently but convincingly differentiates between the two.

The production features some strong performances with a visually impressive set from Marie-Luce Theis it just doesn’t quite impact the way this moving exploration on the effects of war should do. That said it is a compelling and educational production which puts the spotlight firmly on the lasting plight of the innocent during war, something that should always be at the forefront of our minds.

On at the Opera House until Saturday 5th May tickets available time.

Interview | Douglas Day Stewart | An Officer and a Gentleman

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Based on the Oscar-winning film starring Richard Gere, An Officer and a Gentleman, the musical will sweep audiences off their feet when it heads to Manchester’s Opera House on 13th August.

Including the iconic hit song from the movie ‘Up Where We Belong’ along with 80’s classic after 80’s including ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’, ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘Material Girl’, and ‘The Final Countdown’, An Officer and a Gentleman promises to be a thrilling night at the theatre as we follow the rough and ready Zack Mayo (Jonny Fines) as he learns the hard way the importance of how to be both an Officer and a Gentleman. Starring Olivier Award nominee Emma Williams, with direction by Nikolai Foster (Artistic Director Curve, Annie, Calamity Jane), An Officer and A Gentleman is not to be missed!

We had the pleasure of chatting to Douglas Day Stewart, the much celebrated co-writer of the book and original screenplay to hear a little more about what audiences can expect when the show arrives at Manchester’s Opera House on 13th August.

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Opening Night: Did you ever think back in 1982 you’d be revisiting the show 36 years later and presenting it as a musical?

Douglas Day Stewart: Absolutely not, I had no idea what an amazing journey writing this story would be for me, it’s been a blessing that just keeps on giving over the decades, it just gets better and better and better.

ON: We understand there are many autobiographical elements within the story, how do you decide what to put in and what to hold back?

DDS: I think my dream was to capture a moment in time that I survived. In 13 weeks it was a crucible of change for me. I went from being a boy to being a man. I went through all the experiences that I put into this and I tried to be true to everything. Of course in writing a story you take certain literary licences, I was not the rough edged intolerable guy that my character was but I had known that character being a naval officer. I had met people who were very much like Zack Mayo so I combined my own experiences with my knowledge of the rougher elements.

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ON: Richard Gere was so iconic as Zack Mayo how was it working with him?

DDS: It was wonderful; it was the perfect piece of casting. Initially I thought that John Travolta would have been my choice for Zack having worked with him on the television film The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and at the last moment he decided it wasn’t for him which was I think good for everyone because Richard was better than anyone could have hoped for….until now of course when we have a new Zack Mayo in the hugely talented Jonny Fines. The director Nikolai Foster knew Jonny so also knew what a gifted performer he was, when I see Jonny performing on stage I just can’t imagine anyone else in that role.

ON: How important was it for you to have Nikolai Foster as part of your creative team?

DDS: It was the key to the dream, getting Nikolai on board. He and I saw this story being converted to a stage musical in the exact same way. We both had the passion and vision to tell a simple working class story, something really true, genuine and honest.

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ON: Will we see many changes in the musical or have you stayed true to the original film?

DDS: We’re very truthful to the film. It has a wonderful history and we didn’t want to violate that for the audience but at the same time we wanted to appeal to a new audience, the story is so enduring though that I feel new audiences for example my daughter and her millennial friends will embrace it just as much as my generation did. What I think is the secret to the success of the film and will be to the musical is that the women and men love it equally. I’m seeing standing ovations every night and men in the audience are as emotionally caught up in the story as the women in the audience which is a very rare thing. It makes for a great date experience. It was written with a sense of honesty and also for men and women alike.

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ON: The songs chosen really revisit the sounds of the times how did you go about choosing which to include?

DDS: Well we of course had to have the iconic Up Where We Belong then everything else is really a building block up to that song and that moment. Every single song we picked is a song from the 80’s, a song that I personally love and that audiences also seem to really love, the soundtrack really is amazing. Nikolai must take credit too for picking many of the songs we ended up including, he had a real sense of what would work within the material. I pushed him to include one song that was not on anyone’s list but had been suggested by co-author Sharleen Cooper Cohen who did a lot of work on this project, that song was It’s A Man’s, Man’s Man’s World. The idea behind that was to bring out the women’s side of the story even more than in the original film. You’ll see in the show the women’s story is equally as important as the men going through their military training. It was important to do this in a way which felt authentic and empowering.

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ON: How does it feel to have created something so iconic?

DDS: It’s so gratifying, I can’t tell you the number of times people have come up to me and said they’d asked their wife to marry them after watching the movie, people have shown me pictures from weddings where they were married wearing the officers suits, they’ve danced to Up Where We Belong at their weddings it’s really incredible. We hit an amazing note with the movie that I really hope we achieve with the musical too; people saw the movie and believed in love again. It’s absolutely time to start believing in love again. Standing ovations every night is more than I could ever have wished for and I hear Manchester audiences as some of the best!

You can catch An Officer and a Gentleman at Manchester Opera House from Monday 13th August until Saturday 18th tickets available here.