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Theatre Reviews

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Manchester theatre reviews
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Manchester theatre reviews

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Production

Reviewed by Jane Turner February 2012

Kicking off its 2012 season with the Tennessee Williams’ classic A Streetcar Named Desire, the Liverpool Playhouse brilliantly re-create the hustle, bustle, whirl and wonder of New Orleans City. The street sounds and soul are brought to mesmerizing life in this historic and intimate Liverpool theatre by a superb Peter Coyte arrangement.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Oliver! Photos by Alastair Muir

Oliver! Palace Theatre, Manchester

Book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart: Freely adapted from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist

Reviewed by Helen Nugent February 2012


In a year when the world is awash with adaptations and celebrations of Charles Dickens’ work, a revival of Lionel Bart’s musical version of Oliver Twist could be considered Dickensian overkill. Does the public need another depiction of the great writer’s Victorian underworld during the 200th anniversary of his birth?

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Manchester theatre reviews

An Inspector Calls at The Lowry

An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley

Performed at The Lowry, directed by Stephen Daldry

Reviewed by Charlotte Starkey February 2012

 

An Inspector Calls has been a perennial favourite of the English syllabus in schools and still remains so. Comments by groups of school parties after the performance at The Lowry ranged from ‘Wow!’ and ‘Brill!’ to the more controlled ‘An amazing evening!’ and ‘Really enjoyable’.

 

As I arrived coaches were departing for, and arriving from, different parts of the North West and beyond. What seemed like an army of young GCSE students was leaving the earlier matinée performance, pouring down the stairs like the hordes of Hannibal’s army over the Alps, but thankfully more triumphant and peaceful, milling around in excited chatter, lingering in the foyer or leaving; and then another invading army of young theatre-goers approached, sweeping up the stairs like a surging wave to pack the theatre for the evening performance.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Two by Jim Cartwright

Two by Jim Cartwright

Performed at Royal Exchange, directed by Greg Hersov, designed by Amanda Stoodley

Reviewed by Emma Short January 2012

 

With an emphasis on the tentative balance of self and other within a relationship, Jim Cartwright's Two takes us on a journey through the most intimate insights and fluctuations within couple dynamics. The secrets shared at the bar over a pint are captured in all their innocence, arrogance and transparency evoking a sublime pathos that grips the breath.

 

Justin Moorhouse and Victoria Elliott play all 14 of Cartwright's characters with tremendous versatility, flair and imagination. The range is astounding, from small boy, to bullying boyfriend, chipper landlord and wistful old man to mirror the portrayal of the scorned other woman, ground down elderly carer, brow beaten girlfriend to over excitable Maudie.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Sarah Ridgeway as Alice and Christopher Benjamin as Martin Vanderhof. Photo by Jonathan Keenan

You Can't Take It With You

by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart, performed at Royal Exchange Theatre, with Told by an Idiot, directed by Paul Hunter, and designed by Laura Hopkins

Reviewed by Helen Nugent December 2011


You know you’re in for something a little bit different when the only character on stage at the beginning of a play is a tortoise. In a spotlight. A tortoise in a spotlight. Yes this, as Mancunians would have it, was going to be proper different.


The omens were good from the start. The largest theatre in the round in Britain housed in what was once the largest room for commerce in the world; the Royal Exchange’s Christmas show, rarely, if ever, a let-down; and a collaboration with Told by an Idiot, a company renowned for fusing comedy with tragedy, theatricality with nuance.

 

And the choice of show? A production written by the celebrated comedy writing double act, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart who, when they created YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU, engendered a Broadway hit, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and an Oscar-laden film. And, more than 70 years after its first season, it was still drawing the crowds on a windswept winter evening in Manchester.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Adapted for the stage by Alan Bennett

Presented by Library Theatre, performed at The Lowry, directed by Chris Honer

Reviewed by Charlotte Starkey December 2011

 

Some people, who find animals endlessly fascinating, tend to be outward looking, always seem glad that they are still alive to enjoy the world, just like Mole; others, who do not have the same connection with animals, seem to believe the world should feel privileged that they are alive, just like Toad. This is a generalisation, of course; but I realised the limitation of imagination, when an English teacher whom I had admired, declared that ‘animal stories’ are ‘not sufficiently substantial’.

 

I never did grasp the meaning of that and promptly threw him into my trash bin, having just read Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm as well as having been brought up in the company of animals, wild and domesticated. After all, I had read The Wind in the Willows by the tender age of six months, or so it seems from this distance, and my love of the tale has never waned. This production is no place for the self-lover, the introvert, the angst-ridden career seeker or anyone on a mission. It is for those who find something quite mad, amusing and mysterious about creation and understand that the unpredictability of animals comes largely from their having to share a planet with a rather weird race of beings - us.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Celluloid

Celluloid by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan

Performed at Three Minute Theatre, by Dream Avenue Productions

Reviewed by Emma Short November 2011

 

Having been officially open for two months Manchester's Three Minute Theatre has emerged and stamped its mark on the ground floor of Afflecks on Oldham Street. With its intimate performance space and in house bar this comfortable venue recently hosted Dream Avenue Productions' Celluloid by Lloyd Eyre-Morgan.

 

Lloyd takes us straight into the heart of dysfunctional family life. Mum Dawn's (Janet Banford) struggle with her past is played out not only upon the counsellors couch during regression therapy but also within the family home. With the help of Josh's (played by Daniel Booth) method of escapism; a penchant for viewing life through a lens, we learn from his footage the extent and impact this situation has had over the years.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Beautiful Thing

Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey

Performed at Royal Exchange, Directed by Sarah Frankcom and Designed by Liz Ascroft

Reviewed by Dave Porter November 2011

 

A clear line can be drawn from A Taste of Honey by Shelagh Delaney through to Rita, Sue and Bob Too by Andrea Dunbar, and on to Beautiful Thing by Jonathan Harvey, which has just opened at the Royal Exchange.

 

All three plays take a poke through the underbelly of life and the people at the bottom of the pile who are excluded from everyday society. Beautiful Thing takes its cue from A Taste of Honey in its portrayal of fumbling gay teenagers and an overbearing, brassy mother; while the brutal demotic of council estate life in Dunbar's world clearly mirrors Harvey's south London high-rise hell.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Good by C P Taylor

GOOD by C P Taylor

Performed at Royal Exchange Theatre

Directed by Polly Findlay and designed by James Cotterill

Reviewed by Jane Turner October 2011

 

It’s a strange mixed-up fantasy, but if you fancy seeing Hitler in plus-fours and arrive at the gates of Auschwitz in a flash of light as the curtain falls feeling tense, disorientated, bewildered and yet somehow gripped, “Good” might be just right for you. I may have had a sense of humour biopsy but I think it would be “good” if history was portrayed more accurately.

 

I found it a little difficult to settle in my seat; I was un-comfortable, not because of the fine upholstery, but bothered by the four letter-word of the title – Good. A bit subjective to begin with and even more so when tackling the consequences of German Fascism. Good/evil, black/white? Most of us know that things are never that clear cut or straightforward. Who and what is good or evil, and who decides is the rather complex question taken up by CP Taylor, the author of this story.

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Manchester theatre reviews

All the Way Home

All the Way Home by Ayub Khan-Din

Presented by Library Theatre in association with The Lowry, directed by Mark Babych

Reviewed by Jane Turner October 2011

 

Award-winning playwright Ayub Khan-Din has returned to his native Salford for the world premiere of his new play All The Way Home, performed by the highly respected Library Theatre Company opening their new season in association with The Lowry.

 

Billed as a contemporary and emotional comedy-drama set in Salford that details the life of a family as they unite to face the death of their brother from cancer, it is directed by Mark Babych who has assembled a team of excellent actors from the local area. Familiar faces include, from Coronation Street, Judith Barker, Paul Simpson, Kate Anthony, Sean Gallagher and Naomi Radcliffe while actors Susan Cookson, Julie Riley and James Foster will be known to regular theatre-goers.

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