Interview | Circa Tsuica | Now or Never

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The circus is coming to town! Well more accurately, fabulous French circus company Circa Tsuica will be setting up camp in The Lowry Plaza ahead of their new show Now or Never with the MAPAS Jazz Band, Salford.

Watch the performers fly through the air, bounce around the big top and cycle on trick bikes all while belting out funky brass music!

First performance is Thursday 30th August and here at Opening Night we got the chance to talk to co-director and performer Tom Neal and workshop leader and performer Baptiste Bouquin to find out a little more about this spectacular show.

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First of all, what is Now or Never all about? What are you trying to achieve with the show?
Tom: Our first aim is to create a really great link between us and the audience – but also among the audience themselves. Everyone is individually welcomed and invited to share something to eat and drink. One way or another, we want everyone to become part of the show.

We perform a lot on bicycles because they are universal objects that everyone uses or sees on a daily basis. A bike is less abstract than a trapeze or teeterboard – though we perform on those too – and it’s great to show people just what can be done on one!

Live music, composed by Guillaume Dutrieux, is also very central in Now or Never. It’s not just as an accompaniment – we all play our instruments and do circus tricks at the same time. Blending the acrobatics and the music really enhances the way we reach the audience.

In the end what people usually remember is how close to us they feel – and that is reciprocal, we feel the same way too. This show is an ode to tolerance, sharing and living together in peace.

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The young musicians of the MAPAS Jazz Band, Salford are performing with you in the show, how have you worked together?

Baptiste:  Before the Circus arrives, we have had two sessions where we rehearse the sections of the show that they will play with us. We help them with the usual musical parameters – rhythm, sound, playing together etc – but also with the specific skills that they will need to be part of the show. They’ll need to know all the music by heart so they can interact with the others, they will have to move on stage, they will have to be characters (for example, they’ll be guests in a wedding scene). Some of the bands are surprised that they need performance as well as music skills!

When the circus arrives, we do the dress rehearsals in the Big Top with all the team. We want the young musicians to really make the most of the whole experience, not just be focussed on notes or sheets of music.

Maybe that’s what we want to share with them, that music is huge and there are so many different ways to perform it. In Now or Never, it’s linked to circus, to a relationship with others, to joy and risk. It’s not just about playing notes – even if I would prefer them to play the right ones!

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Now or Never takes place in Circa Tsuica’s travelling Big Top rather than a theatre. What difference does that make for you as performers? And what about for the audience?

Tom: Performing in a circus ring is very, very different to performing on a stage. There is no ‘cheating’ in a ring, the audience is all around you and there is nowhere to hide. All the action is in the centre so the the focus is greater. For the audience, every point of view is unique and close-up. For us, it is a challenge because we have to make every perspective interesting. At the same time, we can really feel the closeness of the audience which is a great pleasure. The audience can see each other and we like to play with that in the show. We change people’s perspective, get people talking to each other while eating some crepes, we want everyone to feel that they are invited to a giant party.

Baptiste: When the audience arrives they expect to just go and find their seats but, actually, it’s already like a party, or the main square of a village. There’s a buffet right in the middle of the track, people are offered drinks by the artists, they are welcomed. It’s a very warm atmosphere, the opposite of the pomp and circumstance of some theatres.

How do you work together to set up the tent – and the camp around it which you will live in while you are in town?

Tom: Well, setting up the tent and everything inside takes us about a day. It is usually a collaboration between us and a group of local people provided by the venue. I am the tent master and I explain to the locals how things should be done. In our group everyone knows what to do so it’s quite organic. If the location allows it we then place the caravans in which we live all around the Big Top to recreate a tiny village. Before and after the show the audience is invited to walk along them to share a glimpse of what our lives can be, since in “real life”, back in France, we live in the same village (but in houses now) and run our company together collectively.

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How does daily life work while you are there? Who does the shopping, the cooking, the washing? Do the kids go to school?

Tom: We have a very long preparation day before the show, we need to prepare the food and drinks we offer to the audience, clean the stage, wash the costumes, check the props, instruments and the bicycles, warm up, rehearse the music and the circus and so on… We also have our own showers and laundry in a semi-trailer, we have a cook preparing nice meals, a nanny, a teacher, with a mini-circus-tent-school, in order to be as autonomous as possible, so when I say we’re recreating a real village it is not a joke…

Is it true that once the tent is up, that there will be music rehearsals during the day that passerbys can come along and watch and listen to?

Tom: Sure, we’re always happy to welcome people to have a peep when we rehearse, so come along if you hear noises in the Big Top…

Now or Never opens on Thursday 30 August and runs until Saturday 1 September tickets are available here.

Adults £16, Under 16’s £13 – Family tickets sold in 4’s (minimum 1 adult) £12.25

 

The Nature of Forgetting

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tom is preparing for his 55th birthday; Tom also has early onset dementia. As he dresses for his party, with each touch of fabric threads of memoires begin to stir; we follow his minds recollections and failing retentions over the next 75 minutes through an exploration of memory, friendship, love and the fragility of human life.

Established in 2009, Theatre Re is a London-based international ensemble creating moving and incredibly poignant explorative theatre which pushes the boundaries of mime and physicality. The company move together effortlessly as beloved memories play out patchily while others remain strong, taking Tom right back to his school days, to sharing his first kiss through to enjoying his wedding day.

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The fluid execution of each scene allowing the peaks and troughs of Tom’s life to play out in front of us. Tom’s mind may be weakening as shown through the stuttering and stalling of particular memories as scenes blur and frustrations rise where the simple becomes complex but the person at the heart of it remains.

Alex Judd’s beautiful composition becomes almost an additional character, stirring and atmospheric it flows beautifully through the fluid memories and punctuates the distorted, splintered recollections.

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The show’s creator and director, Guillaume Pigé takes on the title role of Tom, delivering the complex choreography with ease. Timing here is everything and the small ensemble cast don’t miss a beat as this moving exploration of dementia as seen through the eyes of a sufferer offers a stage for soon to be forgotten memories.

Fast-paced and poignant, Theatre Re succeed entirely in delivering a thought-provoking and impactful piece of theatre. Tom may seem broken but his inner-strength and the person he was remain despite his failing, weakening mind.

Theatre Re have one more performance of The Nature of Forgetting at the Lowry on Wednesday 13th June at 1.30pm, tickets available here.

Karl Marx comes to Manchester!

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Karl Marx reincarnated for Manchester audiences in one-man show, Marx In Soho.

The 5th May marked in an incredible two hundred years since Karl Marx was born, marking the occasion, renowned historian and activist Howard Zinn’s brilliant, timely one-man show, described as a passionate, funny and moving defense of Karl Marx’s life and political ideas will head to Manchester following a successful run in New York.

Marx In Soho, a play dedicated to the revolutionary thinker will embark on a six-week tour of the UK opening at Brighton Fringe 2018 on the 17th May before heading to Manchester for performances at Manchester, Chetham’s Library on June 2nd and the King’s Arms on June 9th and 10th.

Zinn reincarnates Marx and lands the prominent thinker for one night only in present day Soho, New York, where, during the course of the play, he confronts issues such as American education, the super rich ruling class, corporate mergers, prisons, and the media.

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Celebrated actor Bob Weick (Terra Nova, Circle Mirror Transformation) takes on the role of Marx, a part he has played for the past 7 years performing the piece over 300 times across the United States from Maine to California. The two-time Barrymore nominee is excited to be finally bringing the production to UK audiences:

“I’m delighted MARX IN SOHO is coming to the UK as it is a place where both Marx and his philosophic collaborator Engels spent most of their lives. They walked these streets, studied in the libraries, drank in the pubs, and learned of the struggles of the working poor and dedicated their lives to doing something about it.

“It will be exciting that we will be addressing these issues on the tour, especially in Manchester and London, around places they even frequented themselves.”

 

UK TOUR DATES:

Brighton Fringe, May 20-28

Manchester, Chetham’s Library, June 2 tickets available here

Manchester, King’s Arms, June 9 and 10 tickets available here.

London, The Space, June 12

London, Etcetera Theatre, June 17

London, Upstairs at the Gatehouse, June 20-22

The Game of Love and Chai

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Nigel Planer creatively reimagines Pierre de Marivaux’s 1730 play The Game of Love and Chance in this modern day, fun and farcical incarnation, The Game of Love and Chai.

There is still a central love story, duplicity, mistaken identity, class system and buckets of laughs while modern themes and Bollywood beats are introduced as well as an Uber driver and a delight in Primark purchases.

Swapping 18th-century French nobility for modern-day British Asians makes for a fresh take on a traditional classic. The plot is a fairly simple one, wealthy widow Kamala-Ji (Goldy Notay) wants to see her daughter Rani (Sharon Singh) marry successful local businessman Raj (Adam Samuel-Bal), head-strong solicitor Rani however is unimpressed at the convention of marriage so decides to take some control of the situation switching places with her nice-but-dim cousin Sita (Kiren Jogi) ahead of Raj’s visit, little does she realise that Raj has had the same idea and his Uber driver, Nitin (Ronny Jhutti) will be stepping into Raj’s shoes for the occasion.

The cast are clearly having a lot of fun in this colourful and creative production. Adam Samuel-Bal and Sharon Singh make for a believable coupling, caught up in their own plotting their chemistry is genuine and joyful. Ronny Jhutti, wide-boy and Uber driver extraordinaire and Kiren Jogi, the beautician with a bigger personality than her luscious lashes treat the audience to plenty of laughs as the chaos and comedy ensues. The addition of Bollywood music lifts the production while Goldy Notay as Kamala-Ji presides over affairs with authority, prosecco in hand.

Not all the jokes land but the all-round theme of this production is farcical fun with a capital F, in that it succeeds. The last-minute change to 18th-century dress seems unnecessary and out of place in this modern reimagining. All in all the scamming, scheming and big personalities in this production will entertain with some great comedic timing delivered to hilariously dramatic effect.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 31st March tickets available here.

Interview | Lloyd Gorman | The Jungle Book

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Rudyard Kipling’s beloved family classic The Jungle Book comes to The Lowry from Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 7th May.

The family favourite originally written back in 1894 has been reimagined and innovatively delivered in this all new production by an award winning creative team which includes playwright Jessica Swale, director Max Webster and internationally renowned songwriter Joe Stilgoe. While the story remains the same there is a new emphasis on acceptance, inclusivity and belonging all set to an uplift and incredibly catchy score.

Opening Night were lucky enough to watch a performance of this vibrant new production at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre ahead of it’s arrival at the Lowry and grab a quick chat with Lloyd Gorman who plays Shere Khan after watching the show.

ON: What what a costume and what a character, we absolutely loved your Shere Khan!

LG: Thank you, it’s quite a costume isn’t it, I really didn’t expect it, it’s brand new, it used to be more biker style and I went for a fitting for this new one and it was a case of ‘Wow that’s a statement and a half!’ it’s a really fun costume to wear especially playing such a great character.

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ON: It must be great playing the baddie?

LG: Yes, it’s so much fun, especially such an out and out baddie who doesn’t in any way try to hide his purpose, he is straight up clear upon his need for revenge, he really believes he needs to write the wrongs of mankind, he’s been mistreated by man but seems to have developed into a bit of a misunderstood tortured soul, verging on a bit of a psychopath ha ha. An awful lot of fun to play.

ON: Is it a challenge to create something different with a story that so many people already know well.

LG: For us as a Company we’ve never felt that challenge, I haven’t for example seen the Disney film for a long, long time, nor have I seen the live action version so I didn’t feel any pressure to be different myself. For us it feels such a unique and special production that although we have the stock characters it feels very fresh and new.

ON: While watching we felt there was a real message of positivity and acceptance, could you tell us a little more about your take on this?

LG: Theatre works on so many different levels and people will take different things from it but as long as it’s giving out a message that is relevant to where we are in life now it will always be relatable, Mowgli has been made very gender unspecific so we never refer to Mowgli in any male or female pronouns, it’s also about celebrating difference which is such a huge issue in the UK at the moment, difference is seen my some people as being wrong or bad and we should stick to our own etc, I think theatre is vital in times like this to show the beauty of difference and to say no, remember that diversity is a massive benefit to us all, to the world and all of our lives. The Jungle Book is the perfect vehicle to do that through a wonderful story that while it entertains it also uplifts and educates. Children often hear many negative things about different cultures so it’s lovely to be part of something so inclusive and positive.

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ON: How did you first become involved in theatre?

LG: I went to youth theatre in Norwich there is an excellent youth theatre there, I started when I was 9, it became my entire social life. There were two things I watched around a similar time, Return to the Forbidden Planet and The Buddy Holly Story, I can’t remember which was first but I just remember watching and thinking ‘this is fantastic, if I could be in anything like this where I get to play guitar and play around in front of so many people I would be so lucky’. I worked ushering, through my teenage years which I think is a great way of keeping in with what’s happening in theatres while you’re training too.

ON: The audience response today in Liverpool was fantastic, has that been the same for other venues?

LG: Yes, we’ve had very loyal and really warm audiences, the shows have been busy and reactions have been amazing, audience have been so open with their reactions particularly at the end of the show her in Liverpool they’re happy to whoop and whistle, it’s a great feeling.

ON: You’re working with an award-winning creative team, how has that experience been?

LG: It’s been great, I was really excited about working with this team, the production has developed so much, what we have now is so so different to what we started with because the team were so involved with the rehearsal process that things could be adapted or changed almost immediately. They have also been so incredibly giving with their advice and guidance and rewrote parts where they have felt were needed, it’s been amazing to see the speed at which the show has developed.

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ON: You’re involved in quite a dramatic fight scene how did you work on that?

LG: Kate the fight director led us through a great dialogue of exactly what would happen, so by the time it came to physically act out the scene we knew it very well so it didn’t feel like choreography. It’s a lot of fun to do, I’ve never had to strangle anyone in the air on stage before and I’m sure it will be the only time I get to do it, so a great challenge and lots of fun!

ON: Do you have a favourite character in the show?

LG: Balloo, he’s brilliant, there was also a character which got cut that was a tap dancing porcupine I really enjoyed that character. I also absolutely love our version of Mowgli it’s such a solid and strong character.

ON: Finally are you looking forward to performing at The Lowry?

Yes absolutely, I’ve only ever performed in the Studio so I can’t wait to return and perform in the Lyric, the last thing I saw there was Slavas Snow Show which I loved, I love Salford and Manchester, I was in Bolton recently and that whole area is just wonderful, I’m really looking forward to my time there.

The Jungle Book opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 2nd May tickets available here.

 

 

Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone

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Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Francesca Eagleton

We were definitely left ‘feeling good’ after Olivier-award nominated actress Josette Bushell-Mingo brought her one-woman show, ‘Nina – A Story About Me and Nina Simone’ to the Lowry Theatre.

Originally performed in 2016 at the Unity Theatre in Liverpool, Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone toured across Sweden last year before starting its 2018 UK tour here in Salford.

The show opens with Bushell-Mingo painting a picture of a civil rights rally in Harlem, New York, during the early 1960’s – a time of promised revolution for the oppressed black citizens of America.

Featuring an outstanding repertoire of Nina Simone hits including; Mississippi Goddam, Sinnerman, Ain’t Got No (I Got Life) and Feeling Good. Bushell-Mingo had the Lowry audience in the palm of her hand, as she retold important chapters of her life and connection to the legendary artist and civil rights activist. She begins by singing Simone’s 1969 single, Revolution but stops in her tracks.

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“The truth is I don’t think a revolution has happened yet.” Bushell-Mingo explains that it has been over 150 years since the singing of the Thirteenth Amendment and the abolishment of slavery, but society still struggles with racial inequality. “How did we come to a time when we have to say Black Lives Matter?” She begins reciting a list of names of black people, including Martin Luther King Jr and Stephen Lawrence who were all persecuted and murdered.

Laquan McDonald is part of that list, an unarmed teenager who was shot 16 times by a police officer in Chicago in 2014 – his name is repeated throughout the show. Signifying this moment in history, Bushell-Mingo stamps her foot, counting them off every time, to represent each individual gunshot. Followed by silence, which while unsettling to the audience captured the injustice perfectly without the need for words.

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Finishing the show with a selection of Simone’s finest compositions, supported by an exceptional live band; Shapor Bastansiar (musical director and pianist), Shaney Forbes (Drums) and Neville Malcom (Bass). Bushell-Mingo brings the house down with her exquisite powerhouse voice, quite rightly receiving a standing ovation.

She might say, ‘I’m Nina Simone’s understudy” but this is so much more than a straight up tribute performance, it’s a performance full of fire, fury and a whole lot of sass. But it also leaves you feeling strong and empowered – everything that Nina Simone was.

Catch this powerful and soulful show at the Lowry Theatre before it finishes it’s run on February 3rd tickets available here.

Doctor Doolittle heads to The Lowry!

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A brand new stage production of Leslie Bricusse’s family favourite Doctor Dolittle will be heading to The Lowry for Christmas 2018!

Produced by Music & Lyrics Limited who recently brought The Addams Family and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Salford venue, Doctor Dolittle will stay for the entirety of the festive season opening on Tue 11th December 2018 and running through to Sat 5th January 2019.

This all new production which will feature stunning visual puppetry, a stunning soundtrack including Academy award-winning “Talk To The Animals” as well as the hilarious Pushmi-Pullyu and Dolittle’s trusty sidekick Polynesia the parrot.

Booking is now open for Lowry members with general sale soon to follow, more information can be found here