Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Premiering in Warrington’s Pyramid Arts Centre, ‘Identities’ by Rae Bell in partnership with Close To Home Productions shines a humorous and incredibly moving light on breast cancer, more specifically the journey one fictional character ‘Lucy’ and her brilliant boobs take.

Writer and performer Rae Bell allows Lucy’s boobs to do the talking in a succinct 60 minutes; the length of time it takes to perform a standard lumpectomy. Joining Bell on stage as left boob is Hannah Harquart, the two make for a perfect pairing. They’re bickering like sisters one moment then each other’s absolute rocks the next. The duo have a real ease about them ensuring the audience immediately gets on board with their creative storytelling. There’s a genuine warmth in their delivery as you quickly grow attached to their characters, making the development of the piece all the more emotional as we move from carefree nights out to consultant appointments.

The verbatim interviews which play out during the latter part of the show add an additional depth as the emotional & important reality of the subject matter is realised. Humour weaves through the entire production ensuring this piece never feels oppressive despite the subject matter.

The creative way in which the story unfolds allows for awareness raising to run alongside superb storytelling littered with belly laughs throughout. It’s the perfect blend of hilarity and heart-wrenching reality.

Director Maya Shimmin has ensured Rae Bell’s vision is realised with each aspect of the show uniting perfectly to ensure the storytelling takes centre stage here. The piece feels accessible and innovative and I’m sure will open up conversations for all who have the pleasure of seeing it.

Identities is packed full of humour and a whole lot of heart, it absolutely succeeds in raising awareness while being thoroughly entertaining; this is important and innovative theatre.

More information on Identities as well as tour dates can be found here.

GENESIS premieres at The Lowry this November


Image: Morag Siller and Sally Dynevor [Steve Searle/]

The world premiere of Genesis will open at The Lowry, Salford, on Friday 11 – Sat 12 November 2016.

Genesis has been created by Forward Theatre Project and is the result of a two-year research partnership with the UK’s only charity dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer, South Manchester’s Prevent Breast Cancer.

The story of Genesis began when Charlotte Bennett, Artistic Director at Forward Theatre Project, met one of Prevent Breast Cancer’s patrons, actress Morag Siller in 2013. Morag shared her story of her battle against the terminal breast cancer and how this prompted her to get involved with Prevent Breast Cancer. In 2015, Charlotte began working with Morag to create a piece of theatre that would help raise awareness of breast cancer prevention. Sadly Morag passed away this April,and now Genesis has become part of of Morag’s legacy in supporting the work of the charity, and the play will be performed in her memory.
Coronation Street star Sally Dynevor was close friends with Morag and a co-patron of Prevent Breast Cancer. A breast cancer survivor herself, Sally says:“In order to build a breast cancer-free future, prediction and prevention are imperative. This play is about telling the human side of science. It addresses the incredibly difficult emotional journey we embark on when we are told we can potentially avoid rather than survive cancer by being told our predicted risk.”

Sally continues:“Breast cancer prevention is something that’s extremely close to mine and my family’s hearts, which is why we’re backing this incredible project to create awareness through the art of theatre.”

In developing the play Frazer Flintham, Genesis playwright, and Charlotte Bennett interviewed over 40 people – from geneticists, scientists and surgeons to patients, families and fundraisers connected with Prevent Breast Cancer, to explore the complex human impacts of predicting illness through science.

The all-female cast, featuring Helen Bradbury (who played Elizabeth I in BBC2’s Bloody Queens: Elizabeth and Mary in February this year), Joanna Nicks and Charlotte Melia, will be rehearsing in Manchester throughout October, which is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Judi Hibbert of Prevent Breast Cancer said: “1 in 9 women and 1 in 1000 men will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. We are delighted to be working with Forward Theatre Project and tremendously excited that they will be able to help portray the breast cancer situation in a way that even more people across the UK will understand the situation and help support it.”

Alongside the production, Forward Theatre Project will deliver a series of workshops and events including:

  • Free educational drama workshops with young women (aged 16+) from schools about body confidence and teaching breast checks.
  • ’Feel Good’ workshops for breast cancer patients including a pamper day of makeovers and professional portrait photographs.
  • A live stream of the show online for audiences to access across the world
  • A photography exhibition of 5 topless images of patients who have had mastectomies which celebrate survival, to be shown at The Lowry during the opening run of Genesis.
  • A full post-show panel discussion at The Lowry on Friday 11 November with collaborating scientists and artists.
Following its premiere at The Lowry, Genesis will then tour to Soho Theatre (London); Beggar’s Theatre (Cumbria); The Continental (Preston) and CAST (Doncaster).

Listings information
Genesis (UK Premiere)
11 & 12 November (8pm) | 12 November (2.30pm)
Tickets: £12 (£10 concessions)
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Box office: 0843 208 6000