Interview |Andy Nyman & Jeremy Dyson | Ghost Stories

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There’s something dark lurking in the theatre…

Enter a nightmarish world, full of thrilling twists and turns, where all your deepest fears and most disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage…

A fully sensory and electrifying encounter, Ghost Stories is the ultimate twisted love-letter to horror, a supernatural edge-of-your-seat theatrical experience like no other.

After thrilling audiences across the globe with record breaking, sell-out productions as well as a smash hit film, Ghost Stories has embarked on its first UK tour which arrives at The Lowry on Tuesday 18th February.

This exhilarating production is unique in the fact that despite having premiered a decade ago the secrets that make it such a hugely successful and uniquely terrifying show have remained well-guarded.

We spoke to creators Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson ahead of the show’s arrival at the Lowry to hear a little more about creating this supernatural spectacular.

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“Secrets are precious,” explains Andy Nyman. “If you give people a secret that they really enjoy and you ask them nicely to keep it, they do.” Before writing Ghost Stories, Nyman was the man behind many of Derren Brown’s mystery-filled stage shows and early TV performances so when it comes to keeping secrets, he’s more than qualified. “Jeremy and I love the experience of telling people a really good story without them knowing anything about it in advance. You feel the buzz in the audience; it’s an exciting thing to sit and watch.”

Clearly there will be no spoilers here so what can we actually say about the show? “Ghost Stories is a 90-minute scary, thrill-ride experience about a professor of parapsychology who investigates three cases.” explains Nyman. “A rattling hour and a half that will make you roar with laughter, leap out of your seats and talk about it for a very long time.”

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Nyman and co-writer Jeremy Dyson, who is best known for his work with The League of Gentlemen, have a long history that reaches back as far as their teenage years when their mutual love of horror saw them forge a lasting friendship. “It’s a very English genre,” says Dyson. “Certainly, when it comes to the supernatural side of things. The English sensibility defined a lot of that. It’s a very English tradition, and there’s no question that’s part of what we’re celebrating in Ghost Stories.”

With horror being such a popular film genre, we pondered the question as to why we don’t see more of it on stage, “I think it’s hard to do well,” offers Dyson. “You have to have a love both for theatre and for horror. It’s a bit like comedy. People talk about comedy writers having funny bones. I think you need scary bones to write horror.”

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The passion both Nyman and Dyson have for this piece is clearly a huge part of its success, “If people are paying their hard-earned money to see a show you’re putting on, you have a massive responsibility to give them more than they pay for,” says Nyman. “It’s not fair to think ‘that’s good enough, it will be fine’, you have to over-deliver. You’ve got to lose sleep over it. When the show is up and working and you keep tweaking it to get it right, and you see people going away happy, you know the main reason you’ve got to that place is you’ve felt a responsibility and you’ve worked hard at it.”

Ghost Stories opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 18th February and runs until Saturday 22nd tickets are available here.

 

Premiere of One Good Night comes to Hope Mill Theatre this February

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‘It makes you lose your mind…it sits in your head and it grows…it’s like that ivy…it starts small but it feeds off everything’

Following an Arts Council funded R&D at Hope Mill Theatre in 2017 One Good Night is back at the same venue for its highly anticipated full-length premiere.

The piece is a comic drama about the effects of female sexual assault and centres around the story of Amelia (Sammy Winward) who has been raped by her boyfriend Pete (Oliver Devoti)…or has she?

Between her goody two shoes friend May (Misha Duncan-Barry) and their nosy next-door neighbour Julie (Susan McArdle), Amelia is lost and confused with a blurred sense of reality. With friendship, laugher and belief, can they overcome and have just one good night?

Led by a female core creative team, writer Aisling Caffrey, director Alyx Tole and producer Alexandra Maxwell One Good Night is an entertaining production full of dark humour. It is designed to educate and enlighten about rape plus the effects of trauma on survivors’ psyche and their relationships and to empower survivors of sexual assault.

With rehearsals aptly starting during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week this week (3rd-9th February) it is all the more important that this production is seen and its message heard.

One Good Nightwill run for 5 evenings from 25th February – 29th February. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.

Ticket info £12 full / £10 concession (+ £1.50 booking fee) / £5 DSA & Income Support (Proof Required)

Samantha Womack & Cameron Blackely reunite for The Addams Family Tour

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Samantha Womack & Cameron Blackely to revive their roles as Morticia & Gomez Addams in The Addams Family when it returns to The Lowry in November!

The musical comedy, with book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the creators of multi award-winning Jersey Boys, and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, based on the characters created by Charles Addams will return to The Lowry as part of a new 2020 UK tour.

The Addams Family opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 3rd November and runs until Saturday 7th November tickets available here.

Interview | Marisha Wallace

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One of the West End and Broadway’s most instantly recognisable voices and beloved leading ladies is heading out on her first ever UK Tour beginning at Sale’s Waterside.

Marisha Wallace – the sensational star of such smash-hit shows as Dreamgirls, Waitress, Aladdin, The Book of Mormon and very soon Hairspray – will play a series of unmissable theatre shows in March 2020.

Beginning at Sale’s Waterside (March 8), Marisha will then play Newbury Corn Exchange (March 11), Horsham Capitol (March 13), Birmingham Hippodrome (March 14), Leeds City Varieties (March 16), Lichfield Garrick (March 17), Glasgow Glee Club (March 18) and the Arts Theatre in London’s West End (March 23).

Ahead of the tour we sat down with Marisha to get the lowdown on what we can expect from the tour, why audience participation is crucial to her performance, what ‘that song’ “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” means to her and why she has her heart set on becoming the “Beyoncé of Broadway”.

Opening Night: HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR YOUR DEBUT UK TOUR?

Marisha: Like you cannot believe – it’s going to be incredible!  To be going out around the country and singing in these different regions is going to be wonderful –the experience of a lifetime. This is my first time as a solo headliner so I can’t wait.

ON: YOU’VE BEEN IN THE UK FOR SOME TIME NOW – WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THIS COUNTRY?

Marisha: I love the people here, they are so warm, and they are so dedicated, so supportive. Those who come to my concerts seem to really get me and understand where I am coming from. I feel like I’m something of an underdog and I think they tap into that and are willing me to succeed which is really nice. I also just love being in London, I love the history and the fact that every minute I’m here I feel like I am on holiday!

ON:  SINCE COMING TO THE UK HAVE YOU HAD MUCH CHANCE TO VISIT DIFFERENT PLACES OUTSIDE OF LONDON?

Marisha: I really love Manchester, the food is incredible, it’s almost like a different kind of London, reminds me of Boston a little bit and it’s an incredible place.

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ON: WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT ON THE TOUR?

Marisha: They can expect a lot of amazing songs, a lot of soul, a lot of big numbers from your favourite musicals that I’ve been in over the years and some of my own songs.
This is a brand-new show which I feel has something for everyone. I will be performing songs by artists and songwriters that mean the world to me. I feel sure the audience will get up on their feet and dance. It’s going to be high energy and inspirational!

ON: WHO WILL BE JOINING YOU ON STAGE?

Marisha: I have my four-piece band, who are all good friends of mine. We will also have some surprise guests, some choirs and singers from the towns and cities where we are going to be playing – so you’ll see some of your hometown friends on stage singing with me as well.

ON: YOU ARE USED TO PERFORMING WITH A CAST ON STAGE, THIS TIME IT IS JUST YOU AND YOUR BAND. DO YOU PREFER PLAYING A CHARACTER OR BEING YOURSELF ON STAGE?

Marisha: I feel most comfortable on stage as Marisha Wallace because I’m in control of everything! In musical theatre I can only play the one part and it’s already written for me. With my own shows I get to be the architect of the whole thing. It’s a very personal thing for me. I feel like a showman and it’s what I like to do – I will come out on the night like a firecracker!

ON: SO IT’S A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE FOR AUDIENCE MEMBERS WHO MAY HAVE ONLY SEEN YOU IN THE WEST END?

Marisha: If you’ve only seen me in a show before you’ve never seen me like this. When I do my concerts, this is the full version of me. You will get to hear stories about my life and hopefully be inspired. That’s kind of my biggest thing when I do a show, I want to inspire people because if I can make it to where I am, then anyone can make it.

ON: SO YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO BE A SINGER?

Marisha: I’ve been a singer my whole life, music was such an important part of my family growing up, and early on I decided I wanted to make a career out of it. I went to go to university, but I did not get in because they said there was something wrong with my voice. It was then found I had a cyst on my vocal chords and had to have surgery.
I was told they did not know if I would be able to sing again after surgery but thankfully the surgery turned out well and I went back to the same school and they asked whether I would like to do musical theatre.

I’ve worked so hard to get here. I have been working at this for 15, 20 years just trying to make my dreams come true, going from nothing to making it.

ON: ON YOUR WEBSITE IT STATES YOU “GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN IN NORTH CAROLINA, BUT THE SMALL TOWN NEVER HELD DOWN HER BIG CITY DREAMS”. IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU ARE LIVING YOUR DREAM?

Marisha: I am totally living my dream. When I was on Broadway I thought ‘This is it, I’ve made it’ but when the West End came calling I realised ‘Wait there is an even bigger dream than I ever thought’. To be here getting to do all the things I love is amazing.
Everything I ever wrote down or said I wanted to do is happening to me right here in the UK. The exciting thing is you feel that your journey can lead you to the right place and I certainly feel I’m at the right place at the right time.

ON: IT CAN BE A HARD LIFE THOUGH?

Marisha: Yes, it’s hard for a musical theatre performer. By your very nature you have to be multi-faceted, be able to sing, dance, act, and must have the stamina of a crazy person because you do eight shows a week. But at the same time it’s also a wonderful life. To be able to do all these things, live all these roles alongside performers who become true friends is so special. Every time I go out I want to prove myself as a performer – I basically want to be the Beyoncé of Broadway! She does everything; she sings, dances, acts, she likes to use all her gifts and I love her for that!

ON: WHO WERE YOUR MUSICAL HEROES GROWING UP?

Marisha: Definitely all of the soul women: Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Holiday. I do a lot of these artists in my show, and of course Whitney Houston. My God, Whitney’s voice. The way those tones affect people is just truly amazing.

ON: HOW MANY OF THEIR SONGS WILL FEATURE IN YOUR TOUR?

Marisha: Lots of them. It is brilliant to be able to take a song by Whitney, Janis Joplin, Etta James and fit them alongside songs from musical theatre and my own material. I’m blessed I can sing a number of different styles and while at one point I thought I needed to focus on just one sound or genre I then thought ‘Who cares… I’ll sing it all!’

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ON: HOW IMPORTANT TO YOUR PERFORMANCE IS THE AUDIENCE?

Marisha: They are everything to me. The audience truly help make the show. On this tour it is just me, my band and the audience – they are my other actors in this play.
Audiences want to be part of a concert and with me they get the chance to sing along, stand up, dance, scream, cheer, let out your emotions because that’s what a concert should be. You don’t just sit and watch – I want you to participate!

ON: “AND I AM TELLING YOU…” FROM DREAMGIRLS HAS BECOME SUCH AN ICONIC SONG THAT AUDIENCES NOW INSTANTLY RELATE IT TO YOU. WHAT DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU SING THAT SONG?

Marisha: The song is so special to me – I’ve never sung any song like it, it’s one of a kind.
Singing that line ‘And you’re going to love me’ and then getting that love back from the audience is something that you cannot describe. It means so much. It’s an incredibly powerful and personal song for so many people who have all been on their own journey in life.

You know when things have not gone well, they’ve been beaten down, but then they come out from the ashes and say ‘you know what, I am going to make it’ and ‘you are going to love me in the end’. That is why that song is so important, it has such a powerful message, one of never giving up. I think everyone, at some stage in their life, can relate to it.

Every time I sing it I think I’m not going to go there, you know all the way there, but every time I sing it I go there because it swoops you up into this world of emotion.
Also, all the things I have been through and my journey to get here to the stage just envelopes me when I sing that song. I always cry at the end.

ON: HOW HAS THE RETURN TO WAITRESS BEEN FOR YOU?

Marisha: It’s been so exciting because I’ve never gone back to a show that I’ve left before. Everyone has been so wonderful. This company is the most beautiful company and just a really big family.

ON: AFTER YOUR TOUR YOU BEGIN THE ROLE OF MOTORMOUTH MAYBELLE IN A STAR-STUDDED REVIVAL OF HAIRSPRAY. YOU MUST BE TREMENDOUSLY EXCITED.

Marisha: I can’t believe it because I kind of thought that role would not come my way for another 10, 15 years.  Michael (Ball) and I both performed last summer at Lytham Festival in Lancashire and we did ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ We got talking, I got the audition and I got the part. I’m so excited.

ON: WHAT WOULD BE THE DREAM ROLE FOR YOU?

Marisha: My dream role has not been written yet. I want to do an original piece where I get to create the role from scratch using all my talents. It would be cool to do something brand new, that no-one has done before.

I feel in my career I have had to top all the best who’ve gone before me. Behind me I had Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Holliday, Amber Riley and I had to aim to be a better version than all those who went before. I would be so excited to be the foundation version so the next person to come to the role would be challenged to top Marisha!

ON: DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE AHEAD OF THE OPENING NIGHT OF YOUR TOUR?

Marisha: Get your tickets now, it’s going to be wonderful, emotional and a hell of a night out!

Tickets for Marisha Wallace’s show at Sale’s Waterside can be found here.

Malroy Towers adaptation heading to Chester

Emma Rice’s critically acclaimed musical adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers will be heading to the Storyhouse this summer.

This new production by Wise Children will be co-produced with Theatre By The Lake in Keswick, where the show will open on 27 March 2020, before going on a national tour.

Malory Towers opens at the Storyhouse on Tuesday 30th June running until to Saturday 4th July 2020 for eight performances, including three matinees. Tickets are on sale now and can be booked here.

Original 2019 cast of Malory Towers, credit Steve Tanner 1

Nostalgic, naughty and perfect for now, Malory Towers is the original ‘girl power’ story, filled with high jinks, high drama and high spirits, all set to sensational live music and breath-taking animation.

Adapted and directed by Emma Rice, this is a show for girls, boys – and grown-up children who still dream of midnight feasts and Cornish cliff-tops. Set and costume design are by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Malcolm Rippeth, sound and video by Simon Baker, and original music by Ian Ross.

Tickets for Malory Towers are on sale now priced from £19.50. Each ticket is subject to a £1.50 booking fee. There is a special offer running of any ticket bookings made before 1 March 2020, children can go half price for Malory Towers shows at Storyhouse between Tuesday and Thursday.

 

Back To The Future musical in rehearsals

Olly Dobson (centre) and the company in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

With just over 3 weeks until BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical, opens in Manchester for a strictly limited 12-week season, prior to transferring to the West End brand new rehearsal images have been released and great Scott do they look good!

Opening at the Manchester Opera House on Thursday 20th February and running until Sunday 17th May the musical based on the Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment film boasts a book by Bob Gale with new music and lyrics by Emmy and Grammy Award-winning Alan Silvestri and six-time Grammy Award-winning Glen Ballard, with additional songs from the film including audience favourites The Power of Love and Johnny B. Goode.

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)

The good stuff doesn’t stop there ! The show will be directed by Tony Award-winning John Rando (UrinetownOn The Town) and boasts a multi Tony and Olivier Award-winning design team of Tim Hatley (set and costume design), Hugh Vanstone and Tim Lutkin (lighting), Gareth Owen (sound) and Finn Ross (video), with choreography by Chris Bailey, musical supervision and arrangements by Nick Finlow and Illusions by Chris Fisher.

The company in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)

With Roger Bart taking on the iconic role of ‘Doctor Emmett Brown’ and Olly Dobson stepping into Michael J Fox’s sneakers as ‘Marty McFly’ BACK TO THE FUTURE The Musical looks set to be the theatre event of the year!

The show will transport the 1985 movie from screen to stage as Marty is accidentally transported back to 1955 in a time-travelling DeLorean invented by his friend, Doc Brown. But before he can return to 1985, Marty must make sure his high school-aged parents fall in love in order to save his own existence!

Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

So strap yourself in, set your destination to the Opera House, Manchester and made a date with history!

Tickets from £19.55 are available here.

 

 

 

 

Grow Up Grandad

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Reviewed by Sarah Bloomer

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A small but accomplished ensemble trod the boards on opening night for Penny Smith and Tom Worrell’s production of Grow Up Grandad, a heart-wrenching tale of intergenerational loss and unlikely companionship in a relationship that is thrown together only to be torn apart.

Grandad is a belligerent old man who unwittingly inherits his twelve-year-old Grandaughter, Poppy when she is abandoned by her mother. The two run a gamete of emotions as they move from awkward incompatibility to tender endearment, navigating many twists and turns along the way.

Partington Players veteran David Wilson delivers an on-stage master-class as he performs in the eponymous role, his most enjoyable, he states, in his twenty-five year acting career. The role of Poppy is played by two actors: relative newcomer Chloe Dolby, a striking raw talent whose stage presence captivates as she advances from sassy precociousness to haunting vulnerability, and fellow Youth theatre actor Nia Griffin who reprises the role on alternate nights. Jayne Skudder demonstrates effortless versatility as Poppy’s thirty-two-year-old counterpart, delivering tear-jerking monologues and grief-stricken fury.

For all it’s weightiness and heart-break there is an equal measure of humour and hilarity, particularly as generations clash in exchanges between Grandad and young Poppy, “We can do a jigsaw”. “Oh my God!”

The scene changes are minimal and fluid and the lighting used to indicate a shift in time from day to night. There are memorable moments of clever direction as time shifts between present and future in a wonderfully synchronized door closing scene.

Ending a volatile, emotive piece is challenging. Grow Up Grandad closes with a deftly choreographed synergy between twelve-year-old Poppy and thirty-two-year old Poppy as they traverse revelations and retrospections in a role reversal with Grandad, now suffering with Alzheimer’s, as he shares fragments of his story with his Great Grandaughter Molly (Molly Tierney).

“Would you like to do a jigsaw?” “Do you know, I’d absolutely love to”. A perfect conclusion to a contemplative play.

Grow Up Grandad is on at Partington Players Theatre, Glossop until Saturday 1st February, further information available here.

 

We Will Rock You

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If ever there was a perfect time to revive the 2002 hit musical featuring the iconic music and lyrics of the mighty Queen it most is definitely now. The band were thrust back into the spotlight with the enormous success of smash-hit movie Bohemian Rhapsody introducing their music to a whole new generation so it comes as no surprise to see the Palace Theatre full to the rafters for We Will Rock You’s welcome return to Manchester.

The Ben Elton penned show transports us to the dystopian land of iPlanet set 300 years in the future. Freedom of expression is all beut gone as the Globalsoft Corporation control minds and hearts with their computer generated over produced pop tracks. Musical instruments are banned while rock music is a thing of the past, wiped from the minds of the masses as conformity is expected and rebellion quickly stamped out.

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Galileo and Scaramouche however are desperate to ‘break free’ from the dismal world around them, unique from the rest of the Ga Ga clones they stand out from the crowd as individuals, drawn to a life of freedom and expression, something Killer Queen the head of Globalsoft fears enormously. A chance meeting with Bohemians Brit and Oz cements their belief that there’s more to life than mindless scrolling, then just need to find out what!

6 years since it closed on the West End We Will Rock You has been brought bang up to date visually with the addition of stunning wall projections from Giles Maunsell and Sam Pattinson – Treatment Studio while Ben Elton has revisited his original script revamping it with modern references making it feel current and fresh, Alexa #MeToo and even Gangnam Style all get a mention.

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The success or failure of this production undoubtedly rests upon the ability of the cast to deliver Queen’s monster tracks to a standard Freddie would be proud of and boy do they do him justice! Ian McIntosh is superb as Galileo, vocally outstanding he confidently channels his inner rock God. Bursting with talent and personality this isn’t a Freddie imitation but a standalone performance of the highest quality.

Elena Skye impresses enormously as an empowered Scaramouche, her soulful vocals are delivered with self-assured sass while she playfully interacts with McIntosh (Galileo) & proves convincingly that sisters can indeed do it for themselves.

Jenny O’Leary is an absolute powerhouse as Killer Queen, slaying each song with her huge voice and tremendous on stage presence. David Michael Johnson and Amy Di Bartolomeo play off each other wonderfully as Brit and Oz each delivering knockout vocals while Adam Strong is hugely impressive as Khashoggi. Special mention must also go to Michael McKell who brings the laughs as Buddy with his Jaggeresque swagger and hilarious mispronunciations of pretty much everything!

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This is a jukebox musical that never takes itself too seriously it delivers and then some! Take Queen’s killer back catalogue, team it with Ben Elton’s clever book then add a creative team whose motto is quite probably ‘Go big or go home’ and you’ve got an irresistibly brilliant production, not just for Queen fans but music and musical theatre fans alike. Just as one mega hit finishes another begins all delivered by a cast at the absolute top of their game, it’s high-energy, highly entertaining, blow your socks off theatre. Perfect escapism for anyone with the January blues, We Will Rock You really is a kind of magic!

We Will Rock You is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 8th February tickets available here.

Alan Carr, Not again, Alan! Comes to Manchester, tickets on sale Weds 29th Jan

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It’s been four years since Alan Carr last went on tour, and in that time he’s managed to find himself in all sorts of dramas. Between his star-studded wedding day and becoming an accidental anarchist, from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer, three words spring to mind…Not again, Alan!

From September 2020, multi-award winning Alan will be performing at 57 of the UK’s finest theatres stopping at Manchester’s Opera House on Friday 30th and Saturday 31st October.

Tickets for Not Again, Alan! go on general sale from 10am on Wednesday 29th January and are available from www.alancarr.net.

 

My Night with Reg

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First premiered at The Royal Court in 1997, Kevin Elyot’s ground-breaking play My Night with Reg was loved by critics and audiences alike. A transfer to the West End followed as well as Olivier and Evening Standard awards, a successful Broadway run and even a feature film so it comes as no surprise that Manchester-based Green Carnation should choose this moving play as their first touring production.

Set in Guy’s apartment over various years the story focuses upon the relationships of a group of gay men, all have in some form a connection with the eponymous Reg. What initially seems like a light-hearted look into the lives and loves of the group soon develops into a perceptive exploration or love and friendship as secrets and betrayals are exposed while the ever-present threat of the 1980’s AIDS crisis looms large.

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Guy (Simon Hallman) is hopelessly in love with John (Nicholas Anscombe) yet doesn’t have the courage to tell him. Eager to please he puts everyone else’s needs before his own while his hesitancy to put himself out there results in a life unfulfilled and free from any real intimacy.

Old mates John (Nicholas Anscombe) and Daniel (David Gregan-Jones) joke and jostle while never actually having an honest conversation. Interestingly it’s primarily the youngest character in the play Eric (Alan Lewis) who speak freely, unafraid of sharing his thoughts and feelings about the way he sees the world while couple Bernie and Benny bicker and bark at each other by way of communication.

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As Guy, Simon Hallman perfectly captures the frustration of a man thwarted by his own niceness, hopelessly in love yet lacking in the courage to do anything about it. He endears himself to the audience as he flusters and fusses around his friends making the final part of the play all the more affecting.

David Gregan-Jones flounces spectacularly as charismatic Daniel while showing great skill in his ability to switch from carefree to devastated with ease. Nicholas Anscombe plays John as a cool and composed figure who becomes increasingly lost as the piece develops.

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Steve Connolly and Marc Geoffrey as Benny and Bernie play off each other brilliantly offering some of the most cutting humour in the piece while Alan Lewis is refreshingly real as the much lusted after Eric.

Co-directors Dan Jarvis and Dan Ellis has succeeded in creating a piece that’s as funny as it is moving. This dark comedy doesn’t sugar-coat nor should it, Green Carnation’s affecting revival will resonate with many. Designer George Johnson-Leigh’s set is simplistic yet effective with neon lighting pulsating as the intensity rises.

A well-crafted, well-acted piece which will leave you more than happy you’ve spent the night with Reg.

My Night with Reg is on at The Lowry until Saturday 25th January tickets available here.

Further information about regional tour dates can be found here.

 

 

Band of Gold

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Kay Mellor’s ground-breaking drama was a huge success when it first hit TV screens back in 1995. 25 years on the action has been relocated from screen to stage while still taking its inspiration from the lives and experiences of the Northern sex workers who in order to make ends meet work ‘the lane’.

The story focuses on Gina (Sacha Parkinson), a young mother who gets drawn into the world of sex work in order to provide for her daughter and pay off ruthless loan shark Mr Moore (Joe Mallalieu). Things take a tragic turn one evening while working the lane and its down to her fellow workers to deal with the fallout while continuing to face multiple battles of their own.

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Fans of the TV series will be pleased to know that this newly developed play doesn’t sway too much from the gritty style of the much-loved TV series with Mellor’s clever wit even in the darkest of moments shining through. Her writing allows the audience glimpses of the humanity and heart of her characters while offering a fascinating insight into their working world and the dangers contained within.

Through Mellor’s multi-layered script the individual stories of the main four female leads intertwine to create a dramatic piece which draws you in and keeps you guessing. Each character feels authentic and is honestly delivered by a strong cast made up primarily of Laurie Brett (Anita), Gaynor Faye (Rose), Sacha Parkinson (Gina) and Emma Osman (Carol) each giving a convincing and real performance.

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The ladies are strongly supported by several male characters with Kieron Richardson, Shayne Ward, Andrew Dunn, Steve Garti, Joe Mallalieu and Mark Sheals all showing a high level of skill if some are a little underused. Special mention must also go to Olwen May as Gina’s mother Joyce, her heartfelt emotion feels painfully raw and is delivered with real conviction.

While Mellor’s blend of tragedy and dark humour is delivered with sensitivity there are occasions when it feels like the piece would have benefitted from holding the dramatic tension for longer rather than so often going for the laugh or quickly changing scene; at times the audience laugh at situations which would have held more impact if characters were allowed more time to breathe. While the quick pace keeps the tension high it does result in a lack of opportunity to connect with the characters on a more emotional level.

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This re-invention of Band of Gold will entertain both fans of the original TV series and those coming to it for the first time. It also feels timely as we live through continued austerity with many women struggle to provide for their families and the sad reality that there are more sex workers now than when the original stories were penned. An engaging piece of theatre delivered by a solid cast.

Band of Gold is on at the Lowry until Saturday 25th January tickets available here.

An Inspector Calls

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having been seen by over 5 million people since its premiere at the National Theatre in 1992 Stephen Daldry’s ground-breaking production of J.B. Priestley’s classic thriller comes to the Lowry this week as part of a UK wide tour.

Celebrated by audiences and critics alike its dramatic edge and clever theatricality remains. Set amidst a bleak, ominous backdrop we see a strange almost doll-like house, claustrophobic and precariously balanced. The laughter and chattering of the family within rings out, they are as yet unaware of whom lies within the wings waiting to unravel and expose their harmonious gathering.

A young working-class girl has committed suicide and it is Inspector Goole’s belief that each and every member of this loathsome family has played some influential part in her tragic demise. Daldry’s radical reimagining of this theatre heavyweight is strong in its impact and stirring in its message, the theatre packed with GCSE pupils, a clear sign of the continued relevance of this captivating piece.

Liam Brennan takes on the role of Inspector Goole, initially calm yet commanding he both examines and exposes each member of the elitist Birling family meticulously. Cocooned by their privilege he draws them out one by one rocking their very foundations and exposing their cruel entitled behaviours.

Each character is developed fully and delivered convincingly by an incredibly strong cast with special mention going to Chloe Orrock as daughter Sheila Birling whose journey from spoilt and materialistic to unravelled, ashamed yet reflective offers real hope for change.

Daldry’s exceptional direction clearly illustrates that the change Priestley wishes to see in the world must come from the younger generation, where they repent and reflect, their parents scrabble round in the gutter grabbing at their silverware polishing it in the mud, still grappling for their place at the top of the social ladder. Silent character Edna, (Linda Beckett) maid to the Birling family observes the fall-out while becoming more and more relaxed in her manner as the family fall from grace.

Designer Ian MacNeil’s intricate set design is strikingly impressive while Rick Fisher’s lighting adds to the atmosphere and intensity pairing wonderfully with Stephen Warbeck’s ominous soundtrack.

Whilst socialist Priestley wrote the play as a blistering criticism of capitalist society it very much remains a play for today with its message of social responsibility and consequence strikingly relevant. The piece illustrates perfectly how everything is connected and how our own individual actions impact others while using its platform to call for a kinder, fairer and more compassionate world. This thrilling adaptation is both slick and stylish, delivering a message that will stay with you long after the curtain call.

An Inspector Calls is on at The Lowry until Saturday 18th January tickets available here.