The Game of Love and Chai

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Nigel Planer creatively reimagines Pierre de Marivaux’s 1730 play The Game of Love and Chance in this modern day, fun and farcical incarnation, The Game of Love and Chai.

There is still a central love story, duplicity, mistaken identity, class system and buckets of laughs while modern themes and Bollywood beats are introduced as well as an Uber driver and a delight in Primark purchases.

Swapping 18th-century French nobility for modern-day British Asians makes for a fresh take on a traditional classic. The plot is a fairly simple one, wealthy widow Kamala-Ji (Goldy Notay) wants to see her daughter Rani (Sharon Singh) marry successful local businessman Raj (Adam Samuel-Bal), head-strong solicitor Rani however is unimpressed at the convention of marriage so decides to take some control of the situation switching places with her nice-but-dim cousin Sita (Kiren Jogi) ahead of Raj’s visit, little does she realise that Raj has had the same idea and his Uber driver, Nitin (Ronny Jhutti) will be stepping into Raj’s shoes for the occasion.

The cast are clearly having a lot of fun in this colourful and creative production. Adam Samuel-Bal and Sharon Singh make for a believable coupling, caught up in their own plotting their chemistry is genuine and joyful. Ronny Jhutti, wide-boy and Uber driver extraordinaire and Kiren Jogi, the beautician with a bigger personality than her luscious lashes treat the audience to plenty of laughs as the chaos and comedy ensues. The addition of Bollywood music lifts the production while Goldy Notay as Kamala-Ji presides over affairs with authority, prosecco in hand.

Not all the jokes land but the all-round theme of this production is farcical fun with a capital F, in that it succeeds. The last-minute change to 18th-century dress seems unnecessary and out of place in this modern reimagining. All in all the scamming, scheming and big personalities in this production will entertain with some great comedic timing delivered to hilariously dramatic effect.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 31st March tickets available here.

Art

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

It’s nearly 25 years since the Yasmina Reza short play Art made its theatrical debut in Paris and judging by the anticipation and buzz around the Lyric theatre this evening, it would appear the play still has a huge drawing power. However, the big question is, is it still worth the hype and praise? Or is it a bit like the Cecilia Giménez restoration of the Fresco, and doesn’t deliver what is promised?

The plot focuses on three life- long friends, Serge, Marc and Yvan. Serge, a wealthy divorcee with a supposed penchant for modern art, decides to spend £200,000 on a painting of a white canvas. His friend Marc takes great offense by this show of extravagance.  Marc believes Serge is, either going mad, having a sly dig at him, or is just plain foolish for making such an inane purchase. Marc  enlists the help of Yvan, their down trodden people-pleasing friend to either get to the bottom of their friend’s behaviour, or at least get him onside with his assessment that the painting “is shit”.

As the debate rages between Serge and Marc, and Yvan’s piggy-in-the-middle stance on proceedings, it would appear that this rather bland, neutral piece of art exposes some home truths and harsh realities that threatens to blow the lid off their friendship once and for all.

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Art proved to be a bitter-sweet night at the theatre, with more to say about the insecurities and foibles of middle-class-white men than a critique of modern art. The script is razor-sharp, filled with stinging- barbs and some cracking set pieces that include possibly the funniest olive eating scene I have witnessed and a finale that drew loud, audible gasps from the assembled audience. The trouble is that the 2 of the 3 characters are quite loathsome and that you really don’t care about them, their friendship or the painting.

That said there is no shortage of star-power on display here: Dennis Lawson is clearly having a ball as cantankerous Marc, delivering most of the plays most venomous lines with real gusto. Nigel Havers does what he does best as the suave, extravagant Serge, a role we are all too familiar with seeing him play, but he does it so well. However the biggest applause for the night was saved for Stephen Tompkinson, whose speech mid-way through is comedy gold, and his turn as the well -meaning wet blanket Yvan very nearly steals the shows.

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Mark Thomas has created simple but effective beige set with only a few paintings and different style chairs used to show off the personality of our protagonists.

I suppose, as all Art, the idea is to challenge and debate. This piece of Art certainly does that; love it or hate you won’t forget it in a hurry that’s for sure!

Art is on at the Lowry until the 31st March tickets available here

Trump – The Musical

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Trump – The Musical. 53Two Manchester

Director: Kyle Williams

Writer: Laurence Peacock

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

The Blowfish Theatre is carving out quite the reputation for themselves: First there was Boris-The Musical, and now we have Trump – the Musical. It’s a hard task to make some of these influential people of power any more ridiculous than they are or god forbid, they may even show them in a more positive light, however writer Laurence Peacock walks the tightrope between the two and manages to create fun-filled night out.

The plot may at first seem too far-fetched to comprehend but with all that has gone on in the world, nothing would surprise me! It’s 2020 and Donald Trump (David Burchhardt) is running for election and is planning to make America great again (again!) However he has a few issues to contend with: an infatuated Vladimir Putin (Natasha Lanceley), a maniacal Kim Jong-un (Lanceley again in a dual role) and his plan to blow up the moon and of course his biggest issue: the loss of his mobile phone. Meanwhile over in the UK, which is now just England and Northern Ireland, King Nigel Farage (Kyle Williams) plans to invade Scotland, as the UK is on its uppers as a result of Brexit. Only two people can save the day: Rod (Polly Bycroft-Brown) press sectary to Trump and Roger Lavery (Laurence Peacock) Chief Minister to King Nigel: however Lavery has his own sinister agenda.

This is a political-comedy with plenty of bite poking fun at both the late and right: at times it’s absurd and a bit silly with a plot that is nonsense, but don’t let that fool you – some of the gags are bang on point: there are jokes about the treatment of disabled people, racism and immigration which are near-the-knuckle, but rather sadly aren’t too far from the truth; surely good theatre/comedy should entertain but also open up channels of debate and Trump – The Musical does that.

The ensemble cast are on great form: all over-the-top in their lampooning: Burchhardt has the easiest job of playing the narcissist Trump. He really can’t go wrong, whilst Williams is having a ball as the foul-mouthed Farage. However it’s the performances of Lanceley and Bycroft-Brown that really standout; both have a gift for comedy that shines through.

There are some great musical numbers in there, courtesy of musical director Dominic Lo, who also plays Putin’s aid Sergei. Make America Great Again! (Again!) and The New Good Old Days certainly have a satirical edge to them, but stand-out for me is Rootin’ for Putin, which is simply fantastic because of its absurdity.

Overall this is a hilarious, fun filled night out that will have you grinning throughout. A bit like an episode of the Thick of It, only laced with LSD. It’s a must for fans of musicals and satirical comedy, however if you’re easily offended still go along anyway – you’re in for a treat!

For more tour dates of Trump – The Musical visithttp://www.blowfishtheatre.weebly.com/trump.html

 

 

 

 

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/