This Saturday 21st October, to add to an already exciting season, The Contact Theatre, renowned Mancunian creative space and home of the arts and young people, hosts the WHY? Festival in its third year of production. What’s Happening for the Young?
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, London, brings her creation inspired by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, to Manchester, offering our young people a celebration of their rights and capabilities, offering inspiration: we can make change in our world.
This hosts a range of events, involving workshops, talks, activities and debates, all discussing the rights and lives of young people. Meet activists, policy makers, inspiring young people, artists and journalists as creativity meets a hunger for social change.
This year, WHY? explores the history of protest songs and offers the opportunity to write one. It hosts a beatboxing workshop discussing gender bias. Thirty Pound Gentleman will also attend, hosting a debate surrounding Manchester’s politically radical heritage, from Anarchist-Punks to the Suffragettes.
This includes a forum for children, young people, parents, teachers and professionals to learn about and celebrate the rights of young people everywhere.
To finish the day with a bang, BAC Beatbox Academy will perform ‘Frankenstein’ exploring what it takes to make a monster in 2017 in a suitably named compilation of music and theatre. Or, Young Identity, a group of fierce Mancunian poets, will perform ‘Hatch’ perfectly capturing the fears of existentialism and our world coming to an end.
The Contact Theatre is renowned for its amazing work with marginalised groups, and it’s important to remember that the youth today are a large part of this demographic, who WHY? encourages to be excited and savvy about their environment and lifestyle.. Since the Theatre’s reinvention in 1999, the people there have worked incredibly hard to make the work better for the 13-30 year olds of Manchester.
Please visit the website below for more information, which will provide you information on the (often free) events it involves.
‘Hatch’ features at £10/£6 conc. at 7:30pm
‘Frankenstein’ features at £7/£4 conc. at 6pm
Both performances can be booked at the Contact Theatre’s box office, or from calling 01612740600 or through the Contact Theatre website.
There is just over twenty-four hours to go until the most eagerly awaited new musical – written by the award-winning Tim Firth (The Girls- Musical 2015) and featuring the music of Take That – goes in front of The Manchester Opera House audience for the first time.
The show begins in Manchester tomorrow, 8th September with national press night on Tuesday 26 September.
THE BAND is a new musical about what it’s like to grow up with a boyband. For five 16-year-old friends in 1992, ‘the band’ is everything. Fast forward twenty-five years on and we are reunited with the group of friends, now 40-something women, as they try once more to fulfil their dream of meeting their heroes.
The Band is being played by young performers AJ Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T Johns, Yazdan Qafouri and Sario Solomon, who, as Five to Five, won BBC’s Let It Shine and the chance to star in the musical.
The Band will be running at The Manchester Opera House from Friday 8th September all the way through till 30th of September, before embarking on a major UK tour until July 2018. Excitement is building fast with advance box office sales already topping a record-breaking £10MILLION.
Tickets for this hotly-anticipated show are available to book online from atgtickets.com/manchester or by calling the box office on 0844 871 3018 (fees may apply).
With all of the big Christmas shows in full swing, it feels like a good time to look back at the highlights of a busy year for theatre in Manchester. Here are Upstaged Manchester’s theatrical highlights of 2016. Which shows would make your list?
Wit at The Royal Exchange
Julie Hesmondhalgh’s portrayal of Dr Vivian Bearing, an American Professor who finds herself diagnosed with advanced metastatic ovarian cancer, was striking and raw – nothing short of magnificent. Cancer is a hard subject matter to tackle on stage, especially in a performance as honest as this. Wit had everything. Powerful enough to make some cry and poignant enough to make everyone laugh, think and discuss.
The Girls at The Lowry Theatre
I am just so pleased that The Girls is on its way to the West End and is set to open at London’s Phoenix Theatre from January 2017. The collaboration between Gary Barlow and Tim Firth is a perfect recipe for success. Hilarious and heartbreaking all at the same time, I spent most of Act 2 looking through a blur because my eyes were so teary from laughing and crying at the same time. Just fabulous.
Husbands & Sons at The Royal Exchange
Husband’s & Sons had the perfect line-up of creatives and performers – all of the best in the field working together on one show. Director Marianne Elliott, of War Horse and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, at the helm of a truly phenomenal cast – including Ann-Marie Duff and Louise Brealey. Fused with Bunny Christie’s ingenious design, Husband’s & Sons was heartfelt and gritty. So good, I wanted to watch it all over again.
The Encounter at HOME
A strikingly different theatre experience to anything that I have witnessed before. Every member of the audience is issued with a set of headphones and using cutting edge audio technology is transported to the Amazonian rainforest and into the head of Loren McIntyre, a stranded photojournalist. The Encounter is gripping, an adventure story which gets inside your head. Literally.
Parade at Hope Mill Theatre
I always enjoy James Baker’s productions massively – with every show he raises the bar of the Manchester Fringe Theatre scene a little higher. Parade was nothing short of a triumph. The dimly lit, eerie walls of Manchester’s newest performance space, Hope Mill Theatre added a further dimension to the production – intimate and powerful, something quite special.
Origins at The Lowry Theatre
An intense new piece of physical theatre by Animikii Theatre Company exploring the story of the world’s first murderer: the killing of Cain by his brother Abel. Captivating storytelling communicated only through movement and sound. Adam Davies and Charles Sandford are highly skilled performers and with every detail loaded to perfection, Animikii Theatre Company are certainly ones I’ll be watching out for in the future.
Rambert: A Linha Curva at The Lowry
Now in their 90th year and still leading the dance world with their innovative and exhilarating dance works. A Linha Curva is sensual, witty and terribly good. The dancers are faultless, moving alongside each other in a truly intoxicating display. Rambert may be 90 this year but they show no sign of standing still.
Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes at The Lowry
The Red Shoes is a breathtaking balletic display – a beautifully tragic tale poignantly told. Terry Davies’ musical score, using the music of golden-age Hollywood, and Lez Brotherston’s ornate set and dazzling costumes ooze 1940’s glamour. Following it’s sell out run in 2016, it returns again to The Lowry in July 2017. So if you didn’t catch it this time round, get your ticket booked for next year!
Sweet Charity at The Royal Exchange
With its irresistible Cy Coleman musical score, supervised by Nigel Lilley and directed by Mark Aspinall, played superbly by a live band; an ensemble that dazzle and a top-notch central performance from Kaisa Hammarlund – Derek Bond’s Sweet Charity is an absolute must-see. At the Royal Exchange until 28th January 2018 – there is still plenty of time to bag a ticket. You’re welcome.
REVIEWER: CIARAN WARD
A Streetcar Named Desire at The Royal Exchange
Sarah Frankcom’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ modern domestic tragedy, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, was an exhilarating piece of theatre that warranted much more than a five-week run. Maxine Peake’s effortless performance as the fallen Blanche DuBois was every bit as riveting and worthy of acclaim as her predecessors, Vivien Leigh and Gillian Anderson.
REVIEWER: DEMI WEST
GM Fringe 2016: Fast Fringe at The Dancehouse Theatre
The ‘GM Fringe 2016: Fast Fringe’ show was by far the most memorable comedy that I have enjoyed this year. The selection box of comedians kept the show fresh, each offering a diverse style of comedy that was sure to please all audience members. The Fast Fringe is a brilliant way to sample and discover different comedians, along with guaranteed laughs.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you – thank you for all of your support this year.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 had a blast at Winter Wonderland Manchester yesterday evening, as did their parents. Now in its fourth year, this fantastic festive event, housed in the 22,000 sq ft of EventCity continues to attract people of all ages. With all of the fun of the fair under one massive roof – there is plenty of enjoyment for all of the family.
A red curtain peels back to reveal a massive winter playground, complete with falling snow – it’s like a Mancunian grotto packed with exhilarating rides, little Christmas market stalls, festive eateries and even a little bar for the grown-ups.
Aside from the thrill of fairground rides, there is much more to enjoy – a mini pantomime, a Christmas circus tent and even a beach. The main stage fizzes with live performances from Pip Ahoy, Basil Brush, Jedi warriors and Elsa and Anna from Frozen. We fully intended on watching the Jedi show but only realised that we had gone to the wrong stage when it was too late. We fully expected “Where’s Darth Vader?” and “When are the Jedi’s coming on?” Instead, the boys were gripped by a daring unicyclist and a funky young juggler in a Christmas themed circus bonanza.
The choice of rides was superb – whether you want to spin yourself dizzy on the waltzers, take a ride on one of the mini roller-coasters or parade your prowess on the mechanical bull – there are laughs for everyone.
A Winter Wonderland would not be complete without a visit to see Santa…and luckily he has taken time out from his busy schedule to visit all of the boys and girls in Manchester.
Voted ‘Best Family Day Out’in the Raring 2 Go Awards last year, Winter Wonderland Manchester runs until 1st January 2017. With all rides and shows included in one ticket price, it really is a fantastic festive treat.
The Hollywood Special Effects Showheads to the Lowry, Salford on the Friday 3 and Saturday 4 June.
Following its success at the 2016 Big Bang Fair, the largest science fair in the UK, The Hollywood Special Effects Show visits The Lowry, Salford.
The Hollywood Special Effects Show is an interactive science and special effects show for the whole family.
Recommended for ages 6 and over, audiences will be able to get closer to the action than ever before. Theatre-goers will be invited behind the scenes of many favourite films to discover the explosive science and trade secrets that are involved in creating movie magic.
With a team of movie professionals, audiences will marvel at gruesome sci-fi monsters, feel the blaze of an onstage inferno and experience apocalyptic weather and huge explosions.
Using more pyrotechnics than any other UK touring theatre show and with a cannon capable of firing a projectile over 500 metres…be prepared to be blown away.
The Next Step is a Canadian reality-style TV show that follows a group of young dancers and in the UK, this popular tween drama is broadcast on CBBC.
In this explosive collaboration,The Next Step has teamed up with new CBBC show Lost and Found Music Studios and the result is The Next Step: Wild Rhythm Tour.
Young dancer and fan of the show Evie went along to The Lowry with her mum Karen to check it out…
“Hi. My name is Evie and I am nine. I was lucky enough to go and see The Next Step at the Lowry for my birthday present off mum and it was way more than awesome!
When I have time I sit back and watch The Next Step on TV and it was just fantastic to see them dancing in front of my very own eyes. I felt like my brain was going to burst with excitement!
I loved seeing the dancers being themselves and getting to know their real personalities. James and Eldon were hilarious although the girls always rule. I enjoyed the choice of music and the emotions and drama of the different dances.
The video clips inspired me to start dancing more and maybe if I work hard and believe in myself I could be in A Troupe one day. I can’t wait to see them on tour again in October.”
Evie really enjoyed The Next Step and mum Karen was impressed by the interaction during the Q&A and the positive message that the young audience take away with them…
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it’s based around a TV dance programme but I can honestly say we both loved it. And I reckon by the audience response and feel of excitement in the theatre that the was general feeling from everybody. My daughter sat in awe watching the energy and passion of the dancers in front of her and you could see the commitment they give to their dance. The show was full of interaction, humour, drama and emotion and you felt totally engaged with the show and performers.
The interactive aspect was great as the kids got to be involved in a Q+A session engaging with the dancers and learning a little more about them and their aspirations. The dancers and singers were great role models for the kids and told how if they believe in themselves and work hard and show commitment they will achieve their goals. A great message for the kids to take away. I always thought it was just a TV programme but it is so much more. On a personal level this cast and their stories mean such a lot to my daughter. She has had troubles at school even at the young age of nine and she says the programme helps her solve problems at school as the programme looks at relationship dynamics and how the cast work through them. Fantastic as our kids need all the help and tools they can in order to live life to its max.”
The Next Step begins touring again in the autumn.
Kicking off at the SECC in Glasgow on 21 October 2016 with more dates in Manchester, London. Nottingham, Brighton, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Bath and Cambridge. You can click here to get your tickets.
Holly Golightly has aroused much discussion over the years, from the page of TrumanCapote’s Novella to the big screen classic portrayal by Audrey Hepburn in the 1960’s. Now, Breakfast at Tiffany’s comes to The Lowry, Salford and we are transported back to Capote’s original 1940’s New York setting.
Pop star Pixie Lott steps into Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Givenchy’ shoes as the charming Holly Golightly. With authentic design by Matthew Wright, Lott certainly looks the part in her fabulous vintage wardrobe and super-sparkly diamonds – however, this is certainly an ambitious role for her first stage show.
Capote’s novella has been adapted for the stage by Olivier Award-winning playwright Richard Greenberg and revolves very much around the on-off romance between Holly and struggling young writer Fred (Matt Barber). Besotted and fascinated by the extroverted and effervescent Holly, Fred tells the story from his perspective and acts as narrator. Matt Barber puts in a brilliant performance, leading the audience through an array of emotions following his infatuation with Holly Golightly.
Under Nikolai Foster’s direction, Robert Calvert puts in a sturdy performance as Golightly’s estranged husband Doc towards the end of Act One which just keeps us ticking over to Act Two. However, many of the other characters feel slightly underdeveloped, giving us little chance to really understand them. The balance on stage does seem a little skewed when a beautiful fluffy white cat (Bob The Cat) steals the stage from the main action.
Ben Cracknell’s vivid lighting design teamed with Matthew Wright’s authentic set and costume design is a real highlight and really gives the live performance a filmic edge.
Now, all the pre-show talk has been about Pixie Lott taking on the iconic role of Holly Golightly – there really is no doubt that she can sing. Strumming her acoustic guitar she performs 3 live songs, most notably ‘Moon River’ and she is soulful, engaging and unique.
This production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is certainly a gem but is regrettably lacking the clarity and cut of a real Tiffany diamond.
Are you looking for the best theatre and creative activities taking place in Greater Manchester during Easter? Look no further.
We’ve compiled a list of the best theatre shows and creative activities for all of the family.
The Easter holidays run through from Monday 4th April until Friday 15th April 2016 – for most schools. This list covers all family fun happening from March through to mid-April.
Into The Hoods: Remixed is the new updated hip-hop version of the Sondheim classic. Set in the ‘Ruff Endz Estate’, the story follows two lost school children who have been tasked to find an iPhone as white as milk, trainers as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn. Along the way, they meet DJ Spinderella, wannabe singer Lil Red, vivacious rapper Rap On Zel, budding music producer Jaxx and embark upon a storybook adventure into the heart of a pulsating community!
How The Koala Learnt to Hugcomes to Oldham Coliseum on Wednesday 30th March 2016. Recommended for ages 3 and over, it’s a charming production based on the book by Steven Lee. With puppet characters, great stories, sing-along songs, superb games and first class hugging all you’ll need are your ears…and your arms!
The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre, Chorlton
Back by popular demand…The Boy Who Bit Picasso returns to The Edge in Chorlton on ‘Easter’ Saturday.
The story is inspired by Antony Penrose’s book which follows the story of Tony who becomes friends with Pablo Picasso.
This show promises a lot of interaction as the audience are invited to take part in a variety of art and craft activities. Suitable for everyone aged 4 and up, there will be plenty of storytelling and music as the children are introduced to one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, Pablo Picasso.
The Boy Who Bit Picasso comes to The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Chorlton on Saturday 26th March 2016 with 2 showings at 11 am and 2 pm.
TOP TIP: Be sure to wear play clothes because it could get messy
Lullaby Lane is a unique theatrical experience for children aged from 3-6 which fuses the energy and vibe of a music gig with the intimacy of theatre. It’s a charming little tale exploring childhood memories of forgotten friends, cherished toys and music-making. Featuring vibrant characters and Fran Wyburn’s original musical score, Lullaby Lane provides a great introduction for children to experience an array of string instruments, including banjo, harp, ukulele and guitar. Lovely running time of 45 minutes – perfect for little people.
Mum’s The Word Comedy Club is the comedy gig designed for parents of babies aged 18 months and under. Hosted by comedian and new Mum, Katie Mulgrew, it’s a relaxed affair – feel free to feed, change and nurse your baby. However, the acts do perform their usual adult material so if you have an exceptionally bright 18-month-old or a mimicker, I’d probably avoid. There is a strict policy and only babies under 18 months will be permitted.
Presented by Katie Mulgrew, Mum’s The Word Comedy Club is at The Edge in Chorlton on Friday 1st April 2016 with little ones going free.
The Lowry, Salford
Calling all Michael Morpurgo fans! Where My Wellies Take Me comes to The Lowry, Salford this March. Interweaving poems and songs, we follow 9-year-old Pippa on a May Day ramble through the beautiful English countryside. Based on Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s book, Where My Wellies Take Me is a lively show celebrating the beauty of nature.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Michael Morpurgo will be available to meet and greet members of the audience after the performance!
We’re super excited about Roald Dahl’s The Witches flying into The Lowry at the end of March. Adapted by David Wood and directed by the fabulous Nikolai Foster, Dahl’s scariest book is brought to life.
Featuring a talented bunch of actor-musicians, an original score and mind boggling illusions, The Witches promises to be a terrifying treat for all the family. Watch the trailer…if you dare…
The Witches is at The Lowry, Salford from 21st March to 26th March 2016.
And for younger ones… Peppa Pig, George and the rest of the crew are back in Salford for their brand new live stage show, Peppa Pig’s Surprise.
Enjoy fun, games and surprises in this charming, colourful show with new songs and new life-size puppets. Running at 1 hour and 20 minutes, Peppa Pig’s Surprise promises to be the perfect theatre show for all pre-schoolers.
Join Unlimited Theatre forPlay Dough at The Lowry on 2nd April 2016 at 4 pm. Recommended for ages 7 and up, Play Dough is a playfully interactive show for young people 7+ and their families about the value of money. Hosts Queenie and TooMuch will lead your team through a series of high-energy games while telling you their story, and everything they know about how money really works.
Horrible Histories needs no introduction. It’s a fabulous show and this edition focuses on the Groovy Greeks and the Incredible Invaders. We’ll be there – who wants to join us?
“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
From the moment his tall, red and white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that The Cat in the Hat is the most mischievous cat you will ever meet. With the trickiest of tricks and craziest of ideas, he turns Sally and her brothers rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure. But what will mum say when she gets home?
The Cat In The Hat is the perfect first theatre experience for children aged 3 and up and it is at The Lowry, Salford from the 11th to 13th April 2016.
Stick your 50ps to the bottom of your shoes and gather round to hear the Moon’s magical story about a tap dancer who creeps out of her house every night to dance to the sounds of the sea. Marina Skippett has been forbidden to dance at home by her tractor-sized Aunty. Follow her exciting adventure with stunning puppetry, live music and tap dancing.
Engine House, the company behind critically acclaimed productions of Red Riding Hood and Flat Stanley join forces with “Britain’s favourite literary lunatics” LipService (Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding) to create a brand new show for children and their families, adapted for the stage by Olivier Award-winning writer Mike Kenny. Suitable for children over the age 4, Snow White is a magical and comic re-telling of the much-loved fairytale.
Snow White comes to Z-Arts, Hulme on the 19th March 2016.
You can also join in at the FREE Brother’s Grimm Fun Day at Z-Arts – craft, drama and storytelling – on 19th March from 12noon-4pm and it is suitable for all ages. Hurrah!
We’re Stuck!is a theatre show recommended for ages 8-11. Join Dr Volcano and the robots on a special adventure into the heart of a top-secret research institute, where cutting edge scientists need your help tackling some extremely tricky problems. Running at 70 minutes, this interactive show promises to stretch your brain in unexpected directions.
This show is recommended for ages 8-11 due to the content and some of the problem-solving tasks, it is not advisable to buy tickets for anyone below this age range.
In addition to the performance, our friends at Z-arts have teamed up with China Plate and Manchester Science Festival to bring you a series of fun events and activities across the Easter holidays to tackle some extremely tricky maths, science and art conundrums! Why not work on your comedy skills with the We’re Stuck comedy week?
For families with children 8+ and children under 8, there will be free activities on Friday the 15th April! No need to book in advance, turn up on the day to get involved! Click here for info.
Waterside Arts Centre, Sale
Gorilla by Anthony Browne comes to Waterside Arts Centre, Sale from the 2nd April to 4th April 2016. Running at just 50 minutes and recommended for the ‘nearly fours’ and up, Gorilla has a really impressive creative team behind it. The story is based on an award-winning picture book by former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne and it is brought to you by the team who produced Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play and James and The Giant Peach. Take a look at the trailer…
If you missed Snow White at Z-Arts – you get another chance to catch the Olivier Award-winning writer Mike Kenny’s magical and comic adaptation of the classic fairytale.
Snow White comes to Waterside Arts, Sale on the 12th and 13th April 2016.
Lullaby Lane comes to Waterside Arts, Sale on the 10th April 2016.
There’s another chance to experience the charming Lullaby Lane at if you missed it the first time round at The Edge in Chorlton.
The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange is home to Flying Saucers every Sunday. The events, activities and workshops for under 11s include storytelling sessions, craft workshops, Hard Hat Sundays and entertainment for all the family. Some workshops are age-restricted and ticketed, so it’s a good idea to book in advance as they can be very popular. Around The World in 60 Minutes is taking place on Sunday 20th March 2016 and is suitable for ages 5-8, costs £3.00 a child and adults are free. Booking is strongly recommended.
Find out more by clicking here or give the Royal Exchange box office a call on 0161 833 9833 – they’re a friendly bunch.
Trafford Music Service
The service is offering an Easter music schoolsuitable for primary school children (from reception to year 6), running for 3 days from 4th April to 6th April 2016. During the course children will be given the opportunity to sing as well as play a selection of instruments including the violin, ukulele, guitar, recorder, fife and percussion.
The course costs £35 per day and runs from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. All instruments are provided, all you need to do is provide a packed lunch.
Join everyone for an afternoon of storytelling at the Octagon Theatre. During Storyplay: Beauty and The Beast, your little ones will be transported on a literary journey of fun and adventure – meeting all of their favourite characters, brought to life by actors from the Octagon Company.
Meet in the relaxed play area in the Octagon Bar at 4:30pm on Friday 15th April 2016. Recommended for families of all ages and costs £4 per child with a free adult place per child.
The Macbeth Curse engulfs the Octagon in Bolton from 19th April to 23rd April 2016.Written by Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories The Macbeth curse promises to be a perfect introduction to the magic and madness of Shakespeare. Recommended for ages 7 and up and with a running time of 60 minutes. Each showing also includes a 20 minute Q&A session after each performance.
Two FREE events are happening at Manchester Museum as part of the Greater Manchester On Film Festival (GMOFF) . While you’re paying Stan the T-Rex a visit, why not catch a FREE screening of Jurassic Park (suitable for ages 9+) or Jurassic World (suitable for 12+)?
Jurassic Park screens at 11 am on 2oth March and Jurassic World screens at 2 pm. Hit the links to book your FREE tickets through Eventbrite. There is also junk modelling from 1 pm so why not have a go at making your own junk model dinosaur to take home?
Another fantastic FREE event as part of the GMOFF at The Whitworth on Saturday 26th March 2016.
Enjoy a screening of the stop-motion animation Fantastic Mr Fox (PG) in The Whitworth’s Grand Hall. After the film, there is also the opportunity to take part in a family art activity led by The Whitworth. You will be able to have a go at making 3D art inspired by Mr Fox and co. and the wildlife in Whitworth Park. Recommended for ages 7+ and all under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.
Finally, for budding footballers – courtesy of the GMOFF, there is a FREE screening of Carlitos and the Chance of a Lifetime at the National Football Museum on Sunday 27th March 2016. The screening starts at 11 and is recommended for ages 9 and over – however, it is a Spanish film with English subtitles which many younger children will struggle to follow. Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult and any adults must be accompanied by a child. You can book through Eventbrite here.
Upstaged Manchester would like to wish you all a happy Easter and it would be super to hear your views on any of the shows or activities.
Please tweet your mini reviews to @UpstagedMCR #upstagedfamily
Wit is Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a humorous, emotional and ultimately devastating story set in the final few hours of Dr Vivian Bearing’s life.
Dr Vivian Bearing is an American Professor of 17th-century poetry specialising in the metaphysical works of John Donne. A brilliant university lecturer and scholar, she now finds herself diagnosed with advanced metastatic ovarian cancer. While in university she was the tough teacher; now as an inpatient in a university teaching hospital she is the one being examined and studied.
Julie Hesmondhalgh is magnificent in the title role of Dr Vivian Bearing, playing out the final hours of Vivian’s life and also flashbacks to her past. Despite tackling the a subject as harrowing as cancer, Wit is delivered with a brittle humour resisting any kind of sentimentality – with Vivian realising, towards the end, that she prefers kindness to intellectualism. Her slim frame is covered by 2 hospital gowns and she wears a pink baseball cap on her hairless head – she is articulate and chooses the words she uses with care. Brutally announcing ‘I will never forget the time that I found out I had cancer’ the stage turns and we are transported back to when she first received the prognosis from Dr Kelekian (Tom Hodgkins).
Hannah Clark’s set design of a revolving stage and blue-green walkway and swing doors is perfectly suggestive of a sterile hospital environment. Chairs, hospital beds and IV poles are wheeled and passed urgently about the stage as clinical observation is pitted against the raw human emotion of Hesmondhalgh’s shattering performance.
Raz Shaw‘s direction is paced and perceptive and the supportive cast are also strong – EshAlladi is superb as purposeful clinical fellow Dr Jason Possner MD, lacking empathy and communication skills – he brands the bedside manner course at med school ‘a colossal waste of time’. In contrast, Jenny Platt as Nurse Susie Monahan offers an alternative presence – finding time to moisturise Vivian’s hands when talking becomes difficult. Julie Legrand is impressive as the university academic who first taught Vivian about Donne and the power of punctuation.
Manchester’s Royal Exchange has certainly started the new year with a cracking show and Julie Hesmondhalgh gives a striking performance at the centre of it. Cancer is a hard subject matter to tackle on stage, especially in a performance as honest as this – Wit may make some cry but it will definitely make everyone laugh, think and discuss.
Since Big Fish Little Fish launched in Manchester in November 2015 their family raves have proven to be the hottest ticket in town. Always a sell-out gig, with tickets selling out for the Manchester January event in 15 minutes – once you’ve been you will know why.
With creative and exciting family fun at their core, Big Fish Little Fish host day-time dance music events which are as much about the parents as they are about the children – it’s like being at a mini festival, right in the middle of Manchester. Designed to attract the post-rave generation of parents and their offspring – it’s cool, social and there is probably no better place for it than Chorlton. We were lucky enough to bag tickets so we schooled our little fish together, and mooched on down to Chorlton Irish Club to experience the vibe for ourselves.
The events are recommended for families with children under the age of 8 as many of the activities are designed for younger ones. These 2-4 hour party people have taken care of everything with a secure buggy park outside and a baby chill out area upstairs. Although many of the rave parents took to the dancefloor with their babies in a sling or in arms. It’s good for mum and dad and the babies certainly enjoyed the sensory stimulation from bubble machines and roving colourful club lights. The club classics are also played at a lower level which suits little ones and parents too – great to see fellow Chorltonites striking up banter with each other. Did I mention that there is also a licenced bar?
For those who need a quieter area – there is a chill out area complete with books; for those creative minds, there are some super craft activities too – many of the children enjoyed the scribble wall and playdoh. There was also the opportunity to create your own tie or add a temporary tattoo to complete your look.
Photo Credit: Kristy Stott
Photo Credit: Kristy Stott
Giant balloons and glow sticks make the dance floor fun for the little people while the grown-ups fully appreciate tunes by DJing duo Heavy Feet. Every event has a theme too – this particular event was a ‘Hat and Moustache’ rave with prizes for the most creative headpieces.
Prior to becoming a big hit up North, Big Fish Little Fish have been running events in and around London as well as hosting gigs at Camp Bestival and Kendal Calling. And now they are branching out all the time with gigs planned for Edinburgh and Cardiff.