Newly formed Theatre Company WonderIfTheatre bring Jez Butterworth’s slick, black comedy MOJO to The Met, Bury this week as part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.
Director Jennie Fairclough shifts the action from SOHO to 1990’s Madchester, “I grew up in Madchester, ‘Sankey’s’ and ‘Academy’ flyers graced my walls and the Hacienda was at its peak of popularity, in many ways it was a rite of passage for my friends and me. But even as naive teenagers, we were always aware of a seedier side.”
Opening Night were lucky enough to chat to cast members Scott Harrison, Oliver Baines and Leigh Manning to hear a little more about their involvement in the production and what audiences can expect from the play.
Scott Harrison (SH) – Baby
Oliver Baines (OB) – Skinny
Leigh Manning (LM) – Sweets
Whats the story of Mojo and without giving too much away where does
your character sit in this piece?
OB: Mojo is a story about 6 men battling for power in the 90s clubs scene. Think
Hacienda and Acid house and you’re on the right track. Skinny is the runt who has very little going for him.
LM: I play Sweets, the ‘Bez’ of the group. He’s A joyous, energetic, ball of weird and
the sidekick to Potts played by Paul Jennings. The pair of them form a little Del Boy/
Rodney double act.
SH: My character, Baby, is the son of Ezra who is the owner of the Atlantic club where the play is set. By rights, Baby believes he should be next in line for top position. However, his wild and erratic nature unnerves the other characters who, instead, initially see Mickey as Ezra’s next in line. Baby is a complex character with many layers and is a joy to play!
What’s your biggest challenge for this piece?
OB: My biggest challenge for this piece, and I’m sure others may agree with me, is the pace and keeping up the energy of the script because I’ve never performed something so fast in my life.
SH: Definitely the challenge is nailing the tempo rhythms.
LM: Learning Jez Butterworth’s machine gun dialogue is one challenge but then
delivering it at a razor sharp pace is a complete other.
Have you taken part in Greater Manchester Fringe before?
LM: I was part of the GM fringe back when I co-starred and coproduced an original
comedy called ALL OR PEANUTS back in 2015. The fringe is so accessible and
welcoming, bringing together an array of talent from diverse backgrounds – it’s a
pleasure to be a part of it again.
SH: This is my first time taking part in a piece for Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. It’s been brilliant getting to know other creatives taking part in the fringe and to see such a united support of Fringe theatre throughout the Greater Manchester region.
Tell us about your acting career thus far…
OB: I’m relatively new to acting and performance in general to be honest, only starting once I joined college 2 years ago, and have worked on a variety of college
productions since then. That’s when our director Jennie approached me about Mojo I
couldn’t believe it and I am very excited to be a part of it.
LM: I started acting, like many, at a young age after being encouraged by my
teachers. I was lucky enough to be accepted to be apart of the Royal Exchanges young company in its first year of forming and had amazing opportunities with the theatre including performing professionally in the main theatre as part of the Christmas production directed by Melly Still. After leaving college, I began working full time as an actor, performing in productions such as Kes, Punk Rock and A Midsummer Nights Dream at some of the best north west theatres. I have also self-produced pieces of original independent theatre for fringe venues in Manchester and Liverpool
SH: I studied at East 15 Acting School on a one year foundation course and then went to LIPA in Liverpool to study on the 3 year Acting course there. Following graduation, I did a summer tour of a new play called ‘You Boy’ by Joshua Meredith. I’m really
excited about doing ‘MOJO’ this July. It’s a great bunch of people i’m working with
and the material is fantastic to play with.
In a world where there is so much theatre on offer, what specifically do
you think is the pull for audiences to go see Mojo?
LM: There’s nothing more Mancunian than this production in the fringe. It’s got it all;
an iconic soundtrack, a slick cast and its proper funny! If you lived through the 90s or
want a taste of what it was like, then MOJO is the ticket you need to get.
OB: Our Mojo brings a fresh wave of banter and hilarity to the stage. In recent times in theatre and on TV a lot of time is spent on dark and heavy subject matter that’s
uncomfortable to watch and that’s all well and good but I think Mojo cuts through the
middle of all that giving an audience something to really get invested in and laugh their bums off at.
SH: I feel that WonderIf’s re-setting of ‘MOJO’ in early 90s Manchester will resonate
with and appeal to a lot of people around Greater Manchester who can remember
that era for its music and vibrancy. Moreover, I think Jez Butterworth’s skilled crafting
of a play with so much high level suspense would grip an audience from start to finish.
📷 Paul Wright
MOJO plays at The Met, Bury on July 17th, 21st and 22nd.
Tickets available here.