All Or Nothing – The Mod Musical

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Telling the story of The Small Faces rise to fame from a wannabe rhythm and blues band up until their much documented break-up on stage at Alexandra Palace, All Or Nothing is an engaging and hugely entertaining new musical.

With a book by Carol Harrison and directed by Pat Davey, All Or Nothing delves into the troubled past of a band who started out as fresh faced and full of attitude teenagers who wanted to change the ‘Mersey-beat’ scene and deliver something fresh, raw and exciting. We follow the band as they change from cheeky newcomers into a top sellers racking up iconic hits including Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday, Sha La La La Lee and of course All Or Nothing until years of constant working, exhausting touring, clashes of ego and general disillusionment with life at the top takes its tragic toll.

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The show is narrated by an older, no longer with us, Steve Marriot (Chris Simmons) looking back at the story of his life while his younger self performs in front of him, his narration is witty, revealing and brings a great pace to the production. Thoughtful and at times nostalgic, Simmons gives an outstanding performance, we see him go from light-hearted, dancing round the stage to crumbling before our eyes as the lifestyle becomes too much for his younger self, the liquor bottle becomes his constant companion as he smokes and drinks himself past the point of no return.

The use of an on-stage narrator works extremely well, Simmons swiftly creates a warm relationship with the audience and gently guides us through his compelling tale.

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The four cast members playing The Small Faces are excellent, Kenney Jones, (Drew-Levi Huntsman) Ian McClagan (Joshua Maddison), Ronnie Lane (Joshua Dowen) and Steve Marriot (Tim Edwards). All four act and play throughout, their musical pieces are tight and their scenes together authentic from bright-eyed wannabee hit makers to worn out and irritated popstars, each cast member gives their absolute all.

Special mention must go to Carol Harrison who as well as writing the book delivers a moving performance as Kay Marriot, mother of Steve. Carol delivers not only comedy and plenty of laugh out loud moments but also emotional and intense moments as she sees the tragedy that is unfolding before her.

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Rebecca Brower’s set is simple and effective, allowing the music and story to take centre stage here. This isn’t a musical with narrative dropped in around it; it’s a well written play which uses the music of its subject to great effect. With authentic 60’s clothing as well as props this is a piece that has been developed with true love and affection. The ensemble are excellent, playing various roles with some great comedic timing. The audience lapped up the witty jokes and cheeky quips and many a sound of recognition was heard as the cast kicked into one of The Small Faces classics. All Or Nothing makes for a fabulous night out, fun, feisty and totally fabulous!

On at Buxton Opera House until Weds 5th Oct

Manchester Opera House 18th Oct – 22nd Oct

http://www.allornothingthemusical.com/tickets.html

 

 

Little Shop of Horrors – Cast Interviews

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Cult classic and audience favourite, Little Shop of Horrors is heading to the Palace Theatre in October as part of a new UK tour. Set in 1950’s New York, well, Skid Row, to be more precise, Little Shop of Horrors is a hilarious tale of, love and laughter, with a little bit of murder, mayhem and of course a mean green mother from outta space thrown in for good measure!

Geeky but loveable Seymour discovers an exotic new plant which soon turns around the fortunes of the failing Mushnik’s Flower Shop where he works as an assistant in downtrodden Skid Row. He christens the plant ‘Audrey II’ in honour of his fellow assistant Audrey whom he is secretly besotted with. Sadly Audrey is stuck in the clutches of the sinister (if not a little bit sexy) Dentist, Orin Scrivello, who has a rather unhealthy passion for pain. Add to this the fact that Audrey II is quickly developing into a demanding, ill-tempered, obscenity loving carnivore that’s attracting more and more attention by the second and you’ve got one hell of an entertaining production.

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We sat down with cast members Rhydian (The Dentist), Sam Lupton (Seymour) and Stephanie Clift (Audrey) to hear what this revamped production has in store for Manchester audiences.

Taking on the devilish role of the Prince of plaque, is X Factor finalist and recording artist Rhydian, who has been a huge fan of the show for many years so jumped at the chance to join the cast. Experienced in musical theatre having appeared in Grease, We Will Rock You, Jesus Christ Superstar and Rocky Horror to name but a few, Rhydian loves the fact he can be completely outrageous on stage and have so much fun with the role.

“With this show you feel every single emotion, you’ll be crying, you’ll be laughing, you’ll be wincing, you’ll become absorbed with the relationships the characters have with each other. The energy is fantastic, we have the best director, lighting designer, choreographer, cast, it’s a winning combination and a great night out”.

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“I do musicals if I really like the show, and I really, really like this show, I love big show stoppers, everyone knows the music from Little Shop even if they don’t at first realise, the audience reactions have been incredible, we’ve even got the rights to perform Mean Green Mother live which we’ve never had before and the audience totally love every single minute of it as do we as a cast performing it”.

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Joining Rhydian as unlucky in love, Seymour is Sam Lupton, a graduate of Manchester School Of Theatre and experienced West End performer who has appeared as Boq in Wicked as well as in the touring production of Avenue Q amongst many other great shows. Having studied in Manchester for three years Sam is really looking forward to returning to the city, Sam loved living in Manchester and misses his time here, he used to frequent the Palace Theatre weekly so his return is made even more special by the fact that this is his dream role in a theatre that he loves.

“I saw an article around April time announcing the tour would be happening and have been a huge fan of the show since I was 6 or 7, I’ve always wanted to play Seymour professionally even more so after appearing in an amateur production when I was 15 where I played the voice of Audrey II, I rang my agent straight away and said ‘That’s mine, I want it’, after four or five rounds of auditions where I auditioned with several different Audrey’s, officially getting the part was fantastic”.

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Stephanie Clift who appeared in Mamma Mia in the West End straight after graduating from Arts Education Schools London in 2013 completes our leading line up and is totally thrilled to have bagged the role of Audrey, finding out about the show in a more unusual way;

“My baby niece is taught dance by the associate musical director Mark’s partner Suzie in Devon when I’m from, I was home one day and went to see my nice at her dance class where I got chatting to Suzie who asked me what my dream role was, I immediately answered Audrey from Little Shop and Suzie told me then that it was due to be going on tour, I knew straight away I had to be in it”.

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Both Sam and Stephanie agree that one of the highlights of the show for both them is when they sing Suddenly Seymour together, they feel the buzz of the audience anticipation of the song followed by their enjoyment once the music begins, for Stephanie it holds some really special nostalgic memories;

For me as a little girl, falling in love with the show, with Audrey and now getting to do that, remembering my reaction as a little girl and now being involved in creating that reaction for our audiences, it really is a dream come true”

Directed by Tara Wilkinson for Sell a Door Theatre Company and Damien Tracey Productions, Little Shop of Horrors is already proving to be an almighty hit, with rave reviews from each stop on the tour so far. With only one week to catch this riotous and hugely entertaining show act fast and book your tickets, with a strong cast, awesome staging, and catchy tunes you’ll be humming for days this really is one not to be missed!

Little Shop Of Horrors – Palace Theatre, Manchester,
Mon 31st Oct-Sat 5th Nov
Perf Times: Mon-Sat eves 7.30pm, Sat mat 2.30pm
0844 871 3019

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/little-shop-of-horrors/palace-theatre-manchester/

 

 

The Community Centre

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Engine House Theatre, International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

Written by Nicola Gardner (who also takes on two roles in this new production) Directed by John Klark and Produced by Darren Adams, The Community Centre gives us a hilarious account of a day in the life of a local Community Centre and all the madness that comes with it. With diverse characters and lots of laugh out loud moments, The Community Centre is a riot of the familiar ridiculousness of day to day life down at the local Community hub.

Receptionist and self-declared Manager Precious played by writer Nicola Gardner, rules the Centre like an old school mistress with threats to bar anyone misbehaving as she ‘Has the power, you know’ I absolutely adored Precious, such a brilliant character and so well acted by Nicola, she perfectly recreated that ‘power gone to their head’ type character we’ve all no doubt come into contact with at some point in our lives, the audience lapped up her ‘service with a (sinister) smile’ such a great character I’d love to see more of.

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The play is performed in the thrust formation, meaning that the audience sit on two opposing sides of the theatre with a runway style stage running through the centre, with action taking place both in the centre and at either end of the ‘runway’. At one end we have Bev and Anisha, played by Lynne Payne and Sayera Haque, employed by the Community Centre to look after the Community Farm animals, both however are much, much better at taking extended tea breaks and having a good old gossip about their love lives than they are at actually doing any work. Their conversations were brilliantly written, many a giggle of recognition rippled through the audience as they reflected on their disastrous love lives from speed dating to borderline stalking of clearly uninterested men who they hilariously assumed were just playing hard to get.

At the other end of the Community Centre we have Sister Johnson (Linda Hargreaves), Sister Richards (Nicola Gardner, Brother Leroy (Tony McPherson) and Brother Myers (Declan Wilson) four friends who while away their days making use of the centres gas and electric whilst sharing a tot of rum and the playful banter only true friends can have. All four actors excelled in their roles, witty, entertaining and totally loveable. Moving between the two groups, broom in hand is hopeless Caretaker Robbie, (Mike Coombes)  white as snow yet desperately trying to convince both himself and those around him that he’s black, frequently asking his spirit guide Bob (Marley) whom he has a shrine to, for guidance and clarity. Despite his ridiculous swagger and Bob Marley hat complete with dreadlocks, you can’t help but love the hapless Robbie and will him to succeed.

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The Community Centre succeeds in demonstrating to us all that despite our differences and quirks we are basically all the same; we are all seeking out comfort and happiness through our meaningful connections with others. A real fun piece of theatre, with many laugh out loud moments, the production will leave you feeling smiley and thoroughly entertained, as the late great Bob Marley would say, ‘Let’s get together and feel alright’

Tickets are £10/£8 for concessions and the show runs until Saturday 24th September.

Schools/BSL Interpreter: Friday 23 September 2016, 14:00

http://www.communitycentre.org.uk/

 

Aladdin Press Launch

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First Family Entertainment and The Opera House, Manchester have announced their star-studded line up for this year’s fabulous family panto and boy are we in for a treat! Oh no we’re not……OH YES WE ARE!!!!

There will be superb sets, sparkling costumes and of course side splitting comedy all headed up by a spectacular cast! Rumour has it there may even be a flying carpet and don’t get me started on what that magical lamp might do!

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First up is much loved Manchester actor John Thomson, currently riding high in the TV ratings with the return of the brilliant Cold Feet, John takes on the role of the evil Abanazer. After playing Captain Hook back in 2007 John is thrilled to take on another notorious baddie and is looking forward to the challenge of getting the fine balance right between the comedy of the role and also the mischief and villainy.

“Playing a baddie is all about getting the balance right…one foot in the booooooo’s and one foot in the ha ha ha’s, to the kids watching it means everything, it’s so real to them, they get so involved and everything that happens on stage is so important”.

John spoke about his admiration for Panto greats who have paved the way for our current stars, Cannon and Ball, Norman Wisdom, Russ Abbot, Cilla Black..and more recently Joe Pasquale, Bradley Walsh, Bobby Davro and Brian Conley;

“..they delivered performances I not only admire but also aspire to, for me it means I want to get this right”.

John loves the unique charm and the Britishness of Panto, noting that the top three trending items on Twitter over the weekend were “The Archers, Country File and Antiques Roadshow” John thinks it’s clear what the British public want, good ,well made, wholesome entertainment, with hopefully the successful return of Cold Feet shaking things up a bit and paving the way for a return of more quality drama and entertainment and what better place to start than with the much loved tradition of Panto!

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Joining John for the festive season as the Genie of the Ring is the legendary Sherrie Hewson. Sherrie is hugely excited to return to Manchester, where she had an enormously successful five years on the cobbles at Coronation St. Aladdin is one of her absolute favourite Panto’s so she’s thrilled that her Grandchildren will get to see her in such a magical production.

A veteran of Panto with many tales to tell Sherrie will make for an exceptional Genie, dramatic, flamboyant, not to mention totally and utterly fabulous!

Sherrie hugely values the importance of Panto and loves how it gives so many children their first opportunity of live theatre. Sherrie described how Panto has given her own Grandchildren a taste for the theatre, something they now all enjoy as a family with regular trips to London.  Sherrie takes great pride in knowing her part in this year’s Panto will create magical memories for many more children and families new to the world of theatre. With great experience comes great knowledge and after working on so many panto’s in the past Sherrie certainly knows a great cast when she sees one;

I’m so looking forward to working with my fellow cast members, this cast feels really good, everything fits and feels just right.

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No Panto is complete without a dashing Prince and there’s no exception here, taking on the role of Aladdin is they very lovely Ben Adams known to many as the lead singer of popular 90’s boyband ‘A1’. Ben is now a hugely successful songwriter having recently enjoyed a spell at No 1 with the track ‘Guilty Flowers’ which he co-wrote with Ward Thomas and Shelly Poole. Add to this the fact Ben still tours with A1 and has recently reached No.1 with his own Classical Ep ‘One Beautiful Mourning’ as well as creating a new musical Eugenius! Phew!

Ben is really excited to be in Manchester, this is actually his third Christmas playing Aladdin after previously playing the role in Woking and Milton Keynes so when given the chance again he was keen to perform somewhere new, Ben reflects on his touring years with A1 and described past Manchester audiences as ..”Brilliant, always great fun” but due to being on the road he’d only ever get to stay for one night before heading off to the next gig so Ben’s taking this time as a great opportunity to explore Manchester and get to know this fabulous city.

While Ben is excited to take on the role again he’d love in future to tackle the challenge of playing a dame, having lots of fun with the role and of course enjoying the great interaction with the audience.

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Completing the start-studded line up and appearing as the long-suffering Widow Twankey will be Eric Potts, one of Britain’s best loved panto dames. Eric has previously won critical acclaim for his panto roles at the Opera House playing Widow Twankey in Aladdin in 2009 and Sarah the Cook in Dick Whittington in 2013 and is a huge crowd pleaser. As well as appearing in and writing the script, Eric will also be directing this year’s show!

With laughs a plenty, chart-topping songs, tonnes of unforgettable Panto puns, lamp loads of wishes AND a real flying carpet, Aladdin is set to be the most magical show of the season. Once you rub the magic lamp this fine cast will transport you into a magical world of boo-able baddies and hunky heros with more than a few tricks and treats along the way!

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Opera House, Friday 9th December – Sunday 8th January

Tickets available now from  http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/aladdin/opera-house-manchester/

ACCESS PERFORMANCES FOR ALADDIN
There are two BSL Interpreted Performance scheduled for Thu 15 & Fri 16 Dec 2016, 7pm, and on Fri 30 Dec 2016 at 1pm a Relaxed Performance. For more information on access performances call the access team on 0161 245 6605.

Sunny Afternoon, Opera House, Manchester

The Sixties weren’t the era dubbed ‘swinging’ for nothing. It was the time of great music being born and bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were holding court to the screaming masses. There was another band on the block though shaping the sound of the Sixties, made in Muswell Hill, London and going by the name of The Kinks.

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Sunny Afternoon pays homage to the four young cockney lads who made up that band famous for singing simple songs about life in London and what a wonderful time it was. The musical, penned by original band member Ray Davies, first took to the stage in 2014 and since then has enjoyed a successful run in the West End bagging itself four Oliviers on the way, including Best New Musical. Manchester now gets the chance to cast its eye on the show becoming the first stop on its premiere UK Tour, with a week long run at the Opera House.

Unlike other musicals that feature the back catalogues of songs from famous bands (We Will Rock You-Queen, Mama Mia-ABBA) Sunny Afternoon uses all the well-known hits in a biographical way charting the creation of The Kinks and the ups and downs they encounter as they embark on stardom.

Ryan O’Donnell puts in a captivating performance in the lead role of Ray Davies, the reluctant pop star more at home composing songs than on tour singing them. His vocals are pitch perfect and executed with such raw emotion you really feel he means every word.

O’Donnell previously performed as the alternate Ray during Sunny Afternoon’s West End run and it’s great to see him bag the role for good as part of the UK tour. His co-stars are equally as talented, Mark Newham putting every ounce of energy he has into playing Ray’s younger brother Dave, as he manically strums the bass guitar and behaves like a childish rock star vying to be centre of attention with his frenzied antics.

Garmon Rhys is believable as shy bassist Peter Quaife but it’s Andrew Gallo who almost steals the show as the bands percussionist Mickey Avery, performing an impressive drum solo that seems to go on forever, to the delight of the audience.

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One of the refreshing things about Sunny Afternoon is that it isn’t a musical full of bubble gum sweetness and karaoke classics. At times it’s gritty, the music is raw, and there’s more than a sprinkling of expletives in the script.

There’s some wonderful moments to watch out for, from the goosebump inducing guitar strumming of You Really Got Me to the poignant a cappella version of another of The Kinks greatest hits, Days.

If you weren’t a fan of The Kinks before, you will leave the theatre wanting to hear more of their music but not before jumping to your feet to dance along to their toe tapping tracks in the show’s rousing encore. A standing ovation well deserved, congratulations Ray Davies, you really got me!

Sunny Afternoon – Opera House, Manchester
Friday 19 to Saturday 27 August
For more tour information www.sunnyafternoonthemusical.com

Sister Act, The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Returning to Manchester after her triumphant spell in the Bodyguard, Alexandra Burke proves this diva is here to stay as she delivers all the sass and attitude that makes Deloris Van Cartier such a loveable and unforgettable character.

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Directed and Choreographed by Strictly legend Craig Revel Horwood, Sister Act tells the story of wannabee singer Deloris who sees a little too much during a late night discussion between her married boyfriend Curtis (Aaron Lee Lambert) and his no good cronies, one of which he believes has ratted him to the cops. Deloris flees for her own safety and finds sanctuary in the local Convent under the instruction of local cop and former school friend Eddie (Jon Robyns). Life as a Nun is a million miles from her usual liquor swilling, cigarette smoking, good time gal days but that irrepressible Deloris spirit soon has chance to shine when she’s given the opportunity to work with the choir of Nuns who currently sound like a cat’s chorus.

Burke is perfect in the role of Van Cartier, with just the right amount of sass and diva attitude she also has a lot of fun with this role and her comedic side is given the opportunity to shine, add to it that voice and wow, we have our star!

Burke is complemented by a strong cast; the Nuns really do take this production to the next level, each of their scenes is full of joy and every actress gives their absolute all. Notable performances come from Karen Mann as Mother Superior whose stern guidance despite frustration after frustration eventually develops into a solid bond, and the fabulous Sarah Goggin whose is a joy to watch as Sister Mary Robert, gaining in confidence with more than a little guidance from her new found sister. Jon Robyns makes for a great Eddie and you’re desperately willing him and Deloris to get together pretty much from the start of the show.

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The choreography is fun and flirty and further adds to the laughs this production provides, Matthew Wrights set and costume design works well transporting us from 1970’s nightclub to quiet Convent with ease. The one thing that distracted me a little during this production was the use of actor-musicians, whilst this works wonderfully for some shows for me I wanted my Nuns giving it their all for the fabulous choreography rather than being distracted from their booty shaking by playing the trumpet, but that comes down to personal taste and that being said everyone on stage absolutely excelled at both.

Sister Act is fun and totally fabulous; Burke’s voice is big, bold and beautiful, a heavenly production with bucket loads of feel good factor!

On at the Palace until Saturday 3rd September

Tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/sister-act/

 

 

The Wind In The Willows, Press Launch

Adapted for the stage by Oscar-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellows and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, (collaborators on international hit musical Mary Poppins) brand new stage musical The Wind in the Willows is soon to come to life on the Lowry stage.

Kenneth Grahame’s much loved classic tells the tale of the vibrant Mr Toad, played by Rufus Hound, as he embarks on many an adventure with his trusted companions Ratty (Thomas Howes) and Mole (Fra Fee), there will be scrapes and predicaments along the way with Toad getting himself in a pickle on more than one occasion, but true friendship and a sense of belonging will prevail making this new production an absolute theatrical treat not to be missed!

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Producer Jamie Hendry values so highly the joy of this classic novel that copies have been sent to each school within the cities this World Premiere tour will take in, introducing a whole new generation to the fun and frolics of the flamboyant Mr Toad and his long suffering friends.

This week the cast and creative team gave a lucky few a sneak preview into what we can expect when the show opens on 27th October at the Lowry. Sassy Sophia Nomvete who will be taking on the role of Mrs Otter thrilled with her song, fast, fun and totally fabulous! Fra Fee recently seen playing Courfeyrac in the Les Miserables movie plays Mole, a soft, kind and gentle creature, his voice when singing his song about Home is just perfection, I literally didn’t want him to stop singing. Changing the tempo after Mole’s calming piece is Neil McDermott who portrays Chief Weasel, with just the right amount of swagger and attitude, McDermott makes it clear that his mischievous Weasel won’t give Toad, Ratty and Mole and easy ride.

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I spoke to Thomas Howes about his excitement to be making his musical theatre debut and getting back to the stage after many years doing film and TV. As soon as he heard about this new project he knew absolutely had to get involved, as the creative team described, this is a show for all generations, for Howes it will be an opportunity for his young nephews to come and see him in a family friendly professional role, something he is massively looking forward to. After auditioning then having several call-backs Howes contacted Julian Fellows who was unaware he was auditioning to say he’d got the part and got a huge, ‘Well done’ from the much respected writer who he had previously worked with on Downton. For Howes the generosity of Ratty is something which enormously appealed, despite Ratty’s stiff upper lip his caring nature and generosity shines through. A highlight for Howes being the song ‘A friend is still a friend’ which he feels will really strike a chord with audiences and highlights one of the most important themes running through the show, that being friendship and the importance of having and being a friend.

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The Wind in the Willows looks set to become an absolute smash hit, judging on this preview I have no doubt the show will become a runaway success, the excitement felt at the preview filtered from the cast and creatives to each and every audience member, it is clear that this is going to be something very special.

After the show’s stop at the Lowry it will hopefully head to the West End to further wow audiences. Tickets are available now and are selling fast for this perfect family tale of fun and friendship, book now to avoid disappointment and bag one of the hottest tickets of the year.

The Wind in the Willows – Thursday 27th October until Sunday 6th November

http://www.thelowry.com/event/the-wind-in-the-willows2

King Lear, Opera House, Manchester

An exciting addition to the current offerings celebrating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare is Director Max Webster’s touring production of King Lear with the mighty Michael Pennington wearing the tragic Kings crown.

Pennington gives an absolute masterclass in classical acting, he is utterly mesmerising, angry and fierce one moment, fragile and vulnerable the next, he draws the audience in and you quickly forget there are a few hundred other theatre goers around you.

The transition from powerful tyrant at the start of the play where Lear wrongly disowns adoring daughter Cordelia (Beth Cooke) to the final scenes where we see him broken and maddened by sorrow is enormous, captivating and totally heart-breaking. Misjudging his two eldest daughters loyalty, Lear finds himself increasingly desperate, stripped of his wealth and majesty, the respect he was once shown is now forgotten and he is left to live with the past mistakes he has made.

In addition to Pennington’s fine performance is a very strong cast who each in turn deliver fantastic performances. Lear’s two eldest daughters, Goneril and Regan are played expertly by Catherine Bailey and Sally Scott, an evil duo who grow increasingly twisted with the power bestowed upon them. Similarly the warped relationship between brothers Edgar (Gavin Fowler) and Edmund (Scott Karim) is played out perfectly, the villainy of Edmund leading to the brutal demise of his own father Gloucester (Pip Donaghy) offers Edgar the opportunity to secretly nurse and care for the Father he was forced through the evils of his brother to flee.

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Adrian Linford’s set is sparse but effective, allowing the actors to be the firm focus of this production. At just under three hours including an interval it is not a short production by any means but Director Max Webster maintains a great pace and flow which combined with the fine performances on stage keep you totally engaged.

Although one of Shakespeare’s most bloodthirsty tragedies, this excellent production offers wit, humour and many moving moments, it is beautifully accessible Shakespeare, unpretentious, poignant and totally gripping.

On at the Opera House until Saturday 4th June, tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/king-lear-2016/opera-house-manchester/