Review: From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads at The Lowry (Salford Quays)

 © Ben Hopper From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
© Ben Hopper
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Guest ReVIEWER: Daniel Shipman
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads is a one-man show which tells the story of Martin, a mentally ill 18-year old who is obsessed with David Bowie. Written and directed by Adrian Berry, the show is liberally sprinkled with Bowie’s music, lyrics and related-trivia. There is obviously a lot of love for Bowie in the writing, and this is shared by the audience.

In an 80-minute running time, the show attempts to address a plethora of issues, and this is not always to its benefit. On top of his mental illness, social outsider status, and Bowie obsession, Martin has an alcoholic mother and his father left when he was two. The show soon begins to strain under the weight of its protagonist’s many misfortunes.

The plot revolves around a trip to London on Martin’s eighteenth birthday to visit several locations connected to his idol, such as his primary school and his first home. This leads to numerous situations which were felt as if they wanted to say something about one of the shows many themes. The example which stood out most to me involved Martin falling asleep in Bowie’s childhood bedroom, having paid the current resident (who is seemingly unaware that he lives in David Bowie’s old home) £8 to browse the house unaccompanied. The show has some great moments which hint at what it could have been: an in-depth look at the nature of idols. This was not one of them.

Martin’s mental illnesses aren’t all detailed in the writing, and this raises problems. He certainly has an eating disorder but there are also a couple of mentions of self-harm, which seem to serve no purpose other than showing that the character is troubled. This lack of sensitivity in dealing with a topic as delicate as mental health really affects how enjoyable a piece of theatre can be.

This is not to say that the show is all bad. As the sole performer, Alex Walton carries the show from what could have been a disaster into a passable evening. He does a stellar job of keeping the energy up and engaging the audience throughout the show.

There were even a handful of people who got to their feet during Walton’s bows, which suggests that some audience members enjoyed the show a lot more than I did.

-Daniel Shipman

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads is at Sheffield’s Theatre Delicatessen from 30 – 31 January 2018.

Aladdin (Dancehouse Manchester)

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Following on from last year’s pantomime success, The Dancehouse Theatre, home of the Northern Ballet School, are back and keen to grant Manchester a Christmas wish by staging timeless classic Aladdin this year.

This pantomime is a perfect opportunity for the company to showcase their dancing talents, featuring many different dance styles from bhangra to ballet, all are skilled from the teeny tiny jazz dancers through to the feisty and rhythmic crew of street dancers.

The Dancehouse Theatre and Eight Freestyle poke fun at the expected pantomime tradition, managing to put their own stamp on the magical middle eastern adventure. The genie of the evil Abanazer’s diamond ring was a bolshy Liverpudlian, which ran well with the Mancunian crowd and the final fight scene between Aladdin and Abanazer played out with lightsabers, giving the nod to all of the Star Wars fans in the audience.

Although most of the energetic dance numbers were choreographed well and the popular chart music choice was a hit with the audience, there were moments in the story where the action seemed stunted and the audience were left trying to make sense of an empty stage.

There were also some problems with the sound quality throughout the show – occasionally my ear drums were rattling as the treble was booming and just like Widow Twankey sang in the show “All About That Bass”, some adjustments did need to be made.

The cast took every opportunity to interact with their eager audience by inviting people on to the stage and encouraging all to join in with the customary pantomime sing-a-long. The use of gauze to create a starry night as Princess Jasmine and Aladdin were suspended on a magic carpet was a highlight as was the amusing version of “Take me Out” to find a suitable husband for the Princess.

The Dancehouse Theatre and Eight Freestyle certainly succeeded in entertaining the whole family, with plenty of belly laughs, Christmas sparkle and not a reality TV star in sight. Aladdin runs at just over two hours long and with ticket prices starting at a mere £30 for a family of five, it really is excellent festive value for money.

-Kristy Stott

Originally published by What’s on Stage in December 2014.

DESH (Lowry, Salford)

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DESH © copyright – Richard Haughton

DESH means ‘homeland’ in Bengali. Akram Khan has woven a full length contemporary solo on this subject and by moving the story between British and Bangladeshi culture, he intricately juxtaposes his personal experiences with folklore and evocative memories.

Akram Khan is a gifted storyteller and an outstanding dancer and performer – perhaps the most striking aspect of this performance is the way that he can achieve such intimacy despite the performance being delivered on such a grand scale.

Khan gives a transfixing performance and draws on his comparisons of two different cultures in this outstanding collaboration with Oscar-winning visual artist Tim Yip and Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook. DESH is essentially a quest by Khan to make sense of his parents life in Bangladesh. Born in London, Khan wants to explore this culture to help him understand himself.

I walked out of the theatre deep in thought- there is a lot to take in- Khan’s personal cyclical narrative leaves you thinking for some time afterwards. Khan punctuates his traditional storytelling with humorous references to pop culture which suggests different character traits and the way that identity and family values can change with the passing of time.

The set is visually stunning particularly the section where Khan performs behind a large gauze which is projected with moving images. It is a real treat as we watch Khan stare in awe at an elephant, float down stream in a canoe and come face-to-face with a giant crocodile. Later we see Khan caught in a relentless but beautiful monsoon, hanging upside down between glimmering silvery fabric panels and it is magical.

The whole show has such fluidity- everything flows into everything else, the props constructed by Sander Loonen are used effectively throughout the performance. There is an aeroplane engine, central to the narrative, which is used as a telephone and there are two chairs- one considerably larger than the other, which are used to frame sections of Khan’s captivating performance.

By the close of the show, Khan has managed to excavate his fathers old shirt and he puts it on. We realise that Khan is telling a story that we can all relate to, cultural changes between different generations, the feeling of loss when you no longer have your parents and the questions that you wished you had asked them.

A beautiful and magnetising piece of theatre.

DESH is at the Lowry until 14 November.

-Kristy Stott

Post first published by What’s on Stage in November 2014

Dinosaur Zoo ( The Lowry, Salford)

date: 4 october 2013
Upstaged rating: 
Dinosaur Zoo The Lowry
Dinosaur Zoo
The Lowry

Dinosaur Zoo is an interactive and educational show, suitable for all ages, by Australian company Erth. The show aims to animate the lesser known (but equally ferocious) dinosaurs that ruled in part of the Southern hemisphere which, we are informed, is referred to as Gordwanaland.

The young audience are encouraged to interact with narrator Australian zookeeper, Lindsey Chaplin, and her dinosaur puppets from the very start, especially, those sat in ‘The Danger Zone’ at the very front!

The show maintains a remarkable sense of surprise throughout – the lifelike dinosaur puppets move convincingly, easily fuelling a child’s curiosity, nervousness and amusement in equal measures. Lindsey is our host – her address to the audience is perfectly timed, her humour and friendly approach appealing to children and adults alike.

I attended with my dinosaur-obsessed 3 year old; who despite chattering all week about the show, lost his tongue when he entered the theatre, all wide eyed on seeing the stage set with hay bales and giant flora.

I could sense that many of the children were excited and apprehensive – not knowing what to expect. And although Lindsey explained that all of the dinosaurs in the show were puppets (and you could clearly see that they were being manned) – I think that many children forgot this fact early on, which added to the magic of the show.

Dinosaur Zoo, with interaction and science at its core, is very different from any of the other dinosaur shows that I have seen, and at just 55 minutes long it is perfect for the attention span of even very young children.

My only niggle lies with the staging of the show; due to the interactive element it would definitely have benefitted from being staged in the round or in a more intimate performance space. And from watching the trailer, this is what I was expecting.

However, Erth must have recognised this as being a potential issue and so overcame this by bringing all their dinosaurs out into the foyer after the performance, so that all of the children were able to get up close and personal with their favourite from the show.

If like me, you have a dinosaur obsessed child or one that you can borrow to accompany you, Dinosaur Zoo is well worth a visit!

-Kristy Stott

Originally published by What’s on Stage in October 2013.