The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Reviewed by Kate Lewis

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

This compelling and touching adaptation of Christy Lefteri’s bestseller draws the audience in to the dire reality of the plight of the masses of people fleeing their homes around the world. The play shifts between past and present as the central protagonist, Nuri is forced to relive his traumatic journey as a refugee for the officials who are interviewing him. The anguish of the articulation of this journey is palpable thanks to the accomplished performance of Alfred Clay who does not allow us to look away.

Emotionally, a difficult watch as we confront the notion that the family whose plight we follow are familiar and human and universal in so many ways. The relationship between Alfred Clay’s ‘Nuri’ and Roxy Faridany’s ‘Afra’ is delicately balanced with humor and intimacy that really does crystallise the deeply human and flawed characters at the heart of this narrative. The unexpected turns in the plot are both tense and utterly devastating.

The staging and costumes are pared back and undistracting which allows the clever use of light and sound to synchronise beautifully with the script to create tension, sadness and some degree of hope. While it deals with some difficult experiences, it does so without being gratuitously graphic which would make this an excellent and hard-hitting watch for teenagers and young adults.

The undoubted tragedy of this play is drawn out never more artfully than by the performance of Joseph Long as Mustafa who walks the hair-thin line between glimmering humour and dreadful sorrow which for me was a true highlight of the production. A story well worth the telling and a story well told. This is bound to capture audiences around the country and force them to consider carefully its unflinching political message as well as its charming portrait of what it is to be human.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is on at The Lowry until Saturday 22nd April tickets available here.

ITV’s Loose Women announce LIVE tour

Loose Women has announced the first ever Loose Women Live tour, as ITV1’s award-winning Daytime show hits the road.

Swapping the studio for the stage across 16 spectacular nights, Loose Women Live will bring its iconic panel directly to a theatre near you this autumn with two North West dates at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Sunday September 03 and Opera House Manchester on Friday September 08.

Liverpool audiences can let loose with Kaye Adams, Nadia Sawalha, Denise Welch and Sunetra Sarker, while the Manchester panellists will include Denise Welch, Christine Lampard and Frankie Bridge with more to be revealed – for an evening filled with laughter, hot topics, fun and surprises – as they share their stories and secrets live and in-person. Tickets go on general sale at 10am Friday 21st April via

Mother Goose

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A pantomime on a wet Wednesday in April might seem unusual but there’s nothing here that will dampen your spirits as the brilliant Ian McKellen leads the charge in this riotous night of fantastic family fun.

Penned by Jonathan Harvey and directed by Cal McCrystal, this updated version of the panto classic tells the wholesome story of Mother Goose (Ian McKellen) and her devoted husband Vic (John Bishop), who run an animal sanctuary for loveable strays inside an abandoned Debenhams. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen on hard times, owing an energy company an eye-watering amount of money, (don’t we all); if they can’t afford to pay up, they face eviction!

Thankfully good fairy Encanta (Sharon Ballard) enters their lives, gifting them with Cilla Quack (Anna-Jane Casey), a glorious goose who lays magnificent golden eggs! However, bad fairy Malignia (Karen Mavundukure) predicts Mother Goose’s new-found riches will change her, and not for the better; here’s where the fun and frolics really begin.

Ian McKellen is an utter joy to watch, generous in his performance he gifts us with an entirely captivating turn as Mother (Caroline) Goose. Watching his performance as the family matriarch is an absolute thill as the chance to forsake everything for her ultimate dream of fame and fortune is realised. There’s reminiscing about Middle Earth days as well as nods to Shakespeare, all while the gags keep on coming.

The laughter only stops for a spot of booing, hissing and of course a few bursts of ‘he’s behind you’ in this camp, colourful creation as Mother Goose frequents A-lister events including the Oscars, the World Cup as well as London Fashion Week before ultimately realising perhaps the trappings of fame aren’t quite all they’re cracked up to be.

Playing alongside McKellen is devoted husband Vic, portrayed perfectly by John Bishop. His comic timing is of course spot on and his warmth with the audience sets us up for a great night from the opening line. The on-stage chemistry between him and McKellen is something else, they’re clearly loving every moment up there and boy does it show. Add to this magnificent mix their son Jack, played wonderfully by Oscar Conlon-Morrey, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to keep an audience in stitches all night. Conlon-Morrey is a fantastic addition to this unconventional family, throwing himself wholeheartedly into the fun of the piece while Anna-Jane Casey gives a knockout performance as Cilla Quack. Her big solo during Act II comes close to raising the roof off the Lowry’s Lyric theatre, showing true star-quality shines through even when you’re wearing orange crocs!

The leads are supported by a multi-talented company of actors who deliver Lizzi Gee’s choreography with ease and add to the feel-good factor of this show with their delightful delivery as the sanctuary’s strays. Special mention must go to Simbi Akande as Jill, her vocals are incredible while, Genevieve Nicole as Puss/Camilla will ensure we never see Camilla Parker Bowles in the same light again, here’s hoping she brings out the castanets for the Coronation!

Mother Goose is the perfect tonic, a real ensemble production with each and every person on stage giving their absolute all. If this show is available on prescription, then order me a lifetimes supply! You’ll laugh your socks off and leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, heart warmed and serotonin levels replenished. Super, silly, feel-good fun, delivered by a world class cast, superb!

The Bodyguard

Reviewed by Jodie Crawford

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Based on the iconic 1992 blockbuster film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, the musical adaptation of The Bodyguard premiered in the West End in 2012 and has since played all over the world.  It is a mix of theatre and a pop concert, boasting some of Whitney Houstons greatest hits. 

The show, quite literally starts with a bang – and sets the tone for the constant stream of jump out of your seat moments that hit us throughout the production. 

The show tells the tale of megastar, Rachel Marran, played by the powerful and elegant Melody Thornton. Rachel is being stalked by an obsessive fan (Marios Nicolaides) who is sending her terrifying death threats. Although reluctant at first Rachel agrees to the addition of Frank Farmer (Ayden Callaghan) as her personal bodyguard. While at first they don’t see eye to eye, they of course fall in love – but it isn’t such a fairytale ending for the pair.

There is no getting away from the fact that this script isn’t the most sophisticated, or engaging- but it really doesn’t matter. The cast of this show are incredible. Melody Thornton is a triumph as Rachel Marron. The task of taking on those big Whitney numbers must feel like climbing Everest, but OMG this lady is absolutely incredible. I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up from watching her deliver the most iconic cover version of “I will love you “. She deserved every single moment of the standing ovation that the audience gave. 

While her performance is excellent, she isn’t the only star of this show. I had no expectations of Ayden Callaghan, but my goodness he gave Costner a run for his money. He is sleek, smooth and quite literally made me weak at the knees. He delivers a straight, strong performance and I am sure we will be seeing him on big west end stages in the future – and I’m sure that there is actually quite the singing voice in there too! 

Emily-Mae also wowed me in her role as Rachel’s often overlooked and unappreciated sister. Her voice is like velvet. Everything about her performance was first class. Every wink of the eye, side look, eye roll and smirk was noticed and carefully delivered. While he character is often second fiddle to her sister, Emily-Mae’s performance was stand out. 

The whole cast and ensemble work well together and create an action packed, charming and entertaining show. The soundtrack is the star of the show, it’s what we are all there for, but there’s some dark moments too that come when you’re least expecting them and that gives it some much needed depth. The use of digital imagery works well and generally the set design is impressive – although there was a bit too much reliance on very large draping curtains. Which did momentarily  cause some technical issues for the crew and cast. But like the consummate professionals they are, they took a moment, fixed it and put their best foot forward. 

This production ended as it started, big, bold and about as Whitney as it gets. An absolute tribute to the star she was. You don’t have to be a big Whitney fan to enjoy the show, but if you are, then you are going to absolutely love it! 

The Bodyguard is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 15th April tickets available here.