Jersey Boys

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Being the proud winner of 57 major international awards including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical brings about a huge amount of expectation; does this current Jersey Boys tour deliver? Yes, absolutely yes, and then some, and then a little bit more, the thunderous standing ovation at Manchester’s Palace Theatre confirming this for anyone still in any doubt.

Jersey Boys tells both the on and off-stage story of the original Four Seasons; Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi who together took the world by storm, selling a whopping 175 million records worldwide as well as being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all before they hit 30. This exhilarating musical leaves no stone unturned as the highs, lows, heartaches, fears, joys and the all-important music come together in one seriously sensational show.

The structure is clever with the story being divided into ‘four seasons’ each narrated in turn by a different member of the quintet; offering an opportunity for several unique versions of events making for compelling viewing.

This is no bubble-gum jukebox musical, the journey we see Franki Valli (Michael Watson), Bob Gaudio (Declan Egan), Tommy DeVito (Peter Nash covering on press night) and Nick Massi (Lewis Griffiths) go on its intense, exhilarating and absorbing, there is so much to enjoy about this show it’s difficult imaging anyone not getting swept away by this slick and stylish production.

The four leads are outstanding, their harmonies sublime as they deliver hit after hit with perfection. With an epic back catalogue including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Working My Way Back to You the music in this show takes some beating. The lyrics are used to progress the story while the different take from each of the boys on the same situations offers a real honesty and moves the action along nicely.

This current production written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe is staged by the entire original Broadway creative team and it shows. The music alone is enough to sell the show but what you get is so much more as the emotion and energy of the piece takes hold.

Peter Nash opens the show confidently as Tommy DeVito, perfectly embodying the role, brimming with style and swagger, a commanding performance laying it out from the start that this ain’t gonna be no walk in the park. Declan Egan comes next as Bob Gaudio, charismatic, charming and brings a lot of fun to the role. Lewis Griffith’s most recently seen in Manchester as Dirty Dancing’s Jonny Castle makes for a complex and compelling Nick Massi while Michael Watson simply soars as Frankie Valli, mastering that iconic falsetto perfectly. The four leads are supported by a strong ensemble cast who help take this show to the next level, giving high-energy performances and complimenting the lead vocals beautifully.

It comes as no surprise that Jersey Boys has now been seen by over 25 million people worldwide, while the music itself is standalone brilliant add to this the sharp book and slick staging and you have the recipe for the perfect night out. Electrifying theatre which will no doubt keep the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons alive for a whole new generation.

Jersey Boys runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 16th February tickets available here.

 

Trial By Laughter

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The name William Hone won’t mean that much to most people, which is crying shame. For back in the early 1817 this was a man who campaigned tirelessly for civil liberties, sought reform in the many lunatic asylums, and highlighted the miscarriages of justice that blighted the judicial system. In addition Hone was an investigative journalist, satirical commentator and publisher who along with his friend, George Cruikshank a political cartoonist lampooned the ruling class of the day: that being the Regency government.  So angered by Hone’s work the Prince Regent sought to have him prosecuted by any means possible.

So when it came to the story of William Hone, who better to tell it than Ian Hislop and Nick Newman. Both are champions of a free press, both have great form in sending up and holding to account politicians and world leaders through the magazine Private Eye. Newman is the cartoonist for the magazine and Hislop is the editor.  In addition Hislop is no stranger to a libel case having faced several down the years.  The two writers have reunited with director Caroline Leslie, with whom they worked with on their debut play The Wipers Times, to bring this intriguing story to the stage with their new production: Trial by Laughter.

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The play opens with the Prince Regent and his (alleged) mistresses angered by their depiction at the hands of Hone and Cruikshank, so enraged is he that he orders his government flunkies to prosecute Hone. Hone is charged with blasphemy and arrested, falsely imprisoned and denied legal assistance. With only the support of Cruikshank, and his wife, Sarah, Hone mounts a defence and against all odds wins the trail. This really is the beginning of Hone’s troubles as he faces three criminal trials in as many days, which could see him imprisoned or deported to Australia. With the Regency’s relentless pursuit and Hone’s health deteriorating is this really a battle he can truly win?

There is a lot to admire about this production: Joseph Prowen is on great form as William Hone, playing him with a twinkle-in-the-eye and a great deal of righteous optimism that is gradually beaten out of him as the trials progress. Dan Mersh (playing numerous roles) is equally fine as Hone’s tormentor; Justice Ellenborough who plagues his foe at every turn and cannot hide is distain or prejudices for Foe. Peter Losasso plays Cruikshank, with a cheeky swagger clearly relishing his pun filled part. Whilst Eva Scott is also strong as Hone’s long suffering wife, who in spite of all their trials and tribulations she never loses faith in her husband.

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Despite the subject matter being over 200 years old it relevance today cannot be understated as the play tackles such issues as freedom of speech and freedom of the press and measures how far governments and people of power will go to too stifle this, you only need to look at the recent murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to see its relevance. It also tackles the weighty issue of what is fair game for a joke: politicians, religion, the ruling class, and when does a joke go too far and become offensive. These are clearly subject matters that Hislop and Newman feel passionately about and it shines through in their writing.

The production does have a few issues: there are some great gags in here which poke fun at modern day celebrity culture, even Prince Charles is on the receiving end of a roasting. Whilst the jokes come thick and fast, and are exceptionally crafted there is nothing here that will have you rolling in the isles, more a wry smile then a big belly laugh. Despite this being a trail there is little jeopardy for Hone and thus at times the more dramatic elements of the paly can feel a little flat.

Overall this a fascinating, entertaining tale that needs to be told and deserves its platform, it’s worth a watch but you can’t help feel there is something missing.

Trail by Laughter is on the Lowry until 2nd February, tickets available here.

 

Interview | Lewis Griffiths talks Jersey Boys

The international smash-hit Jersey Boys returns to Manchester this week as part of an extensive UK tour. Winner of an incredible 57 major awards worldwide, including the Olivier Award for Best New Musical, Jersey Boys tells the true life story of four boys from the wrong side of the tracks who went on to sell over 100 million records worldwide.

Featuring hit after iconic hit including Beggin’, December 1963 (Oh What A Night), Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like A Man, Bye Bye Baby, Big Girls Don’t Cry and many more, Jersey Boys is an unforgettable story packed with heart and humour making for a thrilling night at the theatre. We caught up with actor Lewis Griffiths who plays Nick Massi to hear a little more about this sensational show.

You’re returning to the show after a previous stint as the late Nick Massi, how does it feel to be back?

It’s great, it’s a dream role so I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to reprise the role and here I am. Since I’ve come back I’ve discovered every performance I do is different to the previous as it’s a whole new production, a whole new chemistry, a whole new cast so everything although I’ve done the show before feels very new and very fresh.

Is there an added pressure in portraying a real person?

It has a certain pressure particularly with the character Nick Massi being passed now there is a legacy to uphold. It’s tricky sometimes playing a real person because there’s not as much artistic license to have free reign but it’s a great challenge and with this story there is a lot to discover, a lot of twists and turns, unexpected secrets shall we say, it’s a great role.

Despite your experience in the role do you still get nervous before a performance?

Of course, there’s a certain nervous energy that you require to perform, if you have no nerves whatsoever that can sometimes come across as a little bit arrogant. Naturally you have to have an element of nerves, as a performer you’re starting from scratch for every show, you can’t ever think ‘oh I’ve done this before a thousand times it’s a piece of cake’ because for the audience watching you it may well be the first time they are watching the show so you have to act as thought it’s the first time you’re performing it, that’s really the added pressure that gives you the nerves.

While Frankie Valli is known for his iconic falsetto Nick Massi supplied the rich deep rich vocals, how do you look after your voice?

They are a hard sing, the best thing I find for me personally is making sure I get lots of sleep and drink lots of water. I know that may sound like a cliché but that’s honestly what works best. The hardest thing about the show is not the range it’s the endurance, Nick Massi doesn’t solo a lot but he does sing a lot in the show and it’s a wide range so the stamina to endure the intensity of the tracks is what’s really important.

Do you have any preshow rituals to help you get in the zone?

I used to, I used to have lots of silly little things I did but I don’t tend to do those things anymore. As long as I’m in the building at the half hour call and I’m ready for beginners I kind of take my time in that half hour window between the half hour and the beginners call call I just try and relax, listen to some music, have a cup of tea and let myself relax in order to play Nick so by the time I’ve got my suit on and I’m walking onto the stage I am Nick Massi.

Is there anything you can’t live without on tour?

I always take a picture of myself and my fiancé on tour, it comes to every dressing room with me so it’s always there with me. If I could take her I would. She lives in Newcastle so as we’re bringing the tour further up North I’ll get the chance to see a bit more of her which will be wonderful.

You’ve visited Manchester with a few tours now, is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to seeing or doing?

Manchester’s such a broad city, just when you think you know it you always find something else to discover, something you haven’t done or somewhere you weren’t expecting. Last time I was there with Jersey Boys we did I live performance on BBC Breakfast which was wonderful as they were interviewing Frankie Valli on the show so I’d love to explore around there a little more.

Finally is anyone is considering booking a ticket for Jersey Boys at Manchester’s Palace Theatre what would you say to them?

You’d be coming to see an eye-opening story which is made very special by not only the cast but every integral element of what makes the show work, from wigs, wardrobe, crew, it’s a real ensemble piece that brings to life something that is unforgettable, added to that the infectious music of The Four Seasons, then you can fully appreciate why this show is such a crowd-pleaser, it’s definitely one to beg, steal or borrow a ticket to see.

Jersey Boys opens at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on Tuesday 29th January and runs until Saturday 16th February tickets available here.

Interview| Jon Trenchard | The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

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Described as Ocean’s Eleven meets the Marx Brothers Mischief Theatre’s latest smash-hit show The Comedy About a Bank Robbery arrives in Chester on Tuesday as part of its current UK tour. We caught up with actor Jon Trenchard who plays the loveable and luckless bank clerk Warren Slax to her a little more about the show.

Can you tell us a little bit about the storyline?

It’s quite a filmic script, it’s about a diamond heist, very, very loosely based on a real diamond heist which happened in Minneapolis in the 50’s, it’s got everything in it you can imagine to do with criminality. It’s got prison breakouts, car chases, gun fights, kidnapping, pick pocketing, fraud, a brilliant vault scene inspired by mission impossible. There are lots of filmic elements including moments where the perspective gets warped, its complete madcap farce, fast paced, door-slamming mayhem, all with incredible characters.

How does your character Warren fit into the story?

There’s a line that’s repeated quite often that ‘everybody in this town’s a crook’ but I would argue that my character is the only one that’s not. Pretty much everyone else wants to get their hands on the diamond at some point. But Warren bless him just wants to please everyone. He’s 67 years old, he’s still an intern, he’s described in the casting breakdown as ‘eternally unfortunate’, he really wants a promotion, he’s had his house repossessed and then everything else goes wrong for him including not getting the love of his lie who is much younger than him so he doesn’t really stand a chance. There’s so much comedy surrounding him, some seriously witty wordplay, physical comedy obviously as that’s what Mischief do so well and of course lots of slapstick. Poor Warren is often the butt of the slapstick jokes; he gets hit rather a lot.

The show must be so physically demanding, how do you prepare for that?

We’ve had some little injuries along the way, we have a fantastic set of understudies just in case anything goes wrong. It is a very physically demanding role; it requires a lot of stamina. We really have to make sure we stay relaxed; we do a lot of stretching and warming up. We always warm down after a show too as well as the stretching beforehand to make sure our muscles are going to be able to cope with the performance.

Are well as being physically demanding you also have the challenge of ensuring the physical comedy looks fresh…

We’re often doing seven or eight shows a week and each time it’s the first time the audience has seen the show so for them we have to make sure the show feels fresh each time, it’s really interesting work because although you’re doing the same show each day and for a lot of the timing you have to be really precise each show feels very different. Audiences in each city are different and you learn certain things are going to work better for maybe people in Newcastle that didn’t work as well for people in Oxford. We’re kept fresh not only by each other but also by the audience. The audience in effect is an extra character that we meet a fresh every night and whose reactions we feed off. It’s always so much fun and always a little bit different dependant on audience reactions.

I believe there’s a musical element to the show too?

We’ve got a 1950’s soundtrack. We all sing acapella, there’s a fantastic element of ensemble that brings I think, when you’re singing together each day you know you can’t do it without each other and I think the togetherness that brings really helps the style of the whole piece and is something that Mischief are so great at; creating wonderful ensembles.

It’s just been announced that Mischief will be opening a new show Groan Ups this year, what do you think makes their work so successful and appealing to audiences?

I think it’s a lot to do with the fact that it appeals to all ages; there are so many different types of comedy within it. Mischief shows really bombard the audience with one style of comedy after another so if there’s some wordplay but that’s not your thing it doesn’t matter coz you’ll get a physical gag straight after. It really appeals to people from all backgrounds and all ages. I think a lot of the elements of comedy that Mischief have reinvigorated are very traditional elements of British comedy , we have such a fabulous tradition of comedy in this country and I think that’s why Mischief’s work is being received so well all over the world. Currently they have The Play That Goes Wrong on in every continent in the world except Antarctica; I personally can’t wait for the penguins to see it when it finally gets there!

Finally are you looking forward to visiting the Chester Storyhouse?

I’ve done lots of touring in the past, this is my 12 tour of the UK but I’ve never performed in Chester or the Storyhouse, I visited Chester when I was doing a show at Theatre Clwyd but this will be my first time at the Storyhouse so I’m very excited about it.

You can catch The Comedy About A Bank Robbery at Chester’s Storyhouse theatre from Tuesday 29th January until Saturday 2nd February tickets available here.

 

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed By Nikki Cotter

Octagon Theatre first presented their version of Little Voice back in 2012. Now as the theatre goes through an extensive refurb the production is relocated to Bolton’s nearby Albert Halls.

Returning to play the gentle voiced LV is Kate Elin-Salt who lives with her brash and boozy mother Mari after the death of her beloved father. LV takes respite from her mothers endless noise and nonsense by hiding away in her bedroom, listening to her late father’s record collection. One night Mari brings home artist manager Ray who discovers LV’s hidden talent for impersonating iconic female singers and decides it’s time she stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight.

The small cast is bursting with talent and tell this charming and at times gritty story with conviction and real heart. Sally George is a tour de force as LV’s brash mother Mari. Her continued descent into brattish hysteria is entirely captivating. She is crude, crass, yet utterly compelling and somehow lovable.

Katie Elin-Salt shines in the role of LV, morphing from hunched recluse to dazzling diva with ease. Her delivery of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is goosebump inducing perfection.

Sue Vincent gives a stellar performance as monosyllabic Sadie who burst into life to great comedic effect when her favourite Jackson 5 number comes on. Mark Moraghan convinces as the sly and smarmy Ray, ruthless in his pursuit for glory when his real intentions become clear. Ted Robbins’ star quality shines through as club owner Mr Boo while Akshay Gulati makes for a sensetive and lovable Billy, the only person who actually takes the time to really listen to LV.

Director Ben Occhipinti ensures the cast use Amanda Stoodley’s two story set to great effect, the lack of backstage area at the Albert Halls us managed well while the use of a motorised streamer curtain and sparkling mirrorballs transforms the stage for the club scenes to hugely atmospheric effect.

The cast during Friday’s press night had to contend with a thumping bass coming from the floor below through the majority of Act II and did so admirably there were also on a few occasions times when dialogue was lost in the expansive hall but this is nothing which can’t be addressed by the sound team.

Little Voice proves once again that the Octagon team have a great ability to produce high quality and enormously entertaining theatre no matter the venue. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is funny, warm-hearted and beautifully delivered theatre. Another triumph for the Octagon.

Catch The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Albert Halls until Saturday 2nd February. Tickets available here.

 

Interview | Ian Hislop & Nick Newman | Trial By Laughter

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After the enormous success of The Wipers Times in both the West End and on it’s UK tour, celebrated writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman have once again joined forces for their new piece of work Trial By Laughter.

This new production based on their critically acclaimed BBC Radio 4 drama of the same name introduces us to William Hone a forgotten hero of free speech and asks if just over two hundred years later our press has any greater freedom. 1817 Hone then a bookseller, publisher and satirist stood trial for parodying religion, the despotic government and the lustful monarchy. The only crime he had committed was to be funny. The show which has been described by critics as ‘a sparky historical comedy’ heads to The Lowry next week. We caught up with writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman to hear a little more about the show.

How would you sum up the premise of Trial By Laughter?

Nick: It’s a story about press freedom and free speech and a battle for freedom and free speech. It’s the story of a trial in 1817 – the trial of a man called William Hone, who was a sort of shy bookseller and publisher of cartoons and satirical pamphlets. He was taken to court by the Regency government to try and stifle jokes about the monarchy. That’s essentially what it’s about.

Ian: It’s exactly that. It’s a courtroom thriller but it’s a historical courtroom thriller with jokes, which means it’s three different genres in one for just one ticket price.

Nick: I think we’d describe it as The Madness Of King George meets A Few Good Men…

Ian: Meets Crown Court.

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What was the original inspiration for the radio play?

Nick: We’d just finished doing The Wipers Times for BBC 2, when we did the film of it, and the head of BBC2 Janice Hadlow sent us an email asking if we’d heard of William Hone. Janice is an expert on Regency history and has written books about it. We both said ‘Who?’ which is often a very good starting point for a story because we think ‘Well, if we don’t know anything about it let’s find out’. We started doing research and suddenly out came this amazing story about this amazing man – a complete nobody really but who took on the might of the government in a landmark case.

Ian: It’s incredible. He had his moment when history beckoned and then fell into obscurity, to our shame really. I’m the editor of Private Eye and Nick’s a cartoonist yet we didn’t know about him, but again that makes for a much better story because you’re telling people something new.

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From researching the tale what were you most surprised or interested to learn about Hone?

Ian: Without giving spoilers, it’s incredible that they tried him three times in three days. At the end of each day when the jury found him innocent they just tried him again the next morning until there were 20,000 people outside the Guildhall and they thought ‘We’re going to have a riot now’. This was only a couple of decades after the French Revolution…

Nick: And a year before the Peterloo Massacre so tensions were incredibly high. The Crown was very worried about the possibility of revolution and there were failed harvests and a lot of famine, squalor and whatnot. Meanwhile the Prince Regent was being portrayed in cartoons and in pamphlets as this libertine voluptuary who was scoffing vast quantities of food while people were hanging outside the windows. The other thing we discovered about Hone as we did more research is what a remarkable man he was because he wasn’t just a satirist, which was our first interest and his friendship with the cartoonist Cruikshank interested me as a cartoonist myself. Their working relationship was also a natural thing for us to explore and Hone was also probably our first investigative journalist. He was a witness to the execution of a young serving girl, a maid called Eliza Fenning, and he was absolutely appalled by it. He did a lot of research into her case and basically proved that it was a miscarriage of justice. We also learned he was an amazing philanthropist and he took a terrific interest in the lunatic asylums and campaigned for better conditions. There was the reform of juries, which he campaigned for and won. He never stopped working.

Ian: And he believed in universal suffrage, which at the time was a good 100 years away. If you look at his range of interests, they are pretty extraordinary.

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What changes have you made in preparing the play for the stage?

Ian: It’s completely different. The thing about radio is that it has to be very words-driven, which is fine because there are lots of bits about speeches and whatever, but to get it to the stage we have to make it more dramatic. There’s a lot more about the role of his wife and we’ve set more of it in pubs.

Nick: It’s a matter of fact that Hone and Cruikshank devised their strategy for the case in all the pubs and coffee houses of London so it’s a very rich milieu in which they were working. Hone was admired at the time by his literary colleagues, even though he was always bankrupt and had schemes which lost him money, and one of his admirers was William Hazlitt, who was one of the most caustic critics of the era. The only person Hazlitt seemed to like was William Hone so we’ve put Hazlitt in the story as well, which is great for the colour.

What do you feel makes Hone’s story a great subject for a play?

Ian: Hone’s tactic in the trial was to appeal to the jury so his whole way of winning was to make it accessible to an ordinary… I’d hate to say viewer but that’s sort of how he approached it. Courtrooms are great theatre on the whole and Hone and Cruikshank, in devising the strategy as it were, realised that playing to the gallery is not a bad thing in a big trial – it’s what you need to do because you need to get them on your side. That’s exactly what happens in the theatre.

Nick: What was slightly unusual about their tactics is that they set out to make the jury laugh. The basic of their entire case was that Hone spoke for six-to-eight hours every day of the trials just producing more and more examples of stuff he thought would make people laugh – and they did. There are some transcripts, which admittedly were edited or written by Hone so he did beef up his own amusingness quite a lot.

Ian: A bit like Oscar Wilde writing the account of his own trial and Hone’s account is fantastic. He’s brilliant in it, unsurprisingly because he edited it.

Nick: History written by the victors…

Ian: Yes and it’s bloody funny.

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How you feel the subject matter resonates for contemporary audiences?

Ian: I think it’s a reminder that this battle has to be won in every generation. We are incredibly privileged to be the beneficiaries of all those battles that were won in Britain in the 19th century but they can be lost again. History doesn’t only go one way.

Nick: And the arguments that are buzzing around now are very similar. Hone was targeted because he wrote parodies of religious text, principally The Lord’s Prayer and the Litany and The Ten Commandments, and they were the sort of stuff we’d put in Private Eye now for a bit of fun. Only the other week you had Rowan Atkinson talking about ‘Should we be allowed to make jokes about religion?’ Hone believed you should if the context is political or whatever and that’s what free speech is. On a global scale there are cartoonists in Turkey and Malaysia who are still being persecuted and there’s this amazing Malaysian cartoonist called Zunar who until recently faced 45 years in jail for seditious libel, which is basically the same charge that was levied against Hone, for making jokes about the Prime Minister and his wife. Zunar, like Hone, could have done a runner. I met him when he was over in England but he was going back to face trial because he felt this was an important case, like Hone did, that establishes what we can and can’t say about our rulers.

You’ve worked with director Caroline Leslie a few times now. What do you enjoy about the collaboration?

Ian: [Laughs] She’s very annoying because she demands you put in new scenes and change things around to try and make it better.

Nick: What’s that joke? ‘How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?’

Ian: ‘None – don’t change anything!’

Nick: That’s very much our view but Caroline forces her to make changes. We first started working with her on our first play we did, A Bunch Of Amateurs, and she was absolutely brilliant and brought all kinds of things to the script which we didn’t know were there, including a lot of music. Then she directed The Wipers Times and that’s a play that’s full of music and movement and we wrote it accordingly because we thought ‘Caroline’s very good at this so let’s make sure she has a lot of stuff to work with’.

Ian: It’s very good having a woman director, particularly in situations that are quite blokey by definition like the Army and English court in the 1800s. She makes sure that it expands beyond that and that the emotional elements are not ignored.

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This is your third play to be developed by the Watermill Theatre. What do you see as its importance to the UK theatre scene?

Ian: It’s a very exciting place to work.

Nick: It’s a remarkable theatre. Apart from being a jewel in terms of its setting and the closeness to the stage you have as an audience, the standard of productions has been incredible. I first came across it when they did a production of Sweeney Todd in 2004 which transferred to the West End. They’re just brilliant at doing things, particularly with music. When we were invited to do A Bunch Of Amateurs there we knew nothing about the Watermill but we enjoyed the experience so much that if we were able to we’d always go there because the audiences are lovely and it’s a great place to do a play.

You’ve been writing together for a long time. How would you describe your collaborative process?

Ian: We write together, literally. We don’t send each other drafts and we physically work together in the same room. I suppose we try and make each other laugh; that’s the first thing. But we’ve known each other long enough to be able to say ‘That isn’t very good’ or ‘That’s a terrible suggestion’ and then just get on with it. There’s a sort of joint self-editing.

Nick: There’s always a lot of energy when it’s the two of us doing something, particularly because Ian’s time is so precious because he’s everywhere. When we get together we have to get on and do some writing. We tend to work quite fast. We both do stuff independently but to edit each other as we go is a sort of bonus. I’ve got lots of writer friends who write on their own, which I think is a very ghastly prospect. They have to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite; if you look at the greats like Alan Bennett, his diaries are full of the pain of rewriting. We have to rewrite as well but it’s a bit less than if we working on our own.

Ian: Because Nick’s a cartoonist he’s always had a strong visual sense whereas I tend to be a bit more word-bound. So there’s always a point where Nick’s thinking ‘What would look great is this…’ which I usually haven’t thought of. I’m thinking ‘This bit I’ve just written would be really clever’ when actually if might be terribly boring and getting something across visually is what it’s all about. That’s another reason we really enjoy collaborating.

How hands-on are you with your touring productions?

Nick: They take on a life of their own really. If we go do a Q&A we see the show and occasionally have some notes, which we pass on to our producer or to Caroline. But really by opening night it’s all pretty much there.

Ian: [Laughs] Our notes are always ‘Could the actors not ad-lib please? Can they only say exactly what we’ve written?’.

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You are doing post-show Q&As again for Trial By Laughter. What do like about the process?

Nick: The ones we have done for The Wipers Times are always very instructive because we meet people who’ve got their own stories to tell. We did a Q&A down in Chichester last year and a lady in the front row said ‘I have a little knowledge of this subject because my grandfather was Fred Roberts [who edited the paper]’ so we said ‘Please come up on stage’ and we just sat there asking her questions about him. It’s a great way of interacting with your audience. In Salisbury we were talking about trying to make The First World War accessible to younger audiences through a humorous story and a young girl at the back who was around 13 went ‘Well, it works!’ With the Q&As you get a bit of a discussion going and a bit of a debate.

Ian: There was a great moment just before one of the Q&As where someone said ‘There’s an Army chap in the audience who said he thought you’d got it pretty much right’ and when we asked who he was they said he was Deputy Supreme Commander Allied Nato Forces.

What you hope to get out of the Trial By Laughter Q&As?

Ian: We want to know what they think really, what bits they’re interested in and whether they think we should still be worried about this sort of thing. Hopefully they’ll think we very much should be.

Nick: We’ve become very energised by this subject matter and we’ve found it fascinating. All we’re really trying to do is try and get other people as interested in it as we are. We happen to think Hone is one of the most brilliant men in history and we hope other people share our opinion.

Trial By Laughter will be at The Lowry from Tuesday 29 January until Saturday 2 February 2019 tickets can be booked here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Win a VIP Motown experience!

dancing in the streets - girls centre

Smash-hit West End sensation Motown The Musical arrives at Manchester’s Opera House next month and music fans across the north west are being asked to share their memories of this magical music to be in with a chance to win an incredible VIP experience which includes tickets to watch the show on press night (27th February) as well as the chance to meet the cast backstage.

All you have to do to be in with a chance to win this amazing prize is share your Motown memories from when either the Tamla-Motown Revue UK tour featuring The Supremes, Martha and The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and Stevie Wonder visited Manchester in 1965 or when The Jackson 5 played the King’s Hall in Gorton as part of their European tour back in 1972.

Motown The Musical as well as the Opera House would love to hear your memories of these ground-breaking gigs, whether it be pictures or anicdotes you may have.

To enter simply send written details of your memories to the marketing team via the following menthods

Email: commentsmcr@theambassadors.com

Post: Marketing Department, c/o Manchester Palace Theatre, Stage Door, 97 Oxford St, Manchester, M1 6FT

All entries must be received by 5pm on Friday 15th February 2019. Entries must include a name, address and telephone number and winners will be notified no later than Friday 22nd February 2019.

Motown The Musical tells the story of Berry Gordy’s world-famous Motown record label, which gave rise to huge stars such as The Jackson 5, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. The production is heading to the Manchester’s Opera House from Tuesday February 26th – Saturday 23rd March tickets can be booked here.