Nothing but the Roof

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

Writer: Adam Colclough

Director: Adam Colclough

Back in 1962, the Drifters sang about heading to the roof to get away from the cares and troubles of the world: alas, the same cannot be said of three characters at the heart of Adam Colclough’s latest play Nothing but the Roof.

The action opens with Warren (JP Smith) clutching a letter standing near the edge of a rooftop on a rundown block of flats, he is coincidentally joined by childhood friends Step (David Hyde) and Millsy (Peter Thompson). The pair are dressed as Fred and Barney from The Flintstones: Step has roped Millsy into a father’s for justice protest; however, a mix up with the sign puts paid to that.

As the three friends get reacquainted with each other, they laugh, they fight, they reminisce as they discuss what hand life has dealt them: grief, unemployment, debt, and abuse are some of the hardships the three pals have faced, but can they come out of it the other side?

Despite the weighty subjects covered, the script is exceptionally funny indeed, with some stingy one-liners: it certainly has that lad’s night at the pub feel, as the friends point out each other’s faults, failings and generally just ‘rib’ each other to huge comic affect.

The production does however try to pack too much in with our three friends facing just about every disaster you could possibly think of; the play bounces from one tragedy to another, skimming the surface of these subjects rather than tackling them. Sometimes less is more and the play would certainly benefit from a trim, and as well as a few pauses here and there as the dialogue is delivered at such a breakneck speed that it could do with allowing the audience time to breathe.

The cast despite a few early missteps are on great form, you firmly believe friendship and the chemistry between all three is fantastic. The setting of the rooftop looks the part and allows the actors to fully express themselves.

This is an important play which raises some interesting points about modern Britain and one that should be seen by as many people as possible, it will certainly make you laugh and offer some food for thought, it just needs to iron out it’s kinks and it’ll be a great piece of work.

Tags: Nothing but the Roof, Hope Mill Theatre, Adam Colclough, JP Smith, David Hyde, Peter Thompson, Drama, Theatre

Love from a Stranger

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Agatha Christie is one of the most prolific writers of not just her own, but any generation, turning out over 60 books. She was also a successful playwright, having penned the theatrical titan that is The Mousetrap.  However, her flirtation with the stage didn’t stop there, as here we have Love from a Stranger, a Christie short story called Philomel Cottage which was adapted for the stage by writer/actor Frank Vosper in 1936. This isn’t just another ‘run of the mill’ Christie ‘whodunit’, but a multi-layered tale of control, manipulation with a thoroughly believable monster at the centre of it.

Having come into a substantial amount of money, Cecily (Helen Bradbury), seemingly has the perfect life: wealth, a good job, and engaged to her partner Michael (Justin Avoth). However, it is adventure that Cecily seeks, and a chance encounter with a handsome photographer, Bruce Lovell (Sam Frenchum) opens all sorts of possibilities for Cecily. The charismatic young American persuades Cecily to leave her old life behind and start afresh with him.

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The couple move to a remote cottage in the country where at first everything seems perfect, however cracks begin to appear in the relationship, and all is not what it seems with Lovell, as he begins to control and manipulate his now wife much to the distress and concern of Cecily’s family and friends.

Director Lucy Bailey has done a fantastic job crafting a tense, captivating psychological thriller. The production’s main strength is its ability to shock. At first it seems to be run-of-the-mill, easy going fodder, perfect for a lazy Sunday night in front of the telly. There are even a few laughs in there, courtesy of Aunt Louise (Nicola Sanderson) and then later housemaid, Ethel (Molly Logan), however this is all a ruse, designed to sucker you in and leave you fully unprepared for the events that transpire in the nerve shattering finale.

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It’s not just the script that helps ratchet up the tension, Mike Britton’s unique and intricate set design, of sliding panels and see through walls add to the claustrophobia, whilst bringing an element of voyeurism to proceedings. In addition, Oliver Fenwick’s film noir lighting design comes into its own as the story unfolds adding menace and an almost seedy quality to proceedings.

The cast are on fine form: the two leads have a believable chemistry with each other: Bradbury is feisty yet naive as Cecily, whilst Frenchum is charming and menacing as the unhinged Lovell. They are supported by a superb group of actors: with special mention going to a near show stealing turn from Nicola Sanderson as Aunt Louise, who certainly brings a great deal of humour to a character that could be irritating: however, some of her lines and her stage presence had the audience in stitches.

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One thing which did affect this fabulous production, and which is in no way the fault of the cast or crew was various audience members leaving their mobile phones switched on throughout the performance, one noisy intervention coming at a particular tense moment in the play: it really is frustrating the amount of times this seems to happen. Switch your phones off! Embrace being at the theatre and be in the moment!

Mobile phones aside, this is a riveting, entertaining and engrossing production, that like its lead character, starts off as one thing and in the end is a different beast all together: certainly, worth a watch.

Love from a Stranger is at the Lowry until the 14th July tickets available here.

Hope Studios

1 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

MEET, REHEARSE, CREATE

An new and exciting addition to the city opens its door for business this month! Hope Studios comes from a collaboration between the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre, Play With Fire Productions and Aria Entertainment. The new independent rehearsal workspace based will be based in the Northern Quarter and will be open to performing arts, television and production companies based in the city, or visiting Manchester from across the country.

Located on Newton Street, Hope Studios takes over the first floor of Marlsboro House, the building that used to be home to Sunshine Dance Studios, and will offer up to six studio spaces with accessible prices. With the growing number of theatre, television and dance companies relocating and visiting Manchester every year, the team found that there was a gap in the market for affordable rehearsal spaces.

8Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Drawing on years of experience, Hope Studios understands the needs of rehearsing companies, and the team has created a collaborative and creative space, incorporating Play With Fire’s extensive Play Library for actors to borrow scripts for rehearsal or simply reading in the comfortable communal area. It plans to become a community and networking space for the performance sector, and offer development support.

Joseph Houston, Artistic Director of Hope Mill Theatre and partner of Hope Studios said: “There is such need for studio space like this in the city as the rising number of creatives making work in Manchester is at an all time high.”  He goes on to say: “It is an extremely exciting time in Manchester for the theatre industry. Artists are realising this is the place to be and we hope that Hope Studios meets a much needed requirement for quality, accessible rehearsal studios for people to create their work.” He added: “We are thrilled to be partnering up with Hannah and Dan from Play With Fire Productions, an incredibly exciting company that has staged two major productions at Hope Mill, and Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, who has been our in house producer at Hope Mill since we opened last year and has collaborated on all the musicals.”

13 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment comments: “I am proud to not only be resident producer of Hope Mill Theatre but now a third partner in this fantastic venture in Manchester’s Northern Quarter; A hub of creative individuals and companies working under one roof is just what Manchester needs and I am thrilled to be part of it.”

Hannah Ellis from Play With Fire Productions and partner of Hope Studios comments: “We are so proud and excited to be working with Hope Mill and Aria to offer these studios. As a producing body for the last four years, finding rehearsal space is often the most stressful element of any project. This is a worthy and vital new project; filling an important gap in the Manchester creative scene. We want Hope Studios to be a thriving hub of creativity, with not just rehearsal space, but also community areas, a marketing aid, lessons, collaborations and much more.”

7 Photo Credit Shay Rowan

Hope Studios will be officially available for bookings in March 2017 through their website www.hopestudios.co.uk

Address: 52 Newton Street, M1 1ED