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Manchester reviewed
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Manchester theatre reviews

Footloose at Palace Theatre

Footloose at Palace Theatre

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall March 2016

 

Manchester Palace Theatre plays host this week to the stage version of the well-known and loved film Footloose, from the mid 1980s about a city teenager and his mother who move to a small town in Bible-Belt country where the town has outlawed dancing. He falls in love with the Preacher's daughter, and turns things around, bringing back both dancing and happiness to a town living in the sorrows of the past.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Down The Dock Road by Alan Bleasdale

Down The Dock Road at Royal Court, Liverpool

by Alan Bleasdale and Directed by Hannah Chissick

Reviewed by Jane Turner March 2016

 

If I was a Liverpool Docker, I would be first in the queue to give Alan Bleasdale a close up of my Docker’s hook. What a clichéd and caricatured depiction of a group of scouse dockworkers this play is. I can’t understand why it received rave reviews on its first outing in the 1970’s or why it has been revived today, possibly because of sentimental Corbyn supporters who think looking backwards to a time when labour was more unionised is the way forward?

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Manchester theatre reviews

Tinned Goods by Fiona WhitelawTinned Goods

Performed by Tea and Tenacity at Salford Arts Theatre

Reviewed by Simon Belt March 2016

 

On the way to the theatre, as the story-line to a gag goes, I was listening to Radio 4's Loose Ends in the car. There were some self-deprecating gags on it, but the thing that struck me was the reference to Alexei Sayle's latest book - 'Thatcher stole my trousers'. To be honest, it was a little tiresome during the Thatcher era to hear 'progressive types' blame Thatcher for all bad things done to them, but for that to live on into 2016 seems bizarre.

 

Margaret Thatcher, and the miners strike of 1984-5 particularly, are reference points for contemporary life even more important than the old reference point of the second world war for a certain milieu, who downplay broader Historical perspective. This is abundantly expressed through the Arts, and the theatrical production Tinned Goods by Tea and Tenacity is a good example of this.

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Manchester theatre reviews

You’re Not Alone by Kim Noble

You’re Not Alone by Kim Noble

at Contact Theatre, Manchester

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler March 2016

 

Kim Noble begins his one-man gig pacing twitchily, e-cig in one hand, drink in the other, sizing-up the punters as we the audience file into the theatre. No wonder he looks on-edge: in the hour that follows he dredges the depths of discomfort as he bulldozes the boundaries of bad taste.

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Manchester theatre reviews

The Madness of George III by Alan BennettMadness of George III

Performed at Garrick Theatre, Altrincham

Reviewed by Simon Belt and Yvonne Cawley April 2016

 

This award winning play by Alan Bennett is billed as a ‘mix of terror, comedy and tragedy’ is a story based on King George III’s well documented bout of madness and the ensuing political power struggle. We see Fox ‘courting’ the scheming Prince of Wales, encouraging him to incarcerate the King, supposedly for his own good health but really so they both benefit - as taking on the role of ‘Prince Regent’ would therefore offer greater political power and access to the treasury coffers. If it is proved that the King is losing his mind, then he will lose his power too.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Negative Space by Reckless Sleepers

Negative Space by Reckless Sleepers

at Contact Theatre, Manchester

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler March 2016

 

The star of this performance is a large white boxy space, with plasterboard walls on three sides and a floor containing three trap-doors and two wooden chairs. Four men and two women come into and exit this space. They have no names and no roles. No words are spoken and there is no music.

 

Over the course of an hour the six performers come and go in no particular order.

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Manchester theatre reviews

David Neilson (Hamm) and Chris Gascoyne (Clov) in Endgame

Endgame at Home

by Samuel Beckett, co-presented by Citizens Theatre

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler February 2016

 

Imagine, if you will, an existential launderette, where, one evening, you take your embodied self for a service wash. You check in your soul, which goes into a big boxy machine on a programme marked all-Western-thought-and-then-some, along with some Cartesian powder and a little Comedic conditioner. During the 90-odd minute wash your psychic goods go round and round, scratching a bit on the window, yielding flashes of apparel in no particular order. The end of the cycle looks a lot like the beginning.

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Manchester theatre reviews

The Gospel according to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

The Gospel according to Jesus, Queen of Heaven

Written and performed by Jo Clifford

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler February 2016

 

The Gospel according to Jesus, Queen of Heaven is a one hour ‘sermon’ written and performed by Jo Clifford, who invites us to embrace a ‘queer Jesus’. More agitprop performance art than theatrical event.

 

The audience is addressed and directly challenged by Clifford who is constantly on the move, sometimes in-amongst those who have responded to the offer to sit closer, in a more intimate setting, but more often round the back of us, disallowing any comfortable sense of distance between audience and performer.

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Manchester theatre reviews

The Pitmen Painters

The Pitmen Painters at Oldham Coliseum

Reviewed by John Waterhouse February 2016

 

This play might at first glance appear to be another take on how to escape depressing times in Northern collieries, a la ‘Brassed Off’, but it’s actually a funny show that works on a number of levels. There have been many satires in past decades about what or who defines art and what in essence is an artist. A personal favourite is the 1961 Tony Hancock film ‘The Rebel’ where an office bean-counter makes a bid to escape his existence of a wage-slave by becoming ‘an artist’ in Paris.

 

The Pitmen Painters starts on a more positive premise; a group of colliery workers simply want to broaden their horizons by trying to appreciate art and the teacher they hire quickly decides that the best way they can achieve this is to become artists, or least to try painting, themselves.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Life Stories with Chekhov

Life Stories at Salford Arts Theatre

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler February 2016

Produced by Radius Opera and Theatre

 

All art is quite useless. That’s why we need it. Because we aren’t tools, but men and women with interests beyond utilitarian calculus. Soul is what matters; soul and sympathy and human understanding.

 

If such is your view, Life Stories is the evening for you. A pithy, prescient two-parter, Life Stories bounces one tale off another and leaves us asking for more.

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