Insane Animals

Insane Animals press pic 4 (2026). Photo by Drew Forsyth

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Back in 2017 HOME launched it’s T1 project, the idea was to commission new projects and bring them to the art houses 500 seat theatre. The first of these commissions went to the writing duo of George Heyworth and Liv Morris, better known as comedy double-act, Bourgeois & Maurice. What they’ve come up with is Bourgeois & Maurice’s Insane Animals.

This is an epic sci-fi, comedy journey takes us right from the dawn of civilisation through to a bleak looking future for humanity, along the way there are catchy tunes, biting gags, costume changes and sequins… lots of sequins!

Bourgeois & Maurice are a pair of alien gods who have arrived on earth in the present to see what a mess human are making of the world and to bear witness to our inevitable destruction. However, the pair decide to offer humanity a chance of salvation, by looking at the story Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is believed to have formed the basis of the world’s first every recorded story. He is an arrogant, cruel ruler, who persecutes his people. However, with the help of our extra-terrestrial visitors, we will see Gilgamesh, fall in love, suffer and learn what it is to be human, but will it be enough to save humanity?

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If Bourgeois & Maurice’s Insane Animals is an indicator HOME’s future output then we are in for a treat: this is a silly, surreal, and smart musical, filled with great tunes, cracking one-liners, and great gags. Any show that has references to Ru Paul’s Drag Race and the British Museum’s questionable attitude to how it acquired its collection is of course going to be quite special.

As well as Heyworth and Morris, that cast includes great comic turns from Emer Dineen and Kay Mohamed-Mason playing multiple roles, with the remaining cast double us the backing band, The Forgettables. The songs are catchy, with some great, cutting lyrics with standout numbers being Brink of Extinction and the hilarious, self-aggrandising Thank God.

Michael Hankin’s set design is clearly a love letter to to the B movies of the 1950’s with the set during the first act resembling an unopened buffet at a labour club, there’s lots of silver foil which is by no mean a criticism, it adds to the shows charm.  Julian Smith’s costumes are OTT and look absolutely fabulous, perfect for the production.

Insane Animals press pic 5 (2054). Photo by Drew Forsyth

The show isn’t without its flaws at times the choreography is a bit all over the place whilst adding to the sense of fun can become a little distracting.

With Bourgeois & Maurice’s Insane Animals the writing team of Heyworth, Morris and director Philip McMahon have created the natural successor to Rocky Horror Picture Show (no one really remembers 1981 follow up Shock Treatment), knowingly kitsch, often camp and occasionally crude, this is an original, fun, entertaining romp where nothing is off limits and everything is fair game!

Bourgeois & Maurice’s Insane Animals is at HOME till the 14th March 2020 tickets available here.

 

BRB | Swan Lake

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Birmingham Royal Ballet brings ballets greatest love story to the Lowry’s lyric stage this week and it is as breathtakingly beautiful as ever.

Set to Tchaikovsky’s instantly recognisable score, played to perfection by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Swan Lake offers an unforgettable night of theatre. From the opening of Act I it’s clear to see why this classic production first created in 1981 by Sir Peter Wright and Galina Samsova remains a firm audience favourite. From stunningly intricate choreography to lavish sets, sumptuous costumes to sensational performances this magnificent production has it all.

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Split into four acts Swan Lake tells the dramatic love story of Prince Siegfried and Odette; impeccably danced by César Morales and Momoko Hirata. Opening with a funeral scene following the death of The King, Prince Siegfried’s fear of a forced marriage is realised. With no desire to marry he distracts himself by heading off to the Lake with faithful equerry Benno (danced wonderfully by Tzu-Chao Chou) for a spot of hunting. It is here by the moonlit waters he witnesses the majestic Odette, a stunning Swan Princess who has been cursed to live as a Swan by evil sorcerer Baron von Rothbart. The spark is immediate, and the Prince falls hopelessly in love. From here their dramatic story unfolds, exquisitely told by this highly skilled company.

César Morales excels as Prince Siegfried, athletic yet gentle his bewitching by the glittering Odette feels entirely believable. Momoko Hirata captivates entirely, her elegance as the delicate Odette in complete contrast to the determined and devious Odile. She performs the complex choreography with such graceful ease appearing at times to almost float on air. The pairing of Morales and Hirata works beautifully every intricate movement appears effortless with each moving pas de deux receiving rapturous applause.

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One thing which really stands out in this production is BRB’s ability to consistently deliver complex choreography while still ensuring the storytelling is both clear and well defined. There is never any confusion as to what is happening on stage as the company have wholeheartedly mastered the art of storytelling through dance. The addition of Phillip Prowse’s grand sets and lavish costumes adding depth and richness.

This is truly a company production and no Swan Lake is complete without the iconic cygnets whose presence on stage for the opening of Act IIIV drew gasps of delight prompting a spontaneous applause so impressive was the sight. Their perfectly in-sync delivery is a genuine moment of unforgettable joy.

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This thrilling production really is a ballet for all; young , old, long standing ballet fans and first timers alike will fall in love with BRB’s Swan Lake, epic in scale and exceptional in delivery, if you only ever see one ballet make sure it’s this one.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake is on at The Lowry until Saturday 7th March tickets available here.

*Images used are 2020 touring cast

 

A Monster Calls

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s not very often I’ll go into review a show cold: I’ll usually have some idea of plot, cast, etc before going into the the theatre. In the case of A Monster Calls I knew it was based on a book, and there was something in the back of mind telling me that there had been a film adaptation too. In terms of plot I knew very little, had I known I could have prepared for the tsunami of emotions that hit me.

This is the story of Conor (Ammar Duffus), a lonely 13-year-old boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders: harassment from the school’s bully, a father living on the other side of the world, his mother (Maria Omakinwa) is seriously ill. Understandably, it’s his mum’s illness that is of most concern to Conor, confused by what he is seeing and his mother’s reassurance that “everything with be fine” he has no outlet for emotions.

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Conor’s life soon becomes even more complicated when he receives a visit from a monstrous creature. Located in his garden is a giant yew tree, which comes to life at the same time each evening. The yew tree has been on the earth for hundreds of years and informs the boy that he will tell him three tales and in exchange Conor will tell him one in return.

Each night the tree returns with a brutal fable, involving, kings, queens and apothecaries, all with a dark heart to them, there is no happy ever after with these stories. But, what do they mean and how do they help Conor?

Sally Cookson has created a powerful, visceral and devastating adaptation of Patrick Ness’ international bestseller.  This is a fairy-tale that deals with grief, anger and the importance of expressing our emotions, this is an unflinching, unsentimental view of the world through the eyes of teenager, complete with all his frustrations and heartache.

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The production looks and sounds amazing. The haunting score by Benji Bower, is both beautiful and haunting, played masterfully by musicians Seamas Carey and Luke Potter. There use of electronica and voice distortion gives the production a fantasy, other worldly quality.  The staging is simple but affective, just a white floor, with a white back drop where, looking not to dissimilar to a padded cell, adding an element of claustrophobia, despite the vast openness of the stage. Visuals are projected on the wall throughout, and the ensemble cast when not playing their part will double up as visible stagehands handing out props as and when required.

However it’s the recreation of the woodland behemoth that is most impressive: using a series of  giant ropes which cascade onto the stage throughout, the ensemble cast gather them together to form the tree, this coupled with Keith Gilmore’s physical and menacing delivery as the monster, make for an impressive visual spectacle creating a truly intimidating protagonist.

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The production isn’t without it’s flaws, despite a solid showing from the cast, with strong physical and emotional performances throughout they are occasionally let down by some stilted dialogue which is a little distracting, however this is a minor quibble for what is an innovative, powerful piece of theatre.

Having quite recently lost my father, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional sucker punch the production provided during its final moments and judging by the amount of people clearing the sand from their eyes (least that’s what I think it was) at the end of the performance nor was anyone else. Powerful, intelligent and emotional, when this monster calls you had best answer as you won’t be disappointed.

A Monster Calls is on at at the Lowry until Saturday 29th February, tickets are available here.

Cabaret

Cabaret

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Set in Berlin in 1931 during the chilling rise of the Nazi’s, Cabaret introduces us to the unconventional love story of American writer Cliff Bradshaw and English performance artist Sally Bowles, who entertains nightly at the city’s decadent and debauched Kit Kat Klub.

An additional and deeply moving sub-plot detailing the ill-fated romance between elderly Jewish fruit seller Herr Schultz and German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider ensures that Cabaret is as intricate as it is entertaining, with its own Master of Ceremonies Emcee, ominously overseeing the action.

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Amidst the razzle dazzle of the big numbers which are delivered spectacularly by an impressive ensemble the story is firmly anchored in the drama of the period as a much darker landscape emerges and the reality of the changing political climate is realised in everyday life.

Kara Lily Hayworth excels as good time girl Sally Bowles, with soaring vocals delicately delivered she finds the genuine vulnerability of this troubled soul. Charles Hagerty makes for a strong Cliff Bradshaw, wide-eyed in wonder initially he leaps headfirst into the decadence of the city until the stark reality of what is happening to Belin is realised.

James Paterson and Anita Harris are a real joy as Herr Schultz and Fräulein Schneider making the inevitable outcome of their doomed love story all the more heart-breaking to watch.

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John Partridge makes for a commanding and charismatic Emcee, strutting and strong initially his journey from start to finish is the most humbling of all as we see the reality of this crushing regime played out. His transition from fearlessly flamboyant to painfully oppressed a bleak reminder of the grim history of the period. Director Rufus Norris gives us a stark and honest climax to the show which Partridge and the ensemble deliver with an unspoken sensitivity.

Designer Katrina Lindsay has ensured this complex piece engages from the off, the vibrancy of the Kit Kat Klub lures you in with it’s flashing lights and twirling staircases which in turn gives the gut-wrenching final scenes the impact they deserve.

The whole show is beautifully lit by Tim Olivier giving it a somewhat cinematic feel while Dan Samson’s sound design is superb. Javier De Frutos gives the ensemble cast some incredibly complex choreography which they deliver with ease bringing the Kit Kat Klub to vivid life.

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Just as Kara Lily Hayworth sings during titular number “What good is sitting, alone in your room? Come hear the music play!” we can’t help but agree, with impressive staging, strong performances and superb choreography this is a Cabaret which will long stay with you.

Cabaret is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 29th February tickets are available here.

 

 

 

 

Ghost Stories

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Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Finally, a decade after it’s theatrical premiere at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, Ghost Stories is embarking on a full national tour, and trust me it was well worth the wait!

From the twisted minds of childhood friends Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, comes the ultimate scary theatrical experience, that will chill to your core.

Both Dyson and Nyman are no strangers to horror and the supernatural: Dyson is arguably best known for his work with, The League of Gentleman. Whilst Nyman is an actor and writer, who recently starred opposite Renée Zellweger in the Oscar winning film Judy. However, it’s his previous work with Derren Brown, which undoubtedly feeds into this production.

It would do the show a disservice to offer a review complete with plot synopsis and spoilers, the less you know going in beforehand the better. So, this review like a government investigation into Russian donors to the Conservative Party will be heavily redacted.

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Beginning with a lecture from Professor Goodman (Joshua Higgott), Goodman specialises in the study of the supernatural, especially debunking people’s stories, or exposing fakers and frauds. However, of all the cases that he has investigated there have been three that have stuck with him.

The first is that of security guard, Tony Matthews (Paul Hawkyard), and his unsettling final shift. The second is that of teenager, Simon Rifkind (Gus Gordon) and the strife his troublesome car gets him into. Finally, businessman, Mike Priddle (Richard Sutton) and the events that lead up to a family tragedy.

Can Professor Goodman offer up a rational explanation behind each of these stories, if so what can be?

If the aim of Ghost Stories is to have you jumping out of your skin then it achieves its goal ten times over, like a rollercoaster the thrills come thick and fast, just when you think you’re safe there’s another scare right around the corner. It’s not all shocks, there are several laughs too, with a pitch-black script and lots of fun gags, horror and comedy have often made strange bed fellows, Ghost Stories undoubtedly have got the balance spot on.

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With a production of this nature it of course relies hugely on its creative team and high production values and what they have created is something quite special. With James Farncombe’s lighting design, sound design by Nick Manning, then add into the mix Jon Bausor’s impressive set design and you have an atmospheric, gasp-inducing full-on sensory experience.

The cast are on fine form, Higgot has an engaging stage presence as our guide to the paranormal, whilst the three storytellers each bring something different to their tale. There’s comedy, drama, and terror from each turn but all done very differently, which is a credit to all three actors as well the sublime writing and direction.

This is so much more than a fright-fest: it’s smart, innovative and most of all an enormously fun piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops to give you a night out that will live long in the memory.

Ghost Stories is at the Lowry until the 22nd February 2020 tickets available here.

 

 

 

Will Young announces Chester Storyhouse date inc VIP Meet & Greet

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Will Young’s Show And Tell Tour comes to Storyhouse for one night only on Sunday 20 September 2020. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday 21 February 2020.

On his first ever spoken word tour Show And Tell, he will talk about his life and experiences to fans.

The show will cover a variety of topics, from the evolution of pop to gay rights, as well as Will’s funny moments during a unique and successful 18-year career. He will speak about numerous career highlights, from winning the first ever Pop Idol aged 22, to scoring four Number One albums and four Number One singles.

His tour in September and October will play nine venues across the country, and follows the publication of his new book, To Be A Gay Man.

Fans have the chance to meet Will before the show during a VIP Meet & Greet, places are limited. There will also be audience questions.

Will explained: “I’m really looking forward to this. It’ll be a funny show and I’ll be talking about my career as well as looking at mental health, gay rights and much, much more. It’s a spoken word show – there’s no music – and I’m excited to be following the publication of my new book with nine UK dates.”

The show follows the success of Will’s latest record, Lexicon. It follows his life from the age of four, through boarding school and university, to entering and winning the biggest talent competition ever seen, Pop Idol. He will reflect on a successful pop career, as well as talking about being one of the first openly gay pop stars.

The tour will start in Worthing on 12 September, before visiting Cheltenham, Bristol, Chester, Lincoln, Yarm, Porthcawl, Kingston-Upon-Thames, and Shrewsbury.

Tickets for Will Young’s Show And Tell show are priced from £25. Each ticket is subject to a £1.50 booking fee. A VIP Meet & Greet package is also available. Further information can be found here.

 

The Last Quiz Night On Earth

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If it were your last night on earth, how would you spend it? Surely, with friends, family, neighbours maybe even complete strangers? How about with all of these whilst participating in a pub quiz? A pub quiz probably wouldn’t be your first thought when faced with your imminent doom, but The Last Quiz Night on Earth may just change your mind!

With an asteroid hurtling towards the earth, and all hope gone, landlady Kathy (Meriel Schofield), and quizmaster, Rav (Shaban Dar) decide the best way to go out is by throwing a quiz and we’re all invited. However, with the pending apocalypse, it’s inevitable that the night won’t run smoothly and the arrival of Kathy’s estranged brother, Bobby (Chris Jack), as well as of Rav’s ex-childhood sweetheart, Fran (Amy Drake) throw a spanner in the works. Will the sibling rivalry and matters of the heart get in the way of the sports round? Will we crown a quiz champion before our untimely demise and just which team will have the best name?

Writer Alison Carr and director Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder have created a fun, innovative slice of a theatre, packed full of comedic set pieces, great one liner and a pinch of high drama. In its rather unique setting the play tackles issues such as redemption, forgiveness, and tolerance. However, there is an extra dimension  to the performance, as it’s fully interactive, the quiz is real, so you’ll need a quiz team, think of a witty team name (my personal favourite this evening was Salford Analytica) and you may even be called on for a bit of audience participation, you could end up playing Paul, Kathy’s no good ex!

The cast are on fine form, Schofield is the show’s heart and soul, holding the production together, Dar injects some razzmatazz and sparkle as our quiz master general, with Drake showing  a gift for comedy and Jack adding a touch of intrigue and pathos as Bobby. All four have great chemistry and with one another, and because of the interactive nature, adlib and bounce off the audience and get them involved whilst staying tight to the script.

Some of the more interactive elements can prove a bit tricky, as it’s staged in a real pub, depending on where you sit it, you can miss some of what’s going on. With this being a quiz, the competitive aspect can grip some audience members and cause a distraction from the action, it does give the show an air of authenticity but can frustrate in places.

Sound designer Chris James adds depth to proceedings with an apocalyptic sound scape, that includes a War of the World inspired radio broadcast. In addition, there is a tongue-and cheek soundtrack featuring the likes of REM, Europe, and Lisa Stansfield that will raise a smile throughout.

The show resembles an episode of a sitcom, more than it does a piece of theatre, which is meant as compliment, The Last Quiz Night On Earth is a fun, entertaining night out, which makes you wish you had more time with Kathy and the gang, but sadly the giant rock hurtling towards you the Earth has other plans. So, enjoy their company whilst you can! Ps Sue Pollard, if you go, you’ll know.

The Last Quiz Night on Earth is on at The Welcome Inn before touring until 11th April. Tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights

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Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emily Brontë’s one and only novel is a curious beast indeed, beloved by so many, this tale of passion and obsession has captivated and engrossed audiences for nearly 175 years. Wuthering Heights has spawned numerous film, television and theatrical adaptations, with mixed results. Step up director Bryony Shanahan and writer Andrew Sheridan, to give their take on this timeless tale.

With the windy moors as backdrop, we find the spirited, Cathy (Rakhee Sharma) and her brother; Hindley (Gujeet Singh) at play, the harsh, landscape is their playground. However, when their father (David Crellin) returns from a business trip, he has with him Heathcliff (Alex Austin), a street urchin who has been beaten and abused.

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Heathcliff’s introduction to the family unit stirs up very different emotions in the siblings, for Hindley, jealousy and rejection as the new arrival has displaced him in his father’s affection. Whilst Cathy has found a fellow kindred spirit, someone, who like her, is at one with her brutal surroundings. The pair soon forge an intense bond, filled with passion and rage that will eventually spiral out of control and affect all around them

This is a bold, daring adaptation, that doesn’t always hit the mark. Sheridan’s script does not pull any punches, there is some dialogue in the script that is more akin to an episode of Peaky Blinders, than a period drama, this however is not the problem, the tone of the production is somewhat all over the place trying to blend high-drama and comedic elements and it doesn’t quite work. References to Star Wars, and Cathy Come Home, are out of place and do nothing but take you away from the drama.

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Where Sheridan’s script does succeed is in its examination of trauma, and the impact it can have on mental health. In addition, the development of Hindley adds an extra dimension.

Key to any production of Wuthering Heights is the relationship between, Heathcliff and Cathy, and whilst Austin and Sharma give strong individual performances: Austin is a cross between John Lydon at his most obnoxious and a feral cat, it’s a unique, refreshing take on one of literatures best loved anti-heroes. Whilst Sharma is feisty as the free-spirited Cathy, who’s decent into madness is believably brought to life. The main issue is the passion and toxicity of their relationship does not grip you nor captivate, as it needs too.

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The production team have done a fantastic job of bringing the rugged, unforgiving landscape to life during the first half of the play: the Yorkshire backdrop is an integral character brought to life by Cécile Trémolières set design and Zoe Spurr’s atmospheric lighting design. In addition, this mixed with Alexandra Faye Braithwaite’s folk/metal score and haunting sound design, give the production an extra layer and a supernatural feel.

Whilst the Brontë purists may need convincing of the alterations, you cannot help but admire the risks that have been taken, it is not perfect and it does have its faults but it is always better to try something new, than play it safe, and make no mistake this adaptation is far from safe!

Wuthering Heights is at the Royal Exchange until the 7th March tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.