The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Matt Forrest

It would appear that anything Mischief Theatre touch turns to gold; maybe they should rename themselves the Midas Theatre instead. First, there was the enormously popular The Play That Goes Wrong, which is a huge West End and Broadway smash. This was followed up by Peter Pan Goes Wrong, which although did not perform quite as well still proved immensely popular. Now the company return to the Lowry with their third offering: The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

Set in 1958, we are transported too Minneapolis, a city ravaged by crime, where no one is to be trusted: in addition, the city is blighted by a seagull problem that seems to be getting out of hand. Despite Minneapolis becoming the crime capital of the USA, Prince Ludvig of Hungary is bringing the Hungarian royal family’s crown jewels over to Minneapolis for a state visit, and everyone wants a piece of them!

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The list of suspects include: shady bank manager Robin Freeboys (Damian Lynch), his manipulative daughter, (Julia Frith), local street hustler Sam, (Sean Carey), escaped convict Mitch Ruscitti (Liam Jeavons), and his hapless sidekick, Cooper, (David Coomber). As plans are forged and alliances formed just who will walk away with the centrepiece of the crown jewels, the Maguvin Diamond: a 300-carat stone with a huge value.

I am not ashamed to say I loved The Play That Goes Wrong and was looking forward to this show immensely: I’m glad to say it did not disappoint. Heavily influenced by the films of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, who brought us the Naked Gun and Airplane series, this smart, innovative and ridiculous comedy will have you grinning like a Cheshire cat. The Comedy About A Bank Robbery draws heavily from the ‘Teen Exploitation’ films of the 1950’s and is more a love letter to them than it is to the heist/bank robbery genre, which is a welcome surprise.

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Getting off to a slow start by Mischief’s standards, the first act is packed full gags around word play, who knew the name Robin Freeboys could be such resource for material? However, following the interval, the production leaps from one set piece to another showcasing the physical comedy the company have become famed for; highlights include a three-man fight performed by one man (the super talented George Hannigan playing as credited Everyone Else) and the trademark ‘dangle from a rope sequence’ with a twist. The undoubted highlight is the jaw dropping and innovative sequence as the would-be bank robbers view the bank from inside the ventilation ducts plotting their approach: spectacular and visually brilliant this scene alone is worth the price of admission.

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With this production we are treated to something a little different with a few songs and dance routines which showcase the fantastic voice of Ashley Tucker, these again are firmly in keeping with the absurd nature of the show.

There are a few minor issues: some of the scene changes could be a bit slicker, and there is a slight pacing issue, however these are minor quibbles. This is a show so packed full of visual and verbal gags that there is something for everyone. Unlike most major banks following the crash of 2008 I cannot see the stock on this production diminishing anytime soon!

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery is at the Lowry until 15th September tickets available here.

 

Legally Blonde

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

High energy, fizzing with fabulousness and full of heart Legally Blonde bursts onto the Palace theatre stage this week for the final stop of the current UK tour.

Based on the 2001 film starring Reece Witherspoon which later became an award winning Broadway musical, Legally Blonde continues to be a massive crowd pleaser with every audience member up on their feet by the end of the show.

Dumped by law student boyfriend Warner for not being a serious enough girlfriend, Elle decides to take matters into her own hands and sets about gaining a place of her own at Harvard Law School in a bid to prove she is the perfect accessory.

The tongue-in-cheek innocence of the story ensure this camp, bright and fluffy production raises smile after smile while never taking itself too seriously.

Lucie Jones bursts with personality as the Malibu marvel, with great comedic timing and a voice that packs a punch her goofy but smart Elle proves her status as a musical theatre star is secured.

Rita Simons excels as Paulette, fun and feisty she ensures the loveable hairdresser gets her moment of glory with snake-hipped UPS guy Kyle, played superbly by Ben Harlow.

Special mention must also go to Laura Harrison as Vivienne and Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham, both shine in their respective roles, with Petrovna’s skills with a skipping rope during Whipped Into Shape simply mind-boggling!

Director and choreographer Anthony Williams ensures this is a production bursting with energy, enthusiasm and most of all fun. There! Right There! Being a real highlight of Act II and further cementing Legally Blonde as a kitsch, camp couple of hours of perfectly pink uplifting escapism.

With a winning energy this pink princess succeeds against the odds to find her own perfect prince and sends a reminder about the importance of sisterhood that is more than just skin-deep.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 30th June tickets available here.

The Play That Goes Wrong

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

With the World Cup in full swing, the whole nation seems to have gone football crazy: we’ve seen great goals, controversial refereeing decisions and some calamitous howlers, however not even the biggest goal keeping blunder would compare to the chaos that goes into 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 ‘whodunit’, with their production of Murder at Haversham Manor. However the production is blighted from the outset: there is a missing dog, a misplaced Duran Duran CD, and a faulty shelf hampering proceedings and all this before the house lights have gone down and the show has begun.

Chris Bean (Jake Curran) the stressed director head of the drama society, and lead role of Inspector Carter, welcomes us to the show and informs us of some of the society’s less successful productions which include James and his Peach, and The Lion and the Wardrobe. It’s the perfect setup to introduce a hilarious evening of mirth and mayhem.

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 will play bigger roles then either would have envisaged.

As the action continues we see the play go from one catastrophe to another, taking a mental and physical toll on all the cast and crew, just thankful it’s over and that they all survived… even if not entirely in one piece.

This is the third time I’ve watched this production within the last year and I’m not ashamed to say I love it. It seems to get better and better with every viewing; you notice things you missed the first time and second time around as a result of laughing so much. Director Mark Bell has crafted a night of pure unadulterated fun and frolics. The production pokes fun at the self-important, pompous world of amateur dramatics, with a biting, scathing pitch perfect script by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields.

The cast certainly put in a shift, with an endless barrage of slapstick and physical comedy very much in the tradition of Laurel and Hardy or Michael Crawford from classic BBC sitcom Some Mother’s Do Have ‘em.

All of the cast do exceptionally well but the stand out performance goes to David Kristopher-Brown, 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, made all the more impressive by the fact that Brown is the understudy for this touring production, and certainly highlights the depth of quality this production company has at its disposal. In addition, Steven Rostance as Jonathan, and Charles Haversham who plays the least convincing dead body you are likely to see and really should change his name to Lazarus!

There are a few minor issues: at times there is so much going on that it is hard to keep track of the action. In addition, because of all the turmoil, some of the dialogue is lost and hard to hear adding to the chaos and confusion

Overall this fantastically fun night at the theatre that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear, and aching sides to boot. At the close of the show the cast let us know that their next production: The Comedy About a Bank Robbery will be going to the Lowry in September: hopefully I’ll have recovered from this performance by the time that comes around!

They Play That Goes Wrong is on at the Manchester Opera House till 30th June tickets available here.

Interview | Natasha Hodgson | Kill the Beast

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Lowry associate artists Kill the Beast return to the Salford venue next week with their new show Director’s Cut before they head off to Edinburgh Fringe for a summer of hilarious and a teeny bit haunting comedy japes.

Opening Night caught up with one fifth of the ‘Beast’s’ Natasha Hodgson to hear a little more about their latest offering and what exactly Lowry audiences can expect from the award-winning troop when Director’s Cut opens in the Aldridge Studio on 7th June.

Welcome to the worst film never made. Thankfully, there’s only one scene left to shoot… 

The fire has been contained, the wigs have been sterilised, and the star has been replaced after “The Accident”. Surely, nothing else can be waiting in the dark…

Director’s Cut, a madcap mash-up with a generous sprinkling of spoof horror introduces us to a 1970’s lead actress determined to take her revenge from beyond the grave, will she manage to stop filming on the most truly terrible and blisteringly bad movie she ever made?

Natasha Hodgson described to us where the idea for Director’s Cut came from. “We were chatting in a lovely sunny garden one day about our favourite horror films (classic sunshine chat) and how amazing, iconic films never seem to manage iconic sequels. We started talking about Rosemary’s Baby (one of our favourites) and imagining what a terrible sequel to Rosemary’s Baby – Rosemary’s Toddler? – might look like. And what if, whilst filming this terrible sequel, the spirit of the original film came back to wreak vengeance on this terrible follow up!”

Like previous shows The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, He Had Hairy Hands and Don’t Wake The Damp, Kill the Beast’s signature style of fast-paced action, original music and brilliantly bonkers comedy will lend itself perfectly to this silly yet sinister escapade. Natasha explained “I play a couple of characters, but my favourite is an older actor called Judy Goose, she’s been in the industry forever, and although she’s done a whole host of arthouse films, she’s always most excited about her adverts for Simpkin’s Soapy Scrubbers (“for wives and for mothers”) because of their big, fat pay-cheques. You’ll also learn that she’s a dab-hand at dealing with a dead body. But you’ll have to see the show to find out which one…”

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Here at Opening Night we are enormous fans of Kill the Beast’s deliciously dark humour and inventive staging, Natasha confirmed while the humour remains there will be some new and rather exciting changes to the staging of this new production, “Our hearts belong to ridiculous, dark and silly jokes, and that’s always going to be at the forefront of everything we make. However, we’re ditching the projections this time around, in favour of actual AV screens – it makes ghost trickery a lot more fun. We’ve done three shows with projected sets, and this time around we wanted to build something solid from scratch – we’ve got a real life 70s film set on stage, and we can’t wait to cause catastrophes within it.”

Now in their sixth year as Lowry associate artists Natasha explained just how important the support from The Lowry has been, “We feel so, so lucky to be supported by them, and if more theatres provided the sort of 360 care and help that they do, the emerging theatre scene would be able to take a lot more risks, and make a lot more fantastic stuff. But hell, it’s a hard time for the arts. It’s a hard time for a lot of stuff. Best thing we can recommend? Come see a silly, fast-paced comedy about a vengeful, opinionated ghost. That will probably sort everything out.”

Director’s Cut opens at The Lowry on Thursday 7th June and runs until Saturday 9th tickets priced at £12 (£10 for concessions) can be found here. here.

 

 

 

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

Art

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