Fantastic Mr Fox

Fox 2

Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, amazingly written 47 years ago, has aged well in this stage adaptation by Sam Holcroft for the Nuffield Sothampton Theatre and Curve Production. Although not originally intended to be performed on stage, and certainly not as a musical, this production bravely combines song, live music and a strong, funny script to re-tell the tale of Mr Fox, his motley crew and his arch enemy farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

The personification of Fantastic Mr Fox (played convincingly by Greg Barnett) and his fiercely loyal crew of woodland creatures contrasts colourfully with the hapless, selfish and at times dark characters of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, those mean-spirited farmers determined to put a stop to Fox’s antics.

Fox 3

Mr Fox, a literary version of Robin Hood, who steals from the rich to give to his hungry comrades, has no faith in those friends, despite losing his tail (and balance along with it), and refuses to rely on them in his time of peril.

Despite the obvious challenges faced in staging this production, the creative team cleverly rejected the temptation to recreate wildlife scenes, and instead used modern day set and funky materials, giving the staging a contemporary feel. The costumes similarly drew on more modern materials including sportswear, headbands and fluffy leg warmers

Fox 1

The cast worked hard, with Richard Atwill, Raphael Bushay, Gruffurd Glynn and Kelly Jackson all playing 2 roles, and completing some speedy costume changes. Although laced with humour, there were some ‘comedy gold’ moments provided by the excitable Rabbit (played by the very funny Sandy Foster) and Mole, played by Gruffud Glyn.

As well as being a story about good winning over bad, the audience is taken on a journey of discovery as Mr Fox realises that that with true friends around you, anything can be achieved and no problem is insurmountable. With tension building throughout the production, there were lots of laughs for the younger audience, and a few jokes too, to benefit the parents. Overall this is a perfect family show with a strong moral content, which will ensure that everyone is talking about it long after the curtain falls.

Fox

On at The Lowry until Sunday tickets available here http://www.thelowry.com/events/fantastic-mr-fox

Reviewed by Margot Power

Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes

RS 2

Due to popular demand and for the 1st time in New Advenutres history, Matthew Bourne’s Olivier award winning production, The Red Shoes returns to the Lowry next week for the second time during its current season, offering audiences one final chance to catch the visually stunning and technically sublime production which has captivated audiences since its World Premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in November.

Based on the academy award winning film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and of course the much loved Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, The Red Shoes tells the story of “Victoria Page”, the girl who yearns to become the greatest dancer in the world.

RS 3

New Adventures favourite, Ashley Shaw, most recently seen across the UK and internationally as “Aurora” in Matthew Bourne’s critically acclaimed Sleeping Beauty, takes on the role of Victoria and has enchanted audiences with her exquisite and breath-taking talent. The Red Shoes is an utterly captivating and timeless piece, a tale of heartbreak, passion and love as Victoria becomes Principal dancer in the new ballet ‘The Red Shoes’ but finds herself torn between two men, resulting in the most beautifully intense and incredibly emotive performances.

RS

Lifting this already superb production to an even higher level is the stunning new score arranged by New Adventures Associate Artist, Terry Davies using the magnificent music of golden-age Hollywood composer, Bernard Herrmann. The combination of this exquisite theatrical score and breath-taking performances from the New Adventures Company make this a show not to be missed.

RS 1

After it’s sell-out visit to the Lowry last December The Red Shoes returns for one week only from Tuesday 11th until Saturday 15th July tickets available here www.thelowry.com/events/matthew-bournes-production-of-the-red-shoes

 

Waiting For God

WFG

The new stage adaptation of the BAFTA nominated 1990’s BBC series is a slick, and frequently hilarious production that looks at growing old disgracefully in Bay View Retirement Village.

The most popular characters from the original series are here, reimagined for 2017, in an all-new script penned by the sitcom’s creator Michael Aitkens. Nichola McAuliffe as Diana and Jeffrey Holland as Tom Ballard steal the show with multi-dimensional and generous performances. McAuliffe in particular shows amazing range as she transforms from a crotchety and bitter ‘senior citizen’ to a passionate and wickedly naughty character and everything in between, with excellent support from Ballard as her love interest.

WFG 2

There was plenty for the audience to enjoy with frequent snappy one-liners which were also balanced with a surprising depth of insight and depiction of tragedy which  were related in a very human way by the lead characters. Samuel Collings and Emily Pithon as Harvey Baines and Jane Edwards made a humorous double-act, if veering a little close to the farcical at times. The other supporting characters of Sarah Chase played by Joanna Bending and Geoffrey Ballard played by David Benson were presented with gusto and professionalism, each made a meaningful impression. Bending was particularly hilarious during the birth scene, and Benson showed excellent acting chops particularly masterfully during final tragic/comic speech depicting his wedding and marriage in a piece of acting that was both hilarious and moving.

Daft but laugh-out-loud funny moments in the chapel at the end of the play were a fitting end to a very enjoyable evening.

WFG 1

On at The Lowry until Saturday 8th July http://www.thelowry.com/events/waiting-for-god

Reviewer – Margot Power

Fantastic Mr Fox preview

Fox 1

The brand new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much loved classic Fantastic Mr Fox arrives at the Lowry next week and promises to be a gloriumptious treat for the whole family!

Although Mr Fox is smart, clever and of course completely fantastic, does he underestimate how determined the farmers are to get their revenge? Can he hatch a cunning plan to save his friends and family? And can rabbit keep quiet for long enough not to give the game away? You’ll simply have to watch to find out!

We sat down with composer Arthur Darvill (familiar to many as Rev. Paul Coates in Broadchurch) to hear more about the show and find out what audiences can expect from this dahlicious family theatrical feast!

Fox 2

Arthur felt it was a real privilege to write music for this new production. “It is a pinch yourself moment. When re reading the book I thought I love this book but I don’t know if I can do this, which I think is a good reaction to have. Throughout the writing process, it has been about honouring what Dahl wrote and making sure the music tells the story in the best way we can tell it.”

A massive Roald Dahl fan, Arthur remembers reading Fantastic Mr Fox in his cabin bed when he was a child growing up back in Birmingham. “I read it in one go, in one night and just absolutely loved it. It had a drastic impact on the way my world was shaped. Dahl made the most disgusting things in life seem like the most joyous. He also had a great sense of justice, which can only be a good thing.”

Arthur expanded on what he wanted to capture about the story and its characters via the music; “There are a definite group of characters in Fantastic Mr Fox; humans and animals. I wanted to give them both a very different sound to start with and as the story develops, these sounds slightly cross over depending on what is happening. The farmers have a dirty earthly English sound and the animals are freer. Mr Fox is arrogant at times and Mouse sings about cheese, which is very sweet.”

Fox

We asked Arthur what he hoped audiences would take away from the show? “I hope audiences take away melodies that they can sing on their way home. This show is so much fun and the right people get their comeuppance. It is not black and white. You will go home discussing the moral content of the story whilst laughing at the jokes. It’s a perfect family show for all ages”.

You can catch Fantastic Mr Fox which is adapted by Sam Holcroft and directed by Maria Aberg, from Wednesday 5th July until Sun 9th July at the Lowry theatre, Salford. Tickets available via the following link; https://www.thelowry.com/events/fantastic-mr-fox

 

 

Shirley Valentine

Shirley

It’s an incredible 30 years since playwright Willy Russel introduced the world to Shirley Valentine and what better way to celebrate than to bring her out of the kitchen for an anniversary tour.

The play which has travelled the world winning a string of awards as well as being made into a film starring Pauline Collins which earned both BAFTAs and Academy Award nominations is as iconic as the Liver Birds. 40 something Shirley is trapped, drowning in a life which has lost all its spark, where the most important job she has is getting her husband’s tea on the table and her best conversations are with the kitchen wall. Downtrodden and deflated Shirley is tired with what life has become until one day out of the blue she’s offered the opportunity to inject some adventure, in the form of 2 weeks in Greece with her single pal Jane.

Shirley 3

Taking on the role of Shirley in this one woman piece, is Jodie Prenger, she finds the warmth and humour within as she delivers a heart-warming and gratifying performance. Possessing all the grit, determination, humour and vulnerability of the Shirley we all know and love as well as ramping up the humour with her skilful and entertaining depiction of the various characters which inhibit Shirley’s world. She glides with ease from one character to the next, breathing fresh life into the pages of Russel’s much loved work. Prenger is a force to be reckoned with, commanding the full attention of a packed out Lowry theatre, she delivers a wholly believable and deeply touching performance, audience laughter is closely followed by thoughtful reflection as Prenger finds the true heart of Shirley as her desperation for more becomes painfully clear.

Shirley 1

Russel’s familiar themes of loneliness and inequality are just as relevant today as they were when he originally penned Shirley. His writing is sharp and poignant, offering humour, depth and a fine understanding of the way many women see the world. Director Glen Walford makes great use of the material allowing Prenger to take this piece and really make it shine. Designer Amy Yardley’s kitchen set in Act I is impressive, allowing Shirley to cook up her chips and egg without missing a beat of the mighty monologue she delivers.

This is a fun, feel-good and thought-provoking production which like Shirley really gains momentum when our heroine chases her dream and starts to really live. A wonderful revival, which will make audiences fall in love with Shirley all over again.

On at The Lowry until Saturday tickets available here https://www.thelowry.com/events/shirley-valentine

Trainspotting: Live

Trainspotting 1

Credit: Geraint Lewis

It’s not often that a production leaves me wanting to go straight back and see it again but that is how I felt after watching Trainspotting: Live at The Lowry this week. The incredibly immersive offering, based on the cult Irvine Welsh novel, is punchy, powerful and fizzing with gritty realism. Co- directors Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Greg Esplin have delivered a genius piece of modern theatre which gives audience members the full ‘Trainspotting’ experience as soon as they walk into the auditorium.

Conventionality goes out of the window from the start – there’s no seat numbers on your tickets, instead you are given a glo-wristband where the colour denotes where you’re placed for the show. When you step inside the auditorium the action has already begun and all seven actors that make up the cast are dancing their tits off, glo sticks aloft and banging music playing at full blast. It’s like you are in an underground rave and the electricity and pumping bass lines hit you like a bolt!

Either side of the action are raised seating areas which mean you face each other side on and can witness every hilarious reaction to the crowd participation. It’s not the most comfortable way to watch a show but, as it’s just 75 minutes straight through and hugely transfixing, the numb posterior doesn’t detract you from the action. One thing to note seating wise though is if you are placed by the mid seating toilet then prepare yourself for a soaking as the infamous ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ scene becomes all too real.

Trainspotting: Live is certainly not for the fainthearted or the easily offended but if you have read the cult novel or seen the film you should be fully aware of what to expect. The beauty of this production is that every night of the run will bring with it a new element of audience related ad-libs, depending on the crowd, as the cast find new ways to offend and delight in equal measure. There’s full frontal nudity, needles, soiled sheets and even a used condom hurled out into the audience!

Credit: Geraint Lewis

The young Scottish cast should be applauded for the physicality of their performances, each one giving all of their energy to the roles, visibly sweating their way through scenes. It’s hard to pick out anyone from such a strong team but a special mention must go to Gavin Ross who plays the central character, Renton. Ross gives a stellar performance and revels in the part that Ewan McGregor made his own. Together the seven strong ensemble bring to life all the key characters and scenes alongside superb use of lighting, sound and a script which is every bit as edgy as the screenplay, immersing you into the dark world of drug addiction from the off.

20 years after Trainspotting hit our screens and asked us to ‘choose life’ 2017 saw the release of the follow up, T2, introducing a whole new generation to this powerful and evocative story. Trainspotting: Live just enhances this following further and I’m sure in its own right will become a cult classic amongst theatre goers and fans alike.

Rest assured you will not be disappointed in this breathtaking, rollercoaster of a show so get your tickets fast and don’t miss it if it stops at a station near you anytime soon.

Runs at The Lowry, Salford until Sat 11th June

https://www.thelowry.com/events/trainspotting

*Best availability for tickets, Thursday 8th June*

The Play That Goes Wrong

PTGW

Bursting onto the Lowry stage this week with a crash, bang and almighty wallop is West End smash hit and recent Broadway transfer, The Play That Goes Wrong.

Mischief Theatre have come a long way since their humble beginnings in an Inslington Pub and their original production continues to thrill as the company delivers the silliest and most calamitous night out at the theatre you’re ever likely to witness.

Cornley Polytechnic amateur dramatic club invite us to join them as they attempt to stage their bold new production, Murder at Haversham Hall, a 1920’s murder mystery which quickly becomes less whodunnit and more survival of the fittest.

The catastrophes begin immediately as the lights go up prematurely as our victim is still getting himself in place on the chaise lounge. Anything that could go wrong absolutely does in this riotous romp of farcical fun. The physical comedy is hilarious with gag after gag hitting you thick and fast, you just about regain your composure when another disaster unfolds and tears of laughter begin again. From missing props, to set malfunctions you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing as the cast press on with their ‘show must go on attitude’ and remain completely in character despite the chaos unfolding all around them.

PTGW1

High praise must go to this hardworking ensemble cast, the teamwork involved to enable such slick delivery is impressive; their commitment to making things look so delightfully disastrous is incredible as the madcap mayhem leaves audiences exhausted from laughing so hard. Each person on stage gives their all in this high energy romp and together creates the most wonderful team. Special mention must go to Alistair Kirton as Cecil Haversham he is superb, so thrilled with his own performance any audience applause is too wonderful to ignore. Also Patrick Warner as Inspector Carter, his attempts to remain calm amidst the madness are hilarious. Making it all possible is Nigel Hook’ set which is superb, intricate and sophisticated with all manner of opportunities for disasters to unfold as every piece has its part to play.

PTGW2

The Play That Goes Wrong is the perfect tonic; the company deliver the most seamless escapist fun, something so important in current times. It’s chaotic, silly, brilliantly bonkers and delightfully daft, an absolute must see!

On at The Lowry until Saturday 10th June https://www.thelowry.com/events/the-play-that-goes-wrong