Hair The Musical

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Following on from the phenomenal success of Parade earlier this year, Hope Mill Theatre and Aria Entertainment have teamed up once again to bring to cult classic and perhaps the most iconic of all rock musicals Hair to Manchester.

Set in New York’s East Village in the 6o’s at a time when the counter culture of a freedom and peace loving youth was emerging, Hair remains as current and relevant today as it was back in 1967 when it burst onto the New York theatre scene with its message of love, peace and a rejection of conservative America, in particular the controversial Vietnam war. Through Hair we meet a tribe of hippies who passionately believe in a ‘Make Love, Not War’ way of life, turning their backs on the expectations of their families and society and creating their own free love and liberal environment in which to belong. At the heart of the story is Claude and his battle to resist his draft to the army, does he do as his friends have done and live the life he chooses or does he succumb to society’s expectations, rejecting his beliefs of pacifism and freedom by serving for his Country in Vietnam.

The intimate staging of Hope Mill Theatre is perfect for this innovative production. Bold, bright and brilliant Hair is an absolute triumph, each and every member of the cast is exceptional, from the opening number, the much loved Aquarius the cast draw you in and immediately you wish you were part of their tribe. Engaging and totally absorbing Director Jonathan O’Boyle and Choreographer William Whelton have guided this talented cast in the most delightful way, each individual member is given the opportunity to shine, showcasing their incredible talent and then together as an ensemble the impact of the cast as a whole is mesmerising. The staging perfectly sets the scene for this great production, upon entering you are immediately immersed into a colourful, safe and relaxed space, with blankets scattered about in a nod the the original productions be-in. Add to this a stunning score from Galt MacDermot delivered superbly by a small band of five led wonderfully by Musical Director Gareth Bretherton.

It seems almost unfair to single anyone out for special praise from this unbelievably talented tribe but Ryan AndersonBerger, Liam Ross-MillsWoof, Robert MetsonClaude, Laura JohnsonSheila and Natalie GreenMom deliver their roles with a passion thats so wonderful to see. Special mention must also go to Hope Mill Theatre owners Joseph Houston and William Whelton, their drive and determination to bring such quality and innovative theatre to Manchester must be commended, making theatre accessible and more affordable is hugely admirable and they are truly deserving of all the success that has come and no doubt will continue to come their way. The announcement of 2017’s musical theatre programme again in partnership with the wonderful Aria Entertainment has us counting down the days until their next opening night! (Yank! On 9th March in case you’re wondering!)

Hair is an absolute must see, a triumphant piece of theatre, uplifting, absorbing and beautifully symbolic, a timely reminder that love is way more powerful than hate, and ultimately we are all one tribe who really should just love each other.

Hair runs at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 3rd December, tickets available here;

HAIR the musical

English National Ballet – Giselle

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Choreographed and Directed by Akram Khan, with co-production from Manchester International Festival and Sadlers Wells, Giselle is quite simply magnificent. Having seen the classical ballet only once before being asked to choreograph this new interpretation, Akram Khan has created something so special and unique I would have happily stayed in my seat and waited the 24 hours until the next performance just for the chance to see this magical piece again.

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Powerful, emotive and hauntingly beautiful. Khan has taken Giselle, originally choreographed in 1842 by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli and brought it bang up to date, expanding it’s themes of love, betrayal, reality, the afterlife, money, power and the injustice that comes with not having either, so apt for the times we live in. Khan’s Outcasts are a community of peasant migrant workers disposed of by their employers and banished behind a thick and impenetrable wall, their only use now seemingly is to entertain the factory Landlords ,should their elitist former employers so desire.

Despite this dark and desolate life refugee Giselle (Alina Cojocaru) still finds hope and a love to cling to in the form of Albrecht (Issac Hernandez), a wealthy suitor who has crossed the line after becoming transfixed by Giselle’s beauty. Their love affair sadly has not gone unnoticed by Hilarion (Cesar Corrales) a peasant ‘fixer’ who shifts his allegiance from his community to the wealthy Landlords for his own gain, Hilarion will set about to ensure that Giselle and Albrecht do not get their happy ending.

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Vincenzo Lamagna’s reworking of Adolphe Adam’s score injects drama and grit with its powerful industrial presence, paired beautifully with Mark Henderson’s dynamic lighting design and Academy Award winning Tim Yip’s epic visual design and incredible costumes this production is destined to become a modern classic, a piece you would happily return to time and time again and discover something new on each visit. It is quite simply breath-taking; the skill on show left me speechless.

In Act II we see Giselle arrive in the afterlife, a ghost-factory inhabited by the Wills, (haunted spirits of the ill-treated factory girls) their en pointe work is dazzling, they appear to hover ghost like en masse, powerful and dark they are completely hypnotic with their tumbling unkempt waist length hair and tattered, rag-like dresses. Khan isn’t afraid to use long dramatic silences where you find yourself holding your breath afraid to break the silence yet desperate for the next mesmerising move from the stunning Company.

Bold and inspiring, Giselle more than deserved the standing ovation it received. Special mention must go to Principles, Alina Cojocaru, Issac Hernandez, Cesar Corrales and Begona Cao, all gave exquisite and unforgettable performances. My advice would be to beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket to this truly ground-breaking and achingly brilliant production.

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Giselle, The Palace Theatre, 27th Sept-1st October 2017

http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/giselle/palace-theatre-manchester/