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.

Northern Ballet | Jane Eyre

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Writer Nikki Cotter

Jane Eyre has been reimagined many times, Northern Ballet’s challenge is telling this familiar story without a single word of Charlotte Brontë’s famous text being uttered. A challenge acclaimed choreographer Cathy Marston undoubtedly rises to as the key details of Brontë’s masterpiece unfold in this dynamic and visually stunning production.

Marston focusses firmly on the female characters within the piece; Jane is indisputably the heroine of the production as Abigail Prudames encompasses the passion and determination of the trailblazer through the most exquisite and precise of performances. Tested to the point of self-betrayal before her belief in love and the fierceness of her own integrity saves her, Prudames tells a story with every slight movement she makes, delivering elegance, drama and emotional depth.

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Rochester is brought to life by a brooding Mlindi Kulashe, the chemistry between Prudames and Kulashe is electric, full of passion and intensity. Kulashe capturing the complexity of Rochester’s bruised soul effortlessly, the duo glide from awkward to playful with ease before passion and intensity takes hold.

Adding further layers to the piece is Hannah Bateman’s Bertha Mason, often described as the ‘mad woman in the attic’ she is wild, highly-sexualised and unpredictable as she prowls across the stage barefoot, bathed in red.

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The production feels fresh and inspired as the pace dances through Jane’s life from tragic childhood to complex adulthood, her search for fulfilment never wavering.

An ensemble of male dancers, known as the D-Men, symbolise Jane’s inner demons, creating a clear visual image of the orphan girls emotions and inner turmoil, a superb creative decision which visually portrays the constant tug-of-war between Jane’s intensely passionate feelings and her outer reserve.

Young Jane is portrayed to perfection by Ayami Miyata, agitation and frustration depicted in her defiant, energetic movements.

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The adaptation does absolute justice to Brontë’s work, bringing the novel to effervescent life with incredible skill and creativity.

Phillip Feeney’s emotive score blends a mixture of both original and 19th-century music which compliments the contemporary feel of this piece superbly. Patrick Kinmonth’s set is sparse moving screens, muted in colour allowing the performers to really be at the centre of this piece, all lit to atmospheric perfection by Alastair West’s lighting design.

The fusing of the traditional and the contemporary ensures this is a performance packed with intensity as well as originality, a beautiful and expressive tribute to both Jane herself and author Charlotte Brontë.

On at the Lowry until Saturday 9th June tickets available here.

Interview | Natasha Hodgson | Kill the Beast

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Lowry associate artists Kill the Beast return to the Salford venue next week with their new show Director’s Cut before they head off to Edinburgh Fringe for a summer of hilarious and a teeny bit haunting comedy japes.

Opening Night caught up with one fifth of the ‘Beast’s’ Natasha Hodgson to hear a little more about their latest offering and what exactly Lowry audiences can expect from the award-winning troop when Director’s Cut opens in the Aldridge Studio on 7th June.

Welcome to the worst film never made. Thankfully, there’s only one scene left to shoot… 

The fire has been contained, the wigs have been sterilised, and the star has been replaced after “The Accident”. Surely, nothing else can be waiting in the dark…

Director’s Cut, a madcap mash-up with a generous sprinkling of spoof horror introduces us to a 1970’s lead actress determined to take her revenge from beyond the grave, will she manage to stop filming on the most truly terrible and blisteringly bad movie she ever made?

Natasha Hodgson described to us where the idea for Director’s Cut came from. “We were chatting in a lovely sunny garden one day about our favourite horror films (classic sunshine chat) and how amazing, iconic films never seem to manage iconic sequels. We started talking about Rosemary’s Baby (one of our favourites) and imagining what a terrible sequel to Rosemary’s Baby – Rosemary’s Toddler? – might look like. And what if, whilst filming this terrible sequel, the spirit of the original film came back to wreak vengeance on this terrible follow up!”

Like previous shows The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, He Had Hairy Hands and Don’t Wake The Damp, Kill the Beast’s signature style of fast-paced action, original music and brilliantly bonkers comedy will lend itself perfectly to this silly yet sinister escapade. Natasha explained “I play a couple of characters, but my favourite is an older actor called Judy Goose, she’s been in the industry forever, and although she’s done a whole host of arthouse films, she’s always most excited about her adverts for Simpkin’s Soapy Scrubbers (“for wives and for mothers”) because of their big, fat pay-cheques. You’ll also learn that she’s a dab-hand at dealing with a dead body. But you’ll have to see the show to find out which one…”

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Here at Opening Night we are enormous fans of Kill the Beast’s deliciously dark humour and inventive staging, Natasha confirmed while the humour remains there will be some new and rather exciting changes to the staging of this new production, “Our hearts belong to ridiculous, dark and silly jokes, and that’s always going to be at the forefront of everything we make. However, we’re ditching the projections this time around, in favour of actual AV screens – it makes ghost trickery a lot more fun. We’ve done three shows with projected sets, and this time around we wanted to build something solid from scratch – we’ve got a real life 70s film set on stage, and we can’t wait to cause catastrophes within it.”

Now in their sixth year as Lowry associate artists Natasha explained just how important the support from The Lowry has been, “We feel so, so lucky to be supported by them, and if more theatres provided the sort of 360 care and help that they do, the emerging theatre scene would be able to take a lot more risks, and make a lot more fantastic stuff. But hell, it’s a hard time for the arts. It’s a hard time for a lot of stuff. Best thing we can recommend? Come see a silly, fast-paced comedy about a vengeful, opinionated ghost. That will probably sort everything out.”

Director’s Cut opens at The Lowry on Thursday 7th June and runs until Saturday 9th tickets priced at £12 (£10 for concessions) can be found here. here.

 

 

 

Toast | Rehearsal images released

First look images from the rehearsal rooms of world premiere stage adaptation of Nigel Slater’s Toast have been released today.

Toast, which is a Week 53 commission adapted by Henry Filloux-Bennett and directed by Jonnie Riordan will vividly tell the story of Nigel Slater’s childhood through the tastes and smells he grew up with. Audience members will be invited to sample dishes and tastes which played a large part in Nigel’s life growing up in 1960’s suburban England.

From making the perfect sherry trifle, waging war over cakes through to the playground politics of sweets and the rigid rules of restaurant dining, this is a moving and evocative tale of love, loss and…toast.

On at The Lowry from Wed 23 May to Sat 2 June tickets available here.

Titanic the Musical

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One of the most infamous disasters of all time where a heart-breaking 1517 men, women and children lost their lives may not seem like the most obvious choice for a musical makeover, however this Broadway originated production and winner of 5 Tony Awards has its sights firmly set on disproving that.

Thom Southerland has stripped back the original Broadway production which was first seen on British shores at the Southwark Playhouse in 2013 before a critically acclaimed 11 week run at the Charing Cross Theatre in 2016. David Woodhead’s two-tier set with metallic proscenium arch has been upscaled to take in the large venues on this new tour to great effect; immediately transporting audiences to the decks of the doomed ship.

Howard Hudson’s atmospheric lighting reflects the changing mood and emotion of the story perfectly as bright, brilliant optimism is replaced with a chillingly dark desperation. Further adding to the authenticity of the piece is Mark Aspinall’s band who provide an evocative soundtrack of strings & percussion, sweeping magnificently from joyful light-hearted optimism to the dreaded fear of impending doom.

Maury Yeston & Peter Stone’s award-winning musical fills the Lowry’s Lyric Theatre with its soaring score and impressive 25 strong cast whose ensemble pieces are note perfect, packed full of power and quite simply breath-taking. Based on the real stories of passengers aboard the ill-fated ship the ending is one we are all familiar with the characters however perhaps not. The hard-working cast slip effortlessly from one role into another, portraying passengers of all classes to great effect, a nod perhaps to the fact that once you take away the riches & finery of this world we’re all the same.

The plight of the 3rd class is particularly poignant in this production, they are in effect seen the same as the rats that inhabit the lower decks. Their hopes and dreams however soar high, perfectly portrayed in the song Lady’s Maid where burning ambitions are revealed as excitement builds for the new lives each 3rd class passenger yearns for unaware of their tragic fate. The Proposal/The Night was Alive also offers a touching opportunity to delve into the backstories of characters Barrett and Bride, beautifully delivered by Niall Sheehy and Oliver Marshall it is a real stand out moment within Act I.

While the production is visually impressive and the cast one of the most talented ensembles you’re likely to see the depth of characters is somewhat lacking. There are so many stories going on that you never really get the opportunity to connect or care about anyone, leaving the final scenes much less emotional than they should be. Characters while portrayed well aren’t given the time to develop or grow leaving the audience disconnected to their plight. It feel like quite a marmite production, while some audience members around me mumbled that it was too slow, many leapt to their feet at the end.

I wanted so much to love this production, the cast are outstanding, their delivery faultless, the set, costumes, songs and score all beautiful the emotional connection however was lacking for me, sadly this production never fully set sail.

Titanic the Musical on at The Lowry until Saturday 12th May tickets available here.

This House

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following sell out runs at the National Theatre and in the West End, James Graham’s critically acclaimed political drama has come to visit constituents, canvassing audiences across the country as part of a new national tour.

Inspired by real and incredibly dramatic political events which took place in the houses of parliament between the turbulent years of 1974-1979, This House lifts the lid on the frenzied activities at the height of a hung parliament where every vote counts as the Government attempt at all costs to operate successfully without the safety of a working majority.

Writer James Graham places the action at the very beating heart of Westminster, the Government and oppositions whips offices. These pressured hubs and the entire backbone of the palace as deals are struck, ears are bent and promises made.

This House The born to rule attitude of the Tories is displayed superbly by opposition whips William Chubb, Matthew Pidgeon and Giles Cooper, sneering and entitled for whose Boys club loyalty and a great suit is a must.

The working class roots of the Labour party are perfectly embodied by Martin Marquez, James Gaddas, Tony Turner, David Hounslow and Natalie Grady, for whom compromise is betrayal and defeat is not an option.

The frantic scenes are dominated by boisterous alpha males, bolstering for position with the exception of Natalie Grady taking on the role of Ann Taylor, Grady delivers her role to perfection, strong and sure in what was very much at the time a man’s world.

James Graham’s superb writing highlights frequently the laugh out loud absurdity of the political world, as monumental decisions impacting the lives of the masses are made amid point scoring, archaic and ancient traditions.

This House 1 This House is a true ensemble piece with a fine display of character acting, there is game playing, childishness, flamboyance, passion and genuinely moving moments all wrapped up in an enormously funny script. Jeremy Herrin and Jonathan O’Boyle’s innovative direction ensures the piece is slick and packs the intended political punch. The inclusion of an on stage band adds further depths and pace of the piece ensuring smooth, sharp scene transitions.

Designer Rae Smith’s set combined with Paule Constable’s atmospheric lighting both highlight and mirror the drama on stage. The crumbling & fractured Government being watched by the looming face of Big Ben, forever constant and predictable until one day when like the Government the clock splutters and stops.

This House 3 This House is an inspired and engaging production, the eccentricities of Westminster acted out by the enormously talented cast is genius. Where there is plotting and scheming there is also camaraderie and genuine affection. The superbly crafted characters have exactly the same demons we see today, do they put principles before party in the battle of idealism versus reality? This beautifully scripted piece could so easily be set in 2018, scarily relevant and a sobering testament to the fact that despite the stakes being so high nothing ever really changes.

This House will make you laugh out loud and possibly cry at the state of modern day politics but undoubtedly will entertain. It’s a pacy, penetrating examination of the political world as differences and similarities are thrillingly exposed. A must-see.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 28th April tickets available here. For those who may fancy themselves as a back bencher there a limited on stage tickets available.

Little Mermaid

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Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Lowry Theatre takes to the sea for its latest show at the Quays Theatre the Little Mermaid. Running until Saturday 14th April this brand new version, by the award-winning Metta Theatre, tells Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale with awe-inspiring acrobatics and hauntingly beautiful music. Through spectacular circus and spellbinding original folk songs, this much loved fable is reimagined for the whole family and Opening Night sent along our mini-reviewer Daisy Eagleton, aged 7 (and a half) to give it her verdict.

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Daisy:

The Little Mermaid comes to The Lowry theatre and it is inspired by the circus!

There’s not one but two actresses playing the Little Mermaid on different nights because the role is really physical and hard work. Rosie Rowlands and Tilly Lee-Kronick share the role.

The set is fabulous and has an anchor at the front of the stage to represent the sea. There’s colourful costumes and amazing sound effect with gulping seagulls and everything!

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I loved the acrobatics and the way the actors on stage also played their own musical instruments. The hoop work was spectacular and the cast didn’t run out of energy or get sweaty despite all of the incredible work they were doing.

There were so many different talents on display from trapeze, hoop spinning, dance, singing…the list goes on and on.

My favourite bit was the part when the Prince (Matt Knight) jumped from his balcony to go after the Little Mermaid and was caught by the actors below playing her sisters. The balcony was really high so there was a lot of trust in them to catch up. It was very exciting and made me gasp.

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Daisy chats with Matt King who plays the Prince in Little Mermaid

 

I would totally recommend this production. It was really enjoyable and great entertainment for all the family.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 14th April, tickets available here.