REVIEW: JB Shorts 17 (53-Two, Manchester)

JB Shorts 17 at 53-Two, Manchester until 27 May 2017
JB Shorts 17 at 53-Two, Manchester until 27 May 2017
REVIEWER: MEGAN HYLAND
upstaged rating: 

JB Shorts 2017 is a diverse collection of six short plays – each lasting fifteen minutes – written by established TV writers. Started in 2009, it is a bi-annual event that aims to showcase local talent in and around Manchester.

The first in the selection of plays is Helen Farrall’s Turn Around When Possible, which tells the story of married couple Gemma (Alexandra Maxwell) and Kev (Gareth Bennett-Ryan), who are on their way to Gemma’s birthday meal when their car breaks down. And while they run into Kev’s boss Melissa (Julia Walsh), they find that she is not all that they have to confront. Bennett-Ryan offered an emotional performance, however, Maxwell and Walsh’s delivery at times fell flat. Although at times the storyline felt reminiscent of a soap-opera, it had an undeniable heart.

Living the Dream by James and Aileen Quinn follows, starring Adam Jowett as Sam, a rehab patient tended to by nurse Rosa (Sandra Cole). This particular play features both clever and politically charged dialogue, with “Sam” representing fallen America. Both Jowett and Cole offer engaging performances, pushing the eloquently written script to new depths. Despite this, had I not read the play’s summary beforehand, the true meaning of the character may not have been as clear.

The last play before the interval is Pretty Pimpin’ by Peter Kerry. Richard (James Quinn) is preparing to appear on the radio show Desert Island Discs in order to promote his memoir. However, both his agent Vicky (Victoria Scowcroft) and his daughter Janet (Alice Proctor) feel that one song, in particular, is missing. Kerry’s writing is beautifully delivered by the cast, offering a poignant and bittersweet story about the helplessness of a father.

Despite the promising quality of the first three plays, those that followed the interval were perhaps the best of the night, and my personal favourites.

Ian Kershaw’s Keep Breathing is a hilarious and skilfully written piece, starring Amy Drake as spinning instructor Carly, reflecting on her week whilst giving a class. The character of Carly will be familiar to many, and Drake brings remarkable charm and heart to her. And as Carly begins to realise that life with condescending boyfriend Matt (Ethan Holmes) may not be all that it seems, Keep Breathing takes on a more inspirational tone, encouraging us to live life for ourselves, not for others.

This was followed by Nick Ahad’s equally hilarious Inside Voices, which follows characters Reshma (Perveen Hussain) and Bob (Adam Rickitt) on their first date. However, there are some rather uninvited guests – their egos, played by Sara Latif and Leon Tagoe. With Inside Voices, Ahad offers an insightful and humorous look into self-censoring and what might happen if we just stopped listening to that inside voice.

But perhaps the most surprising performance of the night was Dave Simpson and Diane Whitley’s Pot Plant. Pensioners Iris (Jenny Gregson) and Stephen Aintree (Brian) are enjoying a quiet night at home when their house is raided by the police – but what will they find? Simpson and Whitley’s writing is as unexpected as it is absorbing. What starts out as a humorous story of two pensioners facing charges for the most unlikely crime actually has a deeper meaning to it. Gregson and Aintree’s experience serves them well in this unique piece, both giving a committed and at times riveting performance.

Overall, JB Shorts 17 is not to be missed. It is a delightful evening full of wit, charm and remarkable poignancy. And most importantly, it succeeds in delivering what it aimed to do – showcasing local talent.

-Megan Hyland

JB Shorts 17 runs at Manchester until Saturday 27th May 2017.

REVIEW: Tank (HOME, Manchester)

Tank by Breach Theatre Company at HOME, Manchester until 6 May 2017
Tank by Breach Theatre Company at HOME, Manchester until 6 May 2017
upstaged rating: 

“Don’t even think in your own language. English, all the time!” says Margaret Lovatt, a volunteer researcher in a NASA-funded project to teach Peter, a dolphin how to mimic and understand English.

Led by John C Lilly, a neuroscientist at the California Institute of Technology, a dolphinarium was built and communication ‘training’ started. In a series of communication experiments – Margaret would live with Peter for ten weeks in isolation on the first floor of the flooded laboratory in an attempt to teach him English.

This series of events actually happened in the 1960’s and was later made into a BBC documentary, The Girl Who Talked to Dolphins, which formed the inspiration for this bizarre but nevertheless captivating performance piece from Breach Theatre.

Part verbatim. Part satire. Part experiment with narrative. The only tape recordings of the experiments are fragmented and sodden (they have to be baked before they can be heard) which means that the four performers construct the details in the story as it plays in front of the audience. They interrupt and argue over the details in the story – filling in the gaps as they go. The two male performers seem to get highly enthused by the woman-masturbates-dolphin narrative but the female performers stand their ground aligning the relationship akin to that between a farmer and his cattle.

Breach have expanded an incredibly rich metaphor in Tank. Both Peter the dolphin and Margaret the volunteer were positioned in the midst of an awkward situation. Remembering the social backdrop of the 1960’s – the dolphin whose needs are inferior to those demands of a human; together with the woman who is seen as subservient to a male scientist. Tank is about colonisation. Intelligently, Breach fire up the synapses and leave the audience to explore the themes and their beliefs around this themselves.

Funny, dark and brilliantly pitched. Breach’s use of sound, film and stylised movement all contribute in exposing the result of legitimising our actions against others in the name of science, humanity and the struggle for power.

-Kristy Stott

Tank runs at HOME, Manchester until Saturday 6th May 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

 

REVIEW: How My Light is Spent (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

IMG_0412

Reviewer: Megan Hyland
Upstaged rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

How My Light is Spent is a charming and beautiful play about love, loneliness and belonging. Written by Alan Harris, it follows the intertwining lives of Newport Nuts employee Jimmy and phone sex worker Kitty. The two develop a unique relationship, but when Jimmy begins to disappear, can they put the phone down and help each other before it’s too late?

Rhodri Meilir (Pride and Under Milk Wood) stars as Jimmy, also displaying remarkable character acting skills as secondary characters Stephen – preferably known as ‘Stevo’ – Kitty’s topiary enthusiast landlord, and Andre, the man that introduced Kitty to the sex industry. His comedic timing is impeccable, perfectly delivering Harris’ witty one-liners. However, Meilir also brings heart to the character of Jimmy and his relationships with other characters, particularly with Kitty and his daughter Mallary. His performance in these scenes is both emotional and raw, creating some particularly heart-warming moments. However, his chemistry with Alexandria Riley is undeniable. Whether they’re playing mother and son, father and daughter or two people in love on the end of a phone, they are entirely captivating. And their narration of the story is an equally humorous and striking description of events, with the two of them working together in tandem, effortlessly smooth in their delivery. But that’s not to say that Riley herself is not spectacular. In each character that she plays, she is equally as comical and emotional as Meilir, however, she brings a unique intensity and likeability to the character of Kitty in particular. Although her character acting skills are astounding, making her almost unrecognisable in each role, she brings a depth to the character of Kitty in particular. Although her character acting skills are astounding, making her almost unrecognisable in each role, she brings a depth to the character of Kitty that only enhances the overall performance.

And although the setup is entirely simplistic, with no props or set, the performances of Riley and Meilir continuously astound without the need for this. In fact, it’s possible that the presence of a set or props would distract from their captivating talent.
In 2015, How My Light is Spent won the Judge’s Award in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting – and it’s not hard to see why. Alan Harris has created a heartfelt and delightful story that – despite its unusual subject matter – many audiences can relate to and perhaps even learn from. It is a truly beautiful and inspiring piece, offering hope for a man turning invisible and a woman who may as well be.

-Megan Hyland

How My Light is Spent runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 13 May 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

 

REVIEW: Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Faith Omole as Viola in Twelfth Night at Manchester's Royal Exchange © Jonathan Keenan
Faith Omole as Viola in Twelfth Night at Manchester’s Royal Exchange
© Jonathan Keenan
UPSTAGED RATING: 

“If music be the food of love, play on” and certainly the production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Manchester’s Royal Exchange is full of music, mirth and mischief, particularly during one particular night of mayhem when encouraged by Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Harry Attwell), a drunken Sir Toby (Simon Armstrong) wakes up the household with his electric guitar.

Following a terrible storm, Viola has found herself shipwrecked and washed up on the sandy and unfamiliar shores of Illyria. In her only bid for survival, Viola (Faith Omole) disguises herself as male, changes her name to Cesario, and goes to work in the household of Duke Orsino (Kevin Harvey). With powerful waves of unrequited love, gender and sexual identity guiding Shakespeare’s verse – this production at the Royal Exchange is a complete success and arguably one of the best Shakespeare adaptations that I have seen.

Quirky casting by Vicky Richardson teamed with Jo Davies’ intelligent direction makes for a refreshing interpretation of a play that was written over 400 years ago. Kate Kennedy’s striking Olivia towers over Faith Omole’s diminutive Cesario; confidante Cesario holds the punch bag gingerly while Orsino bolsters and pummels. Our Malvolio, played by Anthony Calf, gives a perfect portrayal of the party-pooper and prissy steward. Davies and Designer Leslie Travers substitute Malvolio’s traditional yellow stockings and cross-gartered look in favour of gaudy lycra MAMIL attire.

Kate O’Donnell steals the show as a witty, lively and self-assured Feste. Giving a whole new perspective to the character, O’Donnell exudes elegance and foolery. Dressed in a luminous turquoise get up and feathered head-dress, she reminds me of a glamorous Statue of Liberty. Suggestive of freedom in regards to gender and sexual identity and almost definitely reminding us of the lack of trans actors on the professional stage.

Alex Baranowski’s Eastern European musical score of fiddler, harpsichord and folk vocalist Kate Young provide a pleasing backdrop to the romantic entanglements, frivolous comedy and disguises in love. In a poignant framing, the Eastern tones lay the sombre tone for Viola’s shipwreck at the very start and then return for The Wind and The Rain ditty delivered by Feste at the end of the performance. As the lights fade and the melancholy returns O’Donnell feeds new life and meaning into Shakespeare’s poetry, singing the final line  “When I was a little boy.” Absolutely captivating.

-Kristy Stott

Twelfth Night runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre until 20 May 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW: My Country; A Work in Progress (HOME, Manchester)

© Sarah Lee
© Sarah Lee
reviewer: Megan Hyland
upstaged rating: 

In the wake of the political chaos of Brexit and the overhanging general election, My Country; a work in progress offered an insightful look at the divided opinions of our society. Unfortunately, it failed to deliver. Written by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the play centres around six regions of Great Britain coming together to form a meeting in anticipation of the vote to leave or remain in the European Union. They bring with them the views and opinions of several people from their respective regions, in the hope that their voices will be heard. Taken from real interviews, these voices range from a 13-year-old boy from Wales to an 88-year-old immigrant in the East Midlands.

Penny Layden stars as Britannia, our disheartened and shaken country struggling to cope with the disconnections that divide it. Representing Westminster, Layden effortlessly portrays the politicians that lead us through Brexit and the aftermath of the vote. However, it is Christian Patterson that offers the most engaging performance as Cymru. His remarkable transitions between various characters are the most noteworthy, with each one coming to life individually. The enthusiasm with which he plays each character is admirable, although, the cast as a whole still gives a commendable performance. They work in tandem together to create a seamless and often astonishingly humorous performance. Their incredible effort and ability does not go unnoticed in this production, with their dynamic being a testament to the unity that the play aims to promote.

However, it seemed that perhaps an additional cast member was lacking, as although the play promotes itself as representing the views of the country as a whole, there was a lack of representation on stage for the North West. Particularly as the performance took place in this region, it seemed unusual not to have it mentioned.

Nevertheless, it is the unbiased and relatively diverse presentation of views in the play that make it particularly appealing. It offers the unfiltered, unflinching opinions of the general public on perhaps the most widely discussed topic of the past year. And although some of the words spoken are particularly hard-hitting and heavy in nature, Carol Ann Duffy’s wonderful wit and dry humour lighten the tone perfectly.

Unfortunately, as a whole, My Country fell short of expectations. There was an overhanging sense that it could have gone further with certain aspects, and disappointingly, there was no overall message to be taken away, giving the play as a whole no sense of closure. However, the talent of the cast is undoubtable, as is the incredible writing of Carol Ann Duffy.

-Megan Hyland

My Country runs at home until Saturday 22nd April 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW: Jane Eyre (The Lowry Theatre, Salford)

© Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
© Brinkhoff/Mögenburg
reviewer: Elise Gallagher
upstaged rating: 

Following a critically acclaimed run at London’s National Theatre, Wednesday the 12th April saw Salford’s Lowry Theatre fling open its doors to the Bristol Old Vic’s stage adaptation of Jane Eyre.

2017 marks the 170th anniversary of the publication of Charlotte Brontë’s most famous piece, a tale of passion, justice and madness set against the backdrop of Yorkshire’s haunting moors. Director Sally Cookson’s adaptation is set amongst a bare wooden frame, with platforms on varying levels used throughout the performance. Adapting a novel for the stage is a challenging prospect, especially such a timeless classic – however, Cookson states that by not approaching the piece as a costume drama, allowed the company to explore the themes and get the heart of both the story and the characters in a theatrical way. Choosing to adopt an authentic set and period costume would have suffocated the story Cookson says, and in doing so would have killed the magic.

One thing must not go without note, the production is a mammoth one, a total of three hours, plus a 15-minute interval. Initially, the adaptation was presented in two parts when performed at the Bristol Old Vic, however shifting to London and beginning a UK tour has seen the production travel as a single performance.

Although I would say that this running time could have been cut down, I’m quite glad it wasn’t. The story didn’t seem rushed or forced in any way but flowed just as naturally as the icy winds that haunt the place.

The cast are outstanding. Nadia Clifford played a phenomenal Jane, I particularly admired how she seamlessly progressed from the loud and defiant girl to the calm yet highly ambitious Governess, craving more for herself in life. The shift was subtle and expertly done.

Tim Delap takes on the role of Mr Rochester and does an incredibly successful job portraying the infamously complicated and troubled character. The chemistry between Delap and Clifford is incredible, both played their parts to the standard of any die-hard Brontë fan.

Evelyn Miller deserves a lot of praise rotating between the characters of Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St. John; such versatility should be applauded. Of course, Ben Cutler as Mr Rochester’s dog Pilot granted the audience much needed light comedic moments to punctuate the brooding of his owner.

Even now, whilst I sit writing this I have the almost unfathomable voice of Melanie Marshall dancing around my head. She is present throughout the show, either singing from one of the bare platforms or lurking towards the back, always watching. In all honesty, I was surprised when I realised she was playing the role of Bertha Mason, Rochester’s estranged wife. Her omnipresent voice sent chills down the audience but also left us with mouths wide in awe. Performing songs such as Noël Coward’s Mad About the Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy in such a haunting way, enabled the modern pieces to blend perfectly with the classic tale. Her recurring presence only heightened the anticipation for the clash between her and our protagonist.

On taking my seat I noticed that there was a small set up for musicians included on the stage. My heart fell initially, dreading that this adaptation would include Disney-like songs for our characters. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. The band was made up of three musicians (Matthew Churcher, Alex Heane, and David Ridley) who did an exceptional job in supplying a score to the piece, as well as taking on characters such as school children and coach passengers. The first coach journey threw me at first with the abrupt change in tone but then continued to work incredibly well – not distracting from the drama of the stage at all, only heightening it.

Charlotte Brontë did long for the story’s narrative to play out from the book, and although it sadly did not replicate her own life, it certainly deserves its place on the stage. The production received a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd, I suggest you see it.

-Elise Gallagher

Jane Eyre runs at the Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 15th April 2017. The tour continues at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre from 18th – 22nd April. More tour dates/ venues can be found here.

REVIEW: Silver Lining (The Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays)

Silver Lining - A new comedy by Sandi Toksvig © Mark Douet
Silver Lining – A new comedy by Sandi Toksvig
© Mark Douet
upstaged rating: 

Storm Vera is battering the UK and people are being evacuated from their riverside homes following the imminent threat of severe flooding. With the promise that emergency services are on their way, five older age ladies wait patiently on the first floor of the Silver Retirement Home in Gravesend for help to arrive. As time ticks on and the water level rises it becomes apparent that the women have been forgotten about.

Silver Lining is a new comedy by the writer, actor, presenter and political activist Sandi Toksvig which explores the lives of five extraordinary yet forgotten older women. With only one young agency carer Hope Daley (Keziah Joseph) to assist them, the ladies realise their only chance of survival is to pull together and forge their own ‘sink or swim’ escape.

Sandi Toksvig took her inspiration for the play from the observation that there are many hugely talented older age female artists competing for very few interesting roles. The play really is a celebration of older women taking to the stage. However, despite the pressing, current and liberating subject matter, in a time of a social care crisis, Silver Lining still manages to limit itself with stereotypes of older age women. And certainly, the first Act feels mechanical, propelled by gags about death and bowels.

It isn’t really until Act Two that we really begin to get under the skin of the characters with the fruition of their ‘Great Escape’ mission. Sheila Reid gives a sparkling performance as leopard print wearing, selfie taking Gloria. Reid is suggestive of the colourful and indulgent life that the ex-barmaid has lived – boldly cracking sexual taboo’s not normally spoken about by older women. Perhaps most notably there is a beautiful monologue given by Amanda Walker as St Michael which gives a poignant description of life from the perception of somebody with dementia.

There is plenty of charm and warmth to be found in the chemistry between each of the performers. Michael Taylor’s intricate residential home set design sums up the functional, oppressive environment that the women inhabit; Mark Doubleday’s lighting design works with Mic Pool’s clever sound design to create the illusion of a storm wreaking havoc outside. Aside from this, Silver Lining isn’t quite watertight and lacks the lustre that the title promises.

-Kristy Stott

Silver Lining runs at The Lowry until Saturday 8th April 2017 and tickets are available here.

REVIEW: The Commitments (The Palace Theatre, Manchester)

The Commitments © Johan Persson
The Commitments
© Johan Persson
upstaged rating: 

Based on the 1991 film and Roddy Doyle book of the same name, The Commitments is an outstanding must-see musical like no other. For those unfamiliar with the much-loved story, the plot follows a dysfunctional soul band from Dublin, Ireland – by the name of The Commitments – and their journey to become “the world’s hardest working band”. Live on stage, the cast performs several classics from the film – such as ‘Mustang Sally’ and ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ – as well as other soul songs that weren’t featured in the film.

Deco (Brian Gilligan), in The Commitments © Johan Persson
Deco (Brian Gilligan), in The Commitments
© Johan Persson

Brian Gilligan stars as the lead singer of the Commitments, Deco Cuffe. Both Gilligan’s vocal talent and stage presence are striking, and he brings great likability to the infamous Deco. As the frontman, he is perfectly cast – Gilligan steals every scene that he appears in. However, the rest of the cast offer equally faultless performances. As a group, they work together as a boundlessly energetic network, overloaded with enthusiasm.

Stand-out performances are delivered by Gilligan, Sam Fordham and the girls – Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders. Sam Fordham is the confrontational and paranoid bodyguard (and backup drummer) Mickah, whose performance provides a lot of laughs. And although the girls are intended to be backing singers, their incredible voices are rightfully paraded, with the characters often stealing the limelight from the arrogant Deco and letting their voices be heard. Their performances are perfectly synchronised, and they bring glamour to the otherwise charmingly unrefined group. Even Kevin Kennedy, better known for his role as Curly Watts in Coronation Street was unrecognisable as Jimmy’s dad and the caretaker.

And while the musical is a terrific nod to the iconic film and book, it also stands alone as an astounding production in its own right. Director and choreographer Caroline Jay Ranger has put together a spectacular blend of meticulously choreographed performances and quick-witted, engaging scenes. With Soutra Gilmour using both skilful set design and simplistic costuming to bring 1986 Dublin to life on stage.

Although the Commitments has a particularly large cast and crew, their efforts are all reflected in the sheer brilliance of the production. On its opening night in Manchester, the performance received a standing ovation, and it’s not difficult to see why. Within the cast, there is not a single weak link, with each of them putting an astonishing amount of enthusiasm and effort into their performance. The atmosphere is electric, and the musical is a credit to, what are perhaps, theatre’s hardest working cast and crew.

-Megan Hyland

The Commitments runs at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until 8th April 2017. The production continues at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from 17th-22nd April 2017.

The Woman in Black (The Lowry, Salford Quays)

A scene from The Woman In Black by Susan Hill @ Fortune Theatre. Directed by Robin Herford (Taken 26-07-16) ©Tristram Kenton 07/16 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
©Tristram Kenton 

upstaged rating:

Based on Susan Hill’s novel of the same name, The Woman in Black is a chilling horror story that was adapted for the stage over 27 years ago. And yet, the late Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation remains as poignant and terrifying as it has for many years. For those unfamiliar with the plot, the play follows former lawyer Arthur Kipps, an elderly man haunted by the past and desperate to have his story told. He seeks the help of an actor, who agrees to play Kipps in a re-telling for his family and friends. Together, they perform Kipps’ tale of a secluded manor, a town struck by terror, and the reoccurring appearance of a mysterious woman in black with a wasted face.

Matthew Spencer stars as the dynamic and keen young actor, who plays Arthur Kipps in their re-telling of Kipps’ story. Despite the history of the play, Spencer breathes new life into the character and offers immense likability. As the actor, he is bold and theatrical, as Kipps, reserved and distressed. Through him, we are able to share Kipps’ trepidation and horror. However, David Acton, who plays an elderly, tormented Arthur Kipps, offers an equally exceptional performance. He brings a remarkable fragility to the character and displays some skilful character acting with the roles that Kipps plays within the story, such as the tortured land agent, Mr Jerome and the rather unforthcoming trap driver, Keckwick. The shared narration between him and Spencer was both thoroughly detailed and thrillingly suspenseful.

However, it was the interactions between Acton and Spencer on stage that were most noteworthy. Despite the suspense of the play, there were interludes of charming humour in the scenes that they shared, whichever characters they were playing. Which in part is due to the captivating writing. Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation is a great testament to the remarkable quality of his writing and paired with the direction of Robin Herford, they have created a heart-pounding and terrifying spectacle.

Although it takes a little while for the story itself to begin, this re-telling of the classic novel is both timeless and imaginative. And despite the simplicity of the set and costumes, the creative uses of lighting by Kevin Sleep and the reliance upon audience imagination create the horrifying scenes that Acton and Spencer describe. And while the use of a play-within-a-play can often fall flat, this unsettling tale does anything but.

-Megan Hyland

The Woman in Black runs at The Lowry Theatre, Salford until Saturday 25th March and you can click here for tickets.

REVIEW: The Suppliant Women (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

The Suppliant Women at Manchester's Royal Exchange © Stephen Cummiskey
The Suppliant Women at Manchester’s Royal Exchange
© Stephen Cummiskey
upstaged rating: 

With the sweet smell of incense wafting through the air, a chorus of thirty-five women take to the Royal Exchange’s stage to present David Greig’s new adaptation of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women. I use ‘new’ adaptation loosely – I mean that Greig has not stripped back and brought The Suppliant Women to a twentieth-century audience in a direct contemporary fashion. Working alongside director Ramon Gray, Greig has embraced the ritual and structure surrounding Ancient Greek performance and in doing so has set the wonderfully poetic language ablaze for a modern audience. We just need to take our seats and listen. Debating ideas of identity and asylum, it’s a story that resounds as deeply now, in our current migrant crisis, as it did over two thousand years ago.

The Suppliant Women is one of the world’s oldest plays and the only section in Aeschylus’s trilogy to have survived. Written around 463BC, The Suppliant Women tells the story of fifty young women who have fled their homeland, in a bid to escape forced marriage, in order to seek asylum in Greece.

The most striking aspect of this show is the chorus, which is made up of thirty-five girls aged between 16 and 26. Led by Chorus Leader Gemma May, the young women are at the very heart of the production – dressed in colourful batik and floral print, they chant, sing and create soundscapes alongside Ben Burton on Percussion and Callum Armstrong on the ancient Greek aulos. Ramin Gray’s direction is key here- managing to cultivate the raw passion and determination of the chorus alongside Sasha Milavic Davies’s compact but expressive choreography, results in an honest, vulnerable and fearless performance.

The Suppliant Women is certainly one of the most extraordinary theatrical events that I have ever seen. Although written over two millennia ago, the dramatic themes manage to strike a shrill chord with current world events. We are warned at the beginning when we are told that we will “find ourselves reflected in this strange and ancient mirror”. Thrilling, shocking and painfully good.

-Kristy Stott

The Suppliant Women runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange until April 1st, 2017 and you can get your tickets here.