Herding Cats

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Critically acclaimed Play With Fire Productions returned to Hope Mill Theatre this week with their new production, Herding Cats.

The play introduces us to Justine (Kayleigh Hawkins) and Michael (Daniel Bradford) two flatmates for whom life isn’t exactly the barrel of laughs they had wished for. Justine is eternally stressed about work and gets little chance to do much else. Due to her long hours and daily pressures she lives in an almost constant state of rage, where drink becomes her crutch but is often more faux than friend. Michael is her confidant, due to his agoraphobia he struggles to leave their flat, instead earning his living by offering phone sex to men such as Saddo (John Gully), an older man who gets his kicks from twisted fantasies about his own daughter. Michael always there ready to listen to Justine’s latest rant is the one person she feels she can rely on.

As Justine risks showing her vulnerability to her ex hippy boss whom she has unexpectedly grown attached to and Michael realises he perhaps needs Saddo’s calls more than Saddo needs him we start to realise just how fragile and desperately lonely they truly are. Writer Lucinda Coxon does not shy away from the awkward and uncomfortable, this piece is bold and in your face. Directorhas made great use of Hope Mill Theatre’s unique space, every inch of the floor is covered by a pacing and anxious Justine as she dissects her day in order to process the conversations and actions of her boss whom she struggles to understand. The cast deliver each scene with commitment and confidence, there are moments that challenge, do you look on or turn away? The production make you think beyond what you see acted out on stage as you recognise thoughts and feelings played out by Michael and Justine, as those seemingly with the upper hand may actually be the needy and the lonely of this world. Powerful, bold and dynamic theatre.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 3rd June, tickets £12 can be found here http://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/herding-cats/

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/

Julie, Madly, Deeply

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Hit West End show Julie, Madly, Deeply will visit Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre for two show only this coming Sunday. Written and performed by the insanely talented Sarah-Louise Young (most recently seen in Hope Mill’s critically acclaimed production of Yank!) and directed by Russell Lucas this charming and cheeky cabaret takes an entertaining look at fan and fandom.

A huge fan of Julie Andrews since childhood Sarah-Louise Young intertwines songs from Andrews much loved career including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music with stories and anecdotes detailing the highest of highs and lowest of lows of Andrew’s life. A show guaranteed to have you grinning from ear to ear this witty and entertaining tribute is an absolute must-see!

Sunday 14th May 3pm and 7.30pm at Hope Mill Theatre

Tickets available here http://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/julie-madly-deeply/

 

Manchester Theatre Awards 2017

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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

Yank!

Yank! is a story which needs to be told, it teaches us about love, and shares a poignant and heartfelt message inspiring audiences to love freely and with no time to waste.

Yank! is the third in-house production born from the hugely successful paring of Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment, who together brought both Parade and cult classic Hair to Manchester audiences last year, with the addition of third producer Ben Millerman, Yank! further confirms their commitment to delivering new and innovative theatre as this beautiful production is brought to life by Director James Baker and his stellar cast.

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Based on the 2010 Off-Broadway production written by David Zellnik with a score created by brother Joseph, Yank pays homage to Rodgers and Hammerstein and charmingly evokes the time period of the unforgettable 1940’s. The scrip has both great humour and enormous heart as we follow the journey of Stu (Scott Hunter) after he is called up to serve for his country in a war he doesn’t fully understand. As a vulnerable and scared young recruit Stu meets and falls in love with macho and self-assured, all-American guy Mitch (Barnaby Hughes), the two merely want to survive the war so they too can live and love their own American dream, sadly such a simple wish proves to be more of a challenge than any military battle they face, and so an emotional and complex uphill battle just in trying to be true to themselves begins.

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Scott Hunter gives an exceptional performance as Stu, we see how love changes him from a fearful and weak new recruit into an assured and quietly confident man whose inner strength and belief in his right to love is unshakeable. The relationship between Hunter and Barnaby Hughes (Mitch) is heart-warming, delicate and pure with a strong on stage chemistry, you desperately want them to make it. The whole cast are superb, each character is delivered with colour and is strongly defined from the swaggering, larger than life, Czechowski (Kris Marc-Joseph) to the flamboyant and fabulous Rotelli (Tom Lloyd) every single cast member makes their mark. Special mention must go to both Chris Kiely who plays Atrie the toe-tapping photographer who takes Stu under his wing and Sarah-Louise Young who plays multiple female roles and delivers each and every one with style and sass.

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There is stunning choreography from Chris Cuming culminating in the most beautiful of dream sequences which is a real highlight of this lovingly crafted production and again shows the sheer level of talent in this small cast of twelve.

Yank! is a delight, full of emotion and performed with true heart and soul, at a time when division is so rife it is crucial we see the importance of love, are able to love whom we choose and be loved back without question or complication. A truly special piece of theatre which delivers a powerful and honest message, Yank! is absorbing, dynamic and deeply moving.

Tickets available via http://www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

 

Hope Studios

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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

Address: 52 Newton Street, M1 1ED

Yank! Preview

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On March 9th award-winning venue Hope Mill Theatre will host the European Premiere of the much anticipated Yank! A moving World War II love story which will examine what it means to be a man, to be in love, and explore the struggles simply being in love can bring.

Based on the 2010 Off-Broadway production written by David Zellnik with a score created by his brother Joseph Zellnik the musical transports us back to the unforgettable sounds of the 1940’s, focussing on the life of Stu (Scott Hunter) who is called up to serve for his country. Stu meets and falls in love with all-American guy Mitch (Barnaby Hughes) and so begins a tougher and more emotional fight than Stu ever expected to be facing.

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Yank! will be the third in-house production delivered by the hugely successful paring of Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment, who brought runaway hit Parade and cult classic Hair to Manchester audiences last year. This pairing is clearly one which understands the importance of getting things absolutely right, they put their heart and soul into delivering emotional, powerful, dynamic and beautiful productions, the prospect of them handling something with issues so current and so important is utterly thrilling. Add to this the fact that James Baker (director of Parade) is at the helm along with the addition of a third co-producer, Ben Millerman from Mr Millerman Presents and you soon realise that this is going to be something very special, without doubt crafted with love.

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We were lucky enough to join the cast for a preview at Hope Mill Theatre and hear from director James Baker who shared just how thrilled he is to be given the opportunity to tell such a beautiful story and really examine what it means to love in a time when division is so rife.

“I read the musical and just absolutley adored it, I think for me it’s important that when I pick up a musical, I absolutely  fundamentally love the story, for me it’s always about the story and Yank! has such a beautiful story. It’s about two people, two men that fall in love in World War II  in America, that alone is an exciting prospect, a gay love story set in World War II, that was enough to hook me in, but then the layers, the questions, the things that it asks, made me think there’s much, much more to this musical”

The cast delivered several of the shows musical numbers including the beautiful Rememb’ring You, My Soldier and Your Squad Is Your Squad each of which were absorbing and really gave a taste for this vibrant and dynamic production. Scott Hunter and Barnaby Hughes’ voices perfectly complimented each other, rich and powerful with an enormous amount of warmth. Sarah Louise Young the only female in the production sounded exquisite as she delivered her piece with real emotion and heart.The 12-strong cast are hugely talented and totally committed to doing justice to this emotive and bold piece of theatre, we fully expect Yank! to follow in the footsteps of Parade and Hair in firmly placing Hope Mill Theatre on the cultural map as a groundbreaking and innovative venue and one of Manchester’s brightest and boldest assets, roll on opening night!

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Yank! will run for four weeks from Thursday 9th March to Saturday 8th April at Hope Mill Theatre. Tickets are available now. Previews £15, all other performances £16-£22

www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk