REVIEW: Narvik (HOME, Manchester)

Narvik presented by Box of Tricks Theatre - press pic 10 (102) - Nina Yndis as Lucya, and Joe Shipman as Jim Callaghan. Pic by Decoy Media
guest reviewer: Megan Hyland
upstaged rating: 

In Narvik, Lizzie Nunnery has written a beautifully harrowing production, produced by Manchester-based theatre company Box of Tricks. The play – described by Nunnery as “a play with songs” – opens with 90-year-old Jim Callaghan suffering a fall in his home, and tells the story of what led him there. Flashback to World War Two, and Jim, a Liverpudlian fisherman docks in Oslo, where he meets the charming Else. Their story unfolds as Jim goes away to work as a radio operator on a Navy ship, and through the struggles of war and the horrors that he sees; the one thing that keeps him going is his memories of Else. His journey to get back to her is as captivating as it is tragic.

Joe Shipman stars as the buoyant and pragmatic Jim, giving an utterly outstanding performance. He displays faultless range, showing both the excitement of Jim’s youth and the fear felt in his old age. We see Jim falling in love, going to war and gripped by horrifying memories, which Shipman carries through seamlessly, giving an honest and powerful performance. But perhaps the core element in the play’s success in telling such an engaging story is the dynamics of the cast. Starring alongside Shipman is Nina Yndis as the endearing Else and Lucas Smith as Kenny, Jim’s closest friend on the ship. Yndis and Shipman captivate the audience with the sincere and youthful love story of Else and Jim, and the intense bond between Kenny and Jim is due to the humour and chemistry between Shipman and Smith.

However, a large part of Narvik’s charm and haunting poignancy is the music, also written by Lizzie Nunnery. The bittersweet romance between Else and Jim is truly felt through the enchanting lyrics and the voices of the cast, with one of the most beautiful vocal performances coming from band member, Maz O’Connor.

Director Hannah Tyrell-Pinder has created a simplistic but truthful production, in which the talents of the cast are allowed to excel without overshadowing Nunnery’s spectacular writing and songs. Also noteworthy is the innovative use of lighting (Richard Owen) and sound, used to create a sense of time and place in a tasteful way that didn’t distract from the touching performance.

Narvik is a compelling and moving production of a love tested by war and a friendship tested by love. It is unpredictable in its narrative and overwhelming in its heart, and overall is utterly unmissable.

-Megan Hyland is showing at HOME, Manchester until Saturday 4th February 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW – Chip Shop Chips (The Hub in Salford/ The Lowry)

chip shop chips
Chip Shop Chips – a new play by Becky Prestwich. Photo credit: Lucas Smith
 Upstaged Rating: 

There is a real hustle and bustle at The Hub, a Salford community centre, for Box of Tricks’ new production. Chip Shop Chips is a play with a difference – it’s fusion between theatre and food, dining and performance – tables are laid out with red and white check tablecloths and the audience sit around drinking tea out of polystyrene cups waiting for their fish supper. There is a warm, nostalgic atmosphere and a feeling of community as strangers strike up conversations with each other and share memories of their local chippy.  

It’s the grand reopening of Booth and Sons Fish & Chip Shop – the new ‘cod’ on the block and the new ‘plaice’ to be, or so Eric Booth hopes. Following the death of his father, 60-year-old Eric (Russell Richardson) returns home to take over the family chip shop business. Surely, with hardworking chippy apprentice Lee (Ben-Ryan Davies) by his side, nothing can go wrong?  However, when Eric’s first love Christine (Julie Edwards) walks in unexpectedly to the big opening night with her granddaughter Jasmine (Jessica Forrest), he is completely thrown. Over forty years have passed and neither are living the lives that they imagined that they would. Aside from the smell of salt and vinegar, there is also young love in the air as Lee and Jasmine, who remember each other from high school, explore the feelings of teenage romance.     

Director Adam Quayle makes full use of the whole performance space and as the gripping story of family and love unfolds in the chip shop, the audience become Eric’s customers, adding to the intimacy of the performance. There is an opportunity to take part in a chippy quiz, share your chip shop story and craft a hat out of newspaper. All of these activities are cleverly woven into the main narrative; sadly, in a room full of people rustling paper to make a hat, it was disappointing to see some of Becky Prestwich’s wonderful dialogue lost. However, with more experience in front of a live audience, this can be easily worked on. What makes this production so appealing is that  Box of Tricks have really challenged themselves and produced an immersive show with a lot of heart.

Jessica Forrest and Julie Edwards -CSC-Dress-HE4A1942-WEB
Jessica Forrest and Julie Edwards in Chip Shop Chips Photo credit: Lucas Smith
The mouth-watering chippy set by designer Katie Scott provides the perfect backdrop for the brilliant cast of four. Julie Edwards gives a powerful performance as the shaky handed and lonely widow Christine, looking for one last adventure. Jessica Forrest shines as granddaughter Jasmine, intelligent and funny – her one liners had the audience in stitches. Russell Richardson is also strong as chip shop owner Eric, a jolly frontman for the business while balancing his inner grief. Ben-Ryan Davies warms as the supportive chip shop worker, tugging at our heart strings as the illiterate but kind-hearted Lee.

Chip Shop Chips is a fabulous show for everyone – those who are new to theatre and those seasoned theatre goers. It’s a superb evening and a joyous trip down memory lane, celebrating love through the ages and the nations favourite food.

-Kristy Stott

Chip Shop Chips is touring until 23rd March 2016 and you can see all tour dates and purchase tickets here.

What’s on in April 2015?

from 9 april 2015…

This lady's not for walking

Always wanted to see Margaret Thatcher in a spandex leotard?

Then you should probably bag yourself a ticket to watch The Lady’s Not For Walking Like An Egyptian, showing in The Studio at The Royal Exchange from 9th April until 11th April 2015. This new play presented by Mars. Tarrab mixes the words of Margaret Thatcher with the lyrics of every top ten hit by a female artist in the 80’s. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

On 11th April 2015, there are 2 performances of When I feel Like Crap I Google Kim Kardashian Fat at Ziferblat, Edge Street in the NQ. These are ‘pay what you feel’ performances to raise funds to keep this project developing so you do not need to buy a ticket in advance. Just turn up in good time & come hear these women’s stories. The name alone intrigues…find out more at The Mighty Heart.

from 13 april 2015…

beautiful thing

The critically acclaimed award-winning play by Beautiful Thing arrives at The Lowry from 13th April until 18th April 2015. Directed by Nikolai Foster and starring Charlie Brooks, this cult classic from writer Jonathan Harvey promises to be worth catching.

striped pyjamas

Also heading to The Lowry from 13th April until 18th April 2015, for its world premiere, is The Boy in the Striped PyjamasBased on the best selling novel by John Boyne, this thought provoking and deeply moving production is recommended for ages 11 and upwards.

JB Shorts are back with their 13th edition. Running from 14th April through to 25th April 2015 at Joshua Brooks, Princess Street, Manchester.

jb shorts 13

JB Shorts is a really fun night with a fabulous reputation. Top TV writers and directors take over the cellar in Joshua Brooks to bring you 6 plays, each of 15 minutes duration. The night ends early so that you can get home for your supper or have a couple more drinks in the city…and it’s only £7.00.


Showing at Studio Salford, which is upstairs in The Kings Arms in Salford, is the eagerly anticipated Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Running from 15th April until 26th April 2015 and directed by James Baker, Assembled Junk Productions have been given 5 stars from me in the past, so the bar has been set high for Little Voice too… Musical theatre works so well in the intimate space at Studio Salford but I’d get your tickets quickly as a few of the dates have already sold out.

Hindle Wakes comes to Oldham Coliseum from 16th April until the 2nd May 2015.

Natasha Davidson as Fanny Hawthron and Barbara Drennan as Mrs Jeffcote
Natasha Davidson as Fanny Hawthron & Barbara Drennan as Mrs Jeffcote

Written in 1910 by Stanley Houghton, Hindle Wakes is a charming, witty and powerful Lancastrian play. Considered a theatrical landmark, Hindle Wakes was one of the first plays to have a working-class female lead and explored sexual double-standards and female emancipation. Hindle Wakes is on its last week of the run at the Octagon and will be opening at the Coliseum on 16th April. The play itself has a really interesting history (professors at Oxford tried to ban it in case it was a bad influence on young women!).

FROM 20 APRIL 2015…

The Rolling Stone is showing at The Royal Exchange from 21st April until 1st May 2015. This Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting winner in 2013, plays in rep alongside Anna Karenina – using the same cast and creative team and depicting similar themes of lovers at odds with their society.

Showing in The Studio at The Lowry from 22nd April until 24th April 2015 is Shooting With Light. Lowry Associate Artists Idle Motion are masters of multimedia theatre and I will be so interested to see their latest show – which manages to weave a story about Gerda Taro, one of the first pioneering women to photograph the front line, with the phenomenon of photography, memories and the idea of framing our lives. This trailer from Idle Motion may shed more light…

Plastic Figurines by Box of Tricks is at The Met in Bury on the 22nd April 2015. And if you aren’t able to catch it at The Met, it is also coming to The Lowry on 6th and 7th May 2015.

“Mum told me that there was something in his brain that was different, she said that he liked to put his toys in lines and that was a symptom or whatever. I used to go in his room and see all his stuffed animals in a line and I’d mess them up. I’d mess the line up.”

Inspired by events in the writer, Ella Carmen Greenhill’s own life, Plastic Figurines is a funny and moving new play that explores autism and the relationship between siblings with very different views of the world.

The tour of The Woman in Black reaches The Lowry from 28th April until 2nd May and is guaranteed to send chills…

From 29th April until 1st May 2015, Waterside Arts in Sale present Writers For Sale. In 2013, 3 theatres (The Royal Exchange, The Everyman and Bolton Octagon) and 1 university came together to facilitate the first Masters degree in Playwriting and Writers For Sale is a showcase of their work. The evening consists of 7 short plays and it costs £8.00. Visit Waterside Arts to book.

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