REVIEW – Maggie and the Song of the Sea (The Lowry)

Upstaged Rating: 


Playing as part of the Roundabout Season at The Lowry, Colour The Clouds Theatre Company are back with their new production Maggie and the Song of The Sea. Recommended for those aged seven and over, Maggie and the Song of the Sea explores bereavement through the eyes of a child. Colour The Clouds Theatre have been able to develop this important and universal piece of theatre with the full support of Winston’s Wish, The Charity for Bereaved Children.

Maggie (Josie Cerise) is a young girl whose world is coloured by a beautiful playground of music. Every feeling, person or object in her life has a sound – whether it is the rough sound of the scraping of a woodblock as she brushes her hair or the calming strings melody that she associates with her beloved Grandad (Scott T Berry).

Maggie’s best friend is her grandad who looks after her while her Mum (Samantha Vaughan) is at work, together Maggie and her grandad have amazing seaside adventures and take fantastic imaginative journeys to a special place called Shingle Bay.

When Maggie’s grandad dies suddenly and the adventures that they shared together come to an end, the musical backdrop disappears from Maggie’s life as she deals with the loss she feels and tries to adapt to a different world. The idea is that the young audience follow Maggie’s journey through grief and acceptance and then onwards to understanding and hope, as Maggie breaks through her wall of silence and finds her music again.

Under Alyx Tole’s direction, Maggie and the Song of the Sea offers young children the opportunity to learn about death in a safe and calm environment. Maggie’s story is told with vibrant, colourful puppetry and live music which assists the fantastic storytelling, giving a portrayal of grief that children are able to engage with.

Fully complemented by the ambiance of the Paines Plough Roundabout, Catherine Manford’s charming and playful musical composition and Mark Fox’s sensitive but atmospheric lighting design provide a perfect multisensory environment to tackle this difficult subject. Writer Sarah Birch has penned this story with a truth and honesty which is truly beautiful, offering a realistic insight of a child’s journey through grief.

-Kristy Stott

Maggie and the Song of the Sea visits the performance space at Oldham Library on the 10th October 2015. For information on times and tickets please click here or call the box office at the Oldham Coliseum on 0161 624 2829.

For more information on Winston’s Wish and the work that they do – please visit

REVIEW – JB Shorts 13 (Joshua Brooks)

John Catterall and David Crellin in Coalition Nightmare
John Catterall and David Crellin in Coalition Nightmare
Date: 16 april 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

After 12 sell-out seasons, JB Shorts is back with its thirteenth edition. For those who aren’t familiar with JB Shorts – it is an evening of 6 brand new plays, each of 15 minutes duration, written by respected television writers. JB Shorts was first produced in 2009 and has built up a brilliant reputation and received widespread critical acclaim – this live entertainment bonanza continues to brighten up the dark cellar of Joshua Brooks pub in Manchester city centre with two editions each year.

First up is Talk Talk, a two hander written by Catherine Hayes and directed by Liz Stevenson. What first appears as an abstract conversation between Mathilda (Sheila Jones) and Ellie (Jennifer Hulman) about currency and post codes actually transpires to be a very peculiar job interview.

Karaoke Cara, written by Trevor Suthers and directed by Barry Evans, is up next. When snotty Michael (Bill Bradshaw) tries to snoop on his widowed and aristocratic father’s new love interest he gets more than he bargains for. Encouraged by his super-posh friend Jeremy (Aaron Cobham), the story takes a humorous twist when his fathers new girlfriend Cara (Denise Hope), shop worker and karaoke singer, manages to get the upper hand on the pompous pair. Bradshaw and Cobham’s exaggerated upper class accents, which did slip at times, masked some of the promising humour in the script.

Number three is Chris Thompson’s Safe in Our Hands. Directed by Alyx Tole, it is a left wing Dickensian expression about the state of the NHS. When Bunyan (Ralph Casson) complains about pains in his chest, three ghosts visit him – the first his dead mother Bev (Joyce Branagh) who gives him a dressing down with a fine performance; secondly, upper-class Bullingham (Jack Dearsley) appears as a representative of capitalism trying to flog elements of the NHS to Bunyan; finally, he’s joined by the ghost of Branston (Ethan Holmes) who tries to convince him to purchase private health care while dressed as a Virgin air hostess. It’s all very entertaining and relevant to the general election next month.

Illusion written by Diane Whitley and directed by Alice Bartlett, was the highlight of the night for me. Through the interval the cast roam the crowd performing card tricks which paved the way for the Victoria magic show which followed. A renowned magician, Mafeking (James Lewis) has disappeared during one of his shows and his comrade Archie (Haydn Holden) organises a spooky séance to try to find out what has happened to him. All of the cast put in strong performances namely, Vanessa Hehir, Emma Laidlaw, Alex Phelps and Joe Slack and the staging for the magic tricks is well executed and managed.

Number five was A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian Walk into a Room written by Nick Ahad and directed by Max Shuell which depicts an Orwellian state where religious expression has been outlawed. The three characters David (Garry Hayden), Qadir (Kamal Kaan) and James (Murray Taylor) meet in secret to pray. However, a clever turn in the plot reveals that one of the characters is not how he appears.

Coalition Nightmare was the final short of the night, written by Dave Simpson and directed by James Quinn, it depicts the nightmarish prospect of UKIP managing to swing the balance of power in a hung parliament. There are good performances all round, Jack (David Crellin), Ted (John Catterall) and Charlotte (Jenny May Morgan) stealing the show with a well observed and well timed representation of a newsreader.

JB Shorts never disappoints, however, this time it seemed to be overloaded with political material due to the general election next month. And with the election propaganda being forced down our throats at the moment, I would have welcomed more escapism, like Diane Whitley‘s Illusion, with open arms.

-Kristy Stott

JB Shorts 13 is on at Joshua Brooks until Saturday 25th April. Tickets cost £7.00.