Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First seen on stage 30 years ago, Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker returns to theatres this autumn with Bourne’s stunning choreography updated while Anthony Ward’s design has been reimagined.

Act 1 takes place in a bleak Dickensian orphanage on Christmas Eve, a far cry from the traditionally lavish Victorian festivities we usually associate with the classic Tchaikovsky score. The orphans live a miserable life, forced by overbearing bullies Dr and Mrs Dross to dance for their visitors in the hope of receiving meagre gifts, which are then swiped by the Dross children, Fritz and Sugar, who pinch and punch their way to the top.

With monochrome colours aside from a few deflating balloons and homemade paper chains the orphanage feels like a desperately dank and dismal place; that is until the Nutcracker, in this case a ventriloquist dummy gifted to orphan Clara comes magically to life, taking her on an adventure she’ll never forget.

As the dark oppressive atmosphere of the orphanage is left behind a brilliant white frosted lake appears while the orphans, and the Nutcracker come bursting into beautiful life.

This winter-wonderland as a contrast to the dismal orphanage is simply magnificent, the slick choreography almost convinces you that each dancer is performing on ice. The illusion of ice-dancing is a real spectacle, leading you into the interval desperate for more.

Act 2 transports us to the vibrant fantasy world that is Sweetieland. Bold and bright with buckets of cheeky humour we watch as Clara falls deeply in love with the now human, Nutcracker. Spiteful Princess Sugar however soon senses Clara’s happiness and quickly steps in to claim the handsome Nutcracker as her own.

The traditional story has been inventively reworked, keeping you guessing throughout. The storytelling really is sublime, there’s humour, originality and heaps of heart while visually it’s an absolute feast for the eyes. Bourne’s choreography while complex and demanding is delivered with such precision and grace it seems effortless and light. The skill of the company seemingly increasing with every scene, special mention must go to the reworking of the traditional ‘national dances’ each and every one is pure joy.

Cordelia Braithwaite is superb as orphan Clara, she dances with such feeling, drawing you into her journey wholeheartedly. Her commitment to winning the love of the Nutcracker (Harrison Dowzell) is heart-warming; I literally couldn’t stop smiling throughout.

Neil Westmoreland and Stephanie Billers are clearly having great fun as Dr and Mrs Dross who reappear as the magnificent King Sherbert and Queen Candy in Act 2 while Dominic North and Ashley Shaw are deliciously devilish as Fritz and Sugar. Both delight in their roles and are wickedly good at being bad.

Harrison Dowzell is wonderful as the Nutcracker, switching from stiff wooden doll-like movements to fluid ballet choreography with ease. His chemistry with both Braithwaite and Shaw is just perfect.

One thing (amongst many others) that Matthew Bourne does so well is make dance accessible, this joyful production is no exception; the characterisation is incredible while the choreography captivates entirely. This really is a show for all and would be the perfect introduction to dance for any theatregoer.

Matthew Bourne triumphs once again in reimagining the traditional and bringing it bang up to date in the most visually spectacular way. Bright, bold and utterly beautiful.

Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker is on at The Lowry until Saturday 4th December tickets available here.

Dial M for Murder

Reviewed by Nicky Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This brand-new production of Frederik Knott’s 1952 play Dial M For Murder is filled with tension, fast-paced narrative and gripping moments – and it’s at The Lowry for one week only!

Dial M For Murder isn’t a straight forward murder mystery, as the audience follow the planning of the crime and see the repercussions unravel throughout the play.

The plot entails ex-tennis pro Tony Wendice (Tom Chambers) wanting to have his wealthy wife, Margot (Diana Vickers), murdered so he can get his hands on her inheritance. When he discovers her affair with Mark Halliday (Michael Salami), he comes up with the perfect plan to kill her. He blackmails an old acquaintance Captain Lesgate (Christopher Harper) into carrying out the murder, but the carefully-orchestrated set-up goes awry, and Margot stays alive. Now Wendice must frantically scheme to outwit the Inspector (also Christoper Harper) and police to avoid having his plot detected.

Lead Tom Chambers gives a sinister performance as Tony, putting the audience on edge throughout – this man is really not somebody who can be trusted. He pulls off the intensity of this character extremely well, giving extra wide smiles and long stares to those around him. His on-stage relationship with Diana Vickers (Margot) is brilliant, and she herself portrays her character delicately. Diana does a fantastic job of making her character’s two relationships believable, and her vulnerability in each is portrayed elegantly. I particularly felt for her after her murder scene, where the switch from her confident character to her being controlled and defeated down by her husband was really well played.

I really felt drawn into Margot’s relationship with Max (Michael Salami), and you could really feel the connection throughout their scenes together.

Christopher Harper did a superb job of portraying Captain Lesgate and Inspector Hubbard, and his performance of the Inspector was particularly stand out, where some welcome comedy was brought in at some tense moments.

David Woodhead’s set of Margot and Tony’s 1960’s ground floor flat is very important to this play, and it stays the same throughout the performance. Only once are you taken away from the flat, which is a brief cut away moment to Margot in her trial. You really feel like you are at home with the family from the very beginning, as they just go about their lives playing records, drinking alcohol and making phone calls.

Lizzie Powell’s lighting design is really poignant throughout, where it’s used to set the mood of the scene, the time of day and also cleverly used to show the passing of time as we move from one day to the next.

Overall this is a delightful and memorable show, and it’s brilliant to see West End talent visiting local venues! Don’t miss it if it’s coming near you.

Dial M For Murder is at The Lowry from Mon 15 – Sat 20 November tickets available here.

Dracula: The Untold Story

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There have been many riffs on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Audiences still can’t get enough of the bloodthirsty Count, despite him being with us for well over 120 years, there is still an insatiable appetite for more! It is now the turn of Leeds Playhouse and collaborators, Andrew Quick, Peter Brooks and Simon Wainwright to give their take with Dracula: The Untold Story.

Set in London, 1965, New Years Eve to be precise, the capital is holding a double celebration, the changing of the year, as well as an exhibition at the British Museum to mark the destruction of Dracula. However, not everyone is in the mood for a party. As a mutilated cadaver is discovered, a young lady walks into a police station claiming responsibility for the murder; that women is Mina Harker, and not only is she there to unburden her guilt over this gruesome turn of events, but also a killing a spree that has lasted nearly 70 years.

Harker (Riana Duce) tells her story to an intrigued WPC Williams ( Adela Rajnović) and a rather sceptical DS Donaldson (Matt Prendergast). Through Mina, we learn that an encounter with Dracula has led to her gaining superpowers, not aging, an acute sense of smell, vision, the ability to move at speed and visions of the future to see the evil that man can do. She uses her supernatural powers to hunt down the likes of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler before they can commit mass genocide.

There is a great deal to admire about this production; it’s innovative, entertaining and a feast for the eyes. Performed like a graphic novel, the three actors perform in front of a projection screen. It’s very much a dual performance as the actors are performing to both the audience and the camera, to give us a live action comic strip, which is as captivating as it is visually stunning.

The influences of Frank Miller’s Sin City and the 1922 film, Nosferatu are clear and add an authenticity to this ambitious production.

The cast are in fine form with Duce giving a strong central performance, she exudes passion, strength and guilt from the outset and it’s because of this you fully invest in the production’s premise. She is skillfully supported by Rajnović and Prendergast who play multiple roles throughout. All three demonstrate a gift for language and dialects with Russian, French and Italian used flawlessly throughout.

Dracula: The Untold Story is bold, fun, captivating and skillfully marries live performance with digital technology to tell the classic story of good confronting evil. However, it’s the dilemma of how that fight can take its toll on the protagonist that is most intriguing. It is often said that if the hero lives long enough they see themselves become the villain…..Is this the case for Mina Harker?

Further information & the opportunity to watch at online can be found here.

Tell Me On A Sunday

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Mum, I know you’ll think I’m potty… but at last I think I’ve found him!”

Tell Me on a Sunday is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s first (and often forgotten) musical love child. This bittersweet tale is the story of Emma, played by the powerhouse that is Jodie Prenger, as she travels across the globe, from London, to New York, to California and back, on a quest for long-lasting, meaningful love. A one hour, one-woman show, which brings to the surface all the nostalgia and sentimentality of falling in and out of love and all the wonderfully uncomfortable bits in-between.

Although maybe not as well known to a wider audience as some of Webber’s other works, musically the show does have some beautifully powerful numbers, including the stunningly heartbreaking title song Tell Me on a Sunday, which witnessing Prenger nail is an absolute treat and a stand-out moment.

Francis Goodhand musically directs with panache. But there are plenty of ‘Goodhands’ here in the band too who play beautifully throughout. In fact, in conversation after the interval, Goodhand describes this as musical theatre at its best – ‘no smoke or mirrors,’ just really rather good music, which is most definitely true. Its also nice to have the band onstage throughout, who are a very worthy backdrop to Prengers’ wonderful Emma.

Anyone familiar with Prenger, knows that she not only oozes bucket loads of charm and charisma, but is a formidable performer. Least not her vocals, which are effortless and consistently sublime during this hour long song-cycle; in fact they are Streisand-esq at parts (and I don’t say that lightly!) Her portrayal of Emma is full of subtlety and raw sentiment, as she carefully navigates us through a whole range of emotions, from hopeful to desperate, vulnerable to strong, taking us on the journey with her every step of the way. Prenger provides a wonderfully crafted, fully realised performance, as she commands the stage and without us even realising the hour has passed; she is a pure delight to watch.

Unusually and unique to this production, after the interval we are invited to re-join Prenger for what is a mini An Evening with…’ style second act and proves equally as enchanting as the first. Bursting back onto the stage, Prenger welcomes us back with vigour and so much likability and humour, its (ironically) hard not to fall in love with her!

She spoils us with some more songs and answers some interesting questions from the audience. This evening Harry, 11, asks for any tips about entering the acting industry, to which Prenger quickly exclaims: “DON’T DO IT!” prompting fits of laughter from the audience; she most certainly has them in the palm of her hands. We are also introduced to the very talented Jodie Beth Meyer (Understudy Emma), who performs for us alongside Prenger, and whose voice is equally impressive. In a clever turn by the producers, this addition of an ‘Act 2’ really makes you feel like you’re making a night of it and getting your money’s worth!

It must be acknowledged that its been a tough old time for the arts and as such producers are in requirement of that much needed revenue boost, which performing in large-scale spaces can enable. However, this revival of the 2016 Watermill Theatre’s acclaimed production does at times seem a little lost in the Lyric theatre here in the Lowry. It’s certainly easy to see how this intimate, personal show lends itself better to a smaller-scale space and possibly would have been better suited to one of the smaller spaces that the magnificent Lowry has to offer.

Yes there are elements of the show that appear a little outdated, but the premise still remains universal and the message rather poignant as Prenger aptly reminds us towards the end of show, ‘Dreams Never Run On Time’ which hits us differently, especially with the world still in a strange, unsettling and unpredictable place. However, the audience are still hugely thankful to be back inside an auditorium watching and listening to live musical theatre and here Don Black’s clever, cute, conversational lyrics, are beautifully matched by Webber’s distinctive and indisputable music, both of which are perfectly complimented by Prenger’s show-stopping talent and makes for a lovely mid-week treat – never mind a Sunday!

Tell Me on a Sunday runs at the Lowry Theatre until Saturday 23rd October tickets available here.

What the Ladybird Heard

Reviewed by Demi Franks

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fresh from it’s sizzling summer stint in the West End, a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ classic children’s book is making its way across the country on an autumn tour.

“The Ladybird said never a word, but the Ladybird saw and the Ladybird heard…” So when burglars plot to seal the prize cow, little do they know the Ladybird is about to save the day…

It was so lovely to see the Lowry Theatre in Salford ‘buzzing’ this Sunday morning with lots of little, excitable (children dressed up as Ladybirds), coming to see what could possibly be their first ever theatrical experience.

At first thought you’d be right to think, how could this sweet (but very small) children’s book be turned into a 55-minute musical play? Well, with director Graham Hubbard at the helm, the team here have successfully adapted this much loved story into a well-imagined, perfectly-timed, warm-hearted, enchanting stage version.

Whilst Donaldon’s words have been developed and evolved for the stage, with the addition of music and lyrics and a few other surprises along the way, the familiarity of the original story still remains at the heart of this theatrical version. Indeed, after working closely in the developmental stages with the creative team, illustrator, Lydia Monks’ pictures appear to have been transported straight from ‘page to stage,’ which as a result has enabled Bek Palmer to create a versatile and beautifully enticing set, which hugely aids in the cleverly, creative unraveling of the story, just like the book. Whilst simultaneously enabling the audience, both adult and children alike, to feel instantly comfortable and at home as they take their seats for this classic tale’s debut tour.

Musically, Fiber and Shaw have created some ‘Jolly Good Tunes’ that come as a welcome addition with this stage version and really helps engage the young audience’s imagination, facilitating the right level of audience participation, with some singing and bopping along the way too!

One of the most delightful and endearing moments of the piece occurs when the cast come together through song to assemble the well known animals of the story using only the materials on the farm. Here we see the full concept of this smart and innovative piece in full flow, as a sheep is created out of a wheelbarrow, a dog is born using a big sweeping brush and a horse erected from an old bicycle; all of which become fully formed, re-occuring personalities throughout the play and add a rather lovely artistic dynamic.

Special kudos to this small yet talented cast who individually act, sing and jig around the space, all whilst playing a musical instrument or two and with the unwavering amount of energy a piece like this requires (especially at 11am on a Sunday morning to a busy, rustling and wriggly young auditorium), which is no mean feat in itself!

This is a tight ensemble who bring a great sense of warmth and drive to the narrative throughout the duration on the performance.

Although advertised for age 3+, my two and a half year old niece was fully engaged in the storytelling and thoroughly enjoyed herself. This stage version of the classic tale, has the perfect amount of humour, heart and imagination for young ‘theatre first-timers,’ toddlers and little ones alike.

‘Mooo’-ve quick and ‘baa’ sure to catch ‘What the Ladybird heard’ in a theatre near you!

You can find tickets and more information here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death Drop

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s 1991, our killer-heels are high, Charles and Diana are celebrating 10 years of wedded bliss (cough, cough) and we’re off to Tuck Island for a dragtastic night to remember!

This is a whodunnit like no other, where guests quickly begin sashaying away at a sickening pace. Phone lines are cut, roads are blocked while a dramatic storm rages, we’re soon left wondering who’ll be next to get the chop.

Having never met their hostess before, personalities soon begin to clash as dark secrets are revealed in all their camp, chaotic glory. There’s a killer on the loose and our delectable diners will need to work together to figure out just who it is bumping them off before there’s no one left to tell their raucous tale!

The extravagant soiree is hosted by the mysterious Lady Von Fistenburg (Vinegar Strokes), but nobody knows who she is nor why they’ve been invited. First guest is Morgan Pierce, the sharp-tongued, no-nonsense editor of World of the News played brilliantly by Karen from finance. Next to arrive is thrusting, testosterone fuelled producer Phil Maker delivered superbly by Georgina Frost.

Ra’jah O’Hara makes a strong theatrical debut as weather girl Summer Raines, while Richard Energy is hilariously convincing as Tory old boy Rich Whiteman. Last to arrive is faded pop star Shazza, played perfectly by Willam, an American one hit wonder who’ll happily burst into song at the teeny tiniest opportunity.

Completing the cast is the wonderful Holly Stars, playing the Bottomely triplets, Blue, Brie and Spread, event caterers who are more Fray Bentos than Foie Gras. Also the writer of the piece, she is an absolute joy to watch & threatens to steal every scene with her dead-pan delivery and physical comedy.

There are deliciously camp musical numbers, more witty one liners than you could shake a contour stick at, groan inducing toilet humour, perfectly timed theatrical thunderclaps plus a whole lot of silly, and the audience eat it up!

Act 1 flies by, as each guest is introduced, while the audience roar their approval. It’s swift pace giving you gag after gag while the action keeps you guessing. Act 2 loses a little momentum at times and would benefit from a little trimming to ensure it feels as punchy as Act 1.

The strong cast deliver some superb performances, with each individual demonstrating clearly what talented entertainers they are. While it’s totally farcical it’s also very clever and feels like a quality production, kudos to costume designer Isobel Pellow and wig designer Florencia Melone who have done an exceptional job.

Fun is absolutely the order of the day in this raucous romp that’s as camp as it is colourful. The dead have a hilarious habit of rising again while the witty wordplay will have you absolutely roaring with laughter.

Death Drop delivers exactly what theatre audiences are looking for right night, a great night of escapism, guaranteed laughter and a gorgeous feeling of shared experience.

Fierce, farcical and a whole lot of fabulous!

Catch Death Drop at The Lowry until Saturday 16th October, tickets available here.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’re looking for a post pandemic pick-me-up then look no further, get yourself down to The Lowry and immerse yourself in this heart-warming gem of a show.

After debuting at Sheffield’s crucible theatre in 2017 the West End beckoned for the inspiring story of Jamie New, a 16 year old boy with dragtastic plans in life.

Based on the true story of Jamie Campbell and inspired by the BBC3 documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16 the show delves into the life of Jamie New; on the surface fearless and fabulous, underneath sensitive and scarred, but always true to himself.

Layton Williams returns to the role after playing Jamie in the West End and absolutely shines. His sass and sarcasm ensuring every brilliantly witty line lands while his vulnerability leaves you yearning for him to succeed.

Amy Ellen Richardson brings grit and soul to Jamie’s Mum, Margaret; her 2nd half delivery of He’s My Boy left me with more than a lump in my throat & thankful I’d packed the tissues; absolutely stunning.

Jamie’s relationship with Margaret, a strong, determined, single mum lies at the very heart of the piece and shapes the story beautifully. Williams and Richardson convince entirely; the ease in which they share the stage together illustrates the fiercely unconditional love between mother and son to perfection.

Shobna Gulati as Ray, Margaret’s best friend and often substitute parent for Jamie is fantastic, bringing humour and iconic Northern female strength to the role she’s as loyal as they come and as much family as any blood relative.

Shane Ritchie acts as Drag Mother Hugo/Loco Chanel bringing depth to the role as the former drag queen with their own multi-layered story to tell, a cheerleader to Jamie and instant hit with the audience. Another important cheerleader in Jamie’s life is best friend Pritti portrayed wonderfully by Sharan Phull. Her calm resilience and loving encouragement are incredibly touching.

The themes of inclusivity and individuality are delivered with true authenticity. There’s nothing gimmicky about this show, the story feels real and truly heartfelt. While the slick ensemble numbers thrill, with the excellent ensemble showcasing Kate Prince’s choreography superbly it’s the quieter moments that draw you in, ensuring you’re #TeamJamie from the start.

The journey school bully Dean (George Sampson) goes on isn’t brash or obvious but one of a new understanding through education and removal of fear.

Like many of us, theatre makers have had an incredibly difficult time during the pandemic but seeing a show as joyful and uplifting as this reminds you just how affecting and inspiring theatre can be.

Packed full of witty one liners, superb songs & stunning choreography Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a life-affirming celebration. An absolute must-see bursting with joy and heart.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is on at The Lowry until Sunday 12th September tickets available https://thelowry.com/whats-on/everybodys-talking-about-jamie/

The Play That Goes Wrong

Reviewed by Nicky Jones

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Tony-award winning The Play That Goes Wrong is always undoubtably going to provide a night of hysterical laughter and shock moments – and the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are currently back at The Lowry with their production Murder at Haversham Manor!

It’s no secret that things are going to go wrong, and as you take to your seat the disasters have already begun. A Duran Duran CD and Winston the dog are lost within the auditorium and a frantic search for them has begun. The fourth wall is broken and audience participation is encouraged from the moment you take your seat, and that’s when you know this is not going to be any ordinary murder mystery…

Laughter takes over the auditorium before the lights have even gone down. The technicians are working away on-stage, repairing bits of the set which already aren’t staying where they’re supposed to. Once the lights go down, we are welcomed by the Director Chris Bean (Tom Bulpett) and once we hear the alternative names of some of their past productions (James, Where’s Your Peach?, Cat, The Lion and the Wardrobe), we know that things may not go quite as planned.

Throughout the play we are introduced to the society members, and it’s incredible how much hilarity they bring to the stage. These include first time performer Max Bennett, who plays Cecil Haversham (Tom Babbage), Sandra Wilkinson as the newly widowed Florence Colleymoore (April Hughes), and Dennis Tyde as Perkins (Edward Howells). In addition, they are supported by the technical crew of Trevor (Gabriel Paul) and Annie (Laura Kirman) – whose backstage roles may have to be left behind more than once during the performance.

It’s one of those productions that you could see over and over again, and each time you see it you’ll spot more hilarious moments, catch more witty lines and laugh even harder. At the beginning of act two, you think to yourself “the set is already barren and hanging by its hinges, how much more wrong can it go?!”. As the set crumbles around the actors, the comedy gets more and more chaotic. Props are bursting into flames, the study has collapsed onto the ground below, actors are getting knocked out – and you cannot quite believe that this is all happening in front of your eyes.

The comedic timing of the actors is impeccable, and the fun they are having on stage really shines through into the audience. It’s an absolute delight of a show, and will bring a smile to faces of all ages.

Mischief Theatre’s A Play That Goes Wrong is at The Lowry until Sunday 22nd August – https://thelowry.com/whats-on/the-play-that-goes-wrong/

Anna X

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A cautionary tale for the digital age, Anna X opens with the chance meeting of an art world protégé and a tech start-up entrepreneur on their first night in New York. They are both chasing celebrity, money and power but, for one of them, success will depend on fooling the other. Wrapped up in their own fakery, the question is: Which carefully spun ‘avatar’ – fuelled by social media – will unravel first? 

This ambitious production brings together the powerhouse pairing of Golden Globe award winner Emma Corrin (Netflix’s The Crown) in the titular role of Anna X and the Royal Television Society’s 2019 Breakthrough star Nabhaan Rizwan (Informer, BBC), who is Ariel – founder of @GenesisApp. 

Between them, Corrin and Rizwan also play a cast of colourful supporting characters. Ranging from Anna’s sleazy magazine editor boss to Ariel’s key investor and former lover, they slip into each new role with a swift accent change.

It is a tall order to carry the entire production, delivering Joseph Charlton’s (Brilliant Jerks, VAULT Festival) sparkling dialogue without a beat, but this dynamic duo is more than up to the challenge – injecting their delivery with a lightness and deftness of touch that is a joy to behold.

On paper, both main characters should be contemptible. One is a fake oil heiress who is hellbent on fooling the New York art world. The other has created ‘Illuminati Tinder’ – an exclusive matching service where only the elite class get to date and have sex. Yet somehow, Corrin and Rizwan manage to make these pair of rogues likeable. Statuesque and commanding, Corrin imbues her Anna X with a beguiling sense of adventure, whereas Rizwan’s Ariel is a naïve dreamer who is only too willing to follow her lead. 

The laughs and comedic undertones are genuine, plus Charlton’s pointed commentary on everything from Instagram ‘likes’ to modern art serves to remind us that in today’s world, values and morality are increasingly subjective. (As Anna herself says: “If you lie in America and it gets you what you want, you’re an entrepreneur, not a criminal.”)

Whilst this play has some serious storytelling ‘chops’ – having been inspired in part by the exploits of real-life New York socialite Anna Sorokin – it is the set and video by Mikaela Liakata and Tal Yarden, and Jessica Hung Han Yun’s kinetic lighting that earns this reviewer’s plaudits. 

An ever-changing video screen serves as a shape-shifting backdrop – morphing from New York’s skyline to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, with pulsating nightclubs and dingy smoking stoops in between. The technology is used at its inventive best to depict rapid-fire WhatsApp messages or subtitled dialogue yelled over throbbing music and slicing strobe lights.

Simple cubes create levels on the otherwise sparse stage, which Corrin and Rizwan reimagine as balconies, hotel beds and office desks – all under Daniel Raggett’s playful direction.

It all adds up to an artful deception and, as Anna X says: “The world wants to be deceived… Give them what they want.”

Coming to the North by way of Sonia Friedman Productions’ RE:EMERGE season at the West End, Anna X is playing at The Lowry until Saturday, 14 August. Further information can be found here.

C.O.N.T.A.C.T

📷 Phil Tragen

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest


Over the last 14 months many of us have had a great deal of time to take stock and reflect on the world around us, so wouldn’t it be exciting to enter the head space of someone different for a short while, and become immersed in their world.

Well for 50 minutes you can, with the unique production of C.O.N.T.A.C.T brought to audiences by Aria Entertainment, WEF Productions and The Lowry, staged either at Media City and/or a Manchester City Centre.

We were told prior to the event to meet near the tram stop at Media City and to bring a brolly: this after all is Salford where the city and grey sky fit like hand in glove. In addition we were asked to download the C.O.N.T.A.C.T app for your smartphone of choice and to bring a set of earphones.

📷 Phil Tragen

We are soon introduced to Sarah (Chloe Gentles), a young women with a lot going on in her head: from the uncomfortable fitting of her bra to the odd feeling in the pit of her stomach, all the while taking in the sounds of the city, lost in her own little bubble.

However her world is soon turned on it’s head with the introduction of Raphael (Cellan Scott), a mysterious stranger who knows more about Sarah then she knows about herself.

Sarah and Raphael soon begin a journey of discovery and reflection which will change Sarah forever.

C.O.N.T.A.C.T was first performed in Paris at the height of the pandemic, moving to London last summer and garnering huge praise for it’s bold, innovative attempt to stage live theatre. After all we can’t order a drink without an app, so why shouldn’t we enjoy theatre in the same way?

📷 Phil Tragen

Both Gentles and Scott do not utter a world throughout, with both giving visual, expressive performances whilst their dialogue is drip fed into our conscious’ via the app. The two actors performances, in conjunction with the highly impressive 3-D sound design allow you to switch off and become totally immersed in Sarah’s world, so much so that as we strolled around the grounds of the Blue Peter Garden I became aware that I was part of the production, as baffled on lookers watched a group of people with headphones observing two others have a silent but very heated debate.

This unique, production is the perfect reminder of how much we need human connection and the importance of looking after not only ourselves but also looking out for others. No matter what challenges we may face, there can always be a solution found.

C.O.N.T.A.CT is on in Manchester and at Media city until the 27thJune. Tickets available at: https://thelowry.com/whats-on/contact-salford-quays/

Critically-acclaimed outdoor show C-O-N-T-A-C-T comes to Salford & Manchester in May

Aria Entertainment and WEF Productions have announced that the critically-acclaimed
outdoor production C-o-n-t-a-c-t will run for six weeks from Tuesday 18 May – 29 June 2021.


This immersive, two-hander outdoor performance featuring a captivating 3D sound design will
run in partnership with The Lowry in two locations – Salford Quays and central Manchester following a hugely successful run in London in autumn 2020.

This innovative production opened to 4* reviews from The Guardian and the i, with The Times
calling it “a tantalising vision of a new kind of theatre.” It will be one of the first live theatre show to open in Manchester & Salford following theatre closures last year.

Originally created by Samuel Sené and Gabrielle Jourdain and premiering in France with
French production company Musidrama last summer in a world where social distancing became
the ‘new normal’, this timely story of a moving and unexpected encounter explores the themes
of mental health and anxiety through the eyes of Sarah as she is approached by someone she
believes to be a stranger. She discovers that he can hear her thoughts but how? Who is this
man? Dive into her mind in this unique sensory and immersive new show and experience
theatre like never before.

The show runs for 50 minutes without an interval and audiences download the audio from the
app which is a completely new piece of technology synchronizing the spectators and actors,
allowing the show to play with theatrical concepts and a new form of dramaturgy. Audiences of
no more than 17 per show will purchase their tickets online and will then receive a link to
download the app and exact location details.

The show complies with the safety and hygiene measures arts as set out by the government. This pedestrian performance is an outdoor promenade experience for small groups of up to 17 and adheres to strict social distancing
between audience members. It is also an audio experience which involves no direct speaking of
any actor in the play.

Tickets can be purchased via The Lowry’s website Contact | What’s On | The Lowry


An Evening With Bruce Dickinson in Salford

Legendary Iron Maiden lead singer BRUCE DICKINSON is today delighted to announce a very special one man show for Summer 2021 – which comes to The Lowry on August 4.

‘An Evening With Bruce Dickinson’ is Bruce’s first-ever UK spoken word tour and follows sold-out shows across Europe and Australia.

This unmissable six-date tour – peppered with anecdotes from Bruce’s extraordinary life both on and off-stage, and delivered in his own inimitable anarchic style – visits Brighton, Salford, Bradford, Nottingham, Birmingham and London in August.

‘AN EVENING WITH BRUCE DICKINSON’ – FEATURING Q&A

 SIX 2021 UK SHOWS ANNOUNCED ON SPOKEN WORD TOUR

LIVE NATION today announces a very special Evening With show by IRON MAIDEN singer, BRUCE DICKINSON on his first-ever UK spoken word tour.

THE SUMMER 2021 DATES ARE:

AUG 1       BRIGHTON               THEATRE ROYAL

AUG 4       SALFORD                 THE LOWRY

AUG 5       BRADFORD              ST GEORGE’S HALL

AUG 8       NOTTINGHAM          THEATRE ROYAL

AUG 9       BIRMINGHAM           THE ALEXANDRA

AUG 10     LONDON                   O2 SHEPHERD’S BUSH EMPIRE

Tickets go on general sale at 10am, Thursday April 29 via ticketmaster.co.uk