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.

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

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