Little Mermaid

LM 2

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.

Daisy

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!

LM 1

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.

Daisy 2

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.

Birdsong

Birdsong 3

Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

It’s a bold move by anyone’s standards to take a 503-page novel and attempt to turn into a 2 ½ hour play: especially one the scale and volume of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, so a great deal of credit must go to writer Rachel Wagstaff for this brave choice.

The story shifts back and forth between 1910 and 1916 and focuses on three central characters. First there is Jack Firebrace (Tim Treloar), a loving husband and father out on the frontline of the Somme, digging underground tunnels for the British in an attempt to gain the element of surprise on the German soldiers. Jack is like a Father figure to his troops: however when news reaches him from back home that his own son his unwell, he wants leave to go and visit. However a chance encounter and near death experience with Lieutenant Stephen Wrayford (Tom Key) would see the two men strike an unusual bond and friendship: Firebrace the warm hearted working man and Wrayford, the cold, distant serving officer.

Birdsong 2

But what made him so distant in the first place? The answer to this lies in 1910, France, where Wrayford is starting life in the textiles business. Wrayford is staying with a wealthy but cruel factory owner, his wife Isabelle (Madeline Knight) and family. It is here that Wrayford can see that the marriage is an unhappy one, and soon he and Isabelle fall in love and thus a passionate affair ensues.

Back in 1916, we see Wrayford begin to recover from his ordeal, however still haunted by images of Isabelle, we zig-zag between 1910 and 1916 to find out what really happened to him to make him the way he is now.

From the moment the lights come up, and you see Victoria Spearing’s fantastically haunting set design: complete with barbed-wire fence resembling a cross, you know you are in for a roller-coaster ride of emotions, one that will leave you with a smile on your face one moment and shocked to your core the next. The near deafening sound design my Dominic Bilkey creeps up on you and throws you headlong into the full horrors of war: however always in the chaos and calm is the haunting sound of Birdsong: the only true constant of the play.

Birdsong 1

The cast are exceptional throughout with most playing dual roles. They must barely get time to breathe with constant costume and set changes: it really is a team effort like a band of brothers/sisters off to war that you cannot help but be bowled over by the warmth, humour and pathos each one brings to their roles. There are a few mis-placed accents here and there, but these are very minor quibbles in what is a truly and engrossing piece of theatre.

The relationship between both Stephen and Isabelle, and then Jack and Stephen is what drives this production forward. You firmly invest in the love/obsession Stephen and Isabelle have for each other, as well as the moving friendship between Jack and Stephen and this is firmly down to the impassioned performances of the leads who all give captivating performances.

Birdsong

This is what theatre should be: engaging, entertaining, leaving you shocked and entertained: after the curtain call and the applause had died down and the audience shuffled silently out of the Quays Theatre: that said more about the impact this play had then any reviewer ever could.

Birdsong as the Quays Theatre Lowry until Saturday 7th April, tickets Available here.

 

 

The Game of Love and Chai

LC

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2

Nigel Planer creatively reimagines Pierre de Marivaux’s 1730 play The Game of Love and Chance in this modern day, fun and farcical incarnation, The Game of Love and Chai.

There is still a central love story, duplicity, mistaken identity, class system and buckets of laughs while modern themes and Bollywood beats are introduced as well as an Uber driver and a delight in Primark purchases.

Swapping 18th-century French nobility for modern-day British Asians makes for a fresh take on a traditional classic. The plot is a fairly simple one, wealthy widow Kamala-Ji (Goldy Notay) wants to see her daughter Rani (Sharon Singh) marry successful local businessman Raj (Adam Samuel-Bal), head-strong solicitor Rani however is unimpressed at the convention of marriage so decides to take some control of the situation switching places with her nice-but-dim cousin Sita (Kiren Jogi) ahead of Raj’s visit, little does she realise that Raj has had the same idea and his Uber driver, Nitin (Ronny Jhutti) will be stepping into Raj’s shoes for the occasion.

The cast are clearly having a lot of fun in this colourful and creative production. Adam Samuel-Bal and Sharon Singh make for a believable coupling, caught up in their own plotting their chemistry is genuine and joyful. Ronny Jhutti, wide-boy and Uber driver extraordinaire and Kiren Jogi, the beautician with a bigger personality than her luscious lashes treat the audience to plenty of laughs as the chaos and comedy ensues. The addition of Bollywood music lifts the production while Goldy Notay as Kamala-Ji presides over affairs with authority, prosecco in hand.

Not all the jokes land but the all-round theme of this production is farcical fun with a capital F, in that it succeeds. The last-minute change to 18th-century dress seems unnecessary and out of place in this modern reimagining. All in all the scamming, scheming and big personalities in this production will entertain with some great comedic timing delivered to hilariously dramatic effect.

On at The Lowry until Saturday 31st March tickets available here.

Art

Art

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

It’s nearly 25 years since the Yasmina Reza short play Art made its theatrical debut in Paris and judging by the anticipation and buzz around the Lyric theatre this evening, it would appear the play still has a huge drawing power. However, the big question is, is it still worth the hype and praise? Or is it a bit like the Cecilia Giménez restoration of the Fresco, and doesn’t deliver what is promised?

The plot focuses on three life- long friends, Serge, Marc and Yvan. Serge, a wealthy divorcee with a supposed penchant for modern art, decides to spend £200,000 on a painting of a white canvas. His friend Marc takes great offense by this show of extravagance.  Marc believes Serge is, either going mad, having a sly dig at him, or is just plain foolish for making such an inane purchase. Marc  enlists the help of Yvan, their down trodden people-pleasing friend to either get to the bottom of their friend’s behaviour, or at least get him onside with his assessment that the painting “is shit”.

As the debate rages between Serge and Marc, and Yvan’s piggy-in-the-middle stance on proceedings, it would appear that this rather bland, neutral piece of art exposes some home truths and harsh realities that threatens to blow the lid off their friendship once and for all.

Art 2

Art proved to be a bitter-sweet night at the theatre, with more to say about the insecurities and foibles of middle-class-white men than a critique of modern art. The script is razor-sharp, filled with stinging- barbs and some cracking set pieces that include possibly the funniest olive eating scene I have witnessed and a finale that drew loud, audible gasps from the assembled audience. The trouble is that the 2 of the 3 characters are quite loathsome and that you really don’t care about them, their friendship or the painting.

That said there is no shortage of star-power on display here: Dennis Lawson is clearly having a ball as cantankerous Marc, delivering most of the plays most venomous lines with real gusto. Nigel Havers does what he does best as the suave, extravagant Serge, a role we are all too familiar with seeing him play, but he does it so well. However the biggest applause for the night was saved for Stephen Tompkinson, whose speech mid-way through is comedy gold, and his turn as the well -meaning wet blanket Yvan very nearly steals the shows.

Art 3

Mark Thomas has created simple but effective beige set with only a few paintings and different style chairs used to show off the personality of our protagonists.

I suppose, as all Art, the idea is to challenge and debate. This piece of Art certainly does that; love it or hate you won’t forget it in a hurry that’s for sure!

Art is on at the Lowry until the 31st March tickets available here

Don Giovanni | Opera North

Don Giovanni 01_credit Bill Cooper

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

Scandalously entertaining, Don Giovanni is a five-star romp through the ages which left us both wooed and wowed at The Lowry!

Presented by Opera North, Don Giovanni tells the story of a time-travelling lothario who leaves a trail of broken hearts – and even a corpse – in his wake before finally facing retribution.

With the Time’s Up movement empowering victims of sexual harassment and violence, Mozart’s work circa 1787 remains as relevant today as it did in the eighteenth century and, thanks to its stunning staging and raucous puppetry, this production feels thoroughly modern and provocative.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

Mozart presents us with three female leads: Donna Anna (Jennifer Davis), who Don Giovanni molests before killing her father Il Commendatore (James Platt); Donna Elvira (Elizabeth Atherton), who Don Giovanni has previously seduced and promised to marry; and Zerlina (Kathryn Rudge), whom he is intent on bedding on her wedding day to Masetto (Ross McInroy).

Slipping back and forth in time, Don Giovanni manages to stay one step ahead of all three women with the help of his long-suffering servant Leporello; indeed, it is only when Don Giovanni defiantly asks the statue of the murdered Il Commendatore to dine with him that his past transgressions look set to finally catch up with him…

William Dazeley has all the prerequisite charisma and acting chops to carry the title role of Don Giovanni, yet it is his partnering with John Savournin as Leporello that delivers the greatest satisfaction. Fully indulging in Mozart’s brand of nudge-nudge wink-wink bawdy comedy, Dazeley and Savournin are a riot, as well as bona fide masters of gesticulating rudely with their canes.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

The black, lowbrow comedy they indulge in offers the perfect counterbalance to Donna Anna’s palpable grief, which the brilliant Jennifer Davis portrays so believably. Whether she’s being roughly molested, lying prostrate on the floor or flopping in anguish against her ever-patient fiancé Don Ottavio (Nicholas Watts), Davis’ vocals never falter – making this a stunning Opera North debut for the graduate of DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin.

As the flirtatious Zerlina, Kathryn Rudge is delicious – simultaneously reassuring her husband-to-be Masetto, while actively encouraging Don Giovanni’s panting advances. Her vocal theatrics during a simulated sex scene had the audience in stitches!

Praise too for James Platt, who lends just the right amount of gravitas to the role of Il Commendatore – making for a sensational last act.

DON GIOVANNI_OPERA NORTH Don Giovanni; William Dazeley, Leporello; John Savournin, Donna Anna; Jennifer Davis, Don Ottavio; Nicholas Watts, Donna Elvira; Elizabeth Atherton, Zerlina Kathryn Rudge, Masetto; Ross McInroy, Co

While the Opera North cast and chorus are to be congratulated on their first-class performances, it is Alessandro Talevi’s direction, Madeleine Boyd’s set and costume design, Matthew Haskins’ lighting and Victoria Newlyn’s choreography that takes the staging to a whole other level.

The device of inserting a Punch and Judy-style stage ‘window’ into the curtain was ingenious – especially when the actors’ lower bodies were replaced with identical miniature puppets. These were, without doubt, some of my very favourite scenes in the whole production.

And what is an opera without music? Hearty congratulations to the Opera North orchestra, which was expertly led by Christoph Altstaedt – breathing new life into the familiar and seducing us with every note.

Don Giovanni has one final performance at The Lowry on Friday 9th March at 7pm with a bookable free pre-show talk at 6pm, tickets available here.

Hard Times

Reviewed by Angela Hazeldine

“Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts…”

These are the words of Thomas Gradgrind, the School Board Superintendent (played here by Andrew Price). As Northern Broadsides adaptation of Hard Times by Charles Dickens unfolds, we begin to see why this approach to bringing up children can have disastrous effect on their future and indeed, spirit.

Here we have an inventive and ambitious retelling of one of Dickens’ perhaps lesser read tales. Thomas Gradgrind will not allow fanciful thoughts not in his school nor in his home, which becomes somewhat problematic when the circus comes to town.

Hard Times 4

The piece is threaded together with tones of nostalgic North England, brass duets and rich north east folk melodies along with circus montages that are both vibrant and haunting at the same time.

The cast all appear to be multi-talented actors who sing, dance, play instruments, walk on stilts, charm snakes (not a real one for those of you that suffer from Ophidiophobia) amongst other things! I haven’t picked out individual performances in this review as this piece is very, very much an ensemble piece with everyone working together to deliver this epic tale.

Hard Times 1

For me, the first half felt slightly lacking in momentum but this is probably down to the immense amount of detail needed to round off a Charles Dickens story. The second half seemed to have a lot more energy as all loose ends were tied up and the deviousness of pretty much everyone involved was exposed.

Congratulations to Deborah McAndrews for this adaptation of an epic tale, the story keeps moving but all the details are still there which is so important when dealing with Dickens and also to Conrad Nelson for his direction and fluid telling of the story, no mean feat when a circus is involved!

On at the Lowry until Saturday 10th March tickets available here.

BRB | The Sleeping Beauty

Opening Night Verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Michelle Ewen

It’s a tale that needs no introduction – one that has charmed generations (young and old) ever since the seventeenth century.

The simple story of a beautiful princess who is awoken from a sleeping enchantment by the kiss of a handsome prince. Little wonder then that people happily braved the plummeting temperatures to flock to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s five-star performance of The Sleeping Beauty at The Lowry. (Who wouldn’t want to sit inside a giant snow globe with prima ballerina Delia Mathews pirouetting prettily centre stage?)

Fulfilling its bold mission statement to: ‘…inspire and move people worldwide with the best ballet…’ Birmingham Royal Ballet have assembled a formidable company of performers, who are ably supported by a stellar creative team and accompanying orchestra – superbly conducted by Paul Murphy.

Of course, it is Delia Mathews who shines as Princess Aurora, which is considered to be the most technically demanding of all classical ballerina roles. Appointed Principal in 2017, New Zealander Mathews spends virtually the entire performance en pointe – remaining beautifully controlled, while embodying vivacity and coy flirtation with every gesture. Her Disney-handsome Prince is Brandon Lawrence, who says his proudest moment on stage to date was dancing for His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. (How fitting!) The Bradford-born Soloist was faultless in his footwork; oozing romance and charm, he stole my heart too!

Full credit to Nao Sakuma for making one of the greatest stage entrances I’ve seen: riding high on the backs of her malevolent attendants – and dressed head to toe in black lace and sequins – Carabosse is the embodiment of evil as she curses Princess Aurora on her christening day. Though less technically demanding, her ‘pantomime villainess’ turn is perfect, right through to the final curtain.

While these ‘showy’ roles undoubtedly shine, my greatest personal pleasure was seeing the Soloists each take their own moment in the spotlight during the Prologue and Act III.

Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty is based on the original choreography of Marius Petipa, and it is truly a delight to see each performer take flight – buoyed by Pepita’s steps and Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score.

As Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat, Hamish Scott and Yvette Knight are delightful, while Ruth Brill and Valentin Olovyannikov as Red Riding Hood and the Wolf get fully immersed into character with the aid of their dazzling costumes. (It comes as no surprise to find out that The Sleeping Beauty is the only ballet that requires an articulated lorry just for costumes – including 40 rails and 16 huge wicker skips. From the moment the curtain goes up, the stage is awash with crisp tutus, powdered wigs and swathes of twinkling lace!)

That brings us neatly to Philip Prowse’s design. Sumptuous and decadent, the production feels lavish in the extreme; the set is beautifully lit by Mark Jonathan (recreated by Peter Teigen), whose genius gives us a real ‘wow’ moment when we see the sleeping Aurora spotlighted through the tangled forest.

Birmingham Royal Ballet is to be truly praised for delivering on every level: dream choreography performed by a truly accomplished cast; note-perfect orchestration; and a feast for the eyes through no-holds-barred production and design.

Don’t sleep on it… The Sleeping Beauty is on now at The Lowry until Saturday, 3 March. Tickets are available here