The Pride | Cast Announced

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‘It was the first time, when we were together; when we were embracing that I felt that I had a pride. A pride for the person I was.’

Ahead of starting rehearsals next month, Green Carnation Company has announced their cast for Alexi Kaye Campbell’s powerful debut production, The Pride which will open at Hope Mill Theatre on Tuesday 16th October.

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Simon Hallman plays Oliver, in the 1950s portrayed as a quietly confident gay writer paralleled by his modern day counterpart who is a self-destructive whirlwind of casual sex and witty one-liners. Gareth George plays Philip who in both time periods plays the object of Oliver’s affection, both as an adulterous husband in the 1950s and as his boyfriend in the modern day. Joanna Leese plays Sylvia, who in both time periods is fated to always introduce Oliver and Philip to each other, but longs for her own freedom and independence. Joining the trio is Alex Thompson whose multiple roles include a comic rent boy with a taste for dominance, a laddish sports editor and a psychiatrist.

Switching between alternate timelines of 1958 and 2008, The Pride follows a love triangle between three characters and the different routes their lives could take, dependent on the decade they were born in.

Deeply moving and with a razor sharp-wit, this debut piece from Alexi Kaye Campbell examines changing attitudes to sexuality, looking at intimacy, identity and the courage it takes to be who you really are, celebrating the ideals of gay pride and challenging ideas of shame and the worth we put on ourselves.

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Director Dan Jarvis says “As we move past the anniversary for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, the relevance of this phenomenal play seems more striking than ever. Whether they inhabit the 1950s or modern day, these characters are so human and identifiable and are all searching for a way out of loneliness. Their need to find a connection that allows them to feel pride in themselves is something we can all relate to.”

The production will also work with recent LIPA design graduates Frankie Gerrard and Joe Roberts to create a shifting, ethereal, colour-saturated production that pays homage to the subtly queer cinema of Todd Haynes and Tom Ford.

It is directed by North West Theatre Director Dan Jarvis, and produced by Associate director Dan Ellis.

The Pride runs at Hope Mill Theatre from Tue 16 – Sat 20 October tickets available here.

Gulliver’s Travels

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Gulliver’s Travels marks the Octagon theatre’s final production of their 50th Anniversary Season and does so in gigantic style.

Taking in several locations within Bolton’s beautiful Queen’s Park including the sunken garden, the amphitheatre and the lake, Gulliver (Michael Peavoy) and daughter Betty (Anne O’Riordan) take us on a magical adventure through the colourful land of Lilliput.

Jonathan Swift’s novel has been adapted by Satinder Chohan and Mike Kennedy ensuring Gulliver is Bolton through and through; desperate to please his daughter Betty, Gulliver’s tall tale soon lands him in trouble as his adventure takes on an unEGGspected turn!

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Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti’s creative direction sees audiences follow the action through various settings within the park making for a very unique and interactive theatrical experience. Lead cast members, Michael Peavoy, Anne O’Riordan, Alexander Bean and Marc Small do an excellent job of sharing their story far and wide so every audience member feels involved; with some great fun audience participation along the way, particularly during the celebrations at the Lilliputan Palace. The cast are also joined by a whole host of talented performers ranging from local children to community choirs to help give this ambitious project a real community feel.

This inspired production is without doubt a lot of fun, young and old will enjoy the adventure round the stunning settings within Queen’s Park with their bold colours and striking design. The Gulliver puppet, the largest puppet in the UK is a spectacular sight and will certainly wow audiences young and old.

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The cast are engaging and their exceptional storytelling skills really do make you feel part of the ride. The story is very stripped down and does lose a little momentum during the location changes, this would probably have less impact for smaller audiences but for last night’s large audience the time it took to manoeuvre between each scene impacted a little on the flow and pace of the piece. That said Gulliver’s Travels is an up-beat and vibrant adventure with the atmosphere soon returning once you’ve arrived at the next location.

Top Tip – With quite a lot of moving around the park during this outdoor production picnics/refreshments would be best enjoyed before the show or during the interval and forget the bulky camping chairs, a picnic blanket will be much easier to transport, you’re not in one location long enough to get uncomfortable so can move from scene to scene easier.

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The Octagon Theatre succeeds again in creating accessible and engaging theatre. Gulliver’s Travels although slight in story detail is a hugely entertaining production; there are egg wars, incredible feats of bravery and even a chance to sing the Lilliputian national anthem. A visually captivating piece and EGGstremely good fun for all the family!

Catch Gulliver’s Travels at Queen’s Park until Monday 27th August tickets available here.

Closets

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Written by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely, Closets is an emotive and colourfully courageous journey of self-discovery, strength and celebration.

It’s 1988 and 16 year old Henry (Sam Redford) is struggling to express freely who he is for fear of his bolshy Mum’s (Hayley Tamaddon) refusal to accept his sexuality. In a desperate bid to disappear and escape the daily battles Henry steps inside his closet, travelling forward in time to the very same bedroom 20 years later where he finds shy, tormented Ben (Lloyd Daniels). The year may be different but the difficulties are the same. So begins a coming-of-age journey of exploration as Hope Mill Theatre becomes the scene of the 1969 Stone Wall Riots, Ben’s school toilets and modern day Manchester as the boys travel through time experiencing life defining moments along the way.

Closets is a cleverly constructed, deeply emotive and heart-warmingly joyful piece of theatre. The story touches on many relatable themes such as bullying, suicide and first love as we are swept along on a rollercoaster on emotions. The lovingly crafted script focusses not only on challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community but examines changing attitudes across the years in an honest and relatable way.

Sam Retford is exceptional as Henry, hard to believe this is his musical debut; his performance is confident and assured, engaging the audience entirely. Complementing Retford perfectly is X-Factor’s Lloyd Daniels, as the quiet but tormented Ben whose heartfelt delivery of Neil Ely, Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Jack Bennetts lyrics packs an emotional punch.

Hayley Tammerdon shines as Henry’s Mum Susan, confused and angry she gives an honest & engaging portrayal of a mother who is ultimately scared of losing her son. Adding many delightful slices of humour is the sensational Sophie Ellicott, she brings genuine wit and laugh out loud joy to the production, her delivery of Protection is a real highlight of the show.

Special mention must also go to powerhouse Kim Tatum, her soulful delivery and witty one-lines add further depth and poignancy to the story.

Ashley M A Walsh’s score creates the perfect soundtrack to this relevant and thought-provoking journey through both hostile and happy times. The 13 original songs ranging from up beat pop numbers to contemporary ballads evoke the sounds of the 80’s perfectly. While Joseph Thomas perfectly lights William Whelton’s punchy choreography.

Closets strikes the perfect balance, delivering both humour and powerful drama, highs are beautifully woven into emotion lows ensuring the story is told with sensitivity and real heart. There is little to criticise here, a quickening up of a couple of scene changes and some tightening tweaks here and there would very quickly take this already brilliant show to the next level, but none of this affects your enjoyment of this uplifting piece of theatre in which the message of love and loving freely is strong, powerful and perfectly judged.

Closets is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Thursday 23rd August, tickets available here.

Madagascar

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Eve and Maisy Powell

Family favourite Madagascar burst onto our screens and incredible 13 years ago, it spawned several sequels and now takes the leap from screen to stage in an all-new Dreamworks musical adaptation.

For those who haven’t seen the film, Madagascar tells the story of four friends from New York’s Central Park Zoo, Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, Marty the Zebra and Melman the Giraffe. The four find themselves on a rather unexpected journey to the crazy world of King Julien’s Madagascar after Marty the Zebra’s dreams of living in the wild don’t quite go according to plan.

We sent out mini reviewers Eve (aged 10) and Maisy (age 7) to give us their verdict on this brand new Selladoor and Hartshorn-Hook Production.

Eve Powell

I absolutely loved the show, it was so colourful and so funny. The dancing was incredible, the cast really worked hard and at one point the animals even did the floss which was a big hit with everyone in the audience.

The adults in the audience enjoyed the show just as much as all the kids. All the characters were brilliant and so inventive but my favourite has to be King Julian who was just so funny. It’s a really, really fun show suitable for all ages.

Maisy Powell

I just loved all the animal costumes, they were brilliant, the songs were great and the dancing was really good too but my favourite thing about the show was how funny it was, my tummy was hurting at the end because I laughed so much especially at King Julian.

Out of all the costumes Melman the Giraffe was my favourite and I thought the penguins were really cute although they are a bit naughty. Children will really love this show and will laugh all the way through.

Madagascar without doubt won over our mini reviewers with its host of colourful characters who impress from the word go. Director Kirk Jameson makes full use of Max Humphries exceptional puppetry design ensuring even the youngest of children will be captivated by this visually engaging and totally charming piece of theatre, while choreography from Fabian Aloise makes certain that the anthem ‘I Like To Move It’ isn’t the only opportunity for the characters to throw some impressive shapes as they twist and twirl to George Noriega and Joel Someillan’s high energy soundtrack.

Matt Terry impresses as the charismatic Alex, he is clearly loving every moment of this his professional stage debut while Jo Parsons has the audience in the palm of his hand with his sensational performance as the brilliantly bonkers King Julien.

Kevin Del Aguila’s script is incredibly witty and keeps young and old entertained from start to finish, with an enormously talented cast, hugely impressive design and an important message of friendship at its heart Madagascar will without doubt leave a great big smile on your face, charming, feel-good family fun!

You can catch Madagascar at Manchester’s Palace theatre until Saturday 18th August tickets available here.

An Officer and a Gentleman

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

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Based on the 1982 Oscar-winning film and bursting with feel-good 80’s favourites including ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and of course the ultimate ear-worm from the original score ‘Up Where We Belong’, An Officer and a Gentleman marches into Manchester this week.

In true 80’s romantic fashion we have a troubled bad boy in need of taming and a feisty female determined to live life her way until of course romance comes calling, complicating everything. When Zack Mayo rocks up at military boot camp full of swagger, he doesn’t bank on falling for local factory girl Paula nor being put through his paces by drill Sergeant Foley who has had his fill off wannabee officers. The challenge is on; can this angst filled rebel make it as not only an officer but also a gentleman?

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Jonny Fines makes for a convincing Zack, with strong vocals and impressive acting skills he convinces as both the macho cadet and the dependable gentleman, he is playful and hugely likeable. Alongside Fines is an impressive Emma Williams as the strong-willed Paula Pokrifiki who knows her mind and is damned if she’s gonna be stuck in a factory for the rest of her life. Her vocals are sublime as she belts out hit after hit effortlessly. The chemistry between the two is strong and their interactions engaging and believable.

Equally convincing are Jessica Daley and James Darch as Lynette and Sid. Jessica’s stellar vocals and sassy attitude perfectly embody the role of Lynette while James Darch, covering the role of Sid at tonight’s press night, impresses with his strong vocals and powerful performance.

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Yes in parts it’s pretty cheesy with some songs feeling a little shoe-horned in but if you’re looking for an uplifting and entertaining night at the theatre then this certainly hits the spot. The immensely talented cast deliver some stunning performances and offer a fresh take on several 80’s classics via George Dyers inventive orchestration and arrangement, the use of Martika’s ‘Toy Soldiers’ is particularly poignant.

Douglas O’Connell’s video design is projected to great effect against Michael Taylor’s set which is beautifully lit by Ben Cracknell and gives a great sense of entrapment and the need to escape the humdrum of small town life.

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The script may be thin in parts and the action predictable but An Officer and a Gentleman does exactly what it says on the tin, it undoubtedly uplifts and entertains. This is feel-good jukebox fun, the fizz in the air as ‘that scene’ approaches is palpable ensuring the audience get exactly what they came for, escapism, incredible talent, a little bit of drama, a whole lot of romance.

An Officer and a Gentleman is on at the Opera House until Saturday 18th August tickets available here.

Interview | Jonathan O’Boyle | Aspects of Love

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart, Aspects of Love has been wowing audiences at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre. Now as it approaches its final week of performances we caught up with Director Jonathan O’Boyle to hear a little more about his experience directing his third production at the award-winning Ancoats theatre.

Opening Night: How familiar with Aspects of Love were you before joining this production? Is it a show you’ve always wanted to work on?

Jonathan O’Boyle: I’ve always loved the score of Aspects, but I’ve never seen it on stage. I grew up listening to mix tapes of musicals, several being Andrew Lloyd Webber compilations. So invariably Love Changes Everything was on there. I grew up seeing his work and when I trained as an actor, I wanted desperately to be in one of his shows. Now, as a director, it’s an honour to be working on one of his shows. Aspects has a fantastic story and a brilliant score. To me, it’s his most narrative, actor driven show and this really appealed to me. We treated it like a play, where the characters just happened to be singing rather than speaking.

ON: How do you approach directing a new and reimagined production of a classic show like Aspects of Love?

Jonathan: I wanted it to be intimate. Now, I know everyone always says ‘intimate and stripped back’ but that’s really what I wanted and how I saw the show. The audience at the Hope Mill is so close to the action they can touch the actors. This influenced the design. I wanted the audience to be on stage with actors. Many of the locations in Aspects happen to be in cafes, so we decided to have a couple of the front rows of seats at cafe tables as if they were part of the action.

We then approached the rehearsals as if we were working on a play. We looked at character, character backstories, timelines and what the characters wanted and how they went about achieving this. This really deepened the actors connection to the material.

ON: Did the intimate space the production would be presented in play a major part in your directing decisions?

Jonathan: Absolutely. You have to respond to the space you’re directing in, and the Hope Mill is a very specific space with its own unique challenges. I think about the space at every stage of the process, from the casting to the design to the lighting rig to the sound design. Every choice I make has to be for the theatre.

ON: The reviews have been absolutely phenomenal, people are really responding to the show, this must be very gratifying to the cast and creative team?

Jonathan: It’s been incredible yes. We’re all thrilled with how it’s gone down. I’m so proud of the brilliant cast and creative team. We had a joyous rehearsal process (one of my favourite so far) and we said – if no one gets it, at least we had a great time rehearsing it! Thankfully, the audiences are responding to it in the way I’d hoped. I’m in constant awe of the cast and their talent.

We never presume it’s going to be good. In fact, I never know what the audiences are going to make of it or how it’s going to be received until we get an audience in the room. I trust my instinct and hope it resonates with people.

ON: This is your third production at Hope Mill Theatre – what makes this space/team so appealing to direct in?

Jonathan: I love the theatre and the team there. They’re all so welcoming and it’s always a pleasure being back. I’m from Derbyshire myself but my parents grew up in Salford and Rochdale, so I’ve been going to Manchester all my life. I love the vibe and the people there, so Manchester feels like my second home.

ON: Your previous shows at Hope Mill – Hair and Pippin – have both transferred to London. How much of a challenge was restaging them for London? Do you have a favourite of the three?

Jonathan: It is challenging re-staging for a different venue, primarily because the space is never the same and there are often idiosyncrasies that pop up here and there. What’s so brilliant though, is revisiting the material with the company and developing the show even further. You’re able to improve on things from the first time and the actors often find a deeper connection with the show and their characters.

They’re all so different! They had different challenges and were very different in tone. It’s hard to pick between them because I loved all three companies.

ON: What’s next for you?

Jonathan: I’m currently directing the UK Tour of Rain Man starring Mathew Horne and Ed Speleers. Then later in the year I’ll be directing the UK premiere of Ken Urban’s A Guide for the Homesick at Trafalgar Studios and Peter Pan at The Park this Christmas.

Catch Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre until 9th August tickets available here.

Theatre of Hate | The Ruby Lounge

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Writer Matt Forrest

It would be fair to say that we had a reprieve from the hot, muggy, sweaty weather this weekend, however those in attendance at the Ruby Lounge may be forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed as Theatre of Hate, are in town and turning the place into an inferno! Tonight the Ruby Lounge was something akin to a leisure-centre steam room, albeit one you could sweat out the weekend’s alcohol consumption and top it up at the same time!

Fair play to front-man Kirk Brandon, who surely must win the award for the hardest working man in music today. Having just finished a series of dates with Spear of Destiny, he has marched straight into a tour with Theatre of Hate and add into that a few solo shows that will see him on the road till December…..judging by the performance tonight it’s a wonder that there’s anything left of him. This is a performance of raw energy-filled passion. Sporting a rather fine Mickey Mouse t-shirt, he’s in fine voice and looking in incredible shape for a 61 year-old.

The band arrive on to stage and launch into the anthemic Original Sin, which brings out the first of many, not sing-a-longs, more shout-a-longs: this is followed up by Judgement Hymn, which opens with a full on dirty saxophone solo from John ‘Boy’ Lennard. From there on in we are treated to a barn storming set anchored by Stan Stammers thunderous baseline, at its peak in the high octane 63.

The band have been promoting the 2016 album Kinshi for quite some time now but they managed to mix the set with tracks from the album and classic hits. Each song was greeted like a returning hero by the baying faithful: all things considered, both band and crowd are on good form for a Sunday, without a thought or care for the Monday morning hangover.

The band encore with The Klan and the Do You Believe In The Westworld, which brings out the largest cheer and caps off a blistering evening of punk, that’s more polished than raw.

As Brandon is on the road for quite some time, he’d be well worth catching. Regardless of what guise you see him in, you’ll be guaranteed a full-throttle performance which may just inspire you to raise some hell!

Theatre of Hate tour dates and information can be found here.