Wednesday, 31 July 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Bypass - Twenty Twenty-Two, Manchester.

An ambitious project and also a very interesting one. Bypass is the culmination oif a new-writing experiment by Hung Theatre. Eight young and up-coming writers had been tasked with writing a short 10 minute play after having been given the word 'Bypass' and the stimulus..."The home you were raised in is being concreted over. Any parting words?" Armed with just this sentence and word, these playwrights went to work and came back with 8 very different plays.

And so, in just under 2 hours, these 8 plays were performed (with a short interval in the middle!), in the side room of Twenty Twenty-Two, Manchester, a completely new venue for me. It is a long and narrow performance space with only one entrance to the stage. Very minimal, and basic, with a rather derelict and dilapidated air to it. Perhaps, you might think, ideal, for a set of plays about the bulldozing of one's own family home.

The prodcution team was large. 9 actors / actresses were cast across the 8 plays, with 4 directors taking two plays each. Quite an extraordinary undertaking for a Fringe production.

The acting was of a high standard across the board as well as some very sensitive directing. The strongest and most impactful piece for me was easily the opening piece. This was also one of the strongest pieces of writing too. Death Sentence by Lewis Woodward saw two estate agents lose it after finding out a house they were pitching had been given a CPO to make way for a new bypass. Their central punk-rock-infused smashing session gave way to a surprising and well-measured end. Superbly acted by Adam Cryne and Alexi Papadopolous, and directed by Tom Durrant.

Nothing that came after ever quite managed to find the same strength and impetus as this, which was a real shame. The only other play which, for me at least, came close, was Anchorage by Cat Sharples. This was a monologue, performed with skill by Elinor Dixon. The pace was perfect and Dixon gave a hugely sympathetic performance of a young lady 'lost at sea'.

The other 6 plays were all interesting and were performed with real conviction. I have to admit though that I had varying amounts of difficulty in understanding a couple of them, and a couple more had the strangest of endings that made me wonder whether or not I had correctly understood what had gone before. And it wasn't just me who felt this either. Chatting to other audience members afterwards, it appeared I was not alone in this thinking. Perhaps this was due to my not hearing some of the dialogue - especially from Alexandra O'Neill who appeared in two of the plays and her voice was too quiet for me. Another contributory factor could well have been that the premise of these shorts had not been made clear and so it took too long for me to work out who the people were and what their connection between each other was.

In conclusion - a very mixed bag of diverse and interesting pieces of theatre. A noteworthy experiment and sensibly put together.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 31/7/19

THEATRE REVIEW: Holy Sh*t - The King's Arms Theatre, Salford

Brick Fox Theatre, made up of students and alumni from Royal Holloway, University of London, took Holy Sh*t to the Edinburgh Fringe last year, where it was a sell-out success. For a debut of this particular play, there could have hardly been a more appropriate city; the stomping ground of the original 'cash for bodies' crooks, Burke and Hare. The difference is that this duo actually murdered their victim and their motivation was pure, selfish greed. In Holy Sh*t, the bodysnatchers are working priests, trying to save their dwindling church which is in serious need of repair.

Holy Sh*t ‘digs up’ various questions centred round morality, belief and motivation. Fathers George Hobbs and Charlie Moss in their own respective ways are essentially good, well-meaning people who find themselves in a difficult situation. Aside from whether they really should be selling the bodies of people they’ve already buried, the different theologies of the priests are explored which whilst not necessarily in conflict, certainly offer different approaches to both faith and getting more worldly affairs done. This certainly chimes with the reality of the church in general, with so many issues still unresolved from gay marriage to inter-faith services or even whether and to what extent swearing is permissible. There is a cynical realism to Holy Sh*t behind the comedy.

For a one-hour fringe show, Holy Sh*t has a large cast of seven, enabling plenty of other characters to appear in the story. All the characters are well drawn, contrasting with each other well, although it does seem a little incongruous that the investigating policewoman has a strong American accent (presumably the actor in question being American). The story is well plotted, moving steadily to a dramatic climax as the priests find a number of unintended consequences steadily developing from their initial foray into the dead-body market.

There are many funny moments, including certain sequences which are reminiscent of Monty Python (think of the haggling scene in The Life Of Brian). Other aspects of the plot are quite simply surreal; a priest who has a sexual crush on Angela Merkel, for heaven’s sake? However, whilst the play succeeds as a black comedy, there is a feeling that this is still to an extent a work-in-progress because there is scope to mine a lot more comedy from both the characters and the story. With such a large cast, the script sometimes seems a bit laboured and would benefit from either some tighter writing or a reduction in the number of the actors (the bodies of those removed then presumably being sold off by the remaining cast).

Holy Sh*t is a funny play with a conclusion that is worth waiting for and contains a lot of black humour which is well delivered. There is scope to make it funnier still but it is nonetheless recommended as a show to catch in Edinburgh if you missed it in the Manchester Fringe

Reviewer - John Waterhouse
on - 30/7/19

NEWS: Film highlights at HOME, Manchester for August and September.

August/September film seasons include:
·       POP STARS ON FILM (until 15 Aug) - The musical jukebox of cinematic treats continues with films including: Absolute Beginners starring David Bowie (Sat 3 Aug); Juice starring Tupac Shakur (Thu 8 Aug); Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean starring Cher and preceded by a one-hour Intro event examining Chers varies film career (Sun 11 Aug). More info:

·       ITS A GREAT BIG WONDERFUL WORLD (until Sun 29 Sep) - As the FREE exhibition David Lynch: My Head is Disconnected continues in our gallery until end of September, the David Lynch film season continues in the cinemas with screenings of films directed by Lynch as well as a season of films Lynch has selected that have inspired him, including: The Straight Story (dir. David Lynch) + Introduction from Jason Wood, Creative Director: Film and Culture at HOME (Fri 23 Aug); Mulholland Drive (dir. David Lynch) + Introduction from Sarah Perks, curator of exhibition David Lynch: My Head is Disconnected (Sat 24 Aug); The Wizard of Oz (Dir. Victor Fleming) + Introduction by Dr Kirsty Fairclough, University of Salford (Fri 13 Sep); and In Cold Blood (Dir. Richard Brooks, Wed 25 Sep). More info:

·       WOMEN OVER FIFTY FILM FESTIVAL (Wed 7 + Mon 12 Aug) - HOME is delighted to screen two Best of the Fest programmes from the festival that celebrates and champions older women on both sides of the camera. Each programme showcases short films directed by/starring older women, including Francis Lees (Gods Own Country) early short The Farmers Wife starring Geraldine James (Wed 7 Aug). More info:

·       PRIDE (Mon 26 - Thu 29 Aug) - Alongside the new releases Pain and Glory and The Shiny Shrimps, we will be screening a specially curated selection of films to celebrate Pride and to mark 50 years since the Stonewall riots. More info:(

·       NOT JUST BOLLYWOOD (Wed 11 Sep - Wed 2 Oct) - Third annual celebration of independent Indian cinema, with this years programme devoted to recent work from women directors, to reflect HOMEs ongoing Celebrating Women in Global Cinema programme. More info: (

·       APERTURE: ASIA & PACIFIC FILM FESTIVAL (Wed 4 - Sat 14 Sep) - UK film festival dedicated to screening some of the boldest, most daring, challenging and striking films from the Asian and Pacific regions, including a screening of Malaysian filmmaker Yihwen Chens documentary Eye on the Ball (Sat 14 Sep) - about a group of blind footballers aiming to become professional players. More info: (

·       New releases include: Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood (from Wed 14 Aug), Blinded by the Light (from Fri 9 Aug); Mrs Lowry & Son (from Fri 30 Aug); Downton Abbey (from Fri 13 Sep); and The Goldfinch (from Fri 27 Sep).

One-off events and screenings include
·       Pay what you can screening of Peterloo followed by a Q&A with director Mike Leigh, to mark the 200-year anniversary of the Peterloo massacre (Sun 18 Aug)

·       Q&A preview screenings include: Animals with director Sophie Hyde (Thu 1 Aug); The Souvenir with Director Joanna Hogg (Thu 29 Aug); Bait with director Mark Jenkin (Sat 24 Aug); The Last Tree with director Shola Amoo (Thu 5 Sep); The Shiny Shrimps with co-director and Shiny Shrimp Cedric Le Gallo (Sat 7 Sep)

·       The Aesthetica Award-Winning Film Tour (Wed 21 Aug) - selection of powerful short films featuring BAFTA-nominated and Oscar-nominated works 

·       National Lottery Cinema Day (Sun 25 Aug) - chance to see a FREE film on Sun 25 Aug with your ticket from Sat 24 Aug Lotto Double Prize Event draw

·       HarmonieBand presents Berlin Symphony of a Great City With live musical accompaniment (Sun 22 Sep) - screening of influential silent era documentary with live soundtrack from Paul Robinsons Harmonieband 

·       Talking Headz with Goldie and Dave Haslam (Fri 27 Sep) - A special evening in conversation with the legendary UK drum and bass pioneer Goldie

·       NT Live Broadcasts include: Fleabag (Thu 12 Sep) starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge; and One Man, Two Guvnors (Thu 26 Sep) starring James Corden.

Further Celebrating Women in Global Cinema events:
·       Girls on Film (Tue 3 Sep) - The fourth live recording of the popular Girls on Film podcast, presented by Anna Smith and with a panel including BBC Asian Networks Ashanti Omkar and film academic and pop culture expert Dr Kirsty Fairclough - the audience will be encouraged to join in the feminist fun and conversation!

·       Reclaim the Frame presents Dance with a Stranger (Mon 5 Aug) - A screening of Mike NewellDance with a Stranger, written by Salford-born writer Shelagh Delaney and based on the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, and presented by Reclaim the Frame alongside a post-screening panel hosted by Birds Eye Views Mia Bays with Delaneys daughter, the writer Charlotte Delaney, plus a criminologist specialising in womens imprisonment

·       Special screening of Jane Campions debut feature Sweetie (Mon 16 Sep) introduced by Jackie Stacey, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at The University of Manchester

·       Chinese Film Forum UK presents Still Human + Introduction (Thu 24 Sep) - screening of Hong Kong filmmaker Oliver Siu Kuen Chans Hong Kong box office hit, with Introduction from Fraser Elliott, Chinese Film Forum UK

·       HOMEEngagement and Industry programmes will continue foreground womens voices: an Introduction to the Female Gothic day course (Sat 14 Sep) will explore how Gothic novels from the 1790s and mid-Victorian period travelled to the screen to address womens issues while an eight-week Women in Film comedy course (from Tue 8 October) will explore the roles and representations of women in Anglo-American cinematic comedy.

For FULL LISTINGS please visit

NEWS: Liverpool's Capstone Theatre announces Autumn Season.


Liverpool Hope University’s Capstone Theatre is delighted to announce the launch of its Autumn 2019 Season, which runs from October to December 2019, fusing aneclectic and international selection of artistic treats spanning jazz, contemporary classical music, contemporary dance and drama.
The season opens with two LEAP Dance Festival events, LEAP Community Dance Showcase on Sunday 6th October, and Rosie Kay Dance Company: Fantasia on Tuesday 8th October 2019. Fantasia fuses ballet with neurology in a new piece exploring what it is that makes dance so beautiful to watch and experience.
As ever, contemporary jazz is well-represented in the programme, with concerts by John Law’s ReCreations (Friday 18th October), French accordion and piano duoMachado Ithursarry Duo (Friday 8th November), Luxembourgish piano trio Reis-Demuth-Wiltgen (Friday 15th November) and a concert by Norwegian saxophone genius Marius Neset (Friday 22nd November).
Musical experimentation and adventure features heavily in the programme with concerts by psychedelic-folk songwriter Robyn Hitchcock (Saturday 19th October), a programme of free improvised music for massed voices, Interactions: A Festival of Voices (Saturday 9th November), a piano extravaganza featuring sets by five Liverpool based piano composers, PIANO FORTE (Sunday 24th November) and an innovative concert of music for piano and electronics by Australian-Taiwanese piano virtuosoBelle Chen (Friday 29th November).
Later in the season on Tuesday 26th Novemberpioneering storyteller Sally-Pomme Clayton and girl punk band, The Swamp Girls present The Frog Princess Punked, afunny, feminist and dark punk fairytale for adults with story, music, and live projections.
A highlight of the season, one of the world’s most distinctive voices, Natacha Atlas brings her six-piece band to the Capstone on Thursday 14th November for a performance of songs from her latest album Strange Days. Her unique music, which synthesizes western and middle-eastern vocal traditions, has led her to collaborate with artists such as Peter Gabriel and Nitin Sawhney and grace countless Hollywood soundtracks.
Finally, a trio of festive concerts will get Liverpool audiences in the Christmas spirit, starting with Maghull Wind Orchestra who present The Magic of Christmas on Saturday 7th December. A selection of season favourites will be performed by Liverpool Mozart Orchestra in A Seasonal Selection on Sunday 8th December. Rounding off the Christmas offerings and bringing the season to a close, Allerton Brass return for a performance of their new festive show It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas on Saturday 14th December.
For full season listings check out the new season brochure:



LEAP Community Dance Showcase
£8 (£6 concessions)

Rosie Kay Dance Company: Fantasia
£12 (£10 concessions)

John Law - ReCreations
Friday 18th October 2019, 7.30pm

Harvest Sun presents: Robyn Hitchcock
Saturday 19th October 2019, 7.30pm
£16 + booking fee

Liverpool Mozart Orchestra: “The Grand Tour”
Saturday 19th October 2019, 7.30pm
£15 (£13.50, £5 concessions)

Machado Ithursarry Duo
Friday 8th November 2019, 7.30pm

Interactions: A Festival of Voices
(featuring The Feral Choir/Phil Minton & Juxtavoices)
Saturday 9th November 2019, 7.30pm
£10 (£5 concessions)

Natacha Atlas
Thursday 14th November 2019, 7.30pm

Friday 15th November 2019, 7.30pm

Shakespeare Schools Festival
Tuesday 19th – Thursday 21st November 2019, 7pm
£9.95 (£8 concessions) / Group rate: £7

Marius Neset
Friday 22nd November 2019, 7.30pm

Jacques Malchance & The Capstone Theatre presents 
Sunday 24th November 2019, 4pm

The Frog Princess Punked
Tuesday 26th November 2019, 7.30pm
£10 (£8 concessions)

Belle Chen
Friday 29th November 2019, 7.30pm

Solid Air Band
Venue: The Warehouse Theatre, Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP
£10 (£8 concessions)

Maghull Wind Orchestra: The Magic of Christmas
Saturday 7th December 2019, 7.30pm
Venue: The Great Hall, Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus, 17 Shaw Street, Liverpool L6 1HP
£10 (£6 concessions) (door)

Liverpool Mozart Orchestra: A Seasonal Selection
Sunday 8th December 2019, 2.30pm
£12 (£6 concessions)

Allerton Brass: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
£10 (£8 Concessions)


Tickets are available by calling TicketQuarter on 0344 8000 410* online at* or in person at Ticket Quarter Box Office, M&S Bank Arena, Kings Dock, Liverpool.

*A handling fee of £2.25 per transaction applies when paying with a debit/credit card. There are no handling fees for cash bookings at the TicketQuarter Box Office

A Box Office will be available at the venue on the evening of events, provided there are tickets still available. The evening Box Office normally opens 30 minutes before the start of an event.


The Capstone TheatreShaw Street,
L6 1HP
For more information, please visit or contact

NEWS: The Manchester Collective announce an exciting and international new season of concerts.

2019/20 Season Announcement

·        50 SHOWS IN 18 CITIES

Manchester Collective are back for their largest and most ambitious touring season to date, performing all over the UK, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands. This diverse and eclectic programme aims to highlight the joy of music making and inclusivity in an era of protectionism and division. The season features performances in abandoned buildings, nightclubs, concert halls and more weird and wonderful spaces than ever.

Alongside their main stage performances, Manchester Collective will be working together with three of the finest conservatoires in the UK to develop and inspire the next generation of performing musicians. The scheme (titled Future Music), will see the Collective produce residencies, orchestral labs, string quartet mentoring sessions, and a professional development curriculum for the Royal Northern College of Music, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland & The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

This new touring season also features:
-          an international revival tour of our 2018 show, Sirocco, feat. Abel Selaocoe and his band Chesaba (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, + Switzerland
-          a brand new commission for Opera North and Leeds Light Night feat. new work by Erland Cooper and Messiaen’s epic Catalogue D’Oiseaux for solo piano 
-          a national tour of Edmund Finnis’ PRSF funded orchestral work The Centre is Everywhere (fresh off a premiere at the Southbank Centre in London). This programme also sees Music Director Rakhi Singh perform an unholy mashup of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Ligeti’s Metamorphosen Nocturnes
-          a brand new show in collaboration with the Danish pipe and drum virtuoso Poul Høxbro – Ecstatic Dances alongside this Clod Ensemble’s Paul Clark premieres a newly commissioned piece, fresh off the back of a hugely successful collaboration with Renee Fleming and Ben Whishaw at The Shed in New York.
-          a Kings Place London performance of our Voice of the Whale show for their gorgeous Nature Unwrapped Festival, plus new music by young British composer Alex Groves

Manchester Collective will play concert debuts in Berlin, Cardiff, Glasgow, York, and Oxford, alongside their regular contingent of touring cities.

Quote from Chief Executive Adam Szabo

“We’re thrilled to be launching our largest and most ambitious season yet. Our 2019/20 programme takes us to Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and all over the UK, with a season of thrilling new work featuring commissions from Edmund Finnis, Erland Cooper, Paul Clark, and Alex Groves; a concerto debut from Music Director Rakhi Singh; a revival tour of our sellout 2018 production featuring South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, and much, much more besides. This year, we’re pushing ourselves in every conceivable way, delivering our trademark radical human experiences to new audiences all over the country.”

The Season

Sirocco: 19 Sep - 19 October 2019 UK & Switzerland
South African cellist, Abel Selaocoe, kicks off the season with the “once in a lifetime experience” of Sirocco, a celebration of African and European folk and classical. This is music for the people, by the people; music that will raise the hairs on your arms and bring a great big smile to your face.

The Birds by Erland Cooper and Manchester Collective: 11 & 12 October Leeds
The Birds is an Opera North commission for Leeds Light Night. Sound, colour, light, and music intertwine in this collaboration with composer Erland Cooper and pianist Kerry Yong.

The Centre is Everywhere 21 - 29 November 2020 UK Various Venues
Following a world premiere at the Southbank Centre, we tour The Centre is Everywhere by Edmund Finnis. This performance also features Manchester Collective’s own Rakhi Singh performing Vivaldi’s iconic Four Seasons

Ecstatic Dances: 16 - 25 January 2020
Poul Høxbro, Danish percussion and flute virtuoso and the so-called “great man of small instruments” brings this project to life. He’s an endlessly fascinating and inspiring musician - a Danish master of ancient flutes and bells, of bones and drums. Also making his Manchester Collective debut is Clod Ensemble’s Paul Clark, fresh off the back of a hugely successful collaboration with Renee Fleming and Ben Whishaw at The Shed in New York.

Cries and Whispers: 5 - 14 March 2020 UK & Europe
Our string quartet concert, Cries & Whispers, will be one of the most personal shows that we build. Terrifyingly intimate, the direct connection between each of the four players will make every listener in the room feel part of the performance. The performance features the expressive and sacred music of Carlo Gesualdo and Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet, a biographical scream written by a man desperate to create, haunted by fear and political oppression.

Voice of the Whale: 23 April - 2 May 2020
Following on from the hugely successful tour of Black Angels, we present George Crumb’s Vox Balanae, or, Voice of the Whale, at Kings Place in London. It’s a perfect Manchester Collective piece, performed under blue light by anonymous, masked musicians, on instruments that are amplified and modified.

Enescu Octet: 18 - 27 June 2020
We will end the season with a performance that, quite simply, puts a bunch of our favourite music into one show. This show takes us from focused and intense works for just one instrument (Bach’s G Major Cello Suite), to the huge combined string sound of Enescu’s String Octet.

THEATRE REVIEW: Wind In The Willows - Pennington Flash Country Park, Leigh. Greater Manchester.

I must confess that I’ve never been a fan of the story of The Wind In The Willows. Perhaps we should blame the 1980's children’s animation series which I found quite creepy but this production is a lovely piece of storytelling theatre which is wholly immersive and engaging for all the family. It is an enchanting story which follows the adventures of four woodland creatures; Toad, Ratty, Badger and Mole as they travel into the ‘Wild Woods’ and along the ‘Riverbank’, to try to escape the mean and wretched weasels with their evil ways. It is a typical feel-good ‘happily ever after’ story, with plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep the audience highly entertained with movement, song and a great story.

Director Will Travis is a working actor, with an array of credits in the television and theatre industry; including; This Is England, Coronation Street and Where The Heart Is. He has also worked on the professional stages of HOME, Oldham Coliseum, Northern Stage and Nottingham Playhouse. However, Travis doesn’t keep his fame to himself. Locally, he is more of a dramaturge and has built up a great reputation for bringing theatre to the people of Leigh in whatever form, from his acting school for youths ‘A Will And A Way’ to his professional productions with Stolen Thread Productions CIC, both hosted in his own The Way Theatre in Atherton. This is the second year Travis has directed The Wind In The Willows at Pennington Flash Country Park and the second time I watched the performance, so it was great to see how the play had evolved over the two runs.

As with any open-air theatre performance, the great British weather plays a starring role. Last year, we basked in the sunshine, sipping prosecco on picnic blankets and this year we sat on our soggy camping chairs, with fat raindrops dripping down our waterproofs. Did it impact the production? I think not. The feeling you get when watching any decent open air production still has a sense of camaraderie between audience and performers, and the weather didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits.

This production is a very brave piece of promenade theatre, with scenes taking place in a number of different locations throughout the park, so there’s plenty of walking involved in the evening’s entertainment. Set against the backdrop of the stunning Flash lake, woodland and park, Travis has chosen some perfect locations for his story of wildlife characters and this serves to make the production all the more engaging for the audience of adults and children alike.

The four main actors playing; Ratty (Martin Green), Badger (Joe Slack), Mole (Nathan Morris) and Toad (Will Travis), had brilliant stage presence which had the audience captivated throughout. My favourite character was Mole, played with excellent comic timing by Nathan Morris, whose humorous quips kept grown-ups in the audience entertained, whilst his lively characterisation which fully embodied the physical mannerisms of a mole proved highly entertaining for the younger audience members! It would be remiss of me not to mention Charlotte Vinsen’s fabulous costume design also. The costumes were so colourful and vibrant against the backdrop of natural scenery and represented the personality of each character, from the upper class Toad in his tweed suit, to the aged Badger with his war medals on show. The costumes were beautiful and a real asset to the production.

Masks, provided by Foolsgold Theatre Company were also brilliantly used to characterise the woodland creatures and heavily featured throughout the production on all characters. The masks came in a variety of forms, some as half masks covering the top of the face to the nose, others covering the nose, down to the chin. The production successfully utilised the masks but if I were to offer any criticism, it would be that there were times that no matter how well enunciated the actors were, the masks made it quite difficult to follow the dialogue.

The Wind In The Willows continues with evening and matiness performances at Pennington Flash until Sunday 4th August. It is a lovely way to while away the summer holidays with friends and family. It embraces its natural surroundings and is a great way to get out and enjoy the open air, even if the weather tries to keep you indoors. . .and if that doesn’t entice you, there’s a fabulous gin and prosecco bar there too!

Reviewer - Johanna Hassouna-Smith
on - 30/7/19

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Sister! - The King's Arms Theatre, Salford.

One Step Back is a new London-based physical theatre company set up to explore socio-political themes. “Sister!”, its first production, is an interesting and well-executed piece, though a bit puzzling in places. This evening’s performance was in the Vaults of the Kings Arms, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.

Aisha Weise-Forbes, in a nurse’s blue tunic and dark trousers, was the steadfast centre of the piece. Occasionally delivering dialogue, but primarily telling her story via movement, she was a calm, warm presence, utilising the many repetitive movements of a hospital nurse in her choreography. A soundscape of low-key original music by Lewis Thomas accompanied her performance, interspersed with a variety of recorded voices taken from what sounded like television interviews that spanned a seventy-year period.

Her character, Jade, began by making her spoken professional vows as a nurse, and was filled with optimism and joy for the future. Plainly this was her true vocation. The voice recordings began to celebrate the birth of the NHS, in a similarly optimistic and joyous way. A lot of the busy activity of a nurse came into the movement, and there was a recurring theme of babies and wanting to protect them. Then the voice recordings began to change in tone. Nurses were now arriving from the Caribbean, similar in appearance to Jade, and the outright racism with which they were treated by patients was very bluntly spoken, apparently by past patients themselves. Jade retreated up to the back of the space, with even her sunny nature affected. Institutional racism was also referred to, and then the themes of babies started coming back in: – I’m guessing this was a reference to how Caribbean nurses, unable to get promoted or taken seriously otherwise, started moving over into being midwives instead.

And this alone would have been an interesting, solid one-woman show, performed with quiet grace by Weise-Forbes. Where it got puzzling was what the other performer, Milli Jarlett, was portraying. Playing a character called Gilly, Jarlett was in a long skirt and a shawl, and regularly dropped dead leaves around the stage. Plainly she was in a different sort of world to Jade, but it was never established what that world was, and there were no clues from the soundscape either.

Jarlett is a good dancer, and used a very frenetic sort of dance energy, agitated, and filled with anxiety. At times, she appeared to be choking. The recurring theme of the babies who needed protection was used by her too, and she often seemed to be needing protection herself – though from what, it was never made clear. She and Weise-Forbes took turns doing solos on the stage, seemingly oblivious to each other, and it gave the effect of two one-woman shows occurring at the same time. A few times they dueted, and then they were tightly synchronised with each other, mirroring each other’s movements, even entwining arms and falling back, suggesting an unspoken interdependence. The rest of the time, I was simply bemused at what Gilly was and why she was there.

According to the production notes for “Sister!”, the piece “explores the female condition to heal and care and why these roles are traditionally persecuted in society.” That came through really clearly with Jade’s character, probably because we the audience are closer to it in our own experience. Artistically, we need a bit more help to have the same level of impact with Gilly.

Reviewer - Thalia Terpsichore
on - 27/7/19

THEATRE REVIEW: Marx In Soho - The Baronial Hall, Chetham's Music School, Manchester.

I have been seeing quite a few one-man / woman performances recently; some with distinctly more success than others. However, at least with this play I knew I'd be on terra firma with it being a published and performed play by American historian, political-thinker and playwright, Howard Zinn.

The Marx in question in the play's title is - no, not Groucho, but - Karl. Karl Marx has come back down from Heavan on a day pass to try and clear his name. The term, Marxist, he says, has been misappropriated, and those who follow the path of socialism or communism do so with capitalist greed and ethics. His arguments and elicudations are excellently presented and water-tight. I am not particularly politically motivated personally. It's possibly the wrong attitude, but one that I have adopted as a way of survival. I have never liked polititians, and never liked governments. But there's very little I can do to change it so, 'shut up and put up' has been my modus operandus. This play has made me see things differently, and although I am most certainly not a socialist, neither am I particularly a capitalist either, and like majority of the population, see no good coming from our newest leader.

The play lasted about 75 minutes non-stop, and was performed with authenticity and zeal by the very talented Robert Weick (directed by John Boyle). Weick portrayed Marx as a human being, flawed, humane, caring, loving, needy, but also with a lot of vehemence, conviction and opinion. The performance was excellently measured, dynamically perfect. I was gripped and interested throughout and mesmerised by the truth of Weick's performance.

Where the play - and indeed the venue - falls down is the fact that this play is set in New York. Weick had a very discernible American accent, and used Anerican words (not British English) for certain things, and referenced the US government, social care, health care, newspapers, polititians etc... And with the performance being in the same building as Chetham's Library, a place where Marx vsiited on more than one occasion and sat having discussions with Engels; it just felt very strange, and somehow quite wrong, that no reference to this was ever made. It would have been superb as a site-specific performance, with Weick seated at the window bay and the audience watching him there. Admittedly, the script would need to be changed to Manchester with English references and not New York, but it would have made far more sense!

The play is full of amusing, poignant and relevant anecdotes, as well as giving us a little history lesson into the life of Marx and his friends (and enemies). He quotes from his books and tells us how they SHOULD have been interpreted, and not the way the greedy rulers of the communist world did and have interpreted them. Weick's deep, resonant and sonorous voice along with excellent articulation made listening to him a joy, and his characterisation empathetic and balanced. But I didn't understand why Karl Marx (A German Jew who lived in France and England) would speak with an American accent!

And with such rousing and inspiring scripting as "Capitalism turns humans into commodities to be bought and sold and then discarded", and "Radical is to grasp the root of the problem; and the root is us.", it is impossible not to be moved by Karl Marx's thinking.

A very simple, but striking and intelligently focused play, performed with love and attention to detail. No matter what your politics, this is a superb play, superbly performed.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 29/7/19   

THEATRE REVIEW: What Remains - Salford Arts Theatre, Salford.

'What Remains' is Maniacal Vision’s second contribution to this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, following their show 'Frog' earlier this month. Written by Beth Hayward, 'What Remains' is set at some point in the future, where global warming means it is a scorching 26 degrees Celsius in February and the overflow of waste in landfills has seen the emergence of repurposed landfill sites run by Regenerate Waste Systems, where volunteers seek out waste which can be recycled (or ‘regenerated’) to help build hospital beds or other items for those on the outside.

The set for the play is a mound of rubbish, slightly reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s play Breath (one of, if not the, shortest play ever performed) but whereas the rubbish in Beckett’s work was a metaphor for life, in What Remains it symbolises the apogee of human consumption. The play opens with a voice-over from Karolina Pawlowicz, which bemoans the state the human race have left the planet in, blindly assuming the Earth will carry on sustaining our lives. This pessimistic view is swiftly countered by Gen (Ryan Watson) the founder and public face of Regenerate Waste Systems who appears in filmed inserts throughout the play. Gen’s statements establish that Regenerate is working towards reducing the overflowing waste by reclaiming and regenerating rubbish which can be reused and repurposed. Following the first of these ‘public service announcements,’ the action begins onstage with A (Hayward), and C (Josh Vince) walking onto the rubbish mound and listening to a very loud (presumably deliberately so) announcement congratulating the ‘cells’ on the Regenerate site who had achieved or exceeded their targets the previous day. Following the announcement, it soon becomes clear that A and C have a somewhat fractious relationship with one another, one which isn’t helped by a new arrival (Callum Ansley), swiftly dubbed B by C as “there are no names here.” Whereas C is cynical, sarcastic, and prone to passive-aggressive outbursts, B is young, somewhat naïve, and keen to use his volunteering to prove that he can be grown-up. A, meanwhile, knows the system and rules at the site like the back of her hand, but is a less-than-willing volunteer, having been brought to the site as part of a judiciary programme.

A explains to B (and the audience) how the programme works: they sift through the landfill rubbish to find waste which can be regenerated which they then feed into tubes which lead to a container which is emptied so the waste can be reused and repurposed. Different types of waste are worth more than others, so there is a bit of a competitive edge to the process. However, B slowly begins to realise that the programme he has volunteered to isn’t as straightforward as it seems – lunch is an energy bar, and A and C become jittery when the Cell Coach (Mike Pope) makes an unexpected visit. The Coach is a fast-talking, corporate statement, suit-wearing middle manager who drops the bombshell that everybody’s regeneration targets are going up. “This place is becoming more like a prison,” B remarks and is outraged at the change in target, seeing his initial volunteering period extending from one month to fourteen. After refusing to go back to his cell dorm in protest at the change in target, he makes a stand by sitting atop the rubbish mound in defiance before vanishing overnight, leaving A and C to try and stop speculating where he might be and concentrate on their work.

Performance wise, the main cast were fine and worked well enough with the material they had been given. However, this was where the play fell short. While the issues which 'What Remains' deal with are very pertinent – especially with the Extinction Rebellion protests and the drive away from single-use plastics – the play itself feels somewhat under-developed. The ending is very abrupt and the hints about the characters backstories could do with being fleshed out more. There does seem to be a Wall-E style commentary going on regarding human consumption, waste, and big business but this could do with being pushed further, and the play would benefit greatly from a more definite ending rather than what we are currently presented with here – the final scene just felt like another scene rather than the end of the play.

'What Remains' is a decent production but one which could benefit from more development and expansion in terms of character and the world the play is set within. With another draft or two of the script, there could be a powerful play about who really benefits from recycling, and those who are left with the rubbish that remains behind.

Reviewer - Andrew Marsden
on - 29/7/19