REVIEW: This is a Trap Don’t Go (The Waterside Theatre, Whitworth St, Manchester)

reviewer: Megan Hyland
upstaged rating: 

This is a Trap Don’t Go is a student acted and professionally directed performance piece inspired by actual events. It explores disturbing aspects of what has now become everyday life, such as kidnappings, conspiracy theories and scaremongering in the media. The piece itself spans around forty-five minutes, during which we see the characters theorise over who is behind the seemingly harmless attack on a plastic flamingo, ranging from the government to aliens disguised as humans to terrorists.

However, from this point onwards, the piece completely loses its audience as it tumbles into repetitive absurdity. The next thirty minutes or so is an unengaging jumble of dramatic techniques that add nothing to the piece and cause it to lose what little momentum it had built in the opening minutes. What follows has no connection to what was a promising start, and takes away from the ability it had to make an important statement about society and the media.

There is no narrative beyond the beginning of the piece, leaving the audience confused and often groaning in disappointment as the same techniques were used over and over. This in itself was a waste of the obvious talent of the cast, who powered through the tiresome minutes with unflinching effort and personality. They brought an excellent humour and energy to the performance, but I can’t help but feel that their talents would have been better suited to a more engaging and thought-provoking production.

Richard Young, Lauren Greer and Luke Riley, in particular, stood out in this performance, with their brilliantly dry humour and pure determination being the only thing that made the piece bearable. Their characters, though underdeveloped, were still entertaining and exciting when they were allowed to showcase their talent. Their success, however, was due to their vitality more than the writing, which lacked originality and depth.

The set and costume design (by Angela Wayland and Carol Wilson) managed to draw the audience in from the start, with its colourful hues and sparkling background. Although it gave the piece more personality and originality, it was seemingly unlinked to the piece itself and seemed only to serve as a distraction from the fact that very little was happening narrative-wise.

This is a Trap Don’t Go was unusual, funny but mostly hit-and-miss, leaving the audience in a state of confusion and boredom. It lacked the desired effect of wanting to make a serious point, and although this could have been the reasoning behind the seemingly random techniques, if this was the case, it wasn’t made apparent enough for it to make any impact and only left the audience disappointed and wanting something more.

-Megan Hyland

REVIEW: Zoe Lyons – Little Misfit (The Lowry, Salford) 

reviewer: megan hyland
upstaged rating:

Known for her regular appearances on TV comedy shows such as Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo, Zoe Lyons is back with her new tour, Little Misfit. First performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Little Misfit is a sensational and exciting hour of reflective and at times quite political comedy. Lyons perfectly balances her personal experiences and world issues, making her performance current and relevant as well as warm and engaging. Rising comic Will Duggan supported Lyons, with twenty minutes of dry and often dark humour that sets him apart from other comedians. His performance was encouraging and involving, with a combination of hilarious prepared material and some equally funny audience interactions.

In a profession that is still disappointingly lacking in female performers, Lyons shows us exactly why there should be more celebrated female comedians. Although the audience was smaller than deserved, Lyons created entertaining atmosphere despite the fact that her comedy is perhaps better suited to a bigger audience. She commands the stage and the attention of the audience with great physicality and her ability to immerse us in her world.

Having watched her on TV, there’s a certain familiarity with Lyons’ comedy. Her quirky style and bold personality creates her own unique stage persona that is easily recognisable and makes her immediately stand out. However, even if you have never seen Lyons perform before – on TV or otherwise – her comedy is both inviting and inclusive, welcoming younger and older audiences. Some anecdotes and jokes however were also familiar, having heard them before from some of Lyons’ other material. Despite this, the show was packed with enough fresh material for this not to distract.

At times the transitions between jokes felt slightly forced, and the show itself ended very abruptly, as it was paced so rapidly that it felt as though it should have slowed to a more gradual end, or perhaps ended on a bigger or more memorable note. It felt as though the show just stopped mid flow on a joke that didn’t quite live up to the rest of the performance. However, despite having seen only short snippets of Lyons’ comedy before, even this hour-long performance felt too short, and perhaps the feeling of abruptness was simply due to wanting the performance to continue.

Little Misfit is a hilarious and charming hour of intelligent comedy that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Zoe Lyons has mastered the art of comedy and created her own familiar comedic style that is as funny as it is thought-provoking.

-Megan Hyland

Zoe Lyons continues to tour through to May 2017 – click here for more info and to get your tickets.

REVIEW: Be My Baby (The Lowry, Salford)

Be My Baby at the Lowry Theatre Salford till Saturday 8th October 2016
Be My Baby at the Lowry Theatre Salford until Saturday 8th October 2016
upstaged rating:

There is no bigger story than a mother being made to give up her baby for adoption and this is exactly the premise of Amanda Whittington’s play, Be My Baby. Set in the so-called swinging sixties, a defining decade when young people were just being given a voice and expression, mother and baby homes still existed. It is difficult to comprehend that just 50 years ago an unmarried pregnant woman would be shipped off to one of these homes to give birth to her child in secret, for fear that a baby born ‘out of wedlock’ would bring complete shame on her family. Propelled by society and their fear of the unknown, the girls would sign their baby over for adoption before even experiencing childbirth or seeing their babies face.

Despite dealing with a bleak subject matter, Be My Baby is packed full of laughter, light and a wonderfully evocative soundtrack. The music serves as a brilliant contrast to the harsh subject matter, serving to lighten the tone and transport us back to the 1960’s.

When Mary (Jess Cummings) is brought into the mother and baby convent by her mother, Mrs Adams (Susan Twist) she shares a dormitory with her beloved record player and Queenie. Jess Cummings shines as the respectable grammar school girl who finds herself pregnant and shipped off to the home, even before her father can find out.

At the centre of the performance is Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent, in her stage debut as tough mum-to-be Queenie. Giving a very well rounded natural performance, showing heart and impeccable comic timing, Vincent impresses as the hardened young character. Ruth Madoc is quite formidable as the matron of the mother and baby convent. Detached and stern, she gives a wonderfully subtle performance – her maternal instinct just simmers, hinting that she knows more about the way the girls are feeling than she alludes to.

The ensemble cast all give excellent performances throughout, notably Josie Cerise and Eva McKenna, with some of the most poignant sections during their daily chores in the convent laundry. Shrouded by the sheets pegged up to dry, they sing along to their favourite songs and flick through teenage annuals – all trying to come to terms with their changing bodies and myths surrounding childbirth.

Some of the scene changes were very laboured (pardon the pun) at times, particularly in the second half, which did detract from some of the more emotional scenes. However, I’m sure Kirstie Davis is fine tuning this already – leaving the audience to enjoy the powerful performances and emotive subject matter.

-Kristy Stott

Be My Baby is on at the Lowry Theatre Salford until Saturday 8th October 2016 and you can click here to get your tickets.

REVIEW: The Emperor (HOME, Manchester)

Kathryn Hunter in The Emperor © Simon Annand
Kathryn Hunter in The Emperor
© Simon Annand
reviewer: Megan Hyland
upstaged rating: 

The Emperor tells the story of the fall of the infamous Haile Selassie, Ethiopian Emperor between the years of 1930 and 1974. The play is based on Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński’s book, in which he interviewed the servants of Selassie after his downfall. It is a glimpse into a world of corruption, poverty and absolute power, through the eyes of those who worked under the Emperor throughout his tyrannical reign.

The shapeshifting Kathryn Hunter plays each character with such spirited passion and vigour, with no crossover in between, each character is a personality in their own right. Her voices and mannerisms bring the characters to life in an inspiring and vast performance, transforming herself completely. The limited costume and props leave the characterisation to fall into Hunter’s very capable hands, and she does not disappoint. Every character has their own tone, and she switches effortlessly between the emotionally raw and vulnerable to the closed off and political. Through every character, we were able to build our own image of the Emperor, making him almost as big of a presence as the characters on stage.

The combination of Hunter’s masterful character acting and Temesgen Zeleke’s beautifully haunting live music created the sombre yet heartfelt tale that ran alongside the Emperor’s dictation and downfall – the loyalty and love of his servants. Although the Emperor was the main focus of the production, you can’t help as an audience member to feel drawn to Hunter’s characters. She plays them with such vitality that it becomes difficult not to become immersed in their world. And although the story itself was deeply interesting, especially since it is so little known, the production itself was held up by Hunter’s incredible talent. Her performance was pivotal to the success of the play, as any other attempt at such a bold and demanding role possibly would have caused the whole production to fall flat.

Mike Gunning’s lighting and Paul Arditti’s sound combined with Walter Meierjohann’s poignant directing created an intense, albeit slightly bizarre show that is not to be missed. The quick changes in tone left audiences reeling, never quite sure whether they should be laughing or crying, but Hunter made it flow naturally. Temesgen Zeleke’s music and the inclusion of the Amharic language of Ethiopia in his side characters added a subtle authenticity to the piece, making it all the more credible.

The Emperor is an honest and engaging piece about a part of history that many people know little about, creating a lot of discussion. However, what stands out for many is Kathryn Hunter’s faultless performance and energy that carries the piece throughout.

-Megan Hyland

The Emperor is at HOME, Manchester until Friday 30th September 2016.

For a taster of this FIVE STAR show, please watch HOME‘s trailer…

REVIEW: I, Myself and Me (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

reviewer: Ciaran ward
upstaged rating: 

For anybody who is not accustomed to solo shows, I, Myself and Me (created, written and performed by Rachael Young), serves as a delightful introduction to the form, one that is as entertaining and captivating as any other genre of theatre. With generous and well-interspersed portions of humour, paired with the thoughtful inclusion of audience participation, Young’s autobiographical material is expressed in a medium that encapsulates the struggles any single woman in their late thirties can encounter on a day-to-day basis.

Standing on a set (designed by Naomi Kuyck-Cohen) that comprises of a neglected garden, a palm tree, various plant pots and two microphone stands, Rachael Young gives the audience an insight into her life. Learning that she is someone with Caribbean lineage and a working class background allows everyone to engage with her, creating a rapport that engenders an honest and comfortable atmosphere. Through this, she imparts some personal recollections, ranging from the comical anecdote that details her using said palm tree in the absence of a real partner at a school dance, all the way to the heartfelt confession that she didn’t visit her mother’s grave for eleven years.

This sentimentally is explored further in Young’s building up of the garden: an emotional endeavour that is revealed to be an homage to the garden her mother took pride in maintaining. In the background, video footage (edited by Lucy Skilbeck) is projected onto a pull-out screen as she does this, presenting a journey of her buying flowers and finally visiting her mother’s grave.

A dramatic shift in the format of the piece (metamorphosing into one that is reminiscent of a television game show) is introduced when a member of the audience, named Kash, joins Young on stage. Here, the former attempts to help the latter with two challenges, the first entailing the both of them running a lap ‘faster than Usain Bolt’ on the floor, with the second involving Kash navigating the blindfolded Young around a series of mini cacti. The contrast in lighting (designed by Alyssa Watts and Eva G Alonso) aids this transformation, with a spotlight on Young being replaced by stark floodlighting in moments of physical activity.

I, Myself and Me may be a solo show, but it is in no way uniform in nature. The unique performance offered by Young and the unconventional dramatic techniques featured makes for a diverse and compelling interactive monologue.

-Ciaran Ward

You can see Rachael Young performing a work in progress of her new show OUT at the  Steakhouse Live Festival in  Richmix, London on Friday 14th October 2016.


REVIEW: Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company ©Tristram Kenton
A scene from Frames by Rambert Dance Company
©Tristram Kenton
upstaged rating: 

Now in their 90th year, Rambert continue to lead the dance world with their exhilarating and  innovative dance works. Back in 1966, the company changed their artistic focus from classical to contemporary. Always forward thinking, they commission the most exciting choreographers, composers and designers and give them the freedom to lead wherever their vision and imagination takes them.

To celebrate their 90th year in true Rambert style, the world-class dancers are presenting three contrasting works at The Lowry, Salford. Opening with the world premiere of Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight, followed by Frames choreographed by Alexander Whitley and ending with the beautiful, vibrant and sexy A Linha Curva.

Malgorzata Dzierzon used stories and dialogue about travel, migration and shifting space as inspiration for Flight. It’s a captivating vision set to Kate Whitley’s evocative soundtrack, delivered by the company with fluidity and grace. A revolving set design accompanied by Luke Halls’ video projection creates an eerie atmosphere, drawing our attention to the pace at which we move through our everyday lives. Paul Koegan’s smart lighting design works perfectly alongside the dancers, creating sharp powerful silhouettes during the stunning duet between Miguel Altunaga and Liam Francis.

Frames provides a fascinating contrast, exploring themes of permanency and the dance space or theatre as a construction site. With set design by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen, the performance space is transformed into a white box as the dancers construct their performance within it. The sound of metal bars clashing and Daniel Bjarnason’s industrial-esque soundtrack heighten the senses as the dancers hold the audience’s gaze, moving with agility and strength. Who knew that you could make dancing with metal structures look easy and stunningly beautiful? 

And just as you think the performance could not get any better… A Linha Curva, choreographed by Itzik Galili, explodes onto the stage, giving a powerful  injection of colour and carnival to the evening. The audience begin to join in, clapping and bobbing, whooping and cheering to the sound of the samba beat. The live percussion musicians are elevated above the dance space, upbeat and vibrant they use a range of instruments, their voices and their bodies to create the dynamic soundtrack. It’s sensual, witty and terribly good – the dancers are faultless as they move alongside each other in a truly intoxicating display.

There’s a true sense of celebration throughout the performance and during the standing ovation, which is very well deserved for Britain’s oldest dance company. Rambert may be 90 this year but they show no sign of standing still.

-Kristy Stott

Rambert: A Linha Curva plus other works is at The Lowry until Friday 30th September 2016 and you can get your tickets here.





REVIEW: Birmingham Royal Ballet: Shakespeare Dream Bill (The Lowry, Salford)

Wink Birmingham Royal Ballet © Andrew Ross
Birmingham Royal Ballet
© Andrew Ross
upstaged rating:      

2016 marks four hundred years since the death of William Shakespeare and Birmingham Royal Ballet continue their celebration of the world’s most prolific dramatist with Shakespeare Dream Bill. The production presents three contrasting works, from contemporary to classical, in a Shakespeare-themed feast of balletic brilliance.

American choreographer Jessica Lang’s Wink serves an elegant entree inspired by the language of The Bard’s sonnets. Set to Jakob Ciupinski’s new score, both the music and the movement echo the structure of the sonnets. Surreal and captivating, the piece takes its title from the first line of sonnet 43, ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see.’ The graceful performance is framed by Mimi Lien’s set of rotating boards which switch from black to white representing the blink of an eye. Stylish and contemporary, Peter Teigan’s lighting design and Alfie Jones’ voiceover add further clarity to this faultless display.

José Limón’s The Moor’s Pavane subtitled ‘Variations on the theme of Othello’, distils the tangled tragedy of Othello into a tightly knit and thrilling one-act piece. The four dancers: Tyrone Singleton (Othello), Iain Mackay (Iago) , Delia Mathews (Desdemona) and Samara Downs (Emilia) sweep and glide in Pauline Lawrence’s medieval inspired gowns. Moving in a circular motion about a dark stage, they are enmeshed. Othello’s white handkerchief is passed between them to Henry Purcell’s baroque score.

The Dream concludes the triple bill with a good dose of magic and wit as the company revive Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1964 interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With Peter Farmer’s leafy woodland setting and John B Read’s dramatic lighting design, the company fill the stage with elegance and jest.  

I was very surprised to see a few empty seats on the night I attended as the Birmingham Royal Ballet usually, and rightfully, attract a full house. Perhaps the idea of Shakespeare fused with ballet felt quite daunting for some, which is quite a shame as The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare Dream Bill is pure perfection- a stunning display of agility, beauty and technical wisdom. This production is a superb evening out for all ages and whether you are a seasoned theatre-goer or on your first trip to the ballet, the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare Dream Bill is a dazzling visual feast.

-Kristy Stott

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Shakespeare’s Dream Bill is on at The Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 17th September 2016 and you can get your tickets here.



REVIEW: My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding (The Lowry, Salford)

My Big Fat Jobseekers Wedding at The Lowry, Salford
My Big Fat Jobseekers Wedding at The Lowry, Salford
Reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 

Adult themed pantomime My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding is the latest production from Manchester based theatre group Ard Knox. It invites the audience into the life of a stereotypical council estate family, where money is tight, and drama lurks around every corner.

The play is centred in the family sitting room, which is reminiscent of The Royle Family, setting the scene perfectly for the cliché type of humour that’s on offer. The formula that is used does not bring anything new to the genre, and nor does it particularly do well what it intends in the first place. This is by no means down to the acting, which offered a clear visual rapport, showing how much the cast have spent time together, really helping to create the friendships on stage.

The failed gags, however, are down to the poor writing, and jokes were often relying on simple gags and toilet humour which was both predictable and forgettable and felt as though it was aiming for cheap laughs. The script also offered a very incohesive narrative which felt as though it was written with scenes in mind rather than the whole story,  rather a stitch together of random characters and scenes into a form of linear narrative. However this was hidden by some overarching jokes throughout, like the chat room on the laptop, which helped bring together the story in some way, but it did not deny the outlandish random plot points that made no sense.

Despite that the characters were stereotypes, they were very good stereotypes, resulting in people relating them to someone they knew, which made them funnier. However, some characters again were completely out of place and ruined the believability of the other characters. For example, the son was a ‘cowboy’, relying on Sergio Leone references as jokes were completely out of place for a northern working class sitcom style play, which overall tarnished the suspension of disbelief.

Overall My Big Fat Jobseeker’s Wedding was a big fat random collage of cheap jokes and crude humour, that I’m sure would suffice for a quick laugh while drinking with a couple of friends, but would leave no further than that, as it falls flat in offering nothing more than a cheap attempt at Mrs Brown’s Boys.

-Demi West
You can find out more about Ard Knox Theatre Company by clicking here.

REVIEW: The Shawshank Redemption (The Lowry, Salford)

The Shawshank Redemption © Mark Yeoman
The Shawshank Redemption
© Mark Yeoman
reviewer: megan hyland
upstaged rating: 

Adapted by Owen O’Neill and Dave Jones from Stephen King’s critically acclaimed novel and the iconic 1994 film, the Shawshank Redemption tells the familiar story of Shawshank Maximum Security Penitentiary. Whether you know the story or not, this production is accessible for all audience members, with its hard-hitting and emotional performances drawing you in from the beginning.

thumbnail_Paul NichollsThe play follows Andy Dufresne, (played by Paul Nicholls) an intelligent and charismatic banker imprisoned for the double murder of his wife and her lover. The story is beautifully narrated throughout by his fellow prisoner Red – played by Ben Onwukwe who brings brilliant animation and magnetism to the well-loved character. Throughout the twenty years in which the play is set, we see Andy interact and develop relationships with his fellow prisoners – played by an outstanding supporting cast – all the while forming a rather resourceful plan.

The all-male cast offer a range of powerful and gripping performances, from the quiet and bumbling but lovable librarian ‘Brooksie’, played by Andrew Boyer to the terrifying and sinister prison tormenters Rooster and Bogs, played by Jeff Alexander and Sean Croke, whose performances were exceptional and uncomfortably convincing. The entire cast had incredible physicality and great chemistry, particularly between Nicholls and Onwukwe, who bring both humour and charm to their characters. Nicholls gave a charming and likable performance as Andy, effortlessly transitioning from Andy’s distanced and quiet personality to bold, raw performances with Jack Ellis’ performance as Waden Stammas being the perfect menacing contrast. Each scene was thick with tension, but the hard topics especially were handled effortlessly and tension was quickly diffused with wonderfully dry humour.

Gary McCann’s set and costume design although simplistic added greater authenticity to the story, and allowed it not to distract or take away from the incredible acting performances. Although the costumes and set design were reminiscent of the 1994 film of the same name, they were magnificent in their own right. Paired with Dan Samson’s eloquent sound design, they create a genuine and intimidating prison atmosphere.

Transferring this story to the stage can’t have been an easy task, but director David Esbjornson has done a faultless and beautiful job. The cast bring a new life to the familiar roles, without leaving behind the story we’re familiar with. And although not a light-hearted watch, the play tells a riveting and heartfelt story of friendship, strength and hope that resonates with the audience.

-Megan Hyland

The Shawshank Redemption runs at The Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 10th September 2016 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW: Gangsta Granny (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

Birmingham Stage Company's Gangsta Granny by David Walliams. ©Mark Douet
Birmingham Stage Company’s Gangsta Granny by David Walliams.
©Mark Douet
upstaged rating: 

The Lowry fizzes with excitement with the arrival of the Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation of David Walliams’ much-loved Gangsta Granny.

Since 2008 David Walliams has taken the children’s literary world by storm – writing nine children’s books and selling more than 12.5 million copies worldwide. Children (and grown-ups) love his books and it was clear to see that this stage show was also well received. Gangsta Granny has been a staple read in our house- the immersive sheer brilliance of Walliams’ wit has ignited our imaginations and prompted conversation. While the stage show doesn’t offer the same enveloping delight as diving into the original, the charm and excitement of the live stage match the vigour and flamboyance of Walliams’ writing.

Adapted by Neal Foster, Gangsta Granny tells the story of Ben (Ashley Cousins) and the relationship that he has with his little scrabble playing, cardigan wearing, cabbage chomping Granny (Gilly Tompkins). Ben loathes having to stay at his boring Granny’s house every Friday when his Mum (Louise Bailey) and Dad (Benedict Martin) go to watch their Strictly Stars Dancing show.

Vibrant and colourful, each character looks as though they have sprung from the pages of Tony Ross’ wonderful illustrations. Travelling around on her motorised scooter we soon learn that Granny is not as boring as we have been led to believe. Action packed and dream-like with a wicked brilliance, Gangsta Granny is poignant with some top-trumping wit and offers a thoughtful twist as Ben comes to realise that beyond the drab exterior, his gran is wild and adventurous.  

‘It’s important to follow your dreams Ben, it’s all you’ve got to guide you.’

Jacqueline Trousdale’s set is colourful and snappy, the simple design makes scene changes swift and fluid. Jak Poore’s ballroom themed musical composition is lively and comical, adding further depth to the production.

© Mark Douet
© Mark Douet


Gangsta Granny is fun and fast paced and the perfect outing for children, parents and grannies. It continues to tour right through summer  2017 – running at 2 hours and 10 minutes, it is the ideal treat for those children who read, share and love Walliams’ writing.

-Kristy Stott

Gangsta Granny gets a WEST END transfer! Catch David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny at The Garrick Theatre, London from 26th July 2017 to 3rd September 2017- tickets are available here.

Gangsta Granny continues to tour the UK right through to September 2017. Click here to find your nearest venue and book tickets.