Circle Mirror Transformation

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Opening Night rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bijan Sheibani is at the helm of a triumph as Circle Mirror Transformation, Annie Baker’s award-winning play, gets its Northern Premiere on HOME’s stage. Sheibani’s sensitive direction presents audiences with a simple yet thought provoking production, played out by a stellar cast including seasoned performers Amelia Bullmore and Con O’ Neill.

Set in Vermont, New England it focuses on a creative adult acting class where five unlikely strangers, from different walks of life, meet at their local community centre. Over six weeks of drama exercises and games their lives become entangled and transformed in the most humorous and moving ways.

Photo credit: Marc Brenner

Bullmore is perfectly cast as the gentle free-spirited drama teacher Marty who has enthusiastically put together the unique group. She is joined by O’ Neill who plays newly divorced Schultz, struggling to come to terms with his marriage breakdown, Sian Clifford as unlikely siren Theresa, Yasmin Paige, self-conscious high school student Lauren, and Anthony Ofoegbu as Marty’s subdued husband, James.

Together the stalwart actors form a tight ensemble where everyone has their moment to shine as they carefully peel through each layer of their characters. There’s a real truth in their performances which engages the audience throughout and, along with Sheibani’s use of Baker’s lengthy pauses, also helps to highlight the believability of the piece. It is a welcome decision to have no interval during the one hour forty-five minute duration of play as it would have broken the fluidity that is so beautiful about the piece.


You can fully understand why Circle Mirror Transformation was voted one of the top 10 plays of 2009 by the New York TimesTime Out, and The New Yorker – it washes over you, making you smile, laugh and feel a sense of connected emotion which leaves you feeling hugely satisfied.

Runs at HOME until Saturday 17th March


Interview | Anthony Ofoegbu & Yasmin Paige | Circle Mirror Transformation


Award winning director Bijan Sheibani brings the Northern Premiere of Annie Baker’s critically acclaimed play Circle Mirror Transformation to HOME’s stage from 7th to 17th March with previews beginning from Saturday 2nd March.

In a small town in Vermont, New England, five unlikely strangers come together in their community centre for a creative drama class for adults. The free-spirited Marty, recently divorced Schulz, former actress Teresa, the self-conscious high school student Lauren, and Marty’s quiet husband, James. Over six weeks of drama exercises and games ranging from the hilarious to the heart-breaking, their lives become entangled and transformed in the most humorous and moving ways.

We sat down with cast members Anthony Ofoegbu who plays James and Yasmin Paige who plays Lauren during a break in rehearsals to hear a little more about that play which won writer Annie Baker the 2010 Obie Award for Best New Play, and was voted one of the top 10 plays of 2009 by the New York Times, Time Out, and The New Yorker.

ON (Opening Night)- How are rehearsals going?

AO (Anthony Ofoegbu)- They are going great, I think the laid back persona of Bijan Sheibani our director keeps us all calm, he’s so giving and thoughtful, he sees the vision that maybe we can’t at the start then collectively through the process we start to see it too, it’s been a wonderful reciprocation of ideas and minds, incredible minds, I feel very privileged to be part of it, I’m pinching myself still.


ON – Can you tell us a little about the play?

YP (Yasmin Paige) – The play is very naturalistic, I almost want to be able to watch it but obviously I can’t as I’m in it, it’s quiet but there is loudness within the quietness as well, it’s definitely a play about feeling, it’s about life.

AO – The title itself Circle Mirror Transformation is interesting, the operative word being mirror, Annie Baker writes in such a true way, everything is said in the silences; it’s an incredible piece of work. As actors we get to look at ourselves within this work and for an audience it mirrors life but offers so much choice for interpretation dependent on where you’re coming from in your walk of life dependent on your experiences, you might connect with something different to the person sat beside you. The silences within the play are so important in terms of internal thought, internal process, internal practice, it also allows audiences watching to connect with that and feel that, that’s the beauty of this piece I think.

YP – It’s very much about stillness, at times in life there may seem like nothing is happening but there is so much happening, just thinking about something like a still life painting, like a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers, in itself there may not be much happening but that fruit will eventually rot, those flowers will decay, that stillness will go on its own journey. When we reflect on life today where everything is so busy all of the time, we’re all always running around, talking, dashing from here to there, the tempo of life is so fast paced but in Vermont that’s not so, it’s the opposite so it’s a different world for us to inhabit, it strips everything back and what seems still and quiet actually is quite extraordinary and perhaps so with life’s journeys, we don’t realise or see that it has been a journey until we have gotten to the end and reflected on how far we have travelled. It’s a great insight into our internal journey in life.


ON – What can you tell us about your characters?

YP – My character is the youngest member of the group who goes to this drama class in Shirley, Vermont. She’s 16 and professes that she’s joined the class because she wants to become an actress and she is quite insular and shy but strong minded and very intelligent. Just because she’s quiet and shy doesn’t mean that she doesn’t observe what’s going on, she’s very ambitious and restless. She’s young and almost waiting for life to happen then suddenly she’s in a room with these older people for whom life has happened, it’s really interesting to see how much they all learn from each other. I don’t want to give anything away but I feel by the end of the play she probably grows the most.

AO – James I think is an unsettled soul, trying his best but I think the skeletons in his cupboard are continually rattling and I think he starts to see and understand that more in the process that takes place within the play that’s augmented by his wife Marty who runs the adult drama class in which the play takes place.

ON – Will the play stay with its traditional setting in Vermont, New England?

AO– Yes, we’re in Vermont, hats off to our voice coach Michaela she has just been sensational. We have had a lot of fun getting to grips with the accents.


ON – Have you enjoyed exploring the writing of Annie Baker?

YP – Yes, so much, she writes so beautifully about human experiences, she has a special sparkle within her writing, she like to put hope into her writing.

AO – She has a great understanding of humans, whatever we’ve been through, whatever experiences we’ve had there can be hope still. She has a wonderful way of giving us the remembrance of hope and being hopeful, she has a very skilled way of showing us through her writing what we can do to perhaps rectify whatever odds we think we’ve made in our lives.

YP – There’s s a lot of light and there is also darkness, it’s about searching in the darkness and remembering that darkness is interesting and there can be safety in darkens as well as in light and exploring the importance of both. I think being able to explore art is so important everything I’ve learned that has informed me has come from reading books, watching films, seeing theatre; it’s taught me so much about myself. Art is so self-reflective; it teaches you not only about yourself but about the world around you.


ON – Are you largely on stage for the entirety of the production?

AO – Yes, it’s one setting in which all the action takes place.

YP – Although we are in one place it’s set over 6 weeks, so there are weeks to show the growth and progression and journey.

AO – Although you never see outside of that room you really don’t need to, it’s all explained, it allows for the imagination to be rampant in scope.

ON – Have you ever performed at Home before?

AO – No, I’ve performed at the Lowry, but only briefly, we’re here for a month so I’m really looking forward to exploring Manchester as a city. The architecture of the city, this beautiful building we’re in particularly really interests me. My dream was to be an architect but that didn’t happen so I always look at buildings, Manchester has some wonderful buildings.

YP – I haven’t either but I’m so excited, HOME itself is beautiful, I really want to see and explore Manchester, I can’t wait. There’s so much art and culture here.

Mirror Circle Transformation begins preview on Saturday 2nd March with an official opening on Wednesday 7th and runs until Saturday 17th March tickets available here.




MTA Nominations 2018


Nominations for this year’s Manchester Theatre Awards have been announced, celebrating the best work on stage and off within the city in over 20 categories, with winners being announced at a red carpet event at the Lowry theatre on Friday 9th March which will be hosted by local funny man Justin Moorhouse.

With some interesting choices and some considerable omissions, our personal pick and who Opening Night will be backing when we head to the ceremony will be;

Performance in a Fringe Production – Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical,

Best NewcomerHope Mill Theatre, Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre,

Best Opera La Cenerentola , Opera North, The Lowry,

Studio Production – From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Best Performance in a Studio Production – Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production The Lowry, La Strada, The Lowry

With four incredible selections for Best Musical it will be a hotly contested category, we adored each production but would loved to have seen additional nominations for Hope Mill Theatre’s spectacular Pippin and Tim Firth and Gary Barlow’s uplifting audience favourite The Band.


The nominations are as follows;

Actress in a Leading Role

Karen Henthorn, Spring and Port Wine, Oldham Coliseum

Lisa Dwyer Hogg, People, Places & Things, HOME

Nina Hoss, Returning to Reims, Manchester International Festival

Janet Suzman, Rose, HOME


Actor in a Leading Role

Cliff Burnett, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

Jason Merrells, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Kenneth Alan Taylor, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Ashley Zhangazha, Guys And Dolls, Royal Exchange


Actress in a Supporting Role

Alison Halstead, The House of Bernarda Alba, Royal Exchange

Kate Kennedy, Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange

Kerry Peers, The Father, Oldham Coliseum

Katie West, Uncle Vanya, HOME


Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Michael Blyth, Hard Times, Oldham Coliseum

David Fleeshman, Uncle Vanya, HOME

Andrew Sheridan, People, Places & Things, HOME


Actress in a Visiting Production

Ria Jones, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Laura Pitt-Pulford, Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

Natalie Radmall-Quirke, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum

Sheridan Smith, Funny Girl, Palace Theatre


Actor in a Visiting Production

Danny Mac, Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Graham McDuff, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Palace Theatre

Sean Murray, The Weir, Oldham Coliseum



Oh What A Lovely War, Oldham Coliseum

Operation Black Antler, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange


Performance in a Fringe Production

Rosie Fleeshman, Narcissist in the Mirror, Greater Manchester Fringe

Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women – The Musical, Hope Mill Theatre

Alexandra Maxwell, The Loves of Others / Freak, Greater Manchester Fringe

Danny Solomon, Days Of Wine And Roses, 53TWO


Performance in a Studio Production

Rhodri Meilir How My Light Is Spent, Royal Exchange

Lucy Jane Parkinson, Joan, Contact

Keisha Thompson, Man On The Moon, Contact

Alex Walton, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry


Robert Robson Award for Dance

Debut, Acosta Danza, The Lowry

English National Ballet double bill, Palace Theatre

Ghost Dances, Rambert Dance, The Lowry

Leviathan, James Wilton Dance, Contact



Jenny Melville (set) and Lysander Ashton (video), Paul Auster’s City of Glass, HOME

Bunny Christie, People, Places & Things, HOME

Alex Lowde, Persuasion, Royal Exchange

Yael Bartana, What If Women Ruled the World?, Manchester International Festival


Fringe Production

Bad Advice, Greater Manchester Fringe

Gypsy Queen, Hope Mill Theatre

The Marriage of Kim K, Greater Manchester Fringe

Moth, Hope Mill Theatre



Funny Girl, Palace Theatre

Jim Steinman’s Bat out of Hell the Musical, Opera House

Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre

Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre


New Play

Gypsy Queen, writer Rob Ward, Hope Mill Theatre

How My Light Is Spent, writer Alan Harris, Royal Exchange

Narcissist in the Mirror, writer Rosie Fleeshman, Greater Manchester Fringe

Narvik, writer Lizzie Nunnery, HOME



Gemma Dobson, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Scott Hunter, Yank!, Hope Mill Theatre

Vinay Lad, The Railway Children, The Lowry



Cendrillon, Royal Northern College of Music, RNCM

La Cenerentola, Opera North, The Lowry

Opera North Little Greats, Opera North, The Lowry

The Snow Maiden, Opera North, The Lowry



The Father, Oldham Coliseum

People, Places & Things, HOME

Rose, HOME

The Suppliant Women, Royal Exchange


Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Running Wild, The Lowry

The Toad Knew, The Lowry

Under Glass, Clod Ensemble,The Lowry


Studio Production

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, The Lowry

Joan, Contact

Man On The Moon, Contact

Swansong, The Lowry


Target Live Award for Best Visiting Production

La Strada, The Lowry

My Country; a Work in Progress, HOME

Nell Gwynn, The Lowry

The Weir, Oldham Coliseum


Youth Panel Award

There is a Light/BRIGHTLIGHT, Contact Young Company

Singin’ in the Rain, RNCM Young Company

Tis Written in the Stars, Oldham Theatre Workshop, Oldham Coliseum

Manchester Theatre Awards 2018


The Manchester Theatre Awards in association with Target Live will be held at The Lowry’s Quays Theatre on Friday 9 March 2018, hosted once again by Manchester favourite, comedian and actor, Justin Moorhouse.

The annual awards seen by many as the most important theatrical awards outside of London has been an important fixture of the North West cultural calendar since it first began back in 1981 and is an opportunity to honour productions seen in Greater Manchester during 2017

From big receiving venues like The Lowry and the Palace Theatre and Opera House, via acclaimed producing houses such as HOME and the Royal Exchange to exciting fringe spaces like Hope Mill Theatre, over 20 awards categories recognise the exciting array of theatre on offer to audiences in the region and beyond.

In recent years the Awards have expanded to include a group of enthusiastic young critics who also choose an annual award from the city’s youth theatre productions.

Coronation Street and Broadchurch actress Julie Hesmondhalgh, herself a previous multiple MTA winner, paid tribute to the awards and the importance of the Greater Manchester theatre scene, saying: “I love the Manchester Theatre Awards. It’s always such a lovely coming together of our artistic community in the best city in the world, and is a celebration of all things theatrical here: From the emerging raw talent of the burgeoning fringe scene to the bobby dazzler spectaculars in our main houses and from the internationally acclaimed cultural highlights of MIF to a couple of people in a tiny space above a Salford pub.”

Kevin Bourke, chair of the Manchester Theatre Awards, said: “Helping to celebrate the tremendous, passionate and creative work in the Manchester theatre world is not only a huge honour and privilege for my colleagues and me, but also great fun and genuinely exciting – just like the shows we try to spotlight”.

Further information on the awards can be found at and @MTAwards


Flare17 Launch & Double Bill


Flare International festival of new theatre launched in spectacular style at HOME Manchester last night with a blistering performance from all girl rock band PINS followed by an address and recital from Manchester poet Tony Walsh’s now legendary ‘This is the place’ familiar to many after his emotional reading at the recent Manchester vigil.

Flare17 Artist Director Neil Mackenzie, announced to audiences how putting together the festival had reminded him of how extraordinary an art form theatre can be and reminded us all of the importance of celebrating the good of what not only theatre can be but also what it can offer to each of us. The festival which features 65 different artists from 7 different countries is an opportunity for audiences to invest their belief and trust in new experiences and absorbing performances.


The first performances of the festival took on the form of an intriguing and absorbing double bill. Firstly One by BOG from the Netherlands, an award winning solo by Lisa Verbelen, in which she uses the melody of her own voice to examine everything around her, time, space, light, sound, people, thoughts, feelings, actions and demonstrates to audiences how everything which comes and goes is ultimately connected. With a rolling screen delivering the score for this four-voiced one woman choir, Verbelen engages the audience beautifully as she builds layer upon layer in this simple yet effective piece, proving both visually and audibly that movement is both constant and all consuming .


The second piece of the double bill in stark contrast to One by Bog is the Leopard Murders by K.U.R.S.K. The piece recalls the story of George Ebrecht, grandfather of K.U.R.S.K. director Timo Krstin and former Nazi SS officer who post WWII joined the peace movement. Ebrecht as a failed artist found his forte as a hate speech writer and soon rose amongst the ranks of Hitler’s men achieving the status and success he had long desired. K.U.R.S.K examine the drive and ambition of Ebrecht and look at how this need for success and recognition can manifest itself in each of us, they cleverly examine the pushing of political arguments whether it be for the left or the right wing and how our own personal agenda can steer us down paths which seemingly offer the most rewards and recognition. There is an interesting element to the piece examining the genetics of families, can the opinions and passions of our forefathers be passed down through the generations and if so is there anything we can do to stop the unstoppable? Thought-provoking and engaging theatre.

Double Bill – One and Leopold Murders can be seen again this evening Wednesday 5th July at HOME for more information head to


Flare 2017 launch


Flare International Festival of new theatre which is taking place across the city between 4th -8th July announced an inspiring and innovative full programme line up this afternoon.

Acting as a platform for some of the most talented national and international theatre makers and featuring around 60 of the best new international artists Flare 17 promises to be a unique and exciting celebration of new theatre. The full programme includes performances, workshops, feedback sessions as well as parties for both performers and audiences alike.

Artistic Director Neil Mackenzie explained the importance of programming international work, “It is our aim as an international festival and as advocates of emerging experimental theatre to bring together the international community of radical theatre artists to inform and enrich theatre practice in this country”

Flare 17 will take place at various venues across the city including HOME, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Lowry, Contact, Martin Harris Centre and 70 Oxford St and will present an ambitious programme of work from across Europe. Highlights announced today include:


Party by Spanish/Brazillian artists Beaches – An immersive dance and audio show for 10 spectators at the time. Alluding to elements of our collective memory and popular culture, the piece creates a utopian simulation of a night out, one that functions as a detonator for hacking the senses of the spectator, blurring the limits between reality and representation.


Blind Cinema by Britt Hatzius – In the darkness of a cinema space, the audience sits blindfolded. Behind each row of audience members is a row of children who, in hushed voices, describe a film only they can see. Accompanied by the soundtrack (which has no dialogue), the whispered descriptions are a fragile, fragmentary and courageous attempt by the children to make sense of what they see projected on the screen. In focusing on that which lies beyond the sense of sight, the attention switches between the world of the film, guided by the whispering voice, and the shared physical space of the cinema. For these performances the children will come from St Brigid’s RC Primary in Beswick, and Beaver Road Primary in Didsbury.


Grand Applause by Guillem Mont de Palol & Jorge Dutor – An extraordinary on-stage exhibition of performance and visual art, presented in the form of the opera – Carmen. In the opera, Don José falls in love with Carmen who becomes infatuated with the bullfighter Escamillo. Don José’s love quickly turns to violent jealousy. He tracks Carmen down and kills her.

On a stage that is wired for sound, Grand Applause offers a stirring soundtrack, a live chorus and a choreography of artworks, by three artists: Norberto Llopis in the role of Carmen, Luis Urculo in the role of Don José and Bernhard Willhelm as the toreador Escamillo. After their huge hit #losmicrófonos at FLARE15, irrepressible theatrical mavericks Guillem Mont de Palol and Jorge Dutor are back, but on a much bigger scale…

Flare Molar

Molar by Quim Bigas Bassart – A much acclaimed and highly energetic interactive solo performance about happiness, and the way we move and are moved. A favourite at festivals across Spain, this is a performance that reflects on the commercialisation of human emotion, and is presented for free in the Great Hall of the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Tickets and full listings are available now via


Manchester Theatre Awards 2017


The Royal Exchange will be celebrating tonight after taking home an impressive 10 awards, including best actress for Julie Hesmondhalgh for her role in Wit and best actor for Daniel Rigby in Breaking the Code which also won best production. There was an impressive three awards for Wish List including best studio production, and best actress and actor in a studio production, won by Erin Doherty and Joseph Quinn. Sweet Charity also saw success with Daniel Crossley winning best actor in a supporting role and the production winning best musical.

It was double celebrations for Julie Hesmondhalgh as collectivly with Rebakah Harrison & Grant Archer they won The Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence for their political theatre collective, Take Back Theatre.

There was success for the Lowry with five productions taking awards including Rufus Hound winning best actor in a visiting production for The Wind In The Willows, best special entertainment going to The Peony Pavillion, Aoife Duffin took best actress in a visiting producion for A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, best opera went to Opera North’s Andrea Cheinier and best visiting production was won by The James Plays.

Home, where the awards were held won two awards including best new play and best newcomer for Norah Lopez Holden in Ghosts.

There were two awards for Hope Mill Theatre, The Trail which won best fringe production plus a hugely popular special recognition award for Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre.

Another popular winner was the Octagon theatre Bolton whose production of Singin’ in the Rain took home the awards for best design and best ensemble plus the young “Scout” cast were joint young newcomers along with the young “Michael” cast from Billy Elliot at the Palace Theatre, the latter providing one of the greatest speeches of the afternoon.

The 2017 winners in full

Best fringe performance
Joyce Branagh, Boomtown Gals

Best fringe production
The Trial, Hope Mill Theatre

Best musical
Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best special entertainment
The Peony Pavilion, the Lowry

Best Dance
Akram Khan’s Giselle, Palace Theatre

Best actor in a studio production
Joseph Quinn for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

Best actress in a studio production
Erin Doherty for Wish List, Royal Exchange Studio

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence
Take Back Theatre Collective

Best visiting production
The James Plays, the Lowry

Youth panel award
Nothing, Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company

Best opera
Andrea Chenier, Opera North at the Lowry

Best newcomer
Norah Lopez Holden for Ghosts, Home

Best young newcomers
Samuel Torpey, Henry Harmer and Elliot Stiff for Billy Elliot
Jasmine de Goede and Lucy Doyle Ryder for To Kill a Mockingbird

Best new play
The Emperor, Home

Best supporting actress
Natalie Dew for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best supporting actor
Daniel Crossley for Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production
Rufus Hound for Wind in the Willows, the Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production
Aoife Duffin for A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, the Lowry

Best design
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best studio production
Wish List, Royal Exchange

Best ensemble
Singin’ in the Rain, Octagon Theatre

Best actress
Julie Hesmondhalgh for Wit, Royal Exchange

Best actor
Daniel Rigby for Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Best production
Breaking the Code, Royal Exchange

Special achievement award
Joseph Houston and William Whelton, founders of Hope Mill Theatre
Philip Radcliffe, critic and founder member of the Manchester Theatre Awards