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

A Monster Calls

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Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s not very often I’ll go into review a show cold: I’ll usually have some idea of plot, cast, etc before going into the the theatre. In the case of A Monster Calls I knew it was based on a book, and there was something in the back of mind telling me that there had been a film adaptation too. In terms of plot I knew very little, had I known I could have prepared for the tsunami of emotions that hit me.

This is the story of Conor (Ammar Duffus), a lonely 13-year-old boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders: harassment from the school’s bully, a father living on the other side of the world, his mother (Maria Omakinwa) is seriously ill. Understandably, it’s his mum’s illness that is of most concern to Conor, confused by what he is seeing and his mother’s reassurance that “everything with be fine” he has no outlet for emotions.

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Conor’s life soon becomes even more complicated when he receives a visit from a monstrous creature. Located in his garden is a giant yew tree, which comes to life at the same time each evening. The yew tree has been on the earth for hundreds of years and informs the boy that he will tell him three tales and in exchange Conor will tell him one in return.

Each night the tree returns with a brutal fable, involving, kings, queens and apothecaries, all with a dark heart to them, there is no happy ever after with these stories. But, what do they mean and how do they help Conor?

Sally Cookson has created a powerful, visceral and devastating adaptation of Patrick Ness’ international bestseller.  This is a fairy-tale that deals with grief, anger and the importance of expressing our emotions, this is an unflinching, unsentimental view of the world through the eyes of teenager, complete with all his frustrations and heartache.

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The production looks and sounds amazing. The haunting score by Benji Bower, is both beautiful and haunting, played masterfully by musicians Seamas Carey and Luke Potter. There use of electronica and voice distortion gives the production a fantasy, other worldly quality.  The staging is simple but affective, just a white floor, with a white back drop where, looking not to dissimilar to a padded cell, adding an element of claustrophobia, despite the vast openness of the stage. Visuals are projected on the wall throughout, and the ensemble cast when not playing their part will double up as visible stagehands handing out props as and when required.

However it’s the recreation of the woodland behemoth that is most impressive: using a series of  giant ropes which cascade onto the stage throughout, the ensemble cast gather them together to form the tree, this coupled with Keith Gilmore’s physical and menacing delivery as the monster, make for an impressive visual spectacle creating a truly intimidating protagonist.

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The production isn’t without it’s flaws, despite a solid showing from the cast, with strong physical and emotional performances throughout they are occasionally let down by some stilted dialogue which is a little distracting, however this is a minor quibble for what is an innovative, powerful piece of theatre.

Having quite recently lost my father, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional sucker punch the production provided during its final moments and judging by the amount of people clearing the sand from their eyes (least that’s what I think it was) at the end of the performance nor was anyone else. Powerful, intelligent and emotional, when this monster calls you had best answer as you won’t be disappointed.

A Monster Calls is on at at the Lowry until Saturday 29th February, tickets are available here.

Ghost Stories

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Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Finally, a decade after it’s theatrical premiere at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, Ghost Stories is embarking on a full national tour, and trust me it was well worth the wait!

From the twisted minds of childhood friends Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, comes the ultimate scary theatrical experience, that will chill to your core.

Both Dyson and Nyman are no strangers to horror and the supernatural: Dyson is arguably best known for his work with, The League of Gentleman. Whilst Nyman is an actor and writer, who recently starred opposite Renée Zellweger in the Oscar winning film Judy. However, it’s his previous work with Derren Brown, which undoubtedly feeds into this production.

It would do the show a disservice to offer a review complete with plot synopsis and spoilers, the less you know going in beforehand the better. So, this review like a government investigation into Russian donors to the Conservative Party will be heavily redacted.

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Beginning with a lecture from Professor Goodman (Joshua Higgott), Goodman specialises in the study of the supernatural, especially debunking people’s stories, or exposing fakers and frauds. However, of all the cases that he has investigated there have been three that have stuck with him.

The first is that of security guard, Tony Matthews (Paul Hawkyard), and his unsettling final shift. The second is that of teenager, Simon Rifkind (Gus Gordon) and the strife his troublesome car gets him into. Finally, businessman, Mike Priddle (Richard Sutton) and the events that lead up to a family tragedy.

Can Professor Goodman offer up a rational explanation behind each of these stories, if so what can be?

If the aim of Ghost Stories is to have you jumping out of your skin then it achieves its goal ten times over, like a rollercoaster the thrills come thick and fast, just when you think you’re safe there’s another scare right around the corner. It’s not all shocks, there are several laughs too, with a pitch-black script and lots of fun gags, horror and comedy have often made strange bed fellows, Ghost Stories undoubtedly have got the balance spot on.

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With a production of this nature it of course relies hugely on its creative team and high production values and what they have created is something quite special. With James Farncombe’s lighting design, sound design by Nick Manning, then add into the mix Jon Bausor’s impressive set design and you have an atmospheric, gasp-inducing full-on sensory experience.

The cast are on fine form, Higgot has an engaging stage presence as our guide to the paranormal, whilst the three storytellers each bring something different to their tale. There’s comedy, drama, and terror from each turn but all done very differently, which is a credit to all three actors as well the sublime writing and direction.

This is so much more than a fright-fest: it’s smart, innovative and most of all an enormously fun piece of theatre that pulls out all the stops to give you a night out that will live long in the memory.

Ghost Stories is at the Lowry until the 22nd February 2020 tickets available here.

 

 

 

My Night with Reg

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Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First premiered at The Royal Court in 1997, Kevin Elyot’s ground-breaking play My Night with Reg was loved by critics and audiences alike. A transfer to the West End followed as well as Olivier and Evening Standard awards, a successful Broadway run and even a feature film so it comes as no surprise that Manchester-based Green Carnation should choose this moving play as their first touring production.

Set in Guy’s apartment over various years the story focuses upon the relationships of a group of gay men, all have in some form a connection with the eponymous Reg. What initially seems like a light-hearted look into the lives and loves of the group soon develops into a perceptive exploration or love and friendship as secrets and betrayals are exposed while the ever-present threat of the 1980’s AIDS crisis looms large.

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Guy (Simon Hallman) is hopelessly in love with John (Nicholas Anscombe) yet doesn’t have the courage to tell him. Eager to please he puts everyone else’s needs before his own while his hesitancy to put himself out there results in a life unfulfilled and free from any real intimacy.

Old mates John (Nicholas Anscombe) and Daniel (David Gregan-Jones) joke and jostle while never actually having an honest conversation. Interestingly it’s primarily the youngest character in the play Eric (Alan Lewis) who speak freely, unafraid of sharing his thoughts and feelings about the way he sees the world while couple Bernie and Benny bicker and bark at each other by way of communication.

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As Guy, Simon Hallman perfectly captures the frustration of a man thwarted by his own niceness, hopelessly in love yet lacking in the courage to do anything about it. He endears himself to the audience as he flusters and fusses around his friends making the final part of the play all the more affecting.

David Gregan-Jones flounces spectacularly as charismatic Daniel while showing great skill in his ability to switch from carefree to devastated with ease. Nicholas Anscombe plays John as a cool and composed figure who becomes increasingly lost as the piece develops.

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Steve Connolly and Marc Geoffrey as Benny and Bernie play off each other brilliantly offering some of the most cutting humour in the piece while Alan Lewis is refreshingly real as the much lusted after Eric.

Co-directors Dan Jarvis and Dan Ellis has succeeded in creating a piece that’s as funny as it is moving. This dark comedy doesn’t sugar-coat nor should it, Green Carnation’s affecting revival will resonate with many. Designer George Johnson-Leigh’s set is simplistic yet effective with neon lighting pulsating as the intensity rises.

A well-crafted, well-acted piece which will leave you more than happy you’ve spent the night with Reg.

My Night with Reg is on at The Lowry until Saturday 25th January tickets available here.

Further information about regional tour dates can be found here.

 

 

An Inspector Calls

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having been seen by over 5 million people since its premiere at the National Theatre in 1992 Stephen Daldry’s ground-breaking production of J.B. Priestley’s classic thriller comes to the Lowry this week as part of a UK wide tour.

Celebrated by audiences and critics alike its dramatic edge and clever theatricality remains. Set amidst a bleak, ominous backdrop we see a strange almost doll-like house, claustrophobic and precariously balanced. The laughter and chattering of the family within rings out, they are as yet unaware of whom lies within the wings waiting to unravel and expose their harmonious gathering.

A young working-class girl has committed suicide and it is Inspector Goole’s belief that each and every member of this loathsome family has played some influential part in her tragic demise. Daldry’s radical reimagining of this theatre heavyweight is strong in its impact and stirring in its message, the theatre packed with GCSE pupils, a clear sign of the continued relevance of this captivating piece.

Liam Brennan takes on the role of Inspector Goole, initially calm yet commanding he both examines and exposes each member of the elitist Birling family meticulously. Cocooned by their privilege he draws them out one by one rocking their very foundations and exposing their cruel entitled behaviours.

Each character is developed fully and delivered convincingly by an incredibly strong cast with special mention going to Chloe Orrock as daughter Sheila Birling whose journey from spoilt and materialistic to unravelled, ashamed yet reflective offers real hope for change.

Daldry’s exceptional direction clearly illustrates that the change Priestley wishes to see in the world must come from the younger generation, where they repent and reflect, their parents scrabble round in the gutter grabbing at their silverware polishing it in the mud, still grappling for their place at the top of the social ladder. Silent character Edna, (Linda Beckett) maid to the Birling family observes the fall-out while becoming more and more relaxed in her manner as the family fall from grace.

Designer Ian MacNeil’s intricate set design is strikingly impressive while Rick Fisher’s lighting adds to the atmosphere and intensity pairing wonderfully with Stephen Warbeck’s ominous soundtrack.

Whilst socialist Priestley wrote the play as a blistering criticism of capitalist society it very much remains a play for today with its message of social responsibility and consequence strikingly relevant. The piece illustrates perfectly how everything is connected and how our own individual actions impact others while using its platform to call for a kinder, fairer and more compassionate world. This thrilling adaptation is both slick and stylish, delivering a message that will stay with you long after the curtain call.

An Inspector Calls is on at The Lowry until Saturday 18th January tickets available here.

 

The Red Shoes

THE RED SHOES

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures premiered The Red Shoes in 2016 it stunned audiences and critics alike, winning two Olivier Awards as well as the LA Critics’ Award for both choreography and set and costume design. Returning for 2019 this breathtakingly beautiful piece of theatre proves to be as timeless a classic as ever.

Based on the 1948 Powell and Pressburger film which drew it’s inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Red Shoes this perfectly paced production is rich in indulgent theatricality, sweeping you up on a joyous, heart-wrenching, mesmerising journey from the moment Benard Herrmann’s stunning score with orchestrations from Terry Davies begins.

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The Red Shoes tells the powerful story of young ballerina Victoria Page (Ashley Shaw) who swiftly rises to the position of principal dancer after her recent arrival at an established ballet company. Her success brings her to the attention of both composer Julain Craster (Dominic North) and also that of the dance company’s powerful impresario Boris Lermontov (Adam Cooper). With the first there is a genuine truth and innocence with the second the lure of higher artistic achievement pulls like a magnet, which ignites a battle between ambition and true love.

Ashley Shaw makes a welcome return to the role of Victoria Page a role she originated in 2016; her performance feels entirely authentic as she weaves her way through a whole spectrum of emotions capturing euphoria and bliss just as convincingly as she portrays terror and furious anger. This authentic emotion paired with her exquisite technique and precise delivery is nothing short of magnificent, embodying the young dancer to perfection. Her performance during The Ballet of The Red Shoes is mesmerising as she is firstly enthralled by then ultimately captured by the shoes, she tells the story movingly and with her whole being.

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Adam Cooper’s Boris Lermontov is strong and domineering, seductive in both his power and precision, he stalks the stage bringing an ever-present feeling of temptation and danger while Dominic North’s portrayal of struggling composer Julian Craster is a joy to watch, his solo piece in Act One develops a strong characterisation which he maintains superbly throughout

Bourne’s skilful storytelling and his unbeatable attention to detail matched with a company of dancers at the absolute top of their game ensures that this production enthrals entirely. From playful scenes on the French Riviera to intensely passionate duets every element of choreography is slick, masterful and exciting while every single person on stage gives an impressive and fully developed performance. It is such a visual treat almost cinematic at times that one viewing doesn’t feel like enough, every scene could stand alone and happily satisfy any theatre goer.

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Lez Brotherston award-winning set design is immediately striking and wonderfully effective. Allowing the audience access to both onstage and off-stage scenes via a grand revolving sumptuously curtained frame which almost feels like it pirouette’s before your eyes, drawing you into the very heart of the drama, lit beautifully by Paule Constable.

The Red Shoes is a unique piece of theatre in which every element has been crafted with such love and care that the end result is an unquestionably perfect piece of theatrical magic. Bourne’s wonderfully clear storytelling ensures that anyone dipping their toe into the dance world would find the show accessible while seasoned fans of his work will revel in the thrill of having another dazzling piece to enjoy, a masterpiece!

The Red Shoes is on at The Lowry until Saturday 30th November, tickets available here.

 

 

 

 

A Taste of Honey

Reviewed by Michelle Eagleton

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When one of Salford’s most iconic plays comes back home to its birthplace, there’s bound to be a huge weight on the company performing it to get it right. The National Theatre set itself the challenge of doing just that by making one of the first stops on its UK Tour of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, The Lowry. 

Director Bijan Sheibani, who is at the helm of this production, has managed to rise to the challenge though, as it received an encouraging reaction from the audience on press night.

Sheibani takes the play back to its roots in this bold incarnation, which echoes how it was originally performed, adding the incorporation of music. There’s a live band onstage throughout, which accompanies the characters in solo numbers and plays underneath some of the dialogue, which helps evoke the mood of the piece.

For those who are unaware of the story behind the Shelagh Delaney classic, A Taste of Honey is essentially a gritty norther tale of the love-hate relationship between a working-class single mother Helen and her  daughter Jo, set against the stark backdrop of 1950s Salford. The play was penned by 19-year-old Shelagh back in 1958 and it’s hard to believe that at such a young age the local girl, who had very little experience of seeing shows let alone writing them, could produce such prolific work which would resonate with generations to come. 

Lancashire born theatre and TV star Jodie Prenger puts in a solid performance as northern matriarch Helen making the most of the acid tongue humour gifted  from Delaney and her natural comedic delivery, prompting huge amounts of  laughter from the audience. We also get the chance to see Prenger put her impressive  vocal chords to good use as she packs  a punch with the opening number ‘A Good Man’ (a soulful track reminiscent of some of the late Amy Winehouse’s repertoire).

Gemma Dobson’s portrayal of Jo creates a character that’s like marmite  you love her vulnerability one minute but want to throttle her for her outbursts the next. Dobson’s whining edge to Jo gets a little tedious in the second half of the play but overall her sweet scenes with Jimmie (her sailor love interest) and Geof make up for it and we see her performance of the troubled teen really come into its own.

Despite the play being primarily focused around the two main female roles, Jo and Helen, the stand out performance comes from one of the males in the cast, Stuart Thompson as Geof. Thompson is a delight to watch and displays a natural  sensitivity  as Jo’s gay best friend. Thompson manages to find a balance of campness and caring in the role of Geof, who struggles with his worries of being an outcast in the 1950s society whilst looking after his pregnant friend.

Elsewhere, Hildegard Bechtler’s contemporary design of the production  adds to the bleakness of the piece with a minimalist set complete with stark and dingy lighting. Everything seems shabby and in need of TLC, except for Helen’s brash and glam outfits which extenuate her desire to appear better than she is in reality – which you could say epitomises  the phrase ‘all fur coat and no knickers’.

There have been numerous productions of A Taste of Honey since it opened on stage over 60 years ago and the National present a good version here, which really highlights the comedy and pathos of Delaney’s work.

A Taste of Honey is on at The Lowry until Saturday 21st September then begins a UK tour, further information can be found here.