Early Doors

Early Doors 2

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Some 14 years ago, Stockport’s most famous pub The Grapes closed its doors for the last time. This was the setting of the much-cherished Craig Cash and Phil Mealey penned sitcom. While only spanning 12 episodes, the show garnered huge critical success and developed a loyal fan base. When the show wasn’t recommisioned in 2004 it came as a bit of a shock.

Last year saw The Grapes fling its doors open again for a series of live theatre and arena shows, which started with a sell-out residency at the Quays theatre at the Lowry. Such was the strength of the production; the show won the best theatre production at the City Life awards.

Early Doors 3

Well the live show has returned to the Lowry this time with a 10-night run in the Lyric theatre. This is very much a continuation of the TV series as we are reacquainted with much-loved characters and introduced to some new, albeit familiar characters. It is to the show’s credit that many of the original cast have returned to the show; however, I doubt that they needed much persuading.

This is not just a nostalgia trip trotting out old gags and catchphrases. Cash and Mealey have created a new show which see’s Grapes landlord Ken (John Henshaw) plucking up the courage to propose to part-time barmaid Tanya (Susan Cookson). However, things don’t go to plan, with the intervention of Ken’s mum: Jean (Judith Barker), and also some big-mouthed if well meaning locals, newcomers Freddie and June (Vicky Binns and Neil Hurst) who upset Ken’s plan. In addition, best friends Duffy (Mealey) and Joe (Cash), have their own problems, with the former delving into the world of online dating, and the latter having a few family issues. In addition, local bent coppers: Phil (James Quinn) and Nige (Peter Wight) are struggling with rules and regulations like “evidence” getting in the way of good honest coppering!

Early Doors 1

If you are a diehard fan, or coming to Early Doors Live fresh, this show will leave you entertained and with a huge grin on your face. Packed full of stingy one-liners, pathos and a great deal of heart the show continues to focus on the same themes that made the series a success: love, loneliness, friendship and family, because no mistake the regulars in the Grapes are one big family not to dissimilar to another Cash and Mealey project: The Royale Family.

The cast are on great form: Melissa Sinden as the sharp tongued Winnie, instantly makes you forget about the shows 14 year absence while newcomers Vicky Binns, Neil Hurst, and Nick Birkinshaw as skinflint Tommy, fit in like Grapes regulars. Cash and Mealy don’t miss the chance to poke fun at our new PM; each gag had them and the audience in stitches.

Early Doors

The surprising sing-along finale is an unexpected treat and a fittingly joyous end to a highly entertaining evening. As the show closed, the cast are given a well-deserved standing ovation. Get yourself down to the Lowry and join the regiment, you won’t be disappointed.

Early Doors is on the Lowry until Saturday 3rd August then heads out on a nationwide tour; tickets are available here.

 

Mydidae

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The day starts as any other, Marian (Hollie-Jay Bowes) practices her French while brushing her teeth, her partner David (David Gregan-Jones) does his best to convince that his business spiel has some actual meaning; it soon becomes clear however that their inconsequential chatter & random mutterings are merely a means of avoiding a much deeper, darker and undoubtedly more difficult conversation.

Affectionate chat becomes increasingly saturated with barbed comments as with each trip to the bathroom insecurities and an inability to communicate honestly are exposed.

Jack Thorne’s script is both challenging and remarkably honest, stripping each character both physically and emotionally. Laura Woodward’s focussed direction ensures warped domestic life takes centre stage as light-hearted interrogation becomes something altogether more shocking.

Hollie-Jay Bowes & David Gregan-Jones unselfconsciously move throughout the intimate space allowing the audience a genuine fly on the wall insight. Each have an ability to connect deeply with the audience; you feel their pain, their heartache, their frustrations as the reality of their grief in all it’s complicated detail is stripped bare.Their believability as a fractured couple allows the emotion of Jack Thorne’s piece to rise to a brutal and unexpected peak which literally knocks you for six. Both are outstanding.

Natalie Johnson’s set and costume design of varying shades of blue are lit to subtle yet dramatic effect by Joseph Thomas, a hint of what’s to come with a flash of colour lighting up the freestanding bath between scenes.

Wonderhouse Theatre succeed in delivering this provocative & powerful piece impressively well, holding the audience entirely for the full 75ish minutes. It is the kind of theatre that will remain in your thoughts for days, weeks, maybe more as you pour over the detail & examine the issues raised.

Brutal, honest and brilliantly executed theatre.

Catch Mydidae at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 23rd February tickets £12/14 are available here.