REVIEW: The B Word (The King’s Arms, Salford) – GM Fringe

The B Word at The KIngs Arms, Salford as part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2017
The B Word at The King’s Arms, Salford as part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2017
upstaged rating: 

Only this morning has a precautionary evacuation taken place at Manchester Airport. Triggered by a ‘potential issue with a bag’ in terminal three, the bomb disposal team were called on reports of the suspicious package.

Airport security, and indeed national security couldn’t be a more relevant theme and forms the basis of Big Liars Theatre Co‘s debut production, The B Word.

In this new immersive one-man show, the audience are encouraged to get to know Dan, a Manchester Airport security officer, while he eats his butties and shares his doughnuts on his tea break. Under Grace Cordell‘s perceptive directorial debut, The B Word is interactive from the outset. On entering the intimate studio space, audience members are frisked and sternly directed to their seats, before assuming the role of Dan’s trainee security coworkers. An atmospheric soundscape by Mikey Ridley incorporates an airport style PA announcement asking us to ensure that all liquids are placed in clear plastic bags.

Writer and performer Ryan Gilmartin is confident and charismatic as security officer Dan, a 22-year-old university drop-out, trainee Jedi – he cares for his mother who has MS, doesn’t like mushrooms and has vivid dreams about a girl called Asia. He talks about his co-worker and friend Good Cop fondly although we never meet him.

A promising writing debut, Gilmartin’s monologue is carefully crafted and well paced – as the layers are ripped away, it becomes evident that not everything is as it first appears. What starts out as a series of playful musings over doughnuts in a staff room, soon takes a darkly disturbing confessional turn. Left with a big decision to make and a limited amount of time, will Dan do the right thing? And how do the audience, his trainee coworkers feel now that they hold his sinister secret and are complicit in his decision?

-Kristy Stott

The B Word runs at The King’s Head, Salford on 5th, 6th and 8th July 2017 as part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2017.



REVIEW: King Lear (GM Fringe – Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester)

King Lear by Purplecoat Productions at Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre
King Lear by PurpleCoat Productions at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre
reviewer: Ciaran ward
upstaged rating: 

PurpleCoat Productions’ interpretation of William Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy, King Lear, has asserted itself as a befitting homage to the playwright’s life and career in wake of the 400th anniversary of his death back in April. The emotional turmoil inherent in the many of the play’s round characters is emphasised through the skilled creative direction of Karl Falconer: a single set compounds the intense feeling and impending sense of enclosure experience by all, be that by death, imprisonment or loss.

Through the evident proficiency of the actors, the despair of Lear (Paul Carmichael) over his deteriorating authority, the anguish of Edmund (Stephen Michael Turner) from being the bastard son of the nobleman Gloucester (Karl Falconer) and, in turn, his own worries of being guilty of treason after aiding the King in escaping the wrath of his vengeful daughters (Natasha Ryan and Evangeline Murphy King) is greatly achieved, making for a riveting piece of theatre which stirs a desire for more than a three hour show.

Given the immersive nature of the performance, the audience began engaging with the drama from the exposition. Immediately, your sight informs you that the characters are dressed in modern attire but your hearing confuses you when you realise they are speaking the traditional lines that were crafted by the Bard himself. The anachronism, in itself, complements Lear’s descent into madness, but is also suggestive of the fact that the themes of human cruelty and justice are just as relevant today as they were in the Renaissance era.

The technical aspects of the play effectively contribute to the various atmospheres produced throughout, with the highly commendable lighting and sound effects being offered by Alisha Johnson and Mel Wells. Scenes of sinister plotting are aided by the stark reduction of light; a paradoxical approach to how you would generally discover a character’s ‘true colours’. Moments of truth and reconciliation, however, are embellished with mellow lighting, superficially indicating a sense of ease and tranquillity, before the tragic events in the dénouement become apparent.

Considering that this showing in Manchester is the last stop of the PurpleCoat Productions’ UK and Ireland Tour, it is impressive that the quality and high standards of the cast and crew have been so well preserved throughout the show’s run. Every aspect of the production, from the incongruous costuming to the raw talents of the actors dealing with such an acclaimed piece of drama, engenders it to be a mesmerising performance that enchants any Shakespeare fan, young or old.

-Ciaran Ward

REVIEW – The Alphabet Girl – Greater Manchester Fringe Festival (The King’s Arms)

Kaitlin Howard in The Alphsbet Girl --  Edinburgh Fringe preview  2 & 3 August   ©Lucas Smith
Kaitlin Howard in The Alphabet Girl — Edinburgh Fringe preview 2 & 3 August
©Lucas Smith
PREView at the king’s arms, salford ahead of edinburgh fringe
Upstaged Rating: 

The Alphabet Girl is a one-woman show written by award winning Renny Krupinski and performed by Kaitlin Howard, a previous Manchester Theatre Awards Best Fringe Performance winner.

Howard’s performance spans three generations of women, the blackcurrant and gin-swigging grandmother Maisie, broken and intimidating mother Lily and then daughter Ivy, who takes us through to the present day.

 ©Lucas Smith
©Lucas Smith

Kaitlin Howard is a brave, subtle and versatile actor – she plays all three characters with conviction. First on stage is Ivy who appears naive and wide-eyed, talking into a camera mounted on a tripod, she describes her mother and grandmother. A leopard print faux fur jacket later and  Howard transforms into grandmother Maisie – her face hardened and her hands shaking, ravaged by drink and bitterness. A particular highlight is Lily, a well-spoken and deeply intimidating character who addresses the audience directly and holds their gaze for slightly longer than is comfortable. And it is through this that Howard succeeds in creating a chilling, mysterious and heightened theatrical experience.

 ©Lucas Smith
©Lucas Smith

Writer and director Renny Krupinski’s script is a marvel – it is poetic, elegant and direct yet beautifully woven with hints and clues for the audience, which become shockingly significant later on in the monologue. Spanning three family generations, there is a frequent shift in chronology and viewpoint which also keeps the audience slightly disorientated, adding to the eerie and surreal atmosphere.

With a running time of 1 hour and 10 minutes, The Alphabet Girl is darkly amusing in parts, lyrically beautiful and also deeply disturbing. What starts out as a nostalgic journey through a family photo album actually reveals itself as being something far more sinister, with dire consequences.

-Kristy Stott

The Alphabet Girl is being performed at theSpaces on the Mile at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at 5:10pm from 7th August 2015 until 29th August 2015 (except on the 16th and 23rd August).

Not going to Edinburgh Fringe?

The good news is that… The Alphabet Girl is also being performed at Oldham Coliseum from the 15th until 19th September 2015.


REVIEW – Health Under Fire- Greater Manchester Fringe Festival (Joshua Brooks)

health under fire
Date: 23 july 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Health Under Fire is a fast paced comedy, it could be described as Monty Python meets An Inspector Calls or somewhere in the realm of the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker spoof comedy films of the 1980’s, think Airplane and The Naked Gun and you’re almost there.

Written by Nathan Smith, Health Under Fire is set in the dawn of the NHS, in 1950’s Manchester. Detective Arnold Grace (Scott Hodgson) has been sent to The Manchester Royal Infirmary to uncover the mystery surrounding the regular disappearance of pharmaceutical products.

Donning a trenchcoat like a hardboiled detective, Scott Hodgson gives a brilliantly cartoonish performance as Grace, frequently breaking the fourth wall and delivering each random, odd but hilarious one-liner. Most of the cast play multiple roles, writer and performer Nathan Smith demonstrates comic prowess playing creepy and booming Sir Rothschild and Gus, the often overlooked representative of manual labour. Andrew Knowles and Róisín McCusker give realised comedic performances in a variety of roles and James Beglin and Daniel Blake get a lot of laughs from their partnership as conjoined twins. Amidst this 60 minute rapid fire comedy there is also a serious message to ponder over – the current state of our NHS and the reason that our healthcare system first came into being.

Death by Pie adapt the space in the basement cellar of Joshua Brooks to satirise the film noir genre – clinical privacy screens, cardboard frames and doors, all succeed in deconstructing the genre much to the amusement of the Mancunian audience. The voiceovers and incidental music add further depth to this laugh-a-minute Zucker-esque parody.

Judging by the applause and laughter from the crowd on the opening night, Health Under Fire certainly hit and ricocheted off most of the audiences funny bones. This new production by Death by Pie has to be a highlight at the Greater Manchester Fringe this year and if you’re checking out Manchester or Edinburgh Fringe, you ought to get your slice of the ‘Health Under Fire’ pie too.

-Kristy Stott

Health Under Fire is premiering at Joshua Brooks, part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival from 23rd – 25th July 2015 (tickets are £8.00) ahead of Edinburgh Fringe, where it is being performed at the Cafe Camino from the 8th – 29th August 2015 (FREE).

The #MIF2015 is so last week…Everyone is talking about the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival


Greater Manchester Fringe Festival is taking place across 19 different venues in Greater Manchester throughout the month of July. There really is something for everyone – comedy, revivals, new writing, spoken word , dance and exhibitions.

Phone-Whore-croppedthe stars are made of concrete

I managed to talk to Cameryn Moore (Phone Whore) and Michelle Ashton  (The Stars are Made of Concrete) ahead of opening at The King’s Arms in Salford.
We had a good natter about intimate theatre spaces, sex chat lines and Manchester…

For full festival listings please visit The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival website.


-Kristy Stott

REVIEW – The Mercury Complex – Greater Manchester Fringe Festival (The King’s Arms)

Lindsay Bennett in The Mercury Complex
Lindsay Bennett in The Mercury Complex
Date: 20 july 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

When you were young and somebody asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, how did you answer? The Mercury Complex takes just that as a starting point – the basis of Lindsay Bennett’s one woman show is that when she was five years of age she was so amazed by Queen’s performance at Live Aid on her 21” Hitachi television, she declared ‘When I grow up, I want to be Freddie Mercury’.

The Mercury Complex follows Lindsay Bennett’s journey to emulate the Queen frontman – strapping her hair brush tightly to a lamp base and using a plastic tennis racket as a guitar, her performance is energetic, riveting and friendly. In the intimate space in studio 1 at The Kings Arms in Salford, the audience are encouraged to get involved from the start as Bennett locks eyes to interact jovially or passes the bottle of bourbon around the room for the audience to share. By the end of the 30 minute show we are all belting out the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody and it all feels quite cathartic and uplifting.

Following the death of Freddie Mercury, Bennett invests her interests in Kurt Kobain and Janis Joplin and we continue to follow and understand Bennett’s life through her musical heroes. Flanked by cardboard boxes, a brightly coloured keyboard and a plastic tea set – Bennett manages to perform 3 smooth costume changes in the half hour show, depicting different eras in her life.

Lindsay Bennett gives an energetic performance throughout this short but well executed show, demonstrating that she is a skilled physical performer and a sharp perceptive writer. The Mercury Complex is a positive and spirited show which manages to skip through life and death in such a charming way – it leaves you feeling as though you could sing your way through almost anything.

-Kristy Stott

 The Mercury Complex is on at The King’s Arms, Bloom Street, Salford on 21st July 2015.

Check out the full listings for Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, which runs until 31st July 2015 at 19 venues across Greater Manchester.