Vignettes

Reviewed by Paris Rogers

Vignettes follows the format of six short plays written and directed by females. The show screamed from the rooftop how diverse and talented Greater Manchester is. When walking into the theatre, you are immersed into the show immediately, the casts each play remain on stage throughout adding background detail and intensity to the individual pieces.

The show starts powerfully with Misha Duncan Barry’s, Limerence starting Keziah (Maz Hedgehog). Kaziah had a way of pulling me in to the action straight away, it usually takes a while for me to be drawn in alongside a long build up, but Kaziah did this effortlessly with her epic expressive body language and firework energy. Because of this energy being so high, some words were lost from the fast speech, but this was quickly and professionally rectified.

The second piece was The Demon dog of Waterhead by Cathy Crab. Firstly, hats off to the actors, Dom (James Quinn) and Sue (Sarah Legg) for their commitment to these roles, I had an aching stomach from laughing so much at their comedic timings. As much as the comedy carried the piece, it lacked structure and left me a little confused with the overall message and purpose for the piece and characters.

My notes were minimal for Perspective by Alex Keelen. This is because I was hugely captivated from start to finish. This play was perfectly pitched. The story telling by Janice (Emily Heyworth) was exactly what story telling should be, engaging, climatic and stimulating. Kevin (George Miller) was a breath of fresh air in the whole show, he brought a true charismatic spin. Not only were the actors outstanding, but it was also equally matched with impeccable writing and directing.

My favourite piece of the night was Tangled by Debbie Oates. The acting felt effortless and unbelievably easy to watch, I enjoyed the hilarious heartfelt journey I was taken on by Sally Ann Matthews. It reminded us how important young people are today. This piece stuck with me throughout the night and continued to be discussed into the busy streets of Manchester. 

The Reference by Hannah Ellis Ryan stood out amongst the others as it shone a light on competition between sisterhood and cleverly made me question what each character’s intentions truly were. It could have easily gotten lost amongst the comedy from the other pieces but instead made me go silent with the intense atmosphere the actors portrayed so brilliantly.

The show was finished with a bang, Halal Hens by Zoe Iqbal. Often amongst comedy the purpose of the piece can be lost. This was not the case with Halal Hens, controversial topics were cleverly addressed throughout while keeping us entertained. The actors had a clear strong connection on stage which really helped the flow of the piece and energy. I especially enjoyed the directing in this, it was quick paced, thought provoking and well timed.

Overall Vignettes was a varied evening, taking me on a fascinating emotional roller coaster and truly reminding me of the importance of storytelling like never before. I left feeling empowered, educated and more importantly with a strong belief in womanhood.

Vignettes is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday March 26th tickets and further info can be found here.

Vignettes

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matt Forrest

Following a hugely successful run back in February of 2020, HER Productions in conjunction with Alex Keenlan, return to Hope Mill Theatre with a new set of Vignettes: a series of short plays from some of Manchester’s finest writers.

With six stories showcased, there is something for everyone, from family drama to sci-fi, kitchen sink to sitcom, all sharing the common theme of humanity. All have something to say about the world we live in.

It’s a smart choice to open with Fresh Meat: a sharp, fun story of empowerment as Abbi (Carrie Crookall) takes the plunge to visit a strip club, where she meets sassy dancer Frankie (Shireen Ashton). Despite their initial difference, the two ladies have more in common than they think. The script is packed with some punchy dialogue and two really fun performances.

The next offering  is Wildfires, a story looking at discovery and being out of your comfort zone. Niamh (Amy Gavin) reluctantly joins a retreat in the hope of making new friends and seeking out some answers, but things don’t quite pan out as they should. Again, a sharp, witty script with some solid work from the ensemble cast.

Closing the first act is XYV, a dystopian science fiction drama, which explores themes of gender, power, and the consequences of our actions. Performed by Elaine McNicol and Emily Dowson, with terrific sound design from Andrew Glassford, this bold, daring piece attempts to pack a great deal into its short running time.

First up following the interval is To Have and to Hold, a beautifully written, directed and performed piece focusing on the relationship between Ange (Joanne Heywood) and Barry (Shaun Hennessy), a pair of championship winning ballroom dancers stopped from doing the thing they love by an oh so familiar enemy. Containing some great gags and more laugh-out-loud one-liners, this is the perfect way to start act two.

The penultimate offering is, It’s a Pea Picking Privilege, a bitter sweet slice of social realism, as Aggie (Sophie Ellicott) and her daughter, Alice (Carla Rowe) discuss identity, and life’s struggles in a not-too-distant past. With a script filled with humour and pathos, it certainly leaves you wanting to learn more about this fractured mother and daughter unit.

The show closes with Signs, a look at loss, grief and forgiveness. Spiritualist Eileen (Wendy Albiston) works with sisters Amanda (Francesca White) and Jess ( Liz Simmonds) as they both deal with their sister’s illness in very different ways. Packed with emotion and a sprinkling of humour, this dark comedy seems the fitting finale to bring the production to a close.

Vignettes will have something for everyone, containing a tale or two that we can all relate to and a timely reminder that whilst live entertainment has been decimated throughout this pandemic, there are still stories to be told, with talented creative’s ready to tell them by whatever means they can.  

Vignettes is on at Hope Mill Theatre till 3rd July

Tickets available from: https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/vignettes