Tuesday, 23 October 2018

REVIEW: Tom Allen: Absolutely - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.


Tom Allen is a British comedian who won the So You Think You’re Funny contest and the BBC New Comedy Award in 2005. He has supported Sarah Millican on tour. He had a sell-out Edinburgh Fringe show in 2016. He can currently been seen on TV co-hosting the GBBO spin off programme: Bake Off: The Professionals.

I have seen him perform a few times on the Comedy channel and I really enjoy his hyperbolic style. He is posh and gay and his entire act is built around this. Performing to a sell-out show in the Quays theatre on a Monday evening, Tom kicked off his show after an overture of camp show tunes to set the mood. An empty stage back-lit in purple on silks with a stool – that he refused to sit on as it was a contradiction to his job description – and a small side table was all that occupied the stage. Tom filled the auditorium with his larger than life persona.

His act is a nonstop torrent of storytelling about his childhood and existence as a gay man and his ordeals and trials and interactions with the world. Completely over-the-top, stereotyped gay overacting is his signature and we howled with laughter as he regaled tales from his past. From being a small child wearing a silk dressing gown and swishing around pretending to be Noel Coward to being invited to a birthday party at Ryan’s house which he loathed but really appreciated Ann’s ( the birthday boy’s mother’s) Laura Ashley curtains! His snobby comments on working class party buffets of chocolate and crisps ( together!) commentary made me giggle and reminded me of Peter Kay’s garlic bread gags.

He didn’t fit in at school and aligned himself at high school with the chatty girls in the music room and learnt how to play show tunes on a flute (not a euphemism). This choir of gay boys and chatty girls later went on a school trip to France to perform at an old people’s home. He was very excited to practise his French and ask for a bagel in the hypermarket’s bakery but had not practised listening to the French reply which wasn’t the expected “Oui!” His acting out of this scene was hilarious. The first half of the show was almost an hour long with an interval and the second half almost the same. This man has a huge repertoire of content but our favourite was his interaction with the audience members on the front row. He asked them their names and their occupations and then questioned them in his own style on the nature of their business and lives. His acerbic comments to the retired, ‘ Come on hurry up we are not all retired’ just so quick. He is instinctive, intuitive, spontaneous and razor sharp wit is supplemented by his posh, snotty comments- not particularly offensive but having the audience laughing raucously. Commenting on retired Bernard’s ‘All Saints’ jumper with a raised eyebrow. Later asking him which car he drove and when told it was a mini cooper responding with ‘ Are there no ends to your efforts to be young?’ Not being able to say ‘Kay’ which one audience member had said her name was because the owner had a broad accent and he reacted with ‘ Caaa? Caaa? Care Bear?’…. ‘ Oh! Kay!’ This man is seriously sharp. He remembered everyone’s names and personal details and poked fun at them throughout. After the interval he jibed at one member for putting their glass on the stage ‘ This isn’t a giant coffee table you know?’

My side-splitting favourite tale was of him being invited to a Hen Party as a token gay – then there being another token gay there – his nemesis Kevin from high school (now a professional dancer) who ended up tap dancing on the table like Lionel Blair. When he was asked to do a turn on the karaoke he sang Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car‘ in his plummy accent which turned the party and the hens into a suicidal depression. The shared buffet was in a room that was beiger than any room he’d ever been in; meaning the buffet food. He recoiled in horror at the sausage rolls being removed from their cellophane and placed in their plastic tray directly onto the table. ‘What did they think we were? Dogs? ‘This man is absolutely hysterical and could go on for days.

I look forward to seeing lots more of him and his successes in the future. A memorable Monday night out in Salford which he teased ‘is the posh part of Manchester’.

The Tom Allen's ‘Absolutely’ tour is currently touring the UK until Mid-December.

Reviewer - Kathryn Gorton
on - 22/10/18




REVIEW: Let It Be - The Opera House, Manchester.


I have never been to a Beatles tribute concert before, but after having seen this one, I feel like I waited for the right bus, and have now seen the definitive version, and need never seen any others. It was probably as close to the real deal as you'll ever get. This was not a Musical - this was most definitely a tribute concert!

The 'fab four' of Emauelle Angeletti (Paul McCartney - even playing left-handed), John Brosnan (George Harrison), Ben Cullingworth (Ringo Starr) and Michael Gagliano (John Lennon) took us through some 40 songs in the 100 minute concert. There was no dialogue, no narrative, no storyline, just back-to-back hits and the audience loved it! Standing in the aisles, dancing in their places, singing along with every song. If proof was ever needed that 'Beatlemania' has never gone away, then this concert simply ticks all of those boxes.

Four 'old style' television screens arranged around the prosc. arch showed actual footage of The Beatles pertinent to the show, as well as period news items, fashion, adverts etc which proved an interesting diversion for us whilst the four had a little vocal rest and changed their costumes. We started at the beginning and their first set was songs that launched their career. We were at The Royal Variety Performance. [ 'She Loves You' / 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand' / 'Yesterday' ] The second set was taken from their tour of the USA and the SHEA stadium concert. ['Twist And Shout' / 'Day Tripper' ]. The third section was their psychedelic years with the iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band costumes [ 'Penny Lane' / 'Strawberry Fields Forever' / 'When I'm 64' ], and the final section before the interval was their hippy years leading up to their final public concert together. [ 'A Day In The Life' / 'Come Together' / 'Revolution' ].

It was here though that the audience was most definitely caught out. After the Sgt. Pepper set most thought that the interval was upon us. The curtain descended and the fab four had taken their bows. The TV screens were still showing news footage and the house lights had not come on, but still, a lot of people left the auditorium for the bar, only to be brought back as soon as the curtain rose again for their fourth set. The reasoning for this I assume is that we had had already over 50 minutes of the first act and the concert seemed to have come to a natural conclusion. It also took a very long time between the end of the third and the start of the fourth sections. 

In act 2 we then were treated to one long non-stop concert - an imagined concert. It is October 9 1980, John Lennon's birthday, and the group have come together to perform a special birthday concert. This second half then focused much more on the music of the latter part of their career and the music they made in studio recordings after their famous 1969 rooftop farewell gig. [ 'Because' / 'Got My Mind Set On You' / 'Band On The Run' / 'My Sweet Lord' / 'Imagine' / 'Live And Let Die' / 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' ].

The whole evening finished with two all-time classics and the audience were up again bopping along and willing another encore... 'Let It Be' and 'Hey Jude'.

The Beatles are back, and the four are fab!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 22/10/18


Monday, 22 October 2018

REVIEW: Will O' The Wisp And The Fire Sprite - Prescot Woodland Theatre, Knowsley, Merseyside.



MATE Productions is back and, following its phenomenal success with Treasure Island, for the first time has produced a second outdoor touring show this year. Led by Artistic Director and CEO Gaynor La Rocca MATE brings over 18 years’ experience creating site specific and outdoor touring theatre and received Arts Council England funding for this tour. In a climate of arts funding cuts and cash strapped councils this is a phenomenal achievement and it delivers in spades.

Will O' The Wisp And The Fire Sprite is an immersive storytelling walkabout fairy-tale production around parks and gardens of Merseyside this autumn. This community-based theatre company in the old Museum, Prescot, on the outskirts of Liverpool, engages with the local community with a call to arms after each performance for volunteers to act, sing, dance, build sets and offer any skills (while learning new ones) to their lively productions. It is this community factor with a constant source of fresh talent that makes their shows so magical. The sheer enthusiasm and dedication of the ensemble company this time produces a family-friendly storytelling spectacle engaging children of all ages and adults alike.

Will O' The Wisp And The Fire Sprite is an enchanting fairy-tale walkabout adventure touring five parks and gardens across Merseyside between 20th October – 4th November. There is a choice of a daylight or twilight show to go on a quest led by the Story Wizard to find the Wisp and save the Fire Sprite, the Princess Ember. Along the way audiences meet a whole host of fairy-tale characters – trees elves, fire sprites, white witches, gnomes, wisps and trolls; in beautiful locations around the parks. I took seven-year old Annya to the twilight show and this is what she said, ‘I thought it was truly magical. It was the first time I had seen an outdoor play. It was more than I expected. (I want to mention the fire juggler but don’t want to spoil the surprise). I loved the characters and the fact that the audience had a job to do. I would definitely recommend it to other people’. Annya, aged 7.

The experience started with the family audience congregated indoors. Professor Patsy Stone (Gaynor La Rocca), in black witch’s hat and robes, appeared rather intoxicated by a potion of strawberry daiquiris. Basic housekeeping included, ‘watch out for tree roots and low-lying branches,’. The more experienced carried lanterns and torches and everyone seemed to have had the correct wellies, boots and outdoor clothing. (A pre-show notice included, ‘Participants must provide their own torch or head-torch.’) Led by Patsy, the audience quickly snaked outside to the first of eight woodland locations, lit by fairy lights, where we met the Story Wizard (Francesco La Rocca). The children enrolled at wizard school and chose (and kept) a wand that proves crucial to the story in their search for The Will O the Wisp (Conor Burns) who darted about too swiftly to be caught.

The constant change in location each with its own design and group of singing and dancing characters kept the adults and even the smallest audience members enthralled as the audience walked from scene to scene around the woodland. Each scene provided clues and activities to unravel the engaging story of the search for a kidnapped Fire Sprite, Princess Ember (Holly Halford) and there were plenty of surprises on the way. Starting with the glorious Stink (Mike Mackenzie) and Scabbatha ‘call me Scabby’, (Tish Hughes) The Trolls, who played their roles with great gusto, all the characters were in fabulous costumes and presented well-rehearsed routines. Beautifully dancing Tree Elves preceded hilarious tall singing dwarves Lanky Longshanks (Taran Harris) and Stumpy Basstring (Luke Woolhouse) and there was a host of gnomes to rival Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas.

The Story Wizard managed to guide the audience and control the children with the aid of Patsy Stone as daylight faded and pole mounted bright lights were carried by torch bearers to light up the path to each setting. White witches Megan Feery (witch queen), Aimee Harris (singing witch) and Trisha Hodgson (rapping witch) resplendent in silver and white surprised with an engaging routine before offering drinks all round. It was these touches that show MATE’s understanding and care of their audience that keeps bringing people back to their enchanting shows. The finale is nothing short of spectacular as the woodland is truly set alight with a full cast performance. Children even received a Wizard School graduation certificate.

As Annya said, ‘It’s better than I expected’. For me, it’s an outdoor immersive experience that truly delivers.

Reviewer: Barbara Sherlock
on - 22/10/18

REPORTAGE: Women Of The World - The Curtain Theatre, Rochdale


As part of this year's Rochdale Literature And Ideas Festival, an event was held to celebrate women writers - all women writers, indeed any women writer, from anywhere in the world in any century, with only one proviso; that being that they are a part of The Maskew Collection in Rochdale Library.

Ok, a little explanation before we move forward! The Maskew Collection is a unique collection of classic literature and philosophy resources named after Frank and Annie Maskew, who first met in Rochdale library in the 1950s.  A bequest was given to the library to purchase and upkeep a collection of literature and philosophy books to inspire future generations with the joy of reading and thinking.

To this end, the festival had asked Joyce Branagh to collate and curate a short event to celebrate women writers and in turn four actresses and a keyboard player were engaged and an hour's distraction from the murky grey weather outside unfolded.

Branagh introduced the event and talked us through each piece and why it was chosen with background information and anecdotes. Always interesting, always pertinent, and the hour was indeed highly entertaining. In fact I listened to some things this hour that I had never heard of before and were indeed inspiring and illuminating.

The event had a lovely mix of songs, poetry, and novel / play extracts and we really did travel the world and the centuries with this whirlwind tour. After starting with the Carole King song, 'Natural Woman' we moved swiftly into literary terra firma with Shelagh Delaney's A Taste Of Honey whizzing around the globe to New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Italy, Poland, Pakistan, Africa, and goodness knows where else before coming back 'home' to hear an excerpt from Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice and finishing of course with what else other than Victoria Wood's hilarious Ballad Of Barry And Freda.

The four actresses taking part in this event were (and I hope I have got these correct!) Hannah Ellis Ryan, Mina Anwar, Krissi Bohn, Sue Delaney and the pianist was Rebecca Hughes.

All the items chosen were lovely and meritorious, and the afternoon was hugely enjoyable, however, here a just a couple of my personal favourites from the event..

In no particular order, I really enjoyed the excerpt from the play 'Women Alone' written by Franca Rame, Dario Fo's wife. - a comedy despite, or maybe even in spite of, the tragedy. Two pieces about munitions workers in the two world wars; first a poem by Madeline Ida Bedford and then a Music Hall song made famous by Gracie Fields called 'The Thingummybob Song'.

Also of note was a superb poem by Zora Neale Hurston, at one time America's most prolific black female writer; a small gem of a poem from a Czech poet called simply 'Silence'; Sujata Bhatt's poem, 'Love In A Bathtub', and an excerpt from Aphra Behn's 'Orinoco'.

A couple of things which would have just put the icing on the cake however would have been certainly for the performers to have made a little effort to dress smartly and appropriately. They did look as though they had just come from lounging around at home sadly. Also, the keyboard needed the volume upping, it was inaudible past the third row of seats.

These minor hinderances notwithstanding, the afternoon was a joy to watch and listen to, and we could easily have listened to much more.

Reportage - Matthew Dougall
on - 21/10/18

Sunday, 21 October 2018

REVIEW: MUMS Symphony Orchestra Concert - The Martin Harris Centre, Manchester.


The Symphony Orchestra of Manchester University Music Society (MUMS) came under the spotlight this evening as they played three pieces of orchestral music. In the first half it was Rachmaninov and Frampton, whilst the second half gave way to Tchaikovsky. Although seemingly on paper at least these three works had little in common, it was clear that after further investigation and upon listening to them, they were much more similar than I had at first realised.

The first piece, Rachmaninov's brooding and highly moody emotive writing for The Isle Of The Dead [Die Toteninsel], which is basically a tone poem telling an imagined story of this island (perhaps we, ourselves, are actually on the island and living this story) based on a painting of this forbidding land by Arnold Boecklin.  Rachmaninov uses Russian melodies both sacred and profane to great effect in this piece, perhaps the most obvious being the Orthodox chant used for the Dies Irae in their Mass ( a tune which finds itself cropping up every so often interwoven into the works of many Russian composers ). The work is bleak and unforgiving, and if not too careful the piece can become very 'samey'; the conductor needs to find many smaller variations of 'expression' - not necessarily volume or pace, just the thought process behind the playing can sometimes make change enough in the sound or 'feel' of the piece. Student conductor Hugh Morris tried hard but not enough changes in the dynamic were brought forward and the soundscape did become, apart from the huge orgiastic climax in the central section, very static. It is a hugely difficult piece to attempt as a conductor though in my opinion, so Morris was indeed very brave.  The orchestra worked well and I could feel that they were listening to and responding from each superbly here.

The second piece was by Will Frampton, a young man currently at Manchester University and in attendance this evening to hear the orchestra play his Sinfonia Malacia. In many ways this piece was the modern 'Toteninsel'. This, like the Rachmaninov, was not really a tone poem in the conventional sense - one which tells a story - but rather the music takes you on a journey, and you create your own story from the way the piece has been crafted. Frampton's piece used Britten's Sinfonia Da Requiem as a starting point for inspiration, and there were a few instances within the piece where this was abundantly evident no matter how cleverly disguised. His composition style, at least for this work - this work being the only piece I have thus far heard of his - is quite lyrical and modular when compared with other contemporary composers and his use of minimalism throughout was interesting. The work starts with a single short phrase repeated several times from the flutes, and this phrase crops up many more times throughout the piece in one variation or another, even when the violins are being asked to screech loud and high, the melody can still be clearly discerned. Like the Rachmaninov piece, the climax comes before the end and the piece ends simply and quietly. Student conductor Jasmine Allpress gave this her best shot. Not knowing the piece nor the composer's intent it was impossible to tell, but judging from Frampton's reaction afterwards, he was jolly pleased with the rendition!

After the interval and back to terra firma and a piece I know very well indeed. Tchaikovsky's wonderful 5th symphony.  It was simply sublime and magnificent. Conducted by Robert Guy I have never heard the MUMS Symphony Orchestra play better - ever! This is a symphony of four movements and basically four melodies, as Tchaikovsky cleverly and deftly adapts, extends, extemporises and varies the melody for each movement into the whole movement; starting with a beautiful Russian folk tune for the first movement, through two Russian dance tunes for the middle sections, and finishing with a hymn tune for the very patriotic finale. The dynamics were superb and just watching Guy's control and obvious love of both the music and his job was wonderful, and also to see how the orchestra responded to him - a masterclass in conducting right there in front of my eyes!

The connections that I spoke about with all the pieces in this concert is first of all, death and mortality. The first two movements of this symphony, especially the first, are sombre and grave, whether intentionally so or not; and secondly all three pieces very cleverly utilise single melodic phrases to their 'nth extent, either through simple repetition of the same phrase (minimalism) or by variations and extemporisation

Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony is both a firm favourite of mine and of the concert platform in general, and I have heard this work many times indeed. This evening it was played with vigour, youthful zeal, but mostly with talent, skill and under Guy's direction, a whole sound filling the auditorium with loads of red, blue and green!! [Tchaikovsky was synesthesic, and so undoubtedly this is what he would have said!] An incredible high to finish the concert on. Super!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 20/10/18

Saturday, 20 October 2018

NEWS: Gripping and gritty award-winning WW1 drama comes to 53Two, Manchester at the beginning of November!


                                                                                                                  


The Northern Premiere & re-mount of award winning play; the untold story of WW1…

‘The Glasshouse’

Nominated: 3 Off West End Awards
Winner: Off West End Award Best Supporting Actor

1-11th November
53two, Manchester

Directed by Sonnie Beckett

Confined in a cramped, makeshift prison on the back line of the Somme, two men stand charged with cowardice and desertion. Trapped inside the damp, cold and oppressive walls of this ‘Glasshouse’, a beautiful friendship crystallises between them.  But how long can friendship last? And how much can a man withstand before he breaks?

In the 100th anniversary year of the end of World War I, acclaimed emerging company Grindstone team up with MAP Productions to remount Max Saunders-Singer’s emotional, award-winning drama, THE GLASSHOUSE for a Northern Premiere. Based on extensive research into true stories of soldiers on the front lines, this powerful work explores a rarely seen side of trench warfare.

Horrifying and immensely provocative, this is a WWI centenary play that has an intelligence and power beyond expectations. A show that shreds heartstrings and decimates sensibilities, it’s theatre at it’s most outstanding.
- James Waygood, ‘The Glasshouse’, London, 2014

Following the intertwined stories of the misfits, idealists and tragic victims who pass through this hastily constructed trench prison cell, THE GLASSHOUSE is a moving, blood-pumping and powerful play. Through these stories, it also shines
a stark new light on the effects of 'Shell Shock' and failures in the treatment of so called 'Cowards' and 'Conchies' who were unable or refused to fight.

This piece will be supported by and mark the launch of the brand new and brilliant Switch MCR who will perform their devised ‘curtain raiser’ as a response to the script, on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th of November. The piece will also headline a rapid-response night on the 5th.



SWITCH MCR
SwitchMCR is a brand new theatre collective of young artists aiming to bring original and accessible work to Manchester stages. SwitchMCR’s creative team met through the Royal Exchange's Young Company after working collaboratively alongside directors Matt Hassall, Nickie Miles-Wildin and Andrew Barry.
Switch are currently working towards their debut performance in February 2019!

Give them a follow on Twitter @switch_mcr and Instagram @switchmcr to keep updated with our theatrical escapades!




Manchester Actors’ Platform & MAP Productions
The Manchester Actors’ Platform, MAP, was created in 2015 by actor/acting coach Simon Naylor. Designed to benefit adult actors, its focus lies primarily on providing services required at an affordable cost. MAP hoped to bridge the gap between the affordable and the achievable. Simon’s background as an actor means that he has, and still is, experiencing just how tough the industry can be, not just to break into, but to survive in. Combining his 10 years teaching experience at some of the country’s leading drama schools, a rich and varied experience on stage, screen and radio and some reassuring Northern roots, all of the services MAP provide aim to cut out the b*******t. MAP Productions was established in 2016 and launched with a sell-out show of Andrea Dunbar’s ‘Shirley’. Since then they have gone on to produce their own work both in Manchester and across the country, providing paid work for primarily working class actors, in new-writing and re-imagined regional productions. MAP Productions and their work have been nominated for and received both Manchester Theatre Awards and Northern Soul Awards and manage Manchester’s largest independent theatre, 53two.

Grindstone
Formed in 2012 by director Sonnie Beckett and playwright Max Saunders-Singer, Grindstone is an innovative and tenacious company dedicated to creating theatre and film of the highest calibre. Productions in London include RIP, Write Christmas, Black Star and Glasshouse for which the company have been nominated for three OFFIES and have won one. They are delighted to be bringing their work to Manchester to share it with the North of England.


53two
'53two' is Manchester’s, biggest and most versatile Arts Venue, managed by Manchester Actors’ Platform. Spanning two of Deansgate’s famous tunnels, the venue is made up of two separate components; ‘53’ & ‘two’. The venue will be operated primarily as a theatre and cafe, with the space also offering room for exhibitions, gigs, events, celebrations, rehearsals, classes, conferences, banquets, weddings and more. 53two has enjoyed two years in the heart of the city, forging a strong presence and priding itself on creating a platform for new and emerging talent.

Max Saunders-Singer – Writer/’Pip’
Max trained as an Actor, graduating in 2009 and in 2017 completed his Masters in Creative Writing. Since ’09 Max has worked extensively in Acting, Writing and Directing theatre and film and is now a Creative Writing teacher on the Italia Conti BA (Hons) Course. In 2012 Max formed the critically acclaimed production company Grindstone with its Co-Artistic Director Sonnie Beckett and went on to write several successful pieces; the most notable being critically acclaimed “The Glasshouse” which enjoyed a sell-out run at the Tristan Bates Theatre. Max is currently adapting the piece for film, going into production in 2020.


Sonnie Beckett – Director/Producer
Sonnie Beckett, Artistic Director of Grindstone trained as an actor and has performed in theatres across the country. Since graduating in 2010, she has turned her hand to directing and her work has seen her take shows to sell-out performances in some of London’s most acclaimed fringe theatres including The King’s Head, Oval House, The Cockpit & Southwark Playhouse receiving rave-reviews and firmly stamping her name on the ever-important list of rising, female directors. She received the ‘Work in Process’ award from Iris Theatre for emerging theatre practitioners and has also produced many shows both for Grindstone as well as other companies.

Sonnie teaches and directs at some of the country’s leading Drama Schools
including Italia Conti, Central School of Speech and Drama and Identity School of Acting, where she practices the work of Stanislavski and Meisner, both of which have a massive part in the process of bringing The Glasshouse to life.




Simon Naylor – ‘Harper’
As an actor, television includes Dane Hibbs in 'Coronation Street', Corporal Johnson in '24: Live Another Day', 'Casualty' as Officer Peter Dowling, 'Michael Ray' in Obsession for SKY TV &DC Croker in 'Emmerdale'.Films include BAFTA winning, 'The Mark of Cain' & James Corden’s, 'One Chance'. Other credits include: 'Creeped Out' (BBC), Doctors (BBC), Day Of The Triffids (BBC), The Bill (ITV), Primeval (ITV), 'Eastenders' (BBC). Theatre credits include 'The Shawshank Redemption' (Wyndhams Theatre), Palindrome (Arcola Theatre), 'Funny Peculiar' (Kenwright - UK Tour) and 'When Both Sides Surrender' (53two), Nominated for Best Fringe Production - Northern Soul Awards.

In the world premiere of 'The Glasshouse' Simon was nominated for an OFFIE as ‘Best Actor’.

Simon is also co-producer with MAP Productions and Artistic Director of 53two.

The Glasshouse
1 - 11 November
7:30pm nightly
tickets £10

Running Time
1 hour and 45 minutes (Inc Interval)

Twitter
@maplatform
@53two

Facebook

Instagram
@maplatform
@53two

Notes
Ages 16+

Cast
Pip – Max Saunders-Singer
Harper – Simon Naylor
Moon – Sam Adamson
Blythe – Corin Silva

Director
Sonnie Beckett


REVIEW: Henning Wehn: Get On With It - The Lowry Theatre, Salford.


Henning Wehn, self-named German Comedy Ambassador, arrived at Salford's Lowry Theatre this evening as part of his latest tour in which he tries to tell the British people to simply, Get On With It!

We are asked to vote for whose fault we think it is - and if our answer is deemed funny enough it might get read out on stage or might even win us a bottle of German alcohol!

However before Wehn himself gets on with it, we have a warm-up half hour, which would normally be given to an up-coming stand-up artiste trying to make his or her mark on this tough circuit; but instead we had Wehn himself delivering warm-up material. If you have never been to one of his shows before then you might have laughed a little or found some of these anecdotes and jokes slightly humorous as he self-effacingly gives us reasons why Germans are better than English but why he loves England, lives here and will never go back to the 'Fatherland'. This part of the show being titled, 'A Beginner's Guide To Living In The UK As A Foreigner'. If you have seen his shows before however, you will know that this routine has been performed many many times. The only thing new here was an anecdote about his visit to the Formula One racing at Silverstone.

In the second half things got even more political. 'Get On With It' of course meant Brexit, and Wehn wanted to share his opinions and cause a little contention [which he did on several occasions - there were even a couple of instances where frost descended over the entire theatre] as he tried to have an unbiased discussion about a subject which has preyed on the minds and been at the forefront of every adult's political thinking for well over two years. Yes, it is indeed time to 'get on with it!', but having a German comedian telling us this was something not many of us wanted to hear. We wanted COMEDY! That is what we had paid for, that is what we had come for.. we wanted to LAUGH, to be transported from the quotidianal mundane and to LAUGH! Sadly the laughs were few and far between in this longer hour or so set.

He talked of tolerance: something we do when we really can't stand someone but haven't the guts to tell them. He talked of acceptance, and how all people have different view points on acceptability, and different expectations of accepting. He talked about integration, and how this also means different things to different people. He observed that given the binary choice between two things, human will always choose the less risky option, it's in our nature. Therefore he opined, that given the binary choice between allowing a Turkish family or a British white family to move into the house next door, you would always choose the British white. [This was one of a few moments where people sucked in through their teeth!] He said that it is a foreigner's duty to learn the language. We have become a more polarised and negative society, and we as a nation are far too easily offended.

He went on to talk about how British people love to banter, but because of the restrictions we have put upon our own society we can't even do that anymore. He suggested that China will be the next nation to take over the world, as Chinese money is being poured into all projects. We should therefore -and this was a joke - simply nuke the Chinese! He then went on to talk about the Royal family, and suggest that in today's society they have become somewhat irrelevant and although the old argument about them bringing in tourism might work for London, he can't see it working for Sunderland!

His set was far more in keeping with a lecture or a party political broadcast than a comedy stand-up, and he didn't really win any true belly laughs the whole evening. He said at the end that he had gone through his entire career without ever receiving a standing ovation ( a call to arms if ever there was one ) and indeed in simple defiance and in need of a laugh, many people did stand who would not have otherwise have done so.

His parting remark was that he would like to have on his gravestone, "He never reached his full potential". I would like to think that that is true of his latest comedy tour, and hope that he tones the politics down and brings on the gags for future gigs; dependant on his geographical location he might just get lynched!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 19/10/18


Friday, 19 October 2018

REVIEW: Maggie May - The Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.



Ten years in the pipeline the production team have thrown everything at this brand-new musical, including the kitchen sink. From the multi- actor/singer/musician/dancer cast to the huge revolving set (designed by Foxton), The Royal Court Theatre is packed to the rafters with big song and dance numbers. The newly restored 1938 revolve is in use for the first time in forty years and revolves so rapidly, for some very brief scenes, in the first act that the performers have to jump off and back on to front of stage. All which makes for very entertaining viewing especially as the back-stage team also manage additional set changes to the three sets already on the revolve.

The new writing by Bob Eaton, who also directs the show, revolves (sorry, couldn’t resist) around fictional character, Irish convent girl Margaret/Maggie (Christina Tedders) who typically sets sail from Dublin searching for a new life in New York only to find that the ship docks in Liverpool. Set in Georgian Liverpool just before the first world war, the city does not come off well. Liverpool, depicted by a background of Liver birds, becomes the twelfth character in the ensemble, displaying all the wrongs and prejudices of the era from xenophobia towards the Irish to capitalist rule and the worst poverty imaginable in the shape of the dreaded workhouse.

Maggie’s swift fall from grace seems inevitable, despite her best efforts, as she falls prey to the charms of her wealthy employer having been robbed of all her possessions and having to work as a housemaid. The story follows the outbreak of WWI as it takes all the young men to war leaving the women to work for half the men’s pay. The second half is a little slower but does not lose pace with vibrant songs and music played live by the versatile cast.

The huge songs keep the energy high but for my taste the musical Cabaret style song ‘They’ll Have To Pay’ that ended the first half was one song too many. The style didn’t gel or fit with the period costumes and felt out of place even if it was intended to indicate the radical change that was coming with the outbreak of war. The second half became much more political which went down well with the packed, enthusiastic audience. Themes touched on equal rights, equal pay, prejudice, unionisation, capitalism and shell-shock which is now referred to as post traumatic stress. Themes that sadly did not seem out of place today. Perhaps this is what Eaton means when he states in the programme that now seemed to be the right time for this production.

The cast left nothing in the dressing room and are a force to be reckoned with. Cheryl Fergison from London was outstanding in her roles as dour housekeeper Mrs Bird and prostitute Cast Iron Kate, bringing great characterisation and humour to the stage. Christina Tedders as Maggie held her own throughout with quality acting and singing that was a feature of the whole cast. My favourite was the petite Barbara Hockaday as brothel keeper, Polly Gates who managed to switch from playing a madam to playing a double bass with consummate ease.

The audience gave a standing ovation as the cast performed their finale routine and I felt like Simon Cowell at six chair challenge as an elderly man in the next seat turned to me and said, ‘are you a critic?’. He’d noticed my notepad. I suddenly found myself slightly unnerved as I felt the eyes of the surrounding fellow audience members bore into my head . ‘Well I’m reviewing the show’, I replied. ‘Well there’s only one word for it’, he said, ‘Stu.pend.ous, write that!’.

Reviewer - Barbara Sherlockon - 19/10/18

REVIEW: The Invisible Man - The Festival Theatre, Hyde.


A play adaptation of HG Wells’ classic 1897 novel later turned in the 1933 film of the same name starring Claude Rains most certainly has a unique set of challenges for a theatre company. In the film, the invisible man was mostly a disembodied voice. On stage this alone would not suffice as the audience has an expectation to see something dramatic and creative to get around this fundamental. Also, as the piece is set in a stark Victorian place and time and is a period piece, we needed and expected to see something to fill a play which relies solely on minimalist staging and heavily on solid performances- excuse the pun! Luckily, the director had worked hard to think and plan around this and deliver a range of ‘invisibility’ scenes through: voices off stage, mic’d off-stage voice throwing, physical theatre and reactions to the man in the scene without him being there, a very effective LED lighting with a fluorescent bandaged head against an all black cloth and dark staging and a foggy, murky graveyard set.

Romiley Little Theatre had three competent and confident performers in Gareth Jones as John Griffin aka The Invisible Mann, his friend turned nemesis Andrew Kemp played by Richard Hall and lastly the chief protagonist-cum narrator- the Machiavellian mischief maker Thomas Marvel played with copious amounts of humour by Chesney Talbot. All other characters were played by Richard and Chesney who used fluent theatrical techniques such as changing into a new character’s costume on stage whilst maintaining the pace and flow of the play. Their repertoire included an irate innkeeper, unhappy with his noisy and unseen guest, a vicar, a pompous councillor, a customer at the inn and narrator of the opening sequence and a suspicious police constable.

The director had extracted finely drawn characterisations from his actors and each one showed depth and detail. Talbot is a natural comic turn and added the light to the darker themes of the play. Richard Hall’s characterisations were well developed and thought out. His police constable had a tip of the hat to both Dixon of Dock Green and Trigger from ‘Only Fools and Horses’. I really enjoyed his roles and loved his voice which Auntie Beeb I believe would happily cast in any drama series. His turn as the barrister/university friend Kemp showed a stuffy British character who is torn in both loyalty and duty when his friend discloses a heinous crime and all turns bad. Gareth Jones had the most difficult job to communicate his character from behind a full head bandage for most of the show – apart from the flashback scenes in his pre-transparency days! Initially, in his opening scene, the dialogue was occasionally muffled. But, as this was the first night, I’m sure this will be surpassed and improved upon. After the first scene, the dialogue was clear and it was a first night costuming difficulty. Not having tried to project through a full muffle myself, I can’t comment further than on the difficulties that it must entail. Not a role for anyone who is claustrophobic for sure! Gareth gave a lovely performance from showing anger and frustration with the world and everyone in it and his terrible irreversible plight as he desperately tried to continue his scientific research and find a cure for his invisibility whilst being interrupted by ignorant, suspicious and insignificant others.

This was such a wordy play that I must commend the cast on their pace and fluency with dialogue and interaction, a very well-rehearsed, directed and produced piece of theatre. Congratulations to the director who overcame some staging and dramatic challenges and produced a quality piece of work. I wonder if he will attempt another Orson Wells piece in the next season. Well done to the cast and production team.

Reviewer - Kathryn Gorton
on - 18/10/18

REVIEW: Are You Still Watching? - The Waterside Theatre, UCEN Manchester.

The current third year students on the Theatre And Performance course at The Arden collaborated with The Eggs Collective to bring about, after just over three weeks' rehearsal time, a completely original devised piece all about the popular culture that is television and why we watch.

Eggs Collective's style suited the students nicely as it complemented their ethos of boundary-pushing non-sequential non-naturalistic theatre. Each student was asked to find a TV character or personality which they had some empathy with and through rehearsal found a way of projecting that character onto themselves. We therefore watched a performance where there were 12 well known TV characters or personalities inhabiting the same space and working with and around each other.

My first problem then was - who were these people?! - I seldom watch TV and can hardly be said to know anything about modern popular culture - I felt a little 'out of the loop'  with this since I was able to identify less than half.  I am not sure whether my enjoyment of the piece would have improved had I have known the others or not, since in the end it didn't actually matter who they were or represented.. They were just representing the idea of TV, the idea or notion of something which we turn to in times of trouble to relieve stress, to find comfort, or to entertain and numb our over-worked minds. The TV has become a place of community, of family, of habit.  As the play suggests, it is the glue which binds us all together. We are all human, individual, and unique. We all have issues or problems, and need a release from societal pressures, and this is where TV comes in.

The overall message of the piece being that TV can be a refuge; a place of community, a place of escape. Whether you are escaping yourself - as many people have anxiety or image issues, or even illnesses more serious which they can't or don't want to discuss openly and so find succour in watching TV - or whether escaping others; it really doesn't matter; we all love to be voyeuristic and watch other people hence the huge successes of reality TV shows and fly-on-the-wall documentaries. We glorify in others' downfalls, and aspire to others' successes.

With some live original music, and a few turnips [one of the few characters I did recognise was Baldrick!] and this self-exposing narrative style which Eggs Collective do so well, this was a student production which ticked all the boxes. I am uncertain of the life this piece as it stands has outside the premises and bounds of the school exercise that it was, but I also feel that with some development it could become a piece which has a life beyond The Arden.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 18/10/18

REVIEW: Chetham's Symphony Orchestra: Movie Music - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.


The final concert of the evening, and we are still with the Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of guest conductor Michael Seal. Only this time we were deviating slightly from the usual classical fayre of a symphony orchestra, to the world of lighter music composed for films and TV, which, as it was so rightly said, could well be, and often is, the bread and butter of many musicians these days. Studio recordings are no longer things to be scoffed at or things seldom done, but are becoming more and more the norm with TV series often employing a concert orchestra to record the music for the production live.

Time then to let the hair down a bit as these popular and well known  themes filled the room. This concert had a presenter too, in the form of Tommy Pearson, who took us through the music that we were going to hear adding a couple of nice little anecdotes along the way.

We heard 9 items this evening, starting with what else other than Lalo Schifrin's theme for 'Mission Impossible'. The orchestra proved him wrong however and the whole evening was not just a mission possible, but a mission excelled in every way! This was followed by the hauntingly beautiful music that accompanied 'The Fellowship Of The Ring' by Howard Shore. In total, Shore wrote over 10 hours of music for this trilogy. That is an incredible achievement in itself, and it is all wonderful.

Following that with a change of pace and mood as we turn to 'La La Land' and music which reflects a bygone era. We heard the concert suite in which the solo trumpet part - a piece of music which requires the trumpet to play as loud and as high as is absolutely possible - was played by guest trumpeter Mike Lovett.

After that we needed some peace and calm, and this was found in the beautiful music that John Williams wrote for Schindler's List.  Harrowing images and knowledge of what the film was depicting aside, the music is truly beautiful, and also shows the versatility and talent of composer John Williams too, as the music was a complete departure from his more usual sci-fi and heroic style music. The main theme required a solo violinist, and this was played this evening by the orchestra's leader Adria Aranda Balibrea. Such a hauntingly beautiful melody, played superbly.

Ramin Djawandi's theme music to Game Of Thrones was next and a more contrasting piece you couldn't find. Percussion-heavy with Celtic-influenced rhythms and melodies, it is loud, raucous, and most definitely a 'show-off' piece. But it stirs the soul nevertheless and is a hugely popular concert piece. [it also happens to be a personal favourite, but don't tell anyone lest I go down in people's estimation of me!].

Again a change of pace for the lovely short piece that accompanies the main titles to 'Out Of Africa' by John Barry, before we heard what I assume must be something of a world premiere performance of  music for a film which has not yet been released. The film is Thunderbirds Are Go, a modern CGI updating and reworking of the children's puppets-on-strings show that was both loved and derided in equal measure.The composer is Ben Foster, and we were fortunate enough to have him in attendance this evening. He spoke a little about the writing process and also that he had been working with the orchestra over the last week during the rehearsal period, and listening to the lively and melodic piece it was all that a modern super- hero style film should offer... drama, passion, tenderness and of course heroics!

Back to John Williams for the penultimate piece as we heard music from Star Wars. - no film music concert would be complete without it! - and finally, we finished very much on a high with Monty Norman's (arranged David Arnold) James Bond theme for Casino Royale.

This was a truly amazing concert which had 'wow' written all over it. And what amazed me perhaps more was the fact that this orchestra is comprised entirely of students whose maximum age is 18. They are training in all disciplines, in all genres, and they can turn their hands to Vivaldi and Beethoven, but they also can play modern film and TV scores with the best of them too!

Thoroughly enjoyable, and I am extremely glad I was able to come along. Bravissimi!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 17/10/18


REVIEW: Chetham's Symphony Orchestra Concert - The Stoller Hall, Manchester


The 87 musicians which make up Chetham's Symphony Orchestra [augmented slightly this evening with a few younger students, normally playing with the Sinfonia] struggled to find space enough for them on the stage of The Stoller Hall. It was just big enough - with a bit of a squash! Even more so by the fact that the first piece to be played was a piano concerto and so a piano had been positioned front centre too. They really could have done with an extra couple of feet of stage space.

We had gathered to listen to the orchestra play two pieces. First was Ravel's piano concert  in G major. The slow, melodic and beautiful second movement is often played as a stand-alone piece and I knew it instantly. However, I don't think I have ever heard the entire concerto. The fast, jaunty first movement owing more to George Gerschwin than Ravel (at least if I hadn't have known the composer, that is who I would have guessed!) and the equally jolly but slightly less fantastic final movement, making the whole a sandwich of melancholy and reflectiveness between spiced pumpernickel!

Playing the solo this evening was 16 year old Rose McLachlan, and my goodness what a talented young lady she is. I closed my eyes half-way through and listened hard and intently - not just at her playing but at the orchestra as a whole - and if I hadn't have known then I would have been unable to distinguish this from an adult professional orchestra and soloist. McLaughlin showing a technique and skill beyond her tender years, as well as a deep understanding of the music and its composer, bringing about a lovely balance between the ability to hit the right note at the right time and emotive passion behind the playing.

To finish, the orchestra, under guest conductor Michael Seal, played one of Stravinsky's ballet scores which he originally wrote for The Ballet Russes in Paris. This suite, comprising five movements, comes from his final Diaghilev score, written in 1910, The Firebird.

One day I hope to be able to see ballet dancers dancing to this music, that's a pleasure I have yet to witness; and one I look forward to immensely since I would personally find it extremely hard to dance ballet to this music. It is dissonant, passionate, but above all the rhythms and melodies are not easily distinguishable, as time signatures and key changes abound. The orchestra though coped with this with aplomb and watching Michael Seal conduct them with such skill - his precision at bringing in the correct section and controlling their volume and balance whilst conducting was superb, and watching the way the orchestra responded to this was wonderful.

The whole concert lasted only about 50 minutes, but it was a most magical and thrilling musical experience, and I couldn't wait for the evening's second concert. [see separate review].

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 17/10/18

REVIEW: Chetham's Ensembles Concert - The Stoller Hall, Manchester.


As a prelude to an evening of 'full-on' orchestral music,  four smaller ensemble groups took their positions in The Stoller Hall, the newest venue addition to Manchester's burgeoning music scene, proudly positioned within the UK's largest and most prestigious music school.

The Stoller Hall is Manchester's third concert hall, and it's smallest, holding around 300 people, but that doesn't detract from the importance and prominence of this venue which is already attracting world class names and hosting major music events and festivals. It is grandiose and intimate at one and the same time.

Chetham's School is also going through a time of both change and celebration.  At the end of this year, Stephen Threlfall, the Director Of Music at Chetham's will retire, after a long, distinguished and fruitful time with the school, giving way to new blood, whilst 2019 will also see the school celebrate 50 years as a centre of musical learning.

In the meantime however, back to this afternoon, and the four groups who graced this stage.

The first was The Trumpet Ensemble who had split themselves in half and stood in the choir stalls either side of and above the stage. The piece they had chosen was a short fanfare by Stan Pethel aptly named simply 'Antiphon'. Antiphony in music is where two melodies play one after each other rather like a game of ping-pong and comes from the Christian chants of church services where a phrase is sung by the priest and then the congregation repeat that phrase. [or a slight variation thereof]. It proved a lovely opener.

On the stage we then heard The Saxophone Choir, a group of 11 students ranging in age quite considerably, with a couple of the youngest and smallest being almost as big as the instruments they were playing. They performed two pieces in extremely contrasting styles. First a piece by Mendelssohn (arranged by Robert Rainford) which used strict rhythms and no deviations from the rules of classical composition. This was followed by a piece of modern jazz called 'Witch Hunt' which saw two of the ensemble come forward to play solo riffs, one of which was one of the youngest and smallest in the group who took this 'Blues Brothers' style very much in his stride. The whole was delightful and wonderful to see / hear.

Next, as the size of the ensemble was augmenting each time, was The Violetta Strings. This was a group of some twenty-odd string players, most of whom had only joined Chetham's school this September and were probably giving their first public performance as a pupil. There was only one violist and so conductor and tutor Owen Cox helped out and played viola too, leaving the ensemble conductor-less. He said that one of the first rules of ensemble playing was to listen to any instrument other than you own; I would have thought also, especially at that tender age, it would have been important to have a conductor and to watch and follow his lead, but seemingly they didn't seem to need this, as they played three short pieces, again in contrasting styles and they were superb. They might only be at the very beginning of their music training - some were only 8 years old - but they understood what was needed in each piece and really did seem to be listening to and working with each other excellently.

Finally, the largest group, the Wind Band. Not really an ensemble, but more of an orchestra really when they are 50 members' strong and boasting 7 of those for percussion!  David Chatterton took the baton for this piece as they finished the concert with a loud and magnificent celebration of Leonard Bernstein, who was born 100 years ago this year, with Clare Grundman's arrangement of his music titled, A Bernstein Tribute. using some of Bernstein's more famous tunes from West Side Story, On The Town and even Candide, this was a truly splendid way to finish off this concert, get us all in the mood for the Symphony Orchestra concerts to follow and to showcase the younger talent of the school.

Smashin'!

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 17/10/18

Thursday, 18 October 2018

NEWS: A new and exciting treatment of Jean Genet's THE MAIDS comes to HOME, Manchester this November.



HOME presents The Maids by Jean Genet

Directed by Lily Sykes, in a translation by Martin Crimp
Friday 16 November - Saturday 1 December 2018

Full casting is today announced for HOME’s major new production of Jean Genet’s The Maids, between Friday 16 November - Saturday 1 December 2018. Based on the true story of murderous duo The Papin sisters, Genet’s infamous The Maids is a radical modern classic. Well ahead of its time, it explodes with contemporary ideas about class conflict, sexual identity, and political outcasts.

In the title roles at HOME are Jake Fairbrother as Claire and Luke Mullins at Solange. Jake’s many theatre credits include The Lady From The Sea (Donmar Warehouse), Twelfth Night (Crucible Theatre), The Last Days of Troy (Globe Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre), Macbeth (Cheek By Jowl), A Life of GalileoThe Orphan of Zhao and Boris Godunov (all Royal Shakespeare Company) and Hamlet (National Theatre). His films roles include SkyfallStratton, and Sandcastle, and on TV has appeared in NW and Holby City.

Luke’s equally illustrious theatre roles in both the UK and Australia include Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (The Old Vic),Waiting For Godot (The Barbican), The Glass Menagerie (Belvoir St and Malthouse Theatres), Endgame (Melbourne Theatre Company) and Angels in America (Belvoir St). Television credits include New Blood (BBC) and Reef Doctors (Network Ten).

Danny Lee Wynter completes the cast in the role of Madame. His theatre credits include Cell Mates (Hampstead Theatre), Forty Years On (Chichester Festival), The Glass Menagerie (Nuffield, Southampton), ComusBedlamHenry IV Part IHenry IV Part IIKing Lear, and The Front Line (all Shakespeare’s Globe), and The Miser (The Royal Exchange). His TV credits include Walliams and FriendsThe Dreams of Bethany MellmothPartners In CrimeEpisodesMr StinkLutherJoe’s Palace and Capturing Mary. Danny is also a Founder of The Act For Change Project which aims to strengthen diversity in the live and recorded arts.

HOME transforms its main house theatre for The Maids into the round for the first time. Building over the stalls seating area, the stage will be raised up to the height of the circle - and audiences will be able to watch from both on and off the stage in a specially built seating area.

Genet wrote The Maids in 1947 whilst serving a prison sentence, as an imaginative and intellectual escape. Premiering the same year, Genet’s chilling tale follows the story of a pair of maids who create violent, darkly humorous fantasies while dressed in the opulent clothes of their mistress. Indulging in theatrical re-enactments of the power structures which define their lives, the line between make-believe and reality becomes increasingly distorted, as it becomes clear that the aim of the game is murder…

Lily Sykes is making her HOME directorial debut, having spent most of her professional career in Germany. A graduate from Oxford in German literature and philosophy, Sykes worked from 2009-2012 as a director’s assistant at the Schauspiel Frankfurt, and also regularly supervised her own directing projects in that time. Since 2012 she has directed for the Deutsches Theater Berlin, the Berliner Ensemble, the Schauspiel Frankfurt, the Schauspielhaus Zürich, the Schauspielhaus Graz, the theatres in Oberhausen, Osnabrück, Lübeck and Münster, and the Studiotheater Berlin.

She comments: “With the political climate in the UK and around the world as it is, a story about two opposing classes, whose antagonism is fuelled by their inability to understand each other, resonates strongly. In the prison of social conditioning, the only escape open to these characters is through violent action. I’m very excited to be directing this play, which has all the utopian and subversive power which theatre can have, in the UK and to bring it to Manchester in particular.”

Martin Crimp’s translation of The Maids was first staged at the Young Vic in 1999. His new play, When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other - Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, starring Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane, opens at the National Theatre in 2019.

Alongside the main house theatre production of The Maids, HOME is delighted to announce its accompanying France Now season in its Theatre 2 space between Tuesday 27 November 2018 - Saturday December 2018. Following the success of its previous Berlin Now and Cuba Now seasons celebrating thrilling, emerging work from these regions, HOME invites three young companies to take a close-up look at life on the other side of the Channel with three contrasting performances all highlighting the charms and challenges of life in France.

Ballet Bar is the hit show from Off Avignon Festival in France, featuring a company of six hip-hop dancers who mix mime, physical comedy, acrobatics and a century of dance styles inspired by Calypso, Charleston, Tango and Electro. Charming play for all agesJ’ai Trop Peur (I’m So Scared), written and directed by David Lescot, is a heart-warming, adolescent drama about the challenges of friendship, school and growing up. It was commissioned by the Theatre de la Ville and has toured extensively throughout France.

Concluding the season is Submission, a newly commissioned adaptation, directed by Teuknie. Written by Michel Houellebecq, France’s best-selling controversial author, it imagines a France of the near future under Islamic rule following the election of a Muslim president. This provocative, clever and mischievous piece, performed as a Scratch Performance, offers a profound reflection and satire on the lack of faith and meaning in western society.

France Now is kindly sponsored by the Institut Français du Royaume Uni as part of the En Scène! Programme - helping to present work across Greater Manchester by some of France’s leading artists covering all spectrums of performing arts.