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.

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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.

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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

Interview | Lloyd Gorman | The Jungle Book

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Rudyard Kipling’s beloved family classic The Jungle Book comes to The Lowry from Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 7th May.

The family favourite originally written back in 1894 has been reimagined and innovatively delivered in this all new production by an award winning creative team which includes playwright Jessica Swale, director Max Webster and internationally renowned songwriter Joe Stilgoe. While the story remains the same there is a new emphasis on acceptance, inclusivity and belonging all set to an uplift and incredibly catchy score.

Opening Night were lucky enough to watch a performance of this vibrant new production at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre ahead of it’s arrival at the Lowry and grab a quick chat with Lloyd Gorman who plays Shere Khan after watching the show.

ON: What what a costume and what a character, we absolutely loved your Shere Khan!

LG: Thank you, it’s quite a costume isn’t it, I really didn’t expect it, it’s brand new, it used to be more biker style and I went for a fitting for this new one and it was a case of ‘Wow that’s a statement and a half!’ it’s a really fun costume to wear especially playing such a great character.

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ON: It must be great playing the baddie?

LG: Yes, it’s so much fun, especially such an out and out baddie who doesn’t in any way try to hide his purpose, he is straight up clear upon his need for revenge, he really believes he needs to write the wrongs of mankind, he’s been mistreated by man but seems to have developed into a bit of a misunderstood tortured soul, verging on a bit of a psychopath ha ha. An awful lot of fun to play.

ON: Is it a challenge to create something different with a story that so many people already know well.

LG: For us as a Company we’ve never felt that challenge, I haven’t for example seen the Disney film for a long, long time, nor have I seen the live action version so I didn’t feel any pressure to be different myself. For us it feels such a unique and special production that although we have the stock characters it feels very fresh and new.

ON: While watching we felt there was a real message of positivity and acceptance, could you tell us a little more about your take on this?

LG: Theatre works on so many different levels and people will take different things from it but as long as it’s giving out a message that is relevant to where we are in life now it will always be relatable, Mowgli has been made very gender unspecific so we never refer to Mowgli in any male or female pronouns, it’s also about celebrating difference which is such a huge issue in the UK at the moment, difference is seen my some people as being wrong or bad and we should stick to our own etc, I think theatre is vital in times like this to show the beauty of difference and to say no, remember that diversity is a massive benefit to us all, to the world and all of our lives. The Jungle Book is the perfect vehicle to do that through a wonderful story that while it entertains it also uplifts and educates. Children often hear many negative things about different cultures so it’s lovely to be part of something so inclusive and positive.

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ON: How did you first become involved in theatre?

LG: I went to youth theatre in Norwich there is an excellent youth theatre there, I started when I was 9, it became my entire social life. There were two things I watched around a similar time, Return to the Forbidden Planet and The Buddy Holly Story, I can’t remember which was first but I just remember watching and thinking ‘this is fantastic, if I could be in anything like this where I get to play guitar and play around in front of so many people I would be so lucky’. I worked ushering, through my teenage years which I think is a great way of keeping in with what’s happening in theatres while you’re training too.

ON: The audience response today in Liverpool was fantastic, has that been the same for other venues?

LG: Yes, we’ve had very loyal and really warm audiences, the shows have been busy and reactions have been amazing, audience have been so open with their reactions particularly at the end of the show her in Liverpool they’re happy to whoop and whistle, it’s a great feeling.

ON: You’re working with an award-winning creative team, how has that experience been?

LG: It’s been great, I was really excited about working with this team, the production has developed so much, what we have now is so so different to what we started with because the team were so involved with the rehearsal process that things could be adapted or changed almost immediately. They have also been so incredibly giving with their advice and guidance and rewrote parts where they have felt were needed, it’s been amazing to see the speed at which the show has developed.

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ON: You’re involved in quite a dramatic fight scene how did you work on that?

LG: Kate the fight director led us through a great dialogue of exactly what would happen, so by the time it came to physically act out the scene we knew it very well so it didn’t feel like choreography. It’s a lot of fun to do, I’ve never had to strangle anyone in the air on stage before and I’m sure it will be the only time I get to do it, so a great challenge and lots of fun!

ON: Do you have a favourite character in the show?

LG: Balloo, he’s brilliant, there was also a character which got cut that was a tap dancing porcupine I really enjoyed that character. I also absolutely love our version of Mowgli it’s such a solid and strong character.

ON: Finally are you looking forward to performing at The Lowry?

Yes absolutely, I’ve only ever performed in the Studio so I can’t wait to return and perform in the Lyric, the last thing I saw there was Slavas Snow Show which I loved, I love Salford and Manchester, I was in Bolton recently and that whole area is just wonderful, I’m really looking forward to my time there.

The Jungle Book opens at The Lowry on Tuesday 2nd May tickets available here.

 

 

Interview | Kerry Ellis | The Importance of Being Earnest

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Broadway and West End star Kerry Ellis arrives in Manchester next week with Oscar Wilde’s brilliant and hugely funny The Importance of Being Earnest in which she takes on the role of Gwendolen.

Starring alongside the legendary Gwen Taylor as the formidable Lady Bracknell, Susan Penhaligon as the luckless Miss Prism plus Downton Abbey favourite Thomas Howes as Algernon this will be Kerry’s first role in a straight play after an impressive and enormously successful 20 years in musical theatre.

We caught up with Kerry ahead of the show opening at Manchester’s Opera House on Tuesday 13th March to hear all about the play, her impressive career and her thoughts on taking on this new challenge.

ON: This is a real change for you, are you enjoying the experience?

KE: It’s the first play I’ve ever done really, I did do a short play with Trevor Nunn as a bit of a try out, but this is the first major play I’ve done and I’m really proud of it, I’m with a team of people who are just wonderful. Gwen Taylor is just a dream, the whole cast are great. To get to do an Oscar Wilde and a comedy as my first play has just been wonderful, I just love it. The audiences have been brilliant, it’s been very special so far, I’m absolutely loving it.

ON: Are you finding much difference between working on a straight play compared to a musical?

KE: Of course there’s the obvious with no music but yes it is quite different, with musicals there’s always so much going on, big sets and big ensembles, lots of music, songs to learn but with a play it’s literally you and your voice, your dialogue and just a few other people on stage with you. Essentially we’re doing the same thing and telling a story but it does feel quite different, we have different scenes which of course happens in both plays and musicals so the essence is the same but there’s definitely a difference.

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ON: From the production shots it appears the play will be traditionally staged are you enjoying wearing the costumes?

KE: They are stunning, they were made by Camden Costumes, they’ve all been tailor-made to us, the fabrics are amazing, the productions shots look great and show just how beautiful they are, I just feel very fortunate to wear them, the last time I wore costumes of this style was back when I was in My Fair Lady. My character Gwendolen is from a very well-to-do- family so they fit just perfectly with her character. The two dresses that I have are incredible and the hats, just phenomenal. Earnest does take me back to my My Fair Lady days as there definitely are some similar themes. What I love about this production is just how funny it is, the class system and the ridiculous things we do are to be laughed at, sitting in corsets drinking tea, it’s so silly really.

ON: You’re working with a hugely talented cast, have they offered any advice?

KE: Just watching them has been incredible, particularly Gwen who has just had her 79th birthday, I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing that information. To watch her work and be in a rehearsal room with somebody of such talent and experience and to watch her go through the same kind of things we all go through, the developments, the confidence on one night, the self-doubt on another night, seeing how she reacts to an audience, how much she cares about the show, watching her work has been very educational and I feel privledged to be in her presence. I know that probably sounds a bit cheesy but it really has been an incredible privilege to work with her.

ON: You’re celebrating 20 years what are you career highlights?

KE: There are so many, what’s interesting about doing this 20th anniversary tour is I didn’t even realise it had been 20 years, it was my manager who suggested calling it my 20th anniversary tour and I said ‘don’t be so ridiculous it can’t even be close to that’. Looking back over things I’ve done and asking audiences what they’ve seen me in and enjoyed it’s amazing what people come out with, things I’ve forgotten I’ve even done, I don’t know how I fitted everything in. I feel very fortunate that I’m still doing what I love doing and this anniversary tour is to celebrate that and to give something back to the people who have supported me over the years, I’m loving it. To do it alongside the play is wonderful.

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ON: What can audiences expect from your concert?

KE: A little bit of a trip down memory lane, there are some classics in there I can’t not sing Gravity and songs from We Will Rock You, but I am essentially singing lots of new things from my new Golden Days album. I’m also working on some new music with Frank Wildhorn who worked with Whitney Houston so there’s some of that in there so it’s really a celebration of then and what I’m doing now as well. I like to bring people new things and take them on a bit of a journey.

ON: After such an incredible 20 years in the industry do you have any advice for young performers?

KE: I feel very fortunate that I love doing what I do, I’ve made a passion for it and you have to as there are times like now when you’re touring and are away from your family, I’ve got two young boys so I’m away from them and my husband and I do have to make those sacrifices, you do have to love it and you have to make sacrifices for it, you have to have drive for it because it’s tough and it’s brutal and competitive and all of those things but it is the best job in the world. I don’t think you ever tire from hearing an audience reaction, people say it’s in your blood and I really do believe that. I was speaking to Brian May recently, we often talk when we’re on tour as we both understand how it feels, we were emailing the other night while he’s away in Australia and asking the silly little things like ‘how’s your hotel room?’ but it’s those things that really help when you’re away from your family.

ON: Are you looking forward to coming to Manchester?

Yes, I love Manchester, I was there not too long ago with Wonderland, I always have a great time there, the city is great, the people are wonderful and the theatres are fabulous, the shopping too of course is wonderful!

Tue 13 – Sat 17 March, Opera House tickets available here.

 

Trump – The Musical

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Trump – The Musical. 53Two Manchester

Director: Kyle Williams

Writer: Laurence Peacock

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

The Blowfish Theatre is carving out quite the reputation for themselves: First there was Boris-The Musical, and now we have Trump – the Musical. It’s a hard task to make some of these influential people of power any more ridiculous than they are or god forbid, they may even show them in a more positive light, however writer Laurence Peacock walks the tightrope between the two and manages to create fun-filled night out.

The plot may at first seem too far-fetched to comprehend but with all that has gone on in the world, nothing would surprise me! It’s 2020 and Donald Trump (David Burchhardt) is running for election and is planning to make America great again (again!) However he has a few issues to contend with: an infatuated Vladimir Putin (Natasha Lanceley), a maniacal Kim Jong-un (Lanceley again in a dual role) and his plan to blow up the moon and of course his biggest issue: the loss of his mobile phone. Meanwhile over in the UK, which is now just England and Northern Ireland, King Nigel Farage (Kyle Williams) plans to invade Scotland, as the UK is on its uppers as a result of Brexit. Only two people can save the day: Rod (Polly Bycroft-Brown) press sectary to Trump and Roger Lavery (Laurence Peacock) Chief Minister to King Nigel: however Lavery has his own sinister agenda.

This is a political-comedy with plenty of bite poking fun at both the late and right: at times it’s absurd and a bit silly with a plot that is nonsense, but don’t let that fool you – some of the gags are bang on point: there are jokes about the treatment of disabled people, racism and immigration which are near-the-knuckle, but rather sadly aren’t too far from the truth; surely good theatre/comedy should entertain but also open up channels of debate and Trump – The Musical does that.

The ensemble cast are on great form: all over-the-top in their lampooning: Burchhardt has the easiest job of playing the narcissist Trump. He really can’t go wrong, whilst Williams is having a ball as the foul-mouthed Farage. However it’s the performances of Lanceley and Bycroft-Brown that really standout; both have a gift for comedy that shines through.

There are some great musical numbers in there, courtesy of musical director Dominic Lo, who also plays Putin’s aid Sergei. Make America Great Again! (Again!) and The New Good Old Days certainly have a satirical edge to them, but stand-out for me is Rootin’ for Putin, which is simply fantastic because of its absurdity.

Overall this is a hilarious, fun filled night out that will have you grinning throughout. A bit like an episode of the Thick of It, only laced with LSD. It’s a must for fans of musicals and satirical comedy, however if you’re easily offended still go along anyway – you’re in for a treat!

For more tour dates of Trump – The Musical visithttp://www.blowfishtheatre.weebly.com/trump.html

 

 

 

 

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

Interview | Anthony Ofoegbu & Yasmin Paige | Circle Mirror Transformation

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Award winning director Bijan Sheibani brings the Northern Premiere of Annie Baker’s critically acclaimed play Circle Mirror Transformation to HOME’s stage from 7th to 17th March with previews beginning from Saturday 2nd March.

In a small town in Vermont, New England, five unlikely strangers come together in their community centre for a creative drama class for adults. The free-spirited Marty, recently divorced Schulz, former actress Teresa, the self-conscious high school student Lauren, and Marty’s quiet husband, James. Over six weeks of drama exercises and games ranging from the hilarious to the heart-breaking, their lives become entangled and transformed in the most humorous and moving ways.

We sat down with cast members Anthony Ofoegbu who plays James and Yasmin Paige who plays Lauren during a break in rehearsals to hear a little more about that play which won writer Annie Baker the 2010 Obie Award for Best New Play, and was voted one of the top 10 plays of 2009 by the New York Times, Time Out, and The New Yorker.

ON (Opening Night)- How are rehearsals going?

AO (Anthony Ofoegbu)- They are going great, I think the laid back persona of Bijan Sheibani our director keeps us all calm, he’s so giving and thoughtful, he sees the vision that maybe we can’t at the start then collectively through the process we start to see it too, it’s been a wonderful reciprocation of ideas and minds, incredible minds, I feel very privileged to be part of it, I’m pinching myself still.

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ON – Can you tell us a little about the play?

YP (Yasmin Paige) – The play is very naturalistic, I almost want to be able to watch it but obviously I can’t as I’m in it, it’s quiet but there is loudness within the quietness as well, it’s definitely a play about feeling, it’s about life.

AO – The title itself Circle Mirror Transformation is interesting, the operative word being mirror, Annie Baker writes in such a true way, everything is said in the silences; it’s an incredible piece of work. As actors we get to look at ourselves within this work and for an audience it mirrors life but offers so much choice for interpretation dependent on where you’re coming from in your walk of life dependent on your experiences, you might connect with something different to the person sat beside you. The silences within the play are so important in terms of internal thought, internal process, internal practice, it also allows audiences watching to connect with that and feel that, that’s the beauty of this piece I think.

YP – It’s very much about stillness, at times in life there may seem like nothing is happening but there is so much happening, just thinking about something like a still life painting, like a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers, in itself there may not be much happening but that fruit will eventually rot, those flowers will decay, that stillness will go on its own journey. When we reflect on life today where everything is so busy all of the time, we’re all always running around, talking, dashing from here to there, the tempo of life is so fast paced but in Vermont that’s not so, it’s the opposite so it’s a different world for us to inhabit, it strips everything back and what seems still and quiet actually is quite extraordinary and perhaps so with life’s journeys, we don’t realise or see that it has been a journey until we have gotten to the end and reflected on how far we have travelled. It’s a great insight into our internal journey in life.

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ON – What can you tell us about your characters?

YP – My character is the youngest member of the group who goes to this drama class in Shirley, Vermont. She’s 16 and professes that she’s joined the class because she wants to become an actress and she is quite insular and shy but strong minded and very intelligent. Just because she’s quiet and shy doesn’t mean that she doesn’t observe what’s going on, she’s very ambitious and restless. She’s young and almost waiting for life to happen then suddenly she’s in a room with these older people for whom life has happened, it’s really interesting to see how much they all learn from each other. I don’t want to give anything away but I feel by the end of the play she probably grows the most.

AO – James I think is an unsettled soul, trying his best but I think the skeletons in his cupboard are continually rattling and I think he starts to see and understand that more in the process that takes place within the play that’s augmented by his wife Marty who runs the adult drama class in which the play takes place.

ON – Will the play stay with its traditional setting in Vermont, New England?

AO– Yes, we’re in Vermont, hats off to our voice coach Michaela she has just been sensational. We have had a lot of fun getting to grips with the accents.

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ON – Have you enjoyed exploring the writing of Annie Baker?

YP – Yes, so much, she writes so beautifully about human experiences, she has a special sparkle within her writing, she like to put hope into her writing.

AO – She has a great understanding of humans, whatever we’ve been through, whatever experiences we’ve had there can be hope still. She has a wonderful way of giving us the remembrance of hope and being hopeful, she has a very skilled way of showing us through her writing what we can do to perhaps rectify whatever odds we think we’ve made in our lives.

YP – There’s s a lot of light and there is also darkness, it’s about searching in the darkness and remembering that darkness is interesting and there can be safety in darkens as well as in light and exploring the importance of both. I think being able to explore art is so important everything I’ve learned that has informed me has come from reading books, watching films, seeing theatre; it’s taught me so much about myself. Art is so self-reflective; it teaches you not only about yourself but about the world around you.

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ON – Are you largely on stage for the entirety of the production?

AO – Yes, it’s one setting in which all the action takes place.

YP – Although we are in one place it’s set over 6 weeks, so there are weeks to show the growth and progression and journey.

AO – Although you never see outside of that room you really don’t need to, it’s all explained, it allows for the imagination to be rampant in scope.

ON – Have you ever performed at Home before?

AO – No, I’ve performed at the Lowry, but only briefly, we’re here for a month so I’m really looking forward to exploring Manchester as a city. The architecture of the city, this beautiful building we’re in particularly really interests me. My dream was to be an architect but that didn’t happen so I always look at buildings, Manchester has some wonderful buildings.

YP – I haven’t either but I’m so excited, HOME itself is beautiful, I really want to see and explore Manchester, I can’t wait. There’s so much art and culture here.

Mirror Circle Transformation begins preview on Saturday 2nd March with an official opening on Wednesday 7th and runs until Saturday 17th March tickets available here.

 

 

 

Interview | Joyce Branagh | Vincent River

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Phillip Ridley’s thrilling and heart-breaking play Vincent River,, has been relocated to Manchester where it will receive its regional premiere at the award-winning Hope Mill Theatre next week.

Directed by John Young and starring Joyce Branagh and Dominic Holmes, Vincent River takes aim at homophobia and hate crime with a real and breath-taking honesty. This rousing modern classic, which premiered in London’s Hampstead Theatre back in 2000, slides under the surface of fear, hatred and love.

Davey has seen something he can’t forget. Anita has been forced to flee her home. These two have never met. Tonight their paths cross with devastating consequences.

We caught up with Joyce Branagh who plays Anita ahead of opening in Manchester to hear more about this exciting and intriguing piece of theatre.

ON – What attracted you to this production of Vincent River, and role?

JB – The play itself really. It’s been relocated by Philip Ridley to be set in Manchester, which means it feels like we’re doing a brand new play.   It’s a fantastic piece of writing – it manages to be naturalistic, but at the same time has lots of poetry within it.  It also has elements of a ‘whodunnit’ – we’re constantly trying to work out exactly what’s happening – and that gives it a huge amount of drive and drama too – which I think will be exciting to watch. Philip came to rehearsals on our first day, which was great – we got to pick his brains – but it also meant we had to do the first read through with the author in the room.  Dom and I were terrified! I play Anita – she’s a strong Mancunian matriarch – she could easily pop up on Corrie…straight talking, witty, sharp as a button, but because of the death of her son, she’s wounded and her vulnerability keeps surfacing.  She a really complex contradictory character – which is really intriguing to play.

ON – The subject matter of Vincent River is very hard hitting and emotional. Is it hard to shake that off at the end of the day’s rehearsals?

JB – It can be a bit pummelling doing this – especially at the end of a long day. But it only lasts for about 5 minutes.  Then you get back to real life.  And I think that because the play has a sort of cathartic element to it, that you have that too… you get it out of your system by doing it.  In a weird way, it’s kind of exhilarating.  We also tell each other a lot of bad jokes in the breaks.  (I have a huge supply).

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ON – I imagine that chemistry between you and your co-star is very important for a piece like Vincent River – how are you and Dominic developing this and are you enjoying working together?

Dominic is a fab actor – I met him in the audition, and to be honest he’s another reason why I took the job. I thought – “Ooh he’s good.  I’ll have to be on my toes with him”.  I feel safe with him as an actor – which is great.  It means you can let the characters battle, but you don’t have to.  And that’s what the play needs – two people who are sparring with each other – trying to work each other out get what they want. He also buys lots of mini donuts for us all, which I find very important in a co-actor.

ON – Vincent River is to be performed for a month at Hope Mill Theatre – have you been to this venue before? Either as a performer or audience member?

I’ve never performed at Hope Mill, but I’ve seen lots of productions there. (I’m going in a couple of days to see The Replacement Child actually…)  Because of the versatility of the space, it’s feels very different every time.  I thought I’d seen every configuration – but I think we’re doing something different again!   I think our audiences are going to be surprised by our set-up actually… but I think it’ll help to intensify the experience – make everyone feel that they are actually in the room with us.

ON – You are a regular on the theatre scene in Greater Manchester – why do you think we have such a vibrant and varied arts scene up here?

Why? – I don’t know. But isn’t it fantastic?  I feel like this year things may even have gone up a notch.  There have been so many plays on that I’ve really wanted to see, and so many coming up that I’ve had to get my diary out and strategically plan when I can fit everything in – and I’ve still missed some productions that sounded fantastic.

ON – You’re a successful theatre director as well as actor. Do you have a preference and if so, why?

No preference. I love both – and I feel very lucky when I get the opportunity to hop between the two.  With this I know what a strong connection John Young our director has to the play, which means I can relax and let him take the strain!   I love directing – getting projects underway, bringing a great team together and crafting a show… but then it’s so lovely to leave all that stuff behind and just solely get into the head of a character and bring them to life.  Especially a character as juicy as Anita. She’s a belter. Thanks Philip Ridley!

Vincent River begins previews at Hope Mill Theatre on Tuesday 27th Feb before official opening night on Thursday 1st March and runs through until Saturday 24th March tickets available here. Standard tickets £15 concessions £12.