REVIEW: JB Shorts 17 (53-Two, Manchester)

JB Shorts 17 at 53-Two, Manchester until 27 May 2017
JB Shorts 17 at 53-Two, Manchester until 27 May 2017
upstaged rating: 

JB Shorts 2017 is a diverse collection of six short plays – each lasting fifteen minutes – written by established TV writers. Started in 2009, it is a bi-annual event that aims to showcase local talent in and around Manchester.

The first in the selection of plays is Helen Farrall’s Turn Around When Possible, which tells the story of married couple Gemma (Alexandra Maxwell) and Kev (Gareth Bennett-Ryan), who are on their way to Gemma’s birthday meal when their car breaks down. And while they run into Kev’s boss Melissa (Julia Walsh), they find that she is not all that they have to confront. Bennett-Ryan offered an emotional performance, however, Maxwell and Walsh’s delivery at times fell flat. Although at times the storyline felt reminiscent of a soap-opera, it had an undeniable heart.

Living the Dream by James and Aileen Quinn follows, starring Adam Jowett as Sam, a rehab patient tended to by nurse Rosa (Sandra Cole). This particular play features both clever and politically charged dialogue, with “Sam” representing fallen America. Both Jowett and Cole offer engaging performances, pushing the eloquently written script to new depths. Despite this, had I not read the play’s summary beforehand, the true meaning of the character may not have been as clear.

The last play before the interval is Pretty Pimpin’ by Peter Kerry. Richard (James Quinn) is preparing to appear on the radio show Desert Island Discs in order to promote his memoir. However, both his agent Vicky (Victoria Scowcroft) and his daughter Janet (Alice Proctor) feel that one song, in particular, is missing. Kerry’s writing is beautifully delivered by the cast, offering a poignant and bittersweet story about the helplessness of a father.

Despite the promising quality of the first three plays, those that followed the interval were perhaps the best of the night, and my personal favourites.

Ian Kershaw’s Keep Breathing is a hilarious and skilfully written piece, starring Amy Drake as spinning instructor Carly, reflecting on her week whilst giving a class. The character of Carly will be familiar to many, and Drake brings remarkable charm and heart to her. And as Carly begins to realise that life with condescending boyfriend Matt (Ethan Holmes) may not be all that it seems, Keep Breathing takes on a more inspirational tone, encouraging us to live life for ourselves, not for others.

This was followed by Nick Ahad’s equally hilarious Inside Voices, which follows characters Reshma (Perveen Hussain) and Bob (Adam Rickitt) on their first date. However, there are some rather uninvited guests – their egos, played by Sara Latif and Leon Tagoe. With Inside Voices, Ahad offers an insightful and humorous look into self-censoring and what might happen if we just stopped listening to that inside voice.

But perhaps the most surprising performance of the night was Dave Simpson and Diane Whitley’s Pot Plant. Pensioners Iris (Jenny Gregson) and Stephen Aintree (Brian) are enjoying a quiet night at home when their house is raided by the police – but what will they find? Simpson and Whitley’s writing is as unexpected as it is absorbing. What starts out as a humorous story of two pensioners facing charges for the most unlikely crime actually has a deeper meaning to it. Gregson and Aintree’s experience serves them well in this unique piece, both giving a committed and at times riveting performance.

Overall, JB Shorts 17 is not to be missed. It is a delightful evening full of wit, charm and remarkable poignancy. And most importantly, it succeeds in delivering what it aimed to do – showcasing local talent.

-Megan Hyland

JB Shorts 17 runs at Manchester until Saturday 27th May 2017.

REVIEW – By Far The Greatest Team (The Lowry)

 By Far The Greatest Team © Kevin Cummins
By Far The Greatest Team
© Kevin Cummins

Date: 17 september 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Manchester-based Monkeywood Theatre Company, recipients of The Stage Door Foundation Award and Associate Artists of The Lowry are back with their most ambitious and exciting production yet. Always showing a commitment to their Northern locality, By Far The Greatest Team is a new production about the football community in Manchester, the rivalry between Manchester United and Manchester City and a place where you are either born ‘a red’ or ‘a blue’.

Greeted by a theatre in the round, the Quays Theatre has been transformed into a football ground. There are floodlights blazing down with anticipation over a football pitch laid in the centre, banners hung across the upper tiers and an enthusiastic audience on the verge of chanting. It all sets the scene for this unique production, of two halves and four separate plays, focusing on football in Manchester. Under Martin Gibbons’ direction, By Far The Greatest Team seeks to explore notions around football fandom, identity and the effect that football can have on our relationships.

By Far The Greatest Team © Kevin Cummins
By Far The Greatest Team
© Kevin Cummins

First up was We’re Not Really Here by Ian Kershaw which sees Sam (David Judge), a swaggering, cocky blue football hooligan chanting the lyrics from a City song that mocks the 1958 Munich disaster. United fan Ryan (Andrew Sheridan) and City football supporter Helen (Meriel Schofield) seek to act as a conscience and education around the historical event. It’s a provocative subject and an interesting script but there is an imbalance on stage and sadly, frequent overacting detracts from any passion or believability.

Lindsay Williams’ Stretford End sees United season ticket holders Robbie (Chris Jack) and Dunc (Mark Jordan) enjoying Sir Alex’s final match. An important game for any red, Robbie’s ex Sal (Francesca Waite) arrives much to their unease. Packed with funny ‘football’ lines and a couple of amusing twists – Stretford End is an humorous take on football, love and relationships.

Following half-time, The Good, The Bad and The Giggsy written by Andrew Sheridan takes to the field. Albion (Andrew Sheridan) is dressed as Fred the Red in a kind of wild west standoff against mobility scooter bound true blue Eileen (Samantha Siddall). Absurd, wonderful and warming – it’s a hit with the crowd.


This is the One by The Stone Roses takes us smoothly into Only Football by Sarah McDonald Hughes. Possibly the most impassioned and heartfelt play of the evening, Only Football explores the difficult relationship between a football mad father Gary (Mark Jordan) and his grown-up daughter Abi (Sarah McDonald Hughes), who manage to reunite through their shared experience of Manchester City winning the league.

By Far The Greatest Team has tried to pack in all of the feeling of going to a football match – the anticipation at the sound of the whistle, the ups and the downs and those last three minutes of tension and drama. This production is a must-see for die-hard football fans and theatre lovers alike and I applaud Monkeywood for attracting audiences who perhaps wouldn’t normally set foot in a theatre.

-Kristy Stott

By Far The Greatest Team runs at The Lowry until Sunday 20 September 2015.

INTERVIEW: One City. Two Teams. By Far The Greatest Team at The Lowry.


Manchester theatre making favourites Monkeywood Theatre are set to kick off at the Lowry this Thursday 17 September with the world premiere of their new play – By Far The Greatest Team.

Told in a game of two halves, By Far The Greatest Team tells four new stories about Manchester City, Manchester United, identity, community, and belonging and gets to the heart of why the beautiful game has such an impact on our lives, season after season.

The four new plays will be written by Manchester City fans Ian Kershaw from Oldham (Mist in the Mirror, Oldham Coliseum and Channel 4’s Shameless) and Sarah McDonald Hughes (Flesh, Royal Exchange and Once in a House on Fire, The Lowry, Maine Road, BBC Radio 4) and Manchester United fans Andrew Sheridan (Award winning Winterlong, Royal Exchange and Soho Theatre) and Lindsay Williams from Oldham and lives in Chorlton (Dreamers, Oldham Coliseum, Eastenders and Emmerdale). The production will be directed by Monkeywood Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Martin Gibbons.

I met up with Francesca Waite who told me more about this exciting new Monkeywood production which sees the Quays Theatre at The Lowry in Salford transformed into a football stadium.

Listen to our full interview here:

By Far The Greatest Team will run at The Lowry from Thursday 17th September until Sun 20th September 2015.

Ten Tiny Plays About Football is being performed script-in-hand by professional actors Saturday 19th September in the Roundabout.

-Kristy Stott


-Kristy Stott