Awful Auntie

AA 1

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewers Eve and Maisy Powell

Following their award-winning production Gangsta Granny, Birmingham Stage Company return to Manchester with their newest David Walliams adaptation, Awful Auntie. This enormously entertaining tale of friendship, fights and not to mention frights is on at the Opera House until Sunday 24th June.

We sent our mini-reviewers Eve age 10 and Maisy age 7 and a half to give the show that’s been thrilling audiences around the UK their verdict.

Eve Powell

I really, really enjoyed it, I thought it was really inventive and cleverly created, very funny and also very child friendly as the story was easy to follow.

I loved how they changed the scenery, I thought it was amazing. One of my favourite things was Wagner the owl puppet who was operated by Roberta Bellekom, it was so realistic and looked just like a real owl.

I would absolutely recommend Awful Auntie, it is great fun.

Maisy Powell

I really enjoyed Awful Auntie, my favourite part of the show was the little puppets, I loved them.

Aunt Alberta really made me laugh especially when Stella and Soot played tricks on her.

I would definitely recommend Awful Auntie to everyone especially children.

AA

Packed with laugh out loud moments, a superb storyline chock-full of colourful characters brought brilliantly to life by a talented cast Awful Auntie is a perfect family show. With a running time of just over 2 hours including an interval this is another stonking hit for Birmingham Stage Company.

Awful Auntie is on at Manchester’s Opera House until Sunday 24th June tickets available here.

Further information on Birmingham Stage Company can be found here.

Marx in Soho

BobWeick-MarxinSoho_preview

“Remember to be radical simply means to grasp the root of the problem. And the root is us”

2018 marks 200 years since the legendary Karl Marx was born, in celebration of this, Iron Age Theatre in association with Juniper Productions have brought renowned historian activist Howard Zinn’s timely one-man show, Marx in Soho, on a 6 week UK tour, stopping at Chetham’s library, where Marx and Engles frequently visited in 1845, with an additional two night at the Kings Arms in Salford.

Zinn’s work is delivered convincingly by Bob Weick in this engaging one-man play. Marx has been granted a return from heaven in order to attempt to explain his ideas and ideals to a modern audience. He had hoped to arrive in Soho, London where he once lived, however much to his irritation he lands in Soho, New York.

MARXinSoHoFinalHi-Res_preview

Zinn’s script takes Marx’s political theory and mixes it with warm and nostalgic recollections about the people he loved which comes across in a subtle tenderness as he recollects his favourite memories. Just as convincing are his passionate discussions about the injustices faced by the working class, made strikingly clear as he argues that the problems of yesterday, political corruption, war and poverty are just as apparent today.

Weick is engaging and charismatic with a well-judged wry humour and a real clarity in his delivery. The setting could not be more perfect, the baronial hall at Manchester’s Chetham’s library further adding to the engaging authenticity of this piece.

Thought-provoking, impassioned and relevant theatre.

Catch Marx in Soho at The Kings Arms Salford on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th June tickets available here.

 

Aspects of Love | Cast and Creatives announced

Aspects

An exciting cast and creative team has been announced for Hope Mill Theatre and Aria productions hotly-anticipated, intimate revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love, which runs as the award-winning Ancoats theatre from Thursday 5th July until Thursday 9th August.

The talented company of 10 includes both Olivier Award nominees and West End regulars as well as young talent making their professional debuts will be directed by Jonathan O’Boyle whose recent credits include Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/ Southwark Playhouse, London), Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults, London) and Resident Director of An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre, London).

Making up the cast is Kimberly Blake (Half a Sixpence, Barnum) who plays Giulietta, Jason Kajdi (Our House, Assassins), in the role of Hugo, Felix Mosse (The Rocky Horror Show) as Alex, Julia J Nagle (An American in Paris) as Elizabeth/ensemble, Minal Patel (The Secret Garden, Bend it Like Beckham) as Marcel, Jerome Pradon (Jesus Christ Superstar, Pacific Overtures – Olivier Award Nominee 2003) as George and Kelly Price (That Day We Sang, A Little Night Music – Olivier Award Nominee 2010) in the role of Rose. Making their professional debuts in the production are Rosie Cava-Beale, ensemble, Jack Churms, as Jerome/ensemble and Eleanor Walsh as Jenny/ensemble.

Following Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre is The Return of the Soldier that runs from Thursday 6 to Saturday 29 September and A Christmas Story The Musical that runs from Friday 26 October to Saturday 1 December.

Tickets available here.

 

Doc’n Roll Festival

Writer Matt Forrest

The Bank holiday weekend is upon us once more: with the inevitable heavy bank holiday traffic threatening to spoil our precious long weekend, it may be worth avoiding the jams and going for a different sort of ‘jam’ by taking in some great films packed with killer tunes!

From the 23rd May through to the 28th May, the great city of Manchester will host the Doc’n Roll film festival for the first time ever. This is a film festival like no other as it highlights some tremendous music documentaries from across the globe, regardless of your taste in music, the festival promises something for everyone.

Boasting 11 premiers at three venues across the city, this festival will provide music lovers not only with a chance to see some insightful and groundbreaking films, but also offer opportunities to quiz the musicians and directors behind the projects with several post screening Q & A sessions.

Unlike most music festivals, there are no headliners here, just an eclectic mix of films and artists spanning various musical genres: from Ella Fitzgerald to Badly Drawn Boy, Iranian Techno to Heavy Metal, the festival promises to leave you informed and entertained. There are also films taking a look at the vibrant 1960’s Liverpool music scene which gave birth to The Beatles, as well as a look at the infamous Ealing Club in London, a venue nicknamed “The Cradle of British Rock”.

Opening night will be attending several screenings throughout the weekend, one that we are certainly looking forward to is Play Your Gender, an insightful look at the lack of female representation in music production.

So this bank holiday why not get yourself down to HOME, Gulliver’s, and Plant Noma and catch some amazing films featuring some interesting stories, talented musicians, and some great music! Here is a full list of the all the events and where they are happening:

19:00 WEDNESDAY 23RD MAY – 3MT – 39 Oldham St, M1 1JG

** Manchester Premiere **

Walking In The Opposite Direction: Adrian Borland & The Sound

Director Marc Waltman, Netherlands, 2016, 96 mins

18:30 THURSDAY 24TH MAY – HOME

** Manchester Premiere **

L7: Pretend We’re Dead

Dir. Sarah Price US, 2016, 82 mins

18:30 FRIDAY 25TH MAY – PLANT NOMA – Dantzic St, M60 0AB

** Manchester Premiere **

Raving Iran

Dir. Susanne Regina Meures, 2016, Switzerland, 84mins

 

18:15 FRIDAY 25TH MAY – HOME

** Manchester Premiere **

Play Your Gender + Q&A Your

Dir. Stephanie Clattenburg, Canada, 2017, 80mins

Q&A (music industry panelists TBA)

15:30 SATURDAY 26TH MAY – HOME

*** World Premiere ***

About A Badly Drawn Boy + Q&A

Dir. THE MITCHAM SUBMARINE, 2018, UK, 72mins

Q&A with the director

18:00 SATURDAY 26TH MAY – HOME

** Manchester Premiere **

Manchester Keeps On Dancing + Q&A, plus After-Party

Dir. Javi Senz, 2017, UK, 90mins

14:30 SUNDAY 27TH MAY – GULLIVERS

** Manchester Premiere **

Suburban Steps to Rockland: The Story of The Ealing Club

Dir. Giorgio Guernier, 2017, UK, 89mins

17:00 SUNDAY 27TH MAY – GULLIVERS

**Manchester Premiere**

The Doom Doc

Dir. Connor Matheson, UK, 2017, 90mins

19:30 SUNDAY 27TH MAY – GULLIVERS

** Manchester Premiere **

DEATH by Metal

Dir. Felipe Belalcazar, 2016, Canada, 109mins

16:00 MONDAY 28 MAY – HOME

** Manchester Premiere **

Pure Love: The Voice of Ella Fitzgerald

Dir. Katja Duregger, 2017, Germany, 52mins

Tickets for all shows available at: http://www.docnrollfestival.com/films/

#BeMoreMartyn

After debuting their verbatim piece about the extraordinary Martyn Hett last October, Hope Theatre Company return on the anniversary of the Manchester bombing with a reworked and powerful piece of theatre that celebrates this special men and also asks the question, what does #BeMoreMartyn mean?

Eight of Martyn’s closest friends were interviewed by Hope Theatre Company for this celebratory piece of theatre, the exact words spoken were then constructed into a compelling and insightful piece offering a real and in depth view into the life of Martyn Hett whose exceptional life was cut short a year ago today when he was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing.

The show is littered with heart-warming and hilarious stories of Martyn’s antics including wild nights out on Canal St, Martyn’s annual Eurovision party which he took VERY seriously and stories of his joy at all things Coronation Street including a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Gail Platt which lived in his in-house bar The Frig.

These up-lifting and joyful memories are beautifully intertwined with more reflective and at times deeply emotional recollections. Director Adam Zane pacing the piece perfectly allowing each character time to share emotive stories before breaking into another outrageous or hilarious tale that will leave you belly laughing and a little bit more inspired once again by this incredible man.

Each section is cleverly interspersed with video clips featuring or made by Martyn including the hilarious Audrey Roberts noise, his appearance on Tattoo fixers getting his infamous Deirdre Barlow tattoo and a hilarious appearance on Couples Come Dine with Me with boyfriend Russell.

The content of the entire piece is so well judged by creative Adam Zane and Mike Lee ensuring each audience member gains a real knowledge and understanding of just why Martyn meant so much to people. The generosity of his friends in sharing their memories and private thoughts a real credit to the friendships they all had. Hope Theatre Company haven’t painted Martyn as an untouchable angel, this is a real, honest, inspiring and increadibly funny piece of theatre, an entirely fitting tribute and the perfect way to continue the legacy of Martyn Hett. The strong cast deliver the words of Martyn’s friends with sensitivity, real emotion and undoubtedly love.

The #BeMoreMartyn message is powerful and generously open for interpretation by each individual whose lives he touched and continues to do so. Have the courage to live for the moment, be fabulous, have fun, make a positive difference, laugh hard, be fearless and proud of what and who you love and most of all always and unashamedly be yourself.

On at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 26th May tickets available here.

*Photo credit Lee Baxter

Interview | Adam Zane | #BeMoreMartyn

Be More Martyn

On the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, Hope Theatre Company return to award-winning Hope Mill Theatre to celebrate the life of Martyn Hett, with their empowering and inspiring play, #BeMoreMartyn.

First performed in October 2017 to sell-out audiences, Hope Theatre Company have developed the play further to create a unique piece of verbatim theatre using the words and stories of eight of Martyn’s closest friends taking a closer look at what exactly it means to #BeMoreMartyn.

We visited rehearsals where we spoke to writer and director Adam Zane who took us back to last May when he first became aware of Martyn Hett, “When people started to share statuses and tweets that Martyn was missing I started to see his face so much and realised he knew so many of my friends and I soon started realising how things are connected and feel that connection myself, as the days went on I realised in that past year I’d been watching his videos and sharing them on Facebook. I was on the train going down to Brighton as we had a show on at the fringe when I got a message confirming Martyn had been found and I remember just crying on the train but thinking this is ridiculous to be crying over someone you don’t know but I think for me as a gay man who lives in Manchester, who goes to the gay village, he was someone who was obviously loved by so many different people and it really got to me, I felt like we’d lost someone from our community.”

It was when Adam arrived in Brighton for a show that evening he really felt as a Manchester theatre company it was important to mark the heart-breaking news of Martyn’s passing somehow, “A minutes silence just didn’t feel appropriate so we led the audience in a minutes round of applause, because we strongly felt he absolutely deserved celebrating.”

Adam attended Martyn’s funeral in support of his friends and was incredibly touched by just how important Martyn was to so many people, “That’s when I started to hear the most amazing stories; there was a lot of laughter. Michelle McManus was amazing, his boss from Rumpus PR told the most amazing account of Martyn, we were crying with laughter at these incredible stories and I just thought these stories and these incredible memories of Martyn would be beautiful on stage.”

The question what does #BeMoreMartyn mean was the thing that hooked Adam and seeing it trending on Twitter confirmed to him that was what the play needed to be about, “#BeMoreMartyn was trending worldwide and that made me really wonder, what does that mean? What was it about this young man that we should be so inspired by? I was so overwhelmed by the stories Martyn’s friends have told me, how personally they were transformed by this man, it sounds like a really over the top thing to say but he really did do that to people.”

Adam describes how he quickly began forming a picture of Martyn through the generosity of his friends and their willingness to share their own personal memories. “There’s a lovely story in the play where Hannah, Martyn’s roommate says she felt more validated as a human being by Martyn than anyone else in the world and I think that’s what he did, he never tried to change people he just always said ‘be yourself’. Another character says ‘he gave me my life in Manchester’ a lot of the time if people were having a bad time in another city he would say come to Manchester and they would, they would move their lives to be nearer to Martyn so there’s this huge circle of friends all connected via Martyn. To have that openness and generosity of spirit when most of us just go about our day to day lives is something I think about a lot.”

Adam has been mindful throughout the entire creative process to ensure every element of this project has been done with the utmost of respect for Martyn, his memory, his family and his friends and through his work with those closest to Martyn has gained a great knowledge of just how important Martyn was to so many. “We were so nervous about Martyn’s family and friends reaction and we just desperately wanted to do him justice and honour him, when they came out from the show in October they said it was like spending a couple of hours with Martyn again, that for me is what I wanted, I wanted people to feel like they’d had a night out on Canal St with Martyn and that they knew him a bit better. I said to Martyn’s Mum the other day although I never met him I now feel that he’s a really important part of my life. He is continuing to change people in many different ways, he’s absolutely changed me, this year has been all about Martyn really. I feel so honoured and was really amazed at the amount of trust Martyn’s friends and family put in us, they have been so generous in allowing us to continue his legacy.”

The show opens at Hope Mill Theatre on Monday 21st May and runs until Saturday 26th May; from here it heads to Brighton Fringe then to London’s Southwalk Playhouse on 3rd June. Beyond this Hope Theatre Company have great ambitions for the play which celebrates both friendship and living life to its absolute fullest. “We have huge ambitions for this play, for us this is just the beginning, we want to take it across the country, we want to take it internationally, the dream would be to take it to New York, for me the play is also about how a city stands up to a terrorist attack. I think it would be really interesting for New Yorkers to see how a group of Mancunians dealt with such a terrible event and also how they dealt with their grief and of course separate to that can you imagine Martyn Hett’s name in lights on Broadway, how amazing.”

The clear message from #BeMoreMartyn is absolutely celebrating and living life to the full, while being proud of who you are, something Martyn undoubtedly was, Adam explained, “I knew very early on there were so many things to celebrate about Martyn, some things that people may even think are quite small but I feel really are a joy for example how much he unashamedly loved things, he loved Corrie, he loved Michelle McManus, he loved Mariah and he was so proud of the things that he loved. I remember as a child, as a teenager and even sometimes as an adult not admitting to things I like because I don’t know what people might think of that and how ridiculous is that? Why not scream loud and proud about the things that you love. As a gay man and someone who works with you LGBT children in schools I see every month children who are struggling, I know that they can watch this play and think if Martyn could do it then so could I, he can continue to inspire people to be more confident about themselves and I really hope feel empowered by his message.”

Following on from the original production performed at Hope Mill Theatre back in October Adam and fellow producer Mike Lee went back and re-interviewed Martyn’s friends, while the first interviews were very raw the second round of interviews allowed Martyn’s friend an opportunity to reflect, while it’s not a case of moving on, there has been an opportunity for moving forward and a feeling that the message of #BeMoreMartyn is even stronger now, “A character in the play says ‘you couldn’t help but be happy around him and there’s not enough people in the world like that’ that’s why he’s missed so much, he brought so much happiness to so many people and of course he wasn’t always an angel, we’ve got a scene called ‘Sod’ some of the things he did to his friends are hysterically funny. Things he would call them, things he would do to them, living with him, Mariah Carey on at 5am in the morning but they all absolutely adored him.”

People have talked to Adam about Manchester’s incredible response to the Arena attack and are including Hope Theatre Company as part of that inspiring response, Adam feels that “It’s an artist response to something tragic, our aim is for our audiences to leave stronger, inspired, empowered and take away something really, really positive from something that was, really, really terrible.”

#BeMoreMartyn opens on Monday 21st May at Hope Mill Theatre tickets available https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/bemoremartyn-boy-deirdre-tattoo/

Blood Brothers

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Running at Manchester’s Palace Theatre for the next two weeks, Blood Brother’s remains as deeply moving and powerfully relevant as ever.

Willy Russell’s award-winning epic tale tells the tragic story of twin boys separated at birth only to be reunited by a twist of fate, a mother haunted by a dark secret and the heart-breaking reality of social depression. As they boys grow up on opposite side of the track the draw the timeless themes of inequality, social class and mental health struggles remain sadly as relevant today as the day it was written. Despite the though subject matter, Blood Brothers is by far one of the wittiest scripts of any musical with laugh out loud moments perfectly measured against the heartache.

Taking on the lead role is Lyn Paul, who first stepped into Mrs Johnstone’s shoes back in 1997 when she made her musical theatre debut in the West End production. She makes for a compelling and impressive Mrs Johnstone, with a depth of emotion that tugs on your heart strings, making you feel every ounce of her heartfelt pain.

Matthew Craig is exceptional as the ever-present and ominous narrator, a dark and menacing reminder of the shady deeds of the mother’s pact; he has a strong and foreboding presence on stage. With just the right amount of Scouse rasp his harmonies with Lyn Paul are simply beautiful.

Veterans of their respective roles as ill-fated twins Mickey and Eddie, Sean Jones and Mark Hutchinson captivate the audience with performances that will have you howling with laughter one moment and reaching for the tissues the next. Sean Jones gives a masterclass in character acting, lighting up the stay as care-free young Mickey making the journey he goes on, to broken and defeated young man in Act II all the more devastating.

The ensemble cast are impressively strong, delivering Willy Russell’s witty script with fresh energy as they take on multiple roles with gusto. Special mention must go to Sarah Jane Buckley, Danielle Corlass and Daniel Taylor who each shine as Mrs Lyons, Linda and Sammy respectively.

Blood Brothers has the ability to take you on a roller coaster of emotion from joyful highs to heart aching lows. The tear filled finale one of the most moving fifteen minutes of any musical, repeatedly followed night after night by a full standing ovation, a testament to the enduring appeal of this powerful production.

It is a story that will stay with you long after the final curtain, a timeless classic which no doubts cements Will Russell as one of Britain’s best loved and most talented storytellers. It is a show that appeals to all ages from eager school groups to audiences returning for the second, third, fourth visit and more, each and every audience member stunned into silence. The phrase ‘must-see’ is often banded about but in the case of Blood Brothers it is entirely true, a powerful, captivating and entirely moving production.

On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 26th May rickets available here.