Hound of the Baskervilles

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Over the years there has been many interpretations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles – at least 20 TV and film adaptations alone, not to mention countless theatrical productions. However I challenge anyone to say they have seen anything quite like Northern Rep’s version of this classic tale… and if you don’t believe me, the proof is currently at the King’s Arms for all too see. 

Arriving at the King’s Arms, Salford for a two week run, this fun filled murder mystery focuses on the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and the apparent threat to the heir of the Baskerville estate, Henry Baskerville. Super sleuth Sherlock Holmes and his trustee sidekick Dr Jane Watson travel from their home on Baker Street all the way to the Devonshire moors, where they encounter all manner of suspects, with even more suspect accents! Can our daring duo not only solve the case but also survive the horrid hell hound? Time will of course tell. 

Those expecting a faithful and straight laced reworking of this classic tale are in for a shock. This is an innovative, funny and downright brilliant reworking of this classic tale. All parts are played by two hugely talented actors in Michael Justice and Angela Hazeldine. The performances alternate with two other actors, so it’s pot luck as to who you’ll get, however this is the second time I have seen this production with different cast members and in no way has it detracted from my enjoyment – if anything, it’s all the better as it keeps things fresh and slightly unexpected. The script is packed full of so many double entendres and just plain daft gags that maybe it should be called Carry on up the Baskervilles. However the joy really comes from Justice and Hazeldine’s adlibbing and doing their best to put the other off their stride.  

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Granted, they play fast and loose with the original story and by the end the convoluted plot becomes secondary as the show becomes an excuse to have a bloody good giggle.  A spot of audience participation is required and the audience tonight got into the swing of things, laughter is most definitely the order of the day. 

As I said earlier, this was my second time seeing this production and each time has been something different: the first time there were some children in attendance and the second there were none, but both performances were adapted to make all feel welcome, with the first performance being more child friendly, without losing any of the humour. 

It’s the job of any critic to critique any show as honestly as possible, however sometimes there’s no harm in leaving it to audience members to have the final say: I got talking to a lovely couple during the interval and the gentlemen claimed he’s been watching shows with his wife for over 45 years, this he told me is only second show he hasn’t fallen asleep in during all that time and I can assure you he made it through the second half too! 

Go and see this riotous romp at your nearest opportunity – you certainly won’t be disappointed! Fun, filthy and downright fabulous! 

Hound of the Baskervilles is on at Kings Arms till the 25th November 

Tickets available from: http://www.kingsarmssalford.com/whats-on/ 

 

Slava’s Snow Show

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Created by Slava Polunin back in 1993, Slava’s Snow Show has been seen across the world from Argentina to Australia winning multiple awards along the way.

This brilliantly bonkers show feels spontaneous and free with clever improvisation from Slava’s troop of clowns; adults and children alike are captivated by this enthralling and imaginative piece.

Lead clown Assissiai guides us through the evening via a series of scenes which surprise and engage the senses, moving from gentle, precise mimes to loud blaring snowstorms in an instant this multi-sensory piece keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.

There is a rich mix of sketches which don’t shy away from the darker emotions of life but offer reflective moments as we observe Assissiai and his bemusement at the world, he is pensive and poetic, juxtaposed to this are the green clowns who accompany him throughout the piece, loud, silly and hilariously mischievous.

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The beauty of this show is the variety and joy it brings; from quiet pensive moments to the jubilant festival atmosphere at the finale this show is inclusive and wonderfully interactive. Nobody in the stalls escapes the giant cobweb which is pulled across the entire audience, tangling them up creating a giddy delight, nor do many escape a soaking from the clowns who clamber across the audience, their broken umbrellas spouting sprays of water onto the squealing spectators beneath them.

You can’t helped but be whisked up in this magical spectacle as the audience is encouraged to be free and act very differently than they usually would at the theatre. Joy spreads through the audience as the finale builds, the energy of the performers is infectious.

Slava’s aim was to ‘…help the spectators be released from the jail of adulthood…to create a show that would take us back to our childhood dreams’ as adults and children joyfully play together in the snow, shrieking with delight as giant bouncing balls approach it is abundantly clear he has more than achieved his aim. Fantastic family fun!

★★★★

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On at the Lowry until Sunday 29th October tickets available here www.thelowry.com/events/slavas-snow-show

 

The Kite Runner

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Based on Khaled Hosseini’s 2003 international best-selling novel which was adapted for the screen in 2007 and following a hugely successful West-End run, The Kite Runner arrives at the Lowry this week, its second stop as part of an extensive UK tour.

First produced in the United States back in 2009, Matthew Spangler’s adaptation is as beautiful and breath-taking as fans of the book would have hoped, with rich storytelling via lead character Amir’s non-stop narrative, Director Giles Croft ensures The Kite Runner is a powerful and cleverly delivered theatrical experience.

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There are no gimmicks needed as the compelling and haunting story is sensitivly told. Amir and Hassan are opposites in every way, Amir is privileged, Hassan his servant, poor, illiterate yet fiercely loyal. As Afghanistan their homeland is about to be torn apart by war, so too is their unique friendship.

While there are many elements which make up this unforgettable piece it is ultimately a story about a young boy’s guilt and later journey towards redemption. After witnessing a tragedy as a child which impacts profoundly on the lives of the core characters, Amir is forever burdened by his guilty secret, knowing he chose not to speak up to stop the heart-breaking act. Even moving to the other side of the world to start a new life doesn’t enable him to escape the dark and crippling secret. As we follow his journey, his plea for forgiveness captures the true heart of this incredibly rich and utterly captivating production.

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David Ahmad as Amir delivers a powerful and extremely moving performance, on stage for the entire production his clear narration allows the piece to flow gently and build dramatically as tragedy unfolds and secrets are revealed. Emilio Doorgasingh is perfectly cast as Baba, Amir’s Father, he embodies the character entirely, from strong proud, privileged Pashtun to elderly and infirm immigrant, Doorgasingh is superb. Jo Ben Ayed’s portrayal of both Hassan and Sorab is deeply touching and incredibly powerful, mild and submissive yet unshakeably loyal to his friend Amir.

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The set is simple yet hugely effective, dominated by a fan-shaped kite and evocative screen projections from William Simpson, guiding the audience softly from Kabul to San Francisco. The whole production is gently underscored by live tabla player, Hanif Khan, whose music stirs emotion and adds further authenticity to the piece.

Emotional, deeply moving and beautifully staged, The Kite Runner runs at The Lowry until Saturday 7th October tickets available here www.thelowry.com/events/the-kite-runner

Stick Man

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“Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, I’m Stick Man, that’s me.”

Most likely most people who have or know young children will be familiar with the heart-warming and witty work of Julia Donaldson and her illustrator Alex Scheffler (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom)

One of the duo’s most popular works, Stick Man – the 2008 tale of a good natured wooden fellow separated from his home and family (which will be extra familiar to many thanks to the recent hit Christmas TV version) – has been brought alive on stage by Scamp Theatre, and is back at the Lowry this weekend.

For anyone yet to experience the bittersweet tale of Stickman, it centres around our eponymous hero who lives in his Family’s tree with his “stick lady love and his stick children three.”

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Upon waking early one morning, Stick Man goes for a jog, before being caught up in a serious of misadventures involving dogs, swans, children and the elements, which serve only to take him further from home.

“Will I ever get back to the family tree?” He wonders? (If only he’d hit the snooze button instead! 

The wonderfully inventive production sees three talented performers play all the roles, along with a mixture of puppets and props – everything from wellies to umbrellas, beach balls and rolls of cardboard are pressed into action to tell the tale on stage.

Christopher Currie brings a nice sense of bewilderment and frustration to the title role, while Euan Wilson and Kate Maylon have great fun bringing all the other characters to life. All three give a masterclass in physical and vocal comedy.

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There’s live music and clever sound effects, and some witty and seriously catchy songs too – the opening number in particular is a total ear worm that I’m confident will be in my head for days.

Absolutely not a panto, there’s still a bit of audience participation and forays into the auditorium by the cast.

And there’s just the right amount of peril without being too worrying for little ones – my almost three year old Godson did slide off his booster seat and onto my lap when Stick Man was caught up in the choppy ocean, but that was as scary as things got.

And being the only one of Donaldson and Scheffler’s tales that is set at Christmas, complete with a scene stealing cameo from the big red man himself, the production has a gloriously festive feel, 

“Again” was the immediate verdict from my little reviewer, as the lights went up in the Quays Theatre.

This really is a beautiful and thoughtful piece of children’s theatre, which treats both the much-loved source material, and young audiences, with the respect they deserve.

For further tour dates head to http://www.scamptheatre.com

 

 

 

BRB – Aladdin

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Birmingham Royal Ballet returns to the Lowry’s Lyric theatre this week with their magical, family-friendly production of Aladdin. Taken from the stories of the Arabian Nights, David Bintley’s splendid version of this classic tale, with music by the BAFTA award-winning Carl Davis chose Salford to begin their Autumn/Winter ’17 season.

This enchanting production perfectly balances humour with beautiful chorography, and explores aspects of the tale that audiences may not have been aware of. The story begins with a young, cheeky Aladdin (Mathias Dingman) escaping the clutches of the palace guards with the help of the mysterious Magician, the Mahgrib (Iain Mackay), who subsequently tricks Aladdin into entering the dark cave on his behalf to retrieve the lamp.

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Each Act has its own crescendo which does not fail to dazzle the audience. The Cave of Riches at the end of Act I, is one of exquisite beauty, in which mischievous Aladdin is surrounded by an array of dancing gems who demonstrate a wide range of styles and techniques much to the delight of the audience. The gems lead Aladdin to the old lamp which places him on a road to riches and leads him to his true love, princess, Badr al-Budur (Momoko Hirata).

The sets and costumes become more vibrant and luxurious as the story unfolds, and as Aladdin himself becomes more accustomed to his life of luxury under the brilliantly blue Djinn of the lamp (played by Tzu-Chao Chou). The performance would not be the same without the dazzling orchestra conducted by Paul Murphy and led by Robert Gibbs, which adds to the atmosphere immensely, allowing the performance to swap and change between suspense and humour seamlessly.

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This production is bound to astonish audiences of all ages, with its delightful and superbly delivered chorography, technicoloured sets, sumptuous costumes and enchanting score. Birmingham Royal Ballet once again prove why they are one of the most loved and celebrated companies around, visually stunning, highly entertaining and not to be missed!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 23rd of Sepember tickets available here http://www.thelowry.com/events/aladdin

Reviewed by Emily Cotter

Cover My Tracks

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Charlie Fink, formerly of Noah and the Whale brings his latest album Cover My Tracks to the Lowry: however the evening promises something a little different. It is billed as a piece of ‘gig theatre’ and Fink shares the stage with actress Rona Morison to tell the tale of a singer song writer, a lover, a masterpiece, heartbreak and loss.

Armed with a stool, acoustic guitar and a dimly lit spotlight, Fink arrives on stage followed by Morison and between Fink’s songs and Morison we learn about two unnamed lovers torn apart by the apparent suicide of one, leaving their partner to cope with the loss and a chance to unravel the mystery as to what really happened.

The story is filled with highs and lows as we see how the couple met, their life on the road, the moment they write a huge hit record and finally the breakdown in their relationship as one desperately wants to escape from the trappings of modern life and eventually make the ultimate sacrifice…or do they?

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This is a fascinating piece of work. Fink may be the star attraction on the poster, but his is a low-key, restrained performance and certainly the delivery of his songs was reminiscent of the late Leonard Cohen. This is in stark contrast to the ball of energy that is Morison, who is excellent as our narrator conveying the joy, misery and raw emotion of someone desperate for answers. Morison also gives Fink a run for his money in the vocal department, demonstrating a fine singing voice.

The story is told through some truly beautiful songs with standout tracks being Firecracker and I Was Born to Be A Cowboy. The plot is riddled with intrigue as we know very little about our protagonist including their names and their gender further enhancing our engagement with the drama.

The production isn’t without flaws, taking a rather romanticised view of grief and mental health issues in some parts but on the whole this an innovative and engaging piece, a unique and hugely enjoyable way to listen to an album with a context.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 16th September, for tickets head to http://www.thelowry.com/events/cover-my-tracks

 

The Salford Belles

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Jack Land Nobel’s darkly comedic soap opera The Salford Belles is headed to Hope Mill Theatre from tomorrow as part of The Greater Manchester Fringe this month.

First staged as The Barnsley Belles by the Yorkshireman Company back in July 2013 and now given a Salfordian twist by LS Theatre Productions, The Salford Belles promises to be a little like an episode of Coronation Street screened way, way after the watershead!

We meet Queenie, Mary and Martha who are all are at their wits end after a lifetime of cooking, cleaning, caring and conspiring. They are all desperate for change – but at what cost? Join The Salford Belles in this hilarious dark comedy and discover what goes on behind closed doors when the washing’s brought in from the rain and the curtains are drawn.

Catch the show from Monday 17th July until Saturday 22nd at Hope Mill Theatre, tickets available via the link below;

http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/index.php#startlisting