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

The Hound of the Baskervilles

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If you’re looking for a riotous romp through the mysterious Devonshire moors without having to leave the comforts of the city, then get yourselves down to Manchester’s newest pop-up theatre, The Reading Room where you’ll find Northern Rep putting their hilarious stamp on Arthur Conan Doyle’s much loved classic, The Hound of the Baskervilles.

This fun-filled murder-mystery spoof follows legendary super sleuths Sherlock Holmes and Dr Jane Watson as they attempt to solve the curious case of the death of Mr Charles Baskerville as the threat of the curse of a bloodthirsty hound looms large over Baskerville’s heir Henry. Unbeknown to our crime solving duo the secret to cracking the case may well be being kept from them by Charles’ very own family, despite this our detecting duo press on determined to return to Baker Street triumphant!

Incredibly all parts in this innovative production are played by just two actors who rotate performances, the highly versatile and hugely talented Christopher Brown and Angela Hazeldine perform this evening with Thea Beyleveld and Michael Justice also performing during the run. They differentiate characters by giving them superbly exaggerated accents from as far as Texas to Taunton and many, many places in between as well as props befitting each character. The duo blister through the piece with hilarious consequences, both are engaging, superbly silly and hugely entertaining, with the action becoming increasingly outrageous as we meet more and more characters from the moors.

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The emphasis here is on comedy and boy do the two cast members deliver; they play off each other beautifully as the sharp script gifts our duo with some real genuine moments of laugh out loud humour. Of course no spoof would be complete without occasional trips and line-fluffs which only adds to the controlled chaos of this delightful production, there are cheeky innuendos a plenty as canes are caressed and overgrown bushes penetrated, ooh err!

Director Thomas Moore has used the intimate space of the reading room to great effect. The beautifully crafted 30 seater venue within Manchester’s Great Northern Warehouse is the perfect setting for bringing the melodrama and magic of the piece to life. You don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to get enormous pleasure out of this farcical whodunit, the show’s spontaneous feel makes it accessible to all as the cast charmingly address the audience apologising for apparent mistakes. The Hound of the Baskervilles is an absolute riot, cheeky, chaotic and jolly good fun, with the fabulous Mrs Hudson on hand to wet your whistle it’s an absolute must-see!

On at The Reading Room, Great Northern until Saturday 16th September https://www.northernrep.co.uk/thebaskervilles

 

The Play That Goes Wrong

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Bursting onto the Lowry stage this week with a crash, bang and almighty wallop is West End smash hit and recent Broadway transfer, The Play That Goes Wrong.

Mischief Theatre have come a long way since their humble beginnings in an Inslington Pub and their original production continues to thrill as the company delivers the silliest and most calamitous night out at the theatre you’re ever likely to witness.

Cornley Polytechnic amateur dramatic club invite us to join them as they attempt to stage their bold new production, Murder at Haversham Hall, a 1920’s murder mystery which quickly becomes less whodunnit and more survival of the fittest.

The catastrophes begin immediately as the lights go up prematurely as our victim is still getting himself in place on the chaise lounge. Anything that could go wrong absolutely does in this riotous romp of farcical fun. The physical comedy is hilarious with gag after gag hitting you thick and fast, you just about regain your composure when another disaster unfolds and tears of laughter begin again. From missing props, to set malfunctions you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing as the cast press on with their ‘show must go on attitude’ and remain completely in character despite the chaos unfolding all around them.

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High praise must go to this hardworking ensemble cast, the teamwork involved to enable such slick delivery is impressive; their commitment to making things look so delightfully disastrous is incredible as the madcap mayhem leaves audiences exhausted from laughing so hard. Each person on stage gives their all in this high energy romp and together creates the most wonderful team. Special mention must go to Alistair Kirton as Cecil Haversham he is superb, so thrilled with his own performance any audience applause is too wonderful to ignore. Also Patrick Warner as Inspector Carter, his attempts to remain calm amidst the madness are hilarious. Making it all possible is Nigel Hook’ set which is superb, intricate and sophisticated with all manner of opportunities for disasters to unfold as every piece has its part to play.

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The Play That Goes Wrong is the perfect tonic; the company deliver the most seamless escapist fun, something so important in current times. It’s chaotic, silly, brilliantly bonkers and delightfully daft, an absolute must see!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 10th June https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Out Of Order

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It’s not often you begin a review at the end of a performance but in this case it’s worth making the exception. Following the closure of Out of Order, Shaun Williamson thanks us all for coming and expresses sorrow on behalf of the entire crew at the tragic events that unfolded just over a week ago. It’s a nice a touch and a gesture of class that certainly doesn’t got unappreciated by the audience at the Manchester Opera House

On to the matter at hand: Ray Cooney has an impressive 70- year career in the theatre with Out of Order certainly being one of his best loved offerings. It began life as a play called Whose wife is it anyway? in 1990 and has lost none of its charm in the last 27 years.

Set in the Westminster hotel, Richard Willey (Jeffrey Harmer) is a Tory junior government minster, intent on having his wicked way with the luscious Labour secretary to Jeremy Corbyn, Jane (Susie Amy). Unfortunately, things do not go to plan for Willey and the rather macabre killing of a burglar by a sash window, sets the cogs rolling for the impending chaos which ensues. Titters abound as the web of lies draws them in deeper. How will they get out of their predicament?

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According to Ray Cooney, ‘the characters must be truthful and recognisable’ and farce is all about ‘ordinary people who are out of their depth in a predicament which is beyond their control’. Updated to include timely comments about our impending election, Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and the inevitable squabbling which happens behind the scenes of an election, this play remains as relevant as ever. There are even a few shots at Boris and UKIP too!

The cast is simply fabulous. Everyone has their favourites, whether it’s the hapless, yet cunning waiter (James Holmes), the ‘dolly-bird’ figure of Jane (Susie Amy) or the sweet natured private secretary George Pigden (played with excellent comic timing by Shaun Williamson). For my money the stand out performance of the night goes to Harmer, despite the slimy, oily nature of Willey you can’t help but route for him.

The cast contains some familiar faces to British ‘Sitcom’ including “Allo Allo” Arthur Bostrom who is on good form as the Hotel Manager, as is Sue Holderness from Only Fools and Horses. If anything Holderness is somewhat underused in her role as Pamela Willey the junior minister’s wife.

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As with all great farces and comedies, the set is simple and is used well: it is rare that part of the staging gets its own round of applause (in this case, a rather sneaky sash window)! Characters bound in and out of doors, windows and cupboards – comedy theatre at its finest. Every character has their comedic part to play and although the action was sometimes predictable, it was charming and no less funny for that.

In these turbulent times, just over a week after the tragic atrocity at the Manchester Arena, Out of Order was a perfect opportunity to raise our spirits,’ and is testament to good, traditional British comedy. It’ll certainly make you think about climbing out of a window for some time to come!

Out of Order is on at the Manchester Opera House until Saturday 3rd of June tickets available here; http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/out-of-order/opera-house-manchester/

Writer: Ray Cooney

Director: Ray Rooney

Reviewer Matthew Forrest

Herding Cats – Preview

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On Weds 24th May, critically acclaimed Play With Fire Productions return to Hope Mill Theatre with their latest production, Herding Cats.

The black comedy focuses on central characters, Justine (Kaleigh Hawkins), Michael (Daniel Bradford) and Saddo (John Gully), for them life is a challenge, about as easy as Herding Cats; as they battle to navigate life with all the love, loss, trials and tribulations it brings.

The acclaimed play finds dark humour in the loneliness of life while, writer, Lucinda Coxon’s characters will burrow into your brain as you recognise familiar life challenges played out before you.

The creative team behind the production is led by director Lawrence Evans (nominated for an Olivier Award for his work at the National Theatre with Tony Harrison, A Midsummer Nights Dream with the Irish Chamber Orchestra & Storytellers Theatre Company) and designer Elizabeth Wright (Theatre by The Lake).

This will be Play With Fire Productions third visit to Hope Mill after two hugely successful shows Orphans (January 2016) and Sans Merci (September, 2016) which received rave reviews from both audiences and critics alike.

Herding Cats Weds 24th May until Saturday 3rd June at Hope Mill Theatre

Tickets are available now via http://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/herding-cats/

Extra matinee of The Play That Goes Wrong!

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Due to enormous demand an additional matinee performance of the West End and Broadway hit The Play That Goes Wrong has been added to the Lowry run on Friday 9th June at 2pm!

The multiple international award winning production will entertain north west audiences for a week long run from Monday 5th-Saturday 10th June, this highly physical comedy delivers the finest of slapstick humour and has audiences literally rolling in the aisles as the bonkersly brilliant cast act up a storm on stage.

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The play introduces The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ who are attempting albeit disastrously to put on a 1920s’ murder mystery, but as you would guess (and secretly hope), everything that can go wrong ultimately does, as the accident prone thespians battle on against all the odds to get to their final curtain call.

The Play That Goes Wrong is an absolute riot of expertly choreographed mayhem and side-splitting silliness, a huge audience pleaser an absolute barrel of laughs.

Tickets available via the following link https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-play-that-goes-wrong

Running Time: 2 hours & 5 minutes including 1 interval Suitable for ages 8+.

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