Saturday, 16 November 2019

AMATEUR DANCE REVIEW: Ballet Russes And Beyond - The Co-op Academy Theatre, Manchester.


A new experience for me all ways round greeted me this evening. I had never had the pleasure of seeing students from The London School of Classical Ballet perform before, as they were here on their first, and hopefully not their last, visit; and I had never been to the Co-op Academy Theatre before either.

First of all I should just like to say how lovely the theatre actually is. It has been open and available to hire for outside companies for about 12 months but has remained anonymous and unknown, perhaps due to both its location and the fact that it is part of the secondary school it is housed in. However, it is excellently equipped, of a decent size, with superb facilities, in a separate building from the main school, and has its own dedicated box office and cafe bar area. - oh and the staff are rather chatty and helpful too!

However, back to the ballet! This evening saw only a small contingecy of the school perform, and the students ranged from 10 to 18 years. They receive their ballet training alongside tradition schooling and their instructors are all ex soloists with either The Bolshoi, Vaganova or similar, and so receive the highest level of training right from the start. This was evidenced by the young dancers who perfomed short excerpts in the second half. 3 young girls with the Danse Manu, and the pre-vocational ballet girls dancing, again a composition by L. Minkus, Cupid's Dream from Don Quixote. Beautiful, lively and accurate.

The first half of the evening saw the older girls along with one of the older boys (Theo Girvan) perform  'Chopiniana / Les Sylphides'  Girvan and the 4 female soloists were excellent here but what caught my attention and won my praise even more so was the Corps. 15 girls who danced with utter precision the whole time. They had a couple of chorus dances to perform which they did superbly, but it was their stillness, and their doing nothing which was impressive. M. Fokine had choreographed the corps that they made beautiful pictures around the soloists, staying completely still, waiting just for a single note in order to make the slightest of head movements or the small change of arm poisition which they all did at exactly the same time. It was simple and hugely effective, but yet was undoubtedly more difficult for the dancers to do this than it was to dance properly. The pictures and images created during this section were absolutely beautiful, just a ballet should be... graceful, elegant and eye-catching.

The second half was a hotch-potch of excerpts danced by various age groups and standards, but always executed with that style and grace which distinguishes this artform from any other. The dancers have sore and crooked toes tied up against a block of wood inside a flimsy piece of material, and are expected to leap through the air and land on the block of wood without so much as a 'by your leave'. ..it hurts! and anyone - aboslutely anyone - brave enough to go through this for their art is either mad or passionate about their craft. I was mad.(although thankfully as a male I never had to go through with wearing pointe shoes!). and had had enough, and gave up ballet lessons just about as soon as I was able. It has however stood me in excellent stead for everything I have done theatrically ever since. The regimentation, the drilling, the discipline, the training, the flexibility, the poise, all these things have stayed with me, even if my muscles and joints won't allow me to do the splits any more!

Ballet is about beauty, artistry, spectacle, and this company had all of these. The costumes (all originals from Russia) were superb, and the discipline and talent on display was awe-inspiring. I do hope you will tour again next year to Manchester!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 15/11/19

THEATRE REVIEW: The Marriage Of Kim K - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.


This evening, The Lowry Studios hosted Leo & Hyde’s ‘The Marriage Of Kim K’. Set in a young couple's living room, The Marriage Of Kim K brings to life the joys of reality TV and the works of Mozart. A musical, I never knew I needed in my life until now. Set over the course of 72 minutes we see, famous queen of Instagram, Kim Kardashian and her former husband Kris Hughes navigate the beginnings of marriage and the bombardment of calls from future husband Kanye West. Whilst on the other hand the Countess tries to save her marriage through the use of ridiculous 17th century schemes and planning all the while her husband the Count,  pines over the metaphorical mistress that is Suzanne.

Watching both marriages unfold through the lens of a TV screen are Amanda and Mike, completely opposite characters who in turn find it harder to ignore or cope with their differences that are pushing them apart. Nearing their third anniversary Mike has only one thing on his mind and Amanda couldn’t imagine anything else. All three relationships unfold throughout the play showing the audience that there isn’t much difference when it comes to love; whether your living in the 17th century or the 21st century, whether you're a humble couple, star-crossed lovers or a reality TV dream. Love is never a smooth ride.

Rebecca Mcauley did an excellent job playing the role of Amanda, her girl next door look was perfect for the role. Mcauley was able to capture the audience with her whitty yet sensitive behaviour. At one point I heard an audience member proclaim “Aw she’s a nurse, that’s incredible” when Mcauley came out in her blue uniform, this response perfectly summed up the immersion she had created as the character. Another amazing quality Mcauley has is her beautiful singing voice, which made me want to duet with her!

Opposite Mcauley, Jack Herauville played the devoted Mike. Herauville's portrayal of Mike's character was loved by each member of the audience, his spontaneous, slightly goofy character reminded us what we loved about being in love! A recent graduate from the Liverpool Institute for Performing. Arts, Herauville showed us just how incredibly talented he was!

Next John Ieuan Jones was a clear favourite in the audience! His operatic performance blew us away, whilst his humour and tenacity stole the show! The Count was hilariously brilliant and he showed us that even in the 17th century you can’t win them all! Each moment we saw Jones was golden!

Charlotte Trepess and Ben Storey also performed beautifully alongside their co-cast. Trepess as the countess had me empathising with her hurt and betrayal whilst cheering on her empowerment nearing the end! Storey on the other hand played the role of Kris Humphries fantastically. His Barbie doll Ken performance had me reminiscing the early 2000s.

Finally, I must admit Megan Postle was incredible as the character of Kim Kardashian! I honestly couldn’t believe the likeness, the vocal range and the talent this girl has! Incredibly she gave a stereotypical 2D character a backstory, a vision and a beautiful heart that was shown throughout! Each moment of Postle on stage was ridiculously brilliant! A great show from all.

Finally, I would like to credit the back stage crew who marvellously made this production what it was. Ed Saunders' Lighting Design took me from my audience seat into a virtual reality, his use of colours and spotlights compliments Caitlyn Mawhinney’s Stage Design which was simple yet elegant. Each side of the stage represented what the play was about perfectly and the contrast in act two was a very welcomed change for its audience.

Gina Hallums, Daniel Masson and Sam Gee layered together this wonderful musical that kept me engaged throughout and never bored. The intricacy of mixed operatic music with house and techno gave a modern twist to the composers' touch. Director Francisca Ery, showed her flare and expertise throughout the whole piece, so many moments were beautiful and delicate whilst others were grungy and comedic. This could have easily been a miss, however her direction showed no bounds and won the audience over within the first 10 minutes.

Reviewer - Caroline Bleakley
on - 15/11/19

DANCE REVIEW: Wild Card - Sadler's Wells Theatre, London.


Fernanda Muñoz-Newsome’s “Wild Card” performed at the Lilian Baylis Studio, as part of Sadler’s Wells' Alternative Curations, proved it was just that. It was a wild, immersive experience and certainly nothing that I had expected. Certainly not for the faint hearted or prudish. Shake off your inhibitions and be prepared for an evening of touch and interactions with strangers and objects.

At 8pm we were summoned into the Lilian Baylis studio by a bell. On entering we were instructed to remove coats, shoes and switch all phones off and move down into the main performance forum. The floor space was littered with soft objects such as textured cushions, bean bags and foam mats where they encouraged us to get comfortable and interact with the shapes. We moved around the whole space focusing on objects, their textures and strangers. There was no official start or end to the performance - we just became part of it. We gently touched strangers on their shoulders and hips, providing we had asked their permission first. (Before entering the studio the audience was individually asked if they minded being touched and could opt out by wearing a coloured wristband). Not something we’re used to in central London; strangers don’t even talk to each other on the underground!

Then we had to find a space to sit down or lay down and relax, however, everyone else grabbed all the soft spots and I spent most of the performance uncomfortable, completely alien to what was being encouraged.

I can’t really describe the music or performance or dance. It was provocative and erotic. At times relaxing and at other times decidedly bizarre. Definitely meant to shake you out of your comfort zone and mindset. The range of performers included Muñoz-Newsome herself, who talked us through what to do and then performed some primeval movements and noises. ‘Last Yearz Interesting Negro’ AKA Jamila Johnson-Small spent most of the performance in a long rubber coat sitting in a shallow pool of water making some strange noises into a suspended microphone. We had Rukeya writhing around on an inflatable bed which was self inflating or deflating at various opportunities and at times accompanied by members of the crowd. Eve Stainton moved around the audience draping herself around individuals sometimes biting their clothing and imitating erotic poses in clothing that was barely there. Isabel Muñoz-Newsome, Fernanda’s sister also performed musically: singing and releasing sounds from deep within. She is a musician in her own right and has performed on Jools Holland’s television show. Everything was happening all around. Your senses had to be heightened so that you became aware of everything around you.

It was hard to understand the performance or was that the plan? Was it designed to evoke the feelings of discomfort in our own psyche or to make us shake off the normality of society and everyday life? The whole performance incorporating visual imagery on the big screen, the lighting, the darkness and the sound brought the whole simulated sexuality of the performance together. It was hard to say whether the audience enjoyed it as we left quietly without any finality of applause.

Reviewer - Penny Curran
on - 15/11/19