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 – ballet LORENT – Snow White (The Lowry)

balletLORENT -- Snow White © Kit Haigh
balletLORENT — Snow White
© Kit Haigh


Following the success of Rapunzel, balletLORENT are back with a striking adaptation of the Brothers Grimm classic, Snow White.

In a return to true Grimm style, there is no wicked stepmother – instead the evil queen is Snow White’s biological mother. Following the sudden death of the King, young Snow White and her mother have a close and loving relationship for a number of years. It isn’t until Snow White becomes a beautiful young woman and her widowed mother decides to look for another love, that problems begin to manifest.

In a witty, modern and practical approach, writer Carol Ann Duffy illustrates that the Queen’s youthful looks are attributed to surgery rather than magic. In a bid to secure a nearby suitor, the affected Queen sends a portrait of herself painted years earlier, which the Prince mistakes for Snow White. In a vicious turn, the Queen is overcome with envy and sets out to have her own daughter executed.

With the ominous sound of a clock ticking in the background, Liv Lorent’s choreography conjures up beautiful images of the passing of the seasons – the young dancers blowing white feathers like snowflakes and playfully skipping with kites through an autumnal breeze. Phil Eddolls’ set design of a huge lavish dressing table is suggestive of Snow White’s coming of age – the drawers being used to emerge and conceal baby, child and young woman; another speedy turnabout and the set becomes a leafy forest to protect Snow White from the Huntsman who has been sent to kill her.

In addition, a mysterious group of miners take the place of the seven dwarves – their bodies twisted due to the amount of time that they spend underground. They move to the soundtrack of industrial banging and clanging, their headlamps bouncing in the darkness of Malcolm Rippeth’s gothic lighting design.

Natalie Trewinnard gives a youthful, athletic and passionate vision as Snow White – the duet with Huntsman Gavin Howard is beautifully expressive – gentle and impassioned all at the same time. Gwen Berwick’s as The Mirror impresses en pointe in a duet with Caroline Reece’s malevolent Queen.

balletLORENT consistently produce high-quality dance productions which are suitable for all ages. With an emphasis on storytelling, this contemporary ballet of Snow White is a perfect introduction to dance and I will certainly be waiting for the next production in balletLORENT’s fairy tale trilogy.

-Kristy Stott

ballet LORENT’s Snow White is at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh from 22nd – 23rd January 2016 before continuing the tour at Warwick Arts Centre in February. For more dates through 2016 please click here.