Off Cut Festival | Manchester

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If you want to see the finest in new short plays where you as an audience member can influence which winners will be offered the opportunity to develop their piece into a fully-staged production with Manchester Actors’ Platform then get yourself down to 53two this week.

For five years, the Off Cut Festival has been one of the UK’s most successful platforms for undiscovered writing, acting and directing talent, the festival now has a new northern home and takes place between 22nd and 25th January.

Over the past few weeks, 15 brand new short plays from writers around the country have been rehearsed and reworked by Manchester’s finest up-and-coming directors and actors, ready to be performed to audiences over three nights. They will be shown over three nights with five plays performed each night, the audience will be asked to vote for their favourite plays each night. The top two from each group will then go through to be performed again on the last day of the festival, Saturday 25th January. The audience will then vote on the plays again alongside a panel of industry professionals who will also be selecting their favourites to decide the winner.

Producer Simon Naylor from Manchester Actors’ Platform and FOUNDation/53two said “OFFCUT fills a hole that has long been empty. It embraces all of the qualities we strive for in independent and fringe theatre and provides the perfect platform to showcase and launch careers alongside celebrating the brilliant spirit and bond that this city has.”

The performances have been broken down into the following groups

22nd Jan – 7:30pm

Home Fires Burning by Kevin Cuffe

Summerland by Brian Coyle

The Fish and the Sea by Jeff Nolan

Born on the Right Side by Maddie Wakeling

Grow by Gemma Langford

 

23rd Jan – 7:30pm

Home by Alexandra Keelan

Best Friends by Lewis Charlesworth

FOMO by Curtis Cole

Here We Are by Anne Price

There’s a Fly in My Room by Rachel McMurray

 

24th Jan – 7:30pm

Tortoise by Naomi Westerman

Tremble by Rob Johnston

To Sleep by Stephanie Lacey

Granola by Gemma Whiteley

Click by Chantelle Dusette

 

GRAND FINAL

25th Jan – 7:30pm

The six plays, chosen by the audience over the previous three nights, are performed again. From them, the winner of the Audience Award for Favourite Play will be developed and fully-staged at 53two.

Tickets are £8 per show

£24 for OFFCUT PASS to all 4 nights

Available here.

Unwaged tickets at £2 available every

Släpstick

 

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Its traditional this time of the year to take in a family show to keep young and old alike entertained for a couple of hours or so, with pantos a plenty and musicals on mass, you may want something a little quirky, a bit different: step forward Släpstick.

 

Släpstick are a Dutch musical theatre troupe who present a love letter to the golden age of silent cinema: Buster Keaton, Spike Jones, Laurel & Hardy, to name but a few, are all represented here. The five–man group create a musical hall experience like no other, playing well over a 100 instruments between them: all this mixed together creates a unique and original experience that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear.

 

 

The show begins when you’re queuing to get into the theatre as you meet some of the cast members in various guises. However when the show starts properly, we are introduced to a wide range of colourful comedy characters, from a fast talking American showman to an injured swan and a barbershop quintet whose numbers reduce throughout the night due to a series of unfortunate accidents. There are German versions of Bohemian Rhapsody and Up Town Funkwhich are inexplicably hilarious. 

 

The show is like an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, absurd, silly and packed full of great physical and visual gags: you’re never sure where it will take you. There are call backs to previous jokes, there quite literally is something for everyone.

All five performers are super talented musicians and entertainers: there isn’t a musical instrument that these guys don’t play: from a flying double bass, to the swan egg whistle (yes you have read that correctly) – if it can make a sound, they’ll play it.

 

 

It’s not just music that makes the show but the art of playing the clown, with each member of the group involved in some fantastic physical set pieces, from an unflattering seduction scene using Italian and Spanish loves songs that pretty much turns into an episode of the much loved and much missed BBC sitcom Bottom.

 

Some routines do out-stay their welcome a little bit too much and the show could do with a slight trim off its running time, but these are minor quibbles for what is a clever, at times touching and often astonishing piece of work that will entertain young and old alike, and is the perfect Christmas show for those who fancy something a little different. The shows finale quite literally brings the house down and ends the show with a standing ovation and a huge audience pillow fight: well I did say this was something a little different!

 

Släpstick is at Home till the 22nd December tickets available here.  

 

The Nature of Forgetting

The Nature of Forgetting, credit Danilo Moroni 5

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tom is preparing for his 55th birthday; Tom also has early onset dementia. As he dresses for his party, with each touch of fabric threads of memoires begin to stir; we follow his minds recollections and failing retentions over the next 75 minutes through an exploration of memory, friendship, love and the fragility of human life.

Established in 2009, Theatre Re is a London-based international ensemble creating moving and incredibly poignant explorative theatre which pushes the boundaries of mime and physicality. The company move together effortlessly as beloved memories play out patchily while others remain strong, taking Tom right back to his school days, to sharing his first kiss through to enjoying his wedding day.

The Nature of Forgetting, credit Danilo Moroni 2

The fluid execution of each scene allowing the peaks and troughs of Tom’s life to play out in front of us. Tom’s mind may be weakening as shown through the stuttering and stalling of particular memories as scenes blur and frustrations rise where the simple becomes complex but the person at the heart of it remains.

Alex Judd’s beautiful composition becomes almost an additional character, stirring and atmospheric it flows beautifully through the fluid memories and punctuates the distorted, splintered recollections.

the nature of forgetting, credit danilo moroni

The show’s creator and director, Guillaume Pigé takes on the title role of Tom, delivering the complex choreography with ease. Timing here is everything and the small ensemble cast don’t miss a beat as this moving exploration of dementia as seen through the eyes of a sufferer offers a stage for soon to be forgotten memories.

Fast-paced and poignant, Theatre Re succeed entirely in delivering a thought-provoking and impactful piece of theatre. Tom may seem broken but his inner-strength and the person he was remain despite his failing, weakening mind.

Theatre Re have one more performance of The Nature of Forgetting at the Lowry on Wednesday 13th June at 1.30pm, tickets available here.

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From 10am on Tue 12 Jun, you can get a free child’s ticket (age 16 and under) to one of 40+ London theatre shows, including Aladdin, Bat Out Of Hell, Wicked, Brief Encounter, and Les Misérables, throughout August when you buy a full-priced adult ticket via the Kids Week website.

There are 172,000 tickets available in total (this includes adult and child tickets) through Kids Week and you can book until the offer ends on Fri 31 Aug – some shows have excluded days and the offer will end once all tickets are sold.

Last year, 104,839 tickets sold within the first 24 hours, so you’ll need to go quick if you’re after a particular performance!

There are no booking or postage fees, and you can save £11.50-£80 depending on the show and seats you choose. You can also get 50% off for up to two more children per adult, so what are you waiting for!

Head to Kids Week for further information and to check out the available shows!

 

Aspects of Love | Cast and Creatives announced

Aspects

An exciting cast and creative team has been announced for Hope Mill Theatre and Aria productions hotly-anticipated, intimate revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic classic Aspects of Love, which runs as the award-winning Ancoats theatre from Thursday 5th July until Thursday 9th August.

The talented company of 10 includes both Olivier Award nominees and West End regulars as well as young talent making their professional debuts will be directed by Jonathan O’Boyle whose recent credits include Pippin (Hope Mill Theatre/ Southwark Playhouse, London), Hair (Hope Mill Theatre/The Vaults, London) and Resident Director of An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre, London).

Making up the cast is Kimberly Blake (Half a Sixpence, Barnum) who plays Giulietta, Jason Kajdi (Our House, Assassins), in the role of Hugo, Felix Mosse (The Rocky Horror Show) as Alex, Julia J Nagle (An American in Paris) as Elizabeth/ensemble, Minal Patel (The Secret Garden, Bend it Like Beckham) as Marcel, Jerome Pradon (Jesus Christ Superstar, Pacific Overtures – Olivier Award Nominee 2003) as George and Kelly Price (That Day We Sang, A Little Night Music – Olivier Award Nominee 2010) in the role of Rose. Making their professional debuts in the production are Rosie Cava-Beale, ensemble, Jack Churms, as Jerome/ensemble and Eleanor Walsh as Jenny/ensemble.

Following Aspects of Love at Hope Mill Theatre is The Return of the Soldier that runs from Thursday 6 to Saturday 29 September and A Christmas Story The Musical that runs from Friday 26 October to Saturday 1 December.

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.

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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

JB

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.