Things I Say When I Don’t Say I Love You

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Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Created as part of the Lowry’s flagship ‘Developed With’ programme Things I Say When IDon’t Say I Love You is a poignant and perfectly judged one-man play about male relationships within one family when dealing with a life changing dementia diagnosis.

Writer and performer Sam Brady focuses on three generations of one family, granddad Tommy, the no nonsense northern alpha male of the family, grandson Scott who is desperately trying to establish his own identity amidst a upbringing of tough love & what he sees as harsh parenting from dad Ian, who is seemingly stuck in the middle and trying his best to please everyone.

Tommy’s diagnosis ignites the nostalgia within Ian as he throws caution to the wind and purchases a clapped out 1967 Triumph Spitfire, a project to work together on, a dream to fulfil. Of course in theory the three generations would come together & restore the rusted shell to its former glory, real life however doesn’t work out quite this way as tempers fray, stress levels rise and the symptoms of dementia because all too obvious. How can three men who talk but never really say anything to each other communicate when they’re too busy butting heads?

Directed by Hannah Banister, Things I Say When I Don’t Say I Love You will warm your heart, provoke your thoughts and make you laugh out loud. Brady has a true gift for honest, intelligent and humorous storytelling. Witty and incredibly likeable, his script is littered with funny anecdotes and all too familiar situations we can all relate to from tense stand offs with a partner over broken promises to hilarious disagreements with a nosy neighbour. All bases are covered in this highly amusing, incredibly touching and well observed piece of writing. It is no mean feat to stand solo on stage taking on a variety of roles but Brady engages his audience entirely with genuine charisma and clever wit, his character definition is wonderfully clear & you quickly find yourself caring deeply for this family, dealt a cruel blow familiar to so many. Relationships are beautifully explored, bridges are built and laughs dished out a plenty.

Brady succeeds in taking a heart-breaking topic and exploring it with such care and respectful attention that it allows the human and humorous elements to shine through. Honest, relatable and thought-provoking theatre.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

We’ve all had one of those days where nothing seems to go right for you: be it losing your car keys or locking yourself out of the house, or even that accidental fall when walking down a busy a street. You may want to go back to bed but soldier on you must. Well imagine your worst day multiply it by 100 add 50 and you’re not even close to the nightmare faced by the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong Now in its sixth year this Tony award winner sees the plucky but flawed local am-dram group ‘The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ stage a classic ‘Cluedo’ style murder mystery. The production of Murder at Haversham Manor doesn’t get off to a great start with a missing dog, Duran Duran CD, and a faulty shelf hampering proceedings, and all this before the play even gets started!

Chris Bean (Jake Curran) the stressed director/head of the drama society, and lead role of inspector Carter welcome us to shows and informs us of some of the societies less successful endeavours, it provides the perfect set up for what promises to be a highly entertaining evening. Along the way we are introduced to the various society players which include Max Bennett, who plays Cecil Haversham, (Bobby Hirston) a first time performer milking his role for all it’s worth, Sandra Wilkinson as Florence Colleymoore (Elena Valentine) somewhat over egging her part in a desperate bid to steal the show, and Dennis Tyde as Perkins (Benjamin McMahon) clearly nervous and not very good at learning his lines. In addition they are supported by the technical crew of Trevor (Gabriel Paul) and Annie (Catherine Dryden) who try to fight the flames of disaster (quite literally) and with bigger roles then either would have envisaged. As the action continues we see the play go from one hilarious catastrophe to another, taking a mental and physical toll on all the cast and crew, just thankful it’s over and that they survived.

This is comedic theatre at it’s finest; director Mark Bell has crafted a night of pure unadulterated fun that I could watch over and over again. The cast work their socks off, with an endless barrage of slapstick and physical comedy very much in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy, or Buster Keaton, all of the cast do exceptionally well but the stand out performance goes to Kazeem Tosin Amore, as Robert and Thomas Colleymoore, whose performance at one point had audience members howling with laughter with a little a hint of fear for the actors safety. In addition Steven Rostance as Jonathan and Charles Haversham who plays the least convincing dead body you are likely to see.

The writing of Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields is bang on point firmly taking a swipe at the pompous nature of the theatre, there are moments when the action is so cringe worthy that you just want the play to stop so the cast can be put out of the misery, which is of course exactly the point of it all.

My only complaint (and this is being picky) is that show’s finale is a little over chaotic and needs to be reined in slightly as there genuinely is so much going that you become lost in the chaos so that the grand finale loses a little something, it may be hard to believe but less certainly could be more in this case.

Overall this fantastically fun night at the theatre that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear with aching sides to boot. Be warned though if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may see more HAM then you could ever have thought possible!

They Play That Goes Wrong is on at the StoryHouse Chester till February 3rd tickets available here.

Spamalot

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Review by Matthew Forrest 

 The programme states that Spamalot is lovingly ripped off from the motion picture” of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Well for my money, this production is doing itself a disservice; if anything it’s enhancing the ‘Python’ legacy and introducing them to a wider audience. 

As a Python fan, you sometimes take it as a given that most people will love them and their work as much as you do. However that’s not always the case, as some people just “don’t get it” or have never seen the Python’s in action before. For die-hard fans like myself, the nay-sayers and the unacquainted, Spamalot is the perfect night out, suitably ridiculous, occasionally bewildering, but always hilarious! 

Following the plot of the film, Spamalot sees King Arthur and his faithful servant Patsy, as they attempt to enlist various brave and not so brave knights to join him at his court in Camelot. It is here that the voice of God or, more accurately Eric Idle, send Arthur and his Knights on a quest to seek out the Holy Grail. 

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As you would expect it’s absolutely bonkers: most of the set-pieces are in there, from The Knights who say Nee and Black Knight: with the welcome addition of a new character in the Lady of Lake. 

The cast are on great form: Bob Harms is excellent as the pompous, self-absorbed King Arthur, Rhys Owens is on equally good form as Patsy, a polar opposite to his master but certainly the brains of the outfit. Sarah Harlington offers a scene stealing turn as the Lady of the Lake, who has an equally inflated opinion of herself, similar to that of King Arthur. 

They are supported by a fantastic, hard-working cast with most taking on multiple roles, who are all given their moments to shine. Standout scenes include Jonathan Tweedie’s Lancelot and his daring rescue of Prince Herbert and the cast’s spectacular Knights of the Round Table routine. 

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Eric Idle, along with John du Prez have come up with catchy and funny tunes that aren’t strictly in keeping with the show. The Song That Goes Like This takes a much-needed swipe at musicals and their big defining tunes, whilst You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz, takes a well-aimed shot at celebrity culture and has been updated with numerous topical references. In addition, there is the über-camp His Name is Lancelot and of course the old faithful Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. However, it’s Sarah Harlington’s vocals on Whatever Happened To My Part? and her duet with Norton James in Lady of the Lake that really bring the house down. Harlington’s voice is phenomenal: so much power blended with her comic timing certainly make you wish her part was that bit bigger. 

Director Daniel Buckroyd has certainly got the best out of his cast, with all involved displaying a gift for comedy, and allowing room for a spot of adlibbing as well.  Some cast members just about managed to told hold it together, which really added to the fun of it all. 

I really can’t fault this wonderful show. It has everything you would want in a musical: silly, uplifting fun, catchy tunes and a sing-a-long, to boot. You really can’t ask for more. Spamalot is currently on a nationwide tour and is well worth catching when it comes to a theatre near you. 

 On at the Manchester Palace Theatre till the 11th November tickets available here

 

 

Hound of the Baskervilles

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Over the years there has been many interpretations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles – at least 20 TV and film adaptations alone, not to mention countless theatrical productions. However I challenge anyone to say they have seen anything quite like Northern Rep’s version of this classic tale… and if you don’t believe me, the proof is currently at the King’s Arms for all too see. 

Arriving at the King’s Arms, Salford for a two week run, this fun filled murder mystery focuses on the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the apparent threat to the heir of the Baskerville estate, Henry Baskerville. Super sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his trustee sidekick Dr Jane Watson travel from their home on Baker Street all the way to the Devonshire moors, where they encounter all manner of suspects, with even more suspect accents! Can our daring duo not only solve the case but also survive the horrid hell hound? Time will of course tell. 

Those expecting a faithful and straight laced reworking of this classic tale are in for a shock. This is an innovative, funny and downright brilliant reworking of this classic tale. All parts are played by two hugely talented actors in Michael Justice and Angela Hazeldine. The performances alternate with two other actors, so it’s pot luck as to who you’ll get, however this is the second time I have seen this production with different cast members and in no way has it detracted from my enjoyment – if anything, it’s all the better as it keeps things fresh and slightly unexpected. The script is packed full of so many double entendres and just plain daft gags that maybe it should be called Carry on up the Baskervilles. However the joy really comes from Justice and Hazeldine’s adlibbing and doing their best to put the other off their stride.  

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Granted, they play fast and loose with the original story and by the end the convoluted plot becomes secondary as the show becomes an excuse to have a bloody good giggle.  A spot of audience participation is required and the audience tonight got into the swing of things, laughter is most definitely the order of the day. 

As I said earlier, this was my second time seeing this production and each time has been something different: the first time there were some children in attendance and the second there were none, but both performances were adapted to make all feel welcome, with the first performance being more child friendly, without losing any of the humour. 

It’s the job of any critic to critique any show as honestly as possible, however sometimes there’s no harm in leaving it to audience members to have the final say: I got talking to a lovely couple during the interval and the gentlemen claimed he’s been watching shows with his wife for over 45 years, this he told me is only second show he hasn’t fallen asleep in during all that time and I can assure you he made it through the second half too! 

Go and see this riotous romp at your nearest opportunity – you certainly won’t be disappointed! Fun, filthy and downright fabulous! 

Hound of the Baskervilles is on at Kings Arms till the 25th November 

Tickets available from: http://www.kingsarmssalford.com/whats-on/ 

 

The Wipers Times

Review by Matthew Forrest

What do you think of whenever the First World War is mentioned? The trenches? The mud? The tragic loss of life? People of a certain age, myself included, will be reminded of GCSE History lessons, with poems by Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.  It would be fair to say that this period in history is not remembered for its’ humour or biting comedy. However, writers Ian Hislop and Nick Newman are on-hand to give us an alternative and surprising version of the Great War through their play The Wipers Times.

The Wipers Times was a satirical magazine produced on the frontline by soldiers who, when not dodging German mortars, were sharpening their satirical swords and giving the military top-brass a good savaging. The magazine grew with every passing publication and provided the ‘Tommys’ with a morale boosting spot of light relief.


Adapted from Hislop and Newman’s BBC film of the same name, the play focuses on a band of soldiers from the 24th Division of the Sherwood Foresters.  Whilst based in Ypres, they stumble upon a printing press and with this, Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson hit upon the idea of writing a journal made up of jokes and skits to send up the grim situation they find themselves in.  Fake adverts and spoof war reports are the order of the day as the magazine gains popularity with the troops whilst raising the ire of those in command.

This is an excellent piece of the theatre and well worth going to see. As you would expect from writers of their calibre, the jokes are bang on point, and although they freely admit they lifted the best gags directly from the pages of ‘The Wipers’, this is their love letter to a publication which proceeds magazines such as Viz, Punch, and their own magazine Private EyeIt provides a fascinating insight into satire as well as the British stiff-upper-lip. There are gags about the Daily Mail and ridiculous facial hair that, despite being 100 years old, still seem relevant today thus proving a good gag done properly will always be timeless.

The cast are on top form: James Dutton and George Kemp are excellent as Roberts and Pearson and it is their friendship which drives the play. They are supported by a great, young cast of actors who really show the camaraderie and spirit of the time, made all the more poignant with the loss of one of their ranks.

Director Caroline Leslie has got the balance between humour and pathos just right.  Leslie has got the tone spot-on and has judged it exceptionally well. The comedic set-pieces of the musical hall numbers and mock adverts are the highlights; they tip more than a nod and wink to Monty Python’s Flying Circus or The Goons and fans of this style of humour will love it.

The production design is first class, with Dora Schweitzer’s claustrophobic set design in conjunction with Steve Mayo’s booming sound scape: yes this is a comedy but you’re only a moment away from potential catastrophe, as the debris falls from the ceiling, you feel the soldiers peril and part of the action.

The production does have a few very minor issues. At times some of the dialogue was lost; I think maybe the microphones needed turning up a touch.

The Wipers Times is a funny, sharp, entertaining snap-shot of a little known part of Britain’s history, but more importantly it’s a celebration of something we do better than anyone the world over…….”taking the p**s”.

The Wipers Times is on at the Manchester Opera House till the 4th November

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-wipers-times/opera-house-manchester/

The Salford Belles

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Jack Land Nobel’s darkly comedic soap opera The Salford Belles is headed to Hope Mill Theatre from tomorrow as part of The Greater Manchester Fringe this month.

First staged as The Barnsley Belles by the Yorkshireman Company back in July 2013 and now given a Salfordian twist by LS Theatre Productions, The Salford Belles promises to be a little like an episode of Coronation Street screened way, way after the watershead!

We meet Queenie, Mary and Martha who are all are at their wits end after a lifetime of cooking, cleaning, caring and conspiring. They are all desperate for change – but at what cost? Join The Salford Belles in this hilarious dark comedy and discover what goes on behind closed doors when the washing’s brought in from the rain and the curtains are drawn.

Catch the show from Monday 17th July until Saturday 22nd at Hope Mill Theatre, tickets available via the link below;

http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/index.php#startlisting

 

 

Waiting For God

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The new stage adaptation of the BAFTA nominated 1990’s BBC series is a slick, and frequently hilarious production that looks at growing old disgracefully in Bay View Retirement Village.

The most popular characters from the original series are here, reimagined for 2017, in an all-new script penned by the sitcom’s creator Michael Aitkens. Nichola McAuliffe as Diana and Jeffrey Holland as Tom Ballard steal the show with multi-dimensional and generous performances. McAuliffe in particular shows amazing range as she transforms from a crotchety and bitter ‘senior citizen’ to a passionate and wickedly naughty character and everything in between, with excellent support from Ballard as her love interest.

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There was plenty for the audience to enjoy with frequent snappy one-liners which were also balanced with a surprising depth of insight and depiction of tragedy which  were related in a very human way by the lead characters. Samuel Collings and Emily Pithon as Harvey Baines and Jane Edwards made a humorous double-act, if veering a little close to the farcical at times. The other supporting characters of Sarah Chase played by Joanna Bending and Geoffrey Ballard played by David Benson were presented with gusto and professionalism, each made a meaningful impression. Bending was particularly hilarious during the birth scene, and Benson showed excellent acting chops particularly masterfully during final tragic/comic speech depicting his wedding and marriage in a piece of acting that was both hilarious and moving.

Daft but laugh-out-loud funny moments in the chapel at the end of the play were a fitting end to a very enjoyable evening.

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On at The Lowry until Saturday 8th July http://www.thelowry.com/events/waiting-for-god

Reviewer – Margot Power