The Threepenny Opera

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Opening with a snarling and solo rendition of the much loved Mack the Kinfe, David Thacker’s version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1928 anti-capitalist ‘play with songs’ packs a re-energised and impressive punch.

Set in the near future where Queen Elizabeth is dead the country is awaiting the coronation of King Charles III, the powers that be work together to oppress the poor. Corrupt police are in cahoots with criminals while ruthless capitalists getting richer by the day by keeping the working classes down, making fat profits from the work they tie them to. Macheath (David Birrell) runs rings around both the corrupt authorities and the ever plotting underworld, with women, his only weakness in life seemingly being the only people who might be able get the better of him.

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James Cotterill’s set is industrial and inventive; levels of scaffold add height to the Octagon’s performance space offering the actor/musicians full involvement in the production.

The themes in David Thacker’s version resonate deeply as corrupt police, dodgy politicians, seemingly inexplicable fires and benefit cuts all get a mention bringing this Threepenny Opera bang up to date. Macheath’s treatment of women mirrors the injustice and exploitation seen so frequently in society, no more so than this last two weeks, it is a production which speaks powerfully about the times we’re living in. As always where there is social commentary there is sophisticated satire as the cast deliver this script with genuine wit and great style.

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Birrell is exceptional as Macheath, dangerous and manipulative; his brooding presence has just the right amount of menace about it, his voice rich, strong and powerful. Eric Potts as the odious Jonathan Peachum is superb, full-on and incredibly funny his paring with wife Celia (Sue Devaney) offers genuine laugh out loud moments throughout. Anna Wheatley as Polly Peachum is outstanding, sassy and strong she throws herself heart and soul into the character and has the audience in the palm of her hand.

Packed full with live music and incredibly clever and catchy lyrics The Threepenny Opera is a show that will entertain hugely yet send you away contemplating life and the injustices within it, powerfully politically and enormously entertaining David Thacker has got the balance just right in this slick, snarling and incredibly entertaining production.

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On at the Bolton Octagon until Saturday 4th November https://octagonbolton.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/the-threepenny-opera/#tickets

Winter Hill

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Set on Bolton’s iconic Winter Hill, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s new play explores what could happen if corporate greed was allowed to take over the town’s beloved moorland and the effect of this on a group of feisty local women, not yet ready to bow down to might of the developers. Transforming their reading-group into a powerful political statement where revolution, resistance and rebellion take centre stage the ladies occupy the part-built sky-scraping hotel as they declare themselves to be “Women Against Erection”.

The play is delivered in a series of flashbacks, present day sees Emma (Fiona Hampton) daughter of activist Dolly (Denise Black) meeting with some of the women who occupied the building with her mother to find out the truth about what actually happened that day.

Winter Hill is a real ensemble piece with clear and witty narrative and a cast any production would be thrilled to have, it’s a joy to see such talented female actresses under one roof. Denise Black, is superb as the gutsy and fearless Dolly, she is determined to safeguard the future of Winter Hill for the generations to come to enjoy and explore as she did. Souad Faress takes on the role of Vivian; somewhat mysterious in her background she is quietly confident and utterly committed to the cause. Janet Henfrey delivers a fine performance as wheelchair bound Felicity, weak of body but strong of mind she offers sharp and witty observations of the world as she sees it. Louise Jamerson’s Beth is less revolutionary than her friends but her loyalty to them soon sees her understanding more their reasons for resistance. Attempted voice of reason is local councillor Irene (Cathy Tyson) calm and rational she attempts to talk the ladies out of their action but you can’t help think she like the rest of the Council has been dazzled by the investors as she attempts to justify their approval of the monstrous hotel despite the fact the promised school and social housing seem to have been long forgotten now the developers have moved in.

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Resident Octagon artistic director Elizabeth Newman has delivered a thought-provoking and quality piece of drama, this all female cast shine as they strive to decide what makes a heroine and eventually realise that if they are going to be heroines then they will be heroines for humanity, a sentiment that really strikes a chord in the current unsettling political climate. This is a passionate and spirited piece as we see the underdog fight to make a difference, the women are tired of being suppressed and will go just as far as they need to make sure their voice is heard. They declare that the bullies “…don’t come with machine guns but power points and plans” as they unite to show just how strong and important people power can be, a relevant and powerful reminder to us all.

On at the Bolton Octagon until Saturday 3rd June tickets available here https://octagonbolton.co.uk/whats-on/theatre/winter-hill/

 

 

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2017

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The Royal Exchange will be celebrating tonight after taking home an impressive 10 awards, including best actress for Julie Hesmondhalgh for her role in Wit and best actor for Daniel Rigby in Breaking the Code which also won best production. There was an impressive three awards for Wish List including best studio production, and best actress and actor in a studio production, won by Erin Doherty and Joseph Quinn. Sweet Charity also saw success with Daniel Crossley winning best actor in a supporting role and the production winning best musical.

It was double celebrations for Julie Hesmondhalgh as collectivly with Rebakah Harrison & Grant Archer they won The Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence for their political theatre collective, Take Back Theatre.

There was success for the Lowry with five productions taking awards including Rufus Hound winning best actor in a visiting production for The Wind In The Willows, best special entertainment going to The Peony Pavillion, Aoife Duffin took best actress in a visiting producion for A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, best opera went to Opera North’s Andrea Cheinier and best visiting production was won by The James Plays.

Home, where the awards were held won two awards including best new play and best newcomer for Norah Lopez Holden in Ghosts.

There were two awards for Hope Mill Theatre, The Trail which won best fringe production plus a hugely popular special recognition award for Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre.

Another popular winner was the Octagon theatre Bolton whose production of Singin’ in the Rain took home the awards for best design and best ensemble plus the young “Scout” cast were joint young newcomers along with the young “Michael” cast from Billy Elliot at the Palace Theatre, the latter providing one of the greatest speeches of the afternoon.

The 2017 winners in full

Best fringe performance
Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals

Best fringe production
The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Best musical
Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best special entertainment
The Peony Pavilion, the Lowry

Best Dance
Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace Theatre

Best actor in a studio production
Joseph Quinn for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Best actress in a studio production
Erin Doherty for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence
Take Back Theatre Collective

Best visiting production
The James Plays, the Lowry

Youth panel award
Nothing, Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

Best opera
Andrea Chenier, Opera North at the Lowry

Best newcomer
Norah Lopez Holden for Ghosts, Home

Best young newcomers
Samuel Torpey, Henry Harmer and Elliot Stiff for Billy Elliot
Jasmine de Goede and Lucy Doyle Ryder for To Kill a Mockingbird

Best new play
The Emperor, Home

Best supporting actress
Natalie Dew for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best supporting actor
Daniel Crossley for Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production
Rufus Hound for Wind in the Willows, the Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production
Aoife Duffin for A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, the Lowry

Best design
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best studio production
Wish List, Royal Exchange

Best ensemble
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best actress
Julie Hesmondhalgh for Wit, Royal Exchange

Best actor
Daniel Rigby for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best production
Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Special achievement award
Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre
Philip Radcliffe, critic and founder member of the Manchester Theatre Awards

Manchester Theatre Award Nominations Announced!

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Nearly 90 performers or productions have been chosen in more than 20 categories for the Manchester Theatre Awards, picked by a panel of 10 regional theatre critics.

The winners will be announced live on stage at a red carpet event at Manchester’s HOME venue on Friday March 17, hosted by comedian, actor – and playwright – Justin Moorhouse.

After watching more than 200 theatre performances throughout 2016 the MTA Panel has narrowed down a shortlist that honours everyone from established star names in main house productions, to complete newcomers.

In the past Manchester Theatre Awards have often gone to actors and actresses who go on to become household or even Hollywood names such as Andrew Garfield, so who knows what the future will hold for those who have been given the nod this year.

Leading the way this year is the Royal Exchange picking up a massive 20 nominations – a double celebration in what is their 40th anniversary year of bringing acclaimed productions to Manchester. This year’s categories for Best Actress and Best Production also see the Royal Exchange and the city’s shiny new HOME venue go head to head for the coveted trophies.

Great news for Manchester’s emergent Hope Mill Theatre making its mark on the award this year with a nomination in the Best Musical category for its regional premiere production of Parade. This brand new fringe venue, in an old mill in Ancoats, has staged several ambitious productions in 2016 and there is a wealth of exciting projects ahead for them in 2017.

One nominee Opening Night would love to see pick up a gong on the 17th March would be Lisa Maxwell who is nominated for Best Actress in a Visiting Production for her portrayal of Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow at the Opera House. Maxwell was mesmerizing at the Hollywood musical star in her later tragic years and it would be great to see her get the acclaim she deserves for the role.

All nominees are invited to the awards event and if you are a fan of the theatre and want to go along on the day you can get a ticket via the HOME website www.homemcr.org or by calling 0161 200 1500. Tickets are priced at £15.

See you there!

Manchester Theatre Award nominations in full…

Best Actor

Rob Edwards, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre, Bolton

David Neilson, Endgame, HOME, Manchester

Daniel Rigby, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Don Warrington, King Lear, Royal Exchange

 

Best Actress

Niamh Cusack, Ghosts, HOME

Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Julie Hesmondhalgh, Wit, Royal Exchange

Kathryn Hunter, The Emperor, HOME

 

Best Production

Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Ghosts, HOME

The Emperor, HOME

Wit, Royal Exchange

 

Best Supporting Actor

Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Raad Rawi, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Marc Small, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre

Miltos Yerolemou, King Lear, Royal Exchange

 

Best Supporting Actress

Natalie Dew, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange

Sharon Duncan-Brewster, A Streetcar Named Desire, Royal Exchange

Natalie Grady, Martha Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Octagon Theatre

Amy Nuttall, The Winter’s Tale, Octagon Theatre

 

Best Visiting Production

946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps, HOME

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Lowry, Salford

Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

The Encounter, HOME

The James Plays, Lowry

 

Best Actor in a Visiting Production

Edward Bennett, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

Rufus Hound, The Wind in the Willows, The Lowry

Simon McBurney, The Encounter, HOME

Michael Pennington, King Lear, Opera House

 

Best Actress in a Visiting Production

Lisa Dillon, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House

Aoife Duffin, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Lowry

Lisa Maxwell, End Of The Rainbow, Opera House

Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins, Palace

 

Best Newcomer

Daisy Badger, Look Back In Anger, Octagon Theatre

Ben Hunter, The Girls, Lowry

Norah Lopez Holden, Ghosts, HOME

Kirsty Rider, Pride And Prejudice, Lowry

Holly Willock, The Wind In The Willows, Lowry

Young “Michael” cast, Billy Elliot, Palace

Young “Scout” cast, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre

 

Best Opera

Andrea Chénier, Opera North, Lowry

Billy Budd, Opera North, Lowry

Don Giovanni, ETO, Buxton Opera House

Tamerlano, Buxton Festival, Buxton Opera House

 

The Robert Robson Award for Best Dance

Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Lowry

Nederlands Dans Theater 2, Lowry

The Red Shoes, Lowry

 

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, Palace

Parade, Hope Mill Theatre

Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

The Wind in the Willows, Lowry

 

Best Fringe Production

 Boomtown Gals, Various venues

Die Diana, Bandit, Mugger and Thief, Manchester

Multi Story, Monkeywood, Various venues

The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

 

Best Fringe Performance

Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals, Various venues

Sam Grogan, Waiting Room, King’s Arms, Salford

William J Holstead, The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Leanne Martin, The Brink, King’s Arms

 

Best Studio Production

 Dirty Pakistani Lingerie, Lowry

Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons, HOME

The Solid Life Of Sugar Water, Royal Exchange

Wish List, Royal Exchange

 

Best Actor in a Studio Production

 Alexander Gatehouse, Ventoux, Lowry

Joseph Quinn, Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Rex Ryan, Pilgrim, Lowry

 

Best Actress in a Studio Production

 Erin Doherty, Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Sarah Emmott, Declaration, Lowry

Georgia Henshaw, Bird, Royal Exchange Studio

Molly Vevers, Ross and Rachel, Lowry

 

Best New Play

A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer, HOME

Bird, Royal Exchange Studio

The Emperor, HOME

Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

 

Best Design

Endgame, HOME

La Vie Parisienne, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester

Singin’ In The Rain, Octagon Theatre

The Pitmen Painters, Coliseum, Oldham

 

Best Ensemble

946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps, HOME

Singin’ In The Rain, Octagon Theatre

The Pitmen Painters, Coliseum

The James Plays, Lowry

 

Best Special Entertainment

An Anatomie In Four Quarters, Lowry

Cirque du Soleil – Amaluna, Trafford Centre

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, Old Granada Studios

The Peony Pavillion, Lowry

 

Youth Panel Award

NOTHING – The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

The Secret Garden – Octagon Youth Theatre

The Factory – The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

The Siege of Christmas – Contact Youth Company with Swung Low

 

 

 

 

Cinderella

Cinderella at The Bolton Octagon

photo credit: Richard Davenport

Hats off to the Bolton Octagon for always trying to push the boundaries when it comes to their Christmas shows. From Alice in Wonderland to last year’s BFG the northern theatre has shunned the traditional panto and instead presented their audiences with contemporary productions to delight them over the festive season. You’d be forgiven for thinking they had changed tact this year with Cinderella being their production of choice for 2016 but, as ever with the Octagon, it has a clever twist!

Told through the eyes of five charismatic rats;  Whiskers (Alexander Bean), Claws (Alicia McKenzie), Teeth (Anne O’Riordan), Tail (Felicity Sparks) and Ears (Tomas Wolstenholme) this is a modern day version of the fairy-tale classic, jam-packed with live music and audience participation.

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photo credit: Richard Davenport

The show starts with the rats lamenting over the fact that Cinderella has left them to go and live a new life at the Palace. One by one the energetic rodents don costumes to take on different roles and explain just how Cinders went from rags to riches.

All five actors excel at creating some well-rounded characters but the leader of the pack has to be Anne O’Riordan who puts in a sparkling performance as Teeth. ‘Pocket rocket’ O’Riordan is delightful as she exudes cheekiness and has both the children and adults laughing along at her facial expressions and ‘dodgy’ dancing.

The cast of six is completed by Lucy Faint as Cinderella whose northern accent brings a down to earth charm to the role and she manages to make her both vulnerable and straight-talking. There’s some great moments when Faint journeys into the audience sitting next to them to sing a song, making the children’s jaws drop as a result.

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photo credit: Richard Davenport

Don’t be fooled by Ellen Nabarro’s set design, (which at first glance looks like a cluttered space filled with a centrepiece of musical instruments from piano to xylophone), everything used to dress the stage cleverly doubles up as a prop or a costume and can be returned back to the set when it’s finished with. The lighting is one of the true stars of this production though as the stage transforms into a magical space filled with hundreds of lightbulbs, topped off by a huge glitterball hanging from the ceiling and even lights in Cinders ballgown!

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photo credit: Richard Davenport

If you are looking for something a bit different this Christmas then look no further, the Bolton Octagon’s blown the cobwebs off an old fashioned fairy-tale and produced a great offering for all the family.

Cinderella runs at the Bolton Octagon until 14th January 2017

www.octagonbolton.co.uk