REVIEW: The Father (Oldham Coliseum, Oldham)

Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
upstaged rating: 

It is rare that we experience dementia from the perspective of the person who is struggling with it, rather we experience it from the viewpoint of family members and carers. This idea is obviously even more difficult to dramatise in a theatre. In The Father, written by Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton, Oldham Coliseum triumph in presenting a highly engaging but charming, heart-rending though witty, interpretation of Andre’s struggle with the disease.

Patrick Connellan’s raised set design is intelligently reminiscent of a Polaroid picture. The stage is framed almost like a photograph – perfectly suggestive of Andre’s struggle with memory. A deconstructed piano lies at the fore, hinting at Andre’s love of music and his attempt to make sense of the confusing world that envelopes him. A stunning piano soundtrack by Lorna Munden accompanies the cast as they adjust the stage around Andre. Confused and his senses heightened, he can hear the clank of cutlery and plates clashing and we feel his pain and confusion. Kevin Shaw has catered for every detail in this accomplished production. Stunning and painstakingly beautiful.

Kenneth Alan Taylor’s performance as Andre is nothing short of tremendous, charting one man and his family as they struggle with the grip of dementia. Giving a beautifully nuanced performance – managing to hint at the insight he still has into his condition, while giving depth to the rich and lively life he has had, he fleshes out the resilient fiery character that continues to push up against the disease. Kerry Peers gives a strong and emotive performance as Andre’s daughter Anne, always striving to do the right thing for her father despite the pressure she faces from her husband Pierre, played solidly by John Elkington. 

As I looked around the Oldham Coliseum at the end of the show, it was clear to see that so many people had been moved by The Father. Two ladies sat in front of me wiped the tears from their eyes as others appeared to be sharing stories, clearly deeply touched by this phenomenal production. This is a flawless production that gets us talking, sharing and understanding dementia together.

-Kristy Stott

The Father plays at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 1st July 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

 

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty (Oldham Coliseum)

Sleeping Beauty at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
Sleeping Beauty at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
upstaged rating:  

The team at Oldham Coliseum always succeed in delighting their dedicated Northern audience during pantomime season and this year they’re back, and true to form, with Sleeping Beauty.

With Kevin Shaw at the helm, Oldham Coliseum triumph once again – following their tried and tested recipe of pantomime goodness. With no glitter spared, every performer has that magical twinkle in their eye and, commanding the stage, they deliver the perfect Christmas show. Perhaps what makes Sleeping Beauty so delightful is that every child (and adult) feel involved – the auditorium is just the right size for the audience to be able to interact, which is a real bonus for the younger theatre-goers.

With an unexpected reshuffling of the cast following Fine Time Fontayne’s injury in rehearsal, Simeon Truby jumps into dame Nanny Nutty’s large and vibrant Doc Marten’s and delivers a superb performance. Celia Perkins’ costume design is a real treat – bright, larger than life and guaranteed to put a smile on even the most hardened of faces. Accompanied by Dave Bintley’s toe-tappingly brilliant musical soundtrack, Fine Time and Shaw’s script is tight and littered with references to popular culture. With a range of gags for the adults and the usual panto slapstick for children, Sleeping Beauty is a real winner with the diverse crowd.

Radiant Demi Goodman steps daintily into the role of Briar Rose, oblivious to the curse that has been thrust upon her by the bitter Carabosse, played by Liz Carney. Comedy capers are plentiful from Oldham Coliseum regulars Richard J Fletcher and Justine Elizabeth Bailey as The Nutty’s with Demi Goodman doubling up to play Nicky Nutty. Sara Sadeghi is full of energy playing both the good fairy, Spinning Jenny and the ‘super shiny’ Queen Hermione; David Westbrook completes the super line-up as King Cuthbert – there is no weak link here. The chorus dancers are full of energy, unbelievably light on their feet and springier than bouncy balls.

Simply put – Oldham Coliseum’s Sleeping Beauty is everything that a pantomime should be. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, a lively musical score and the opportunity to interact with the performance – and all in an ideal sized performance space, where everyone can feel part of the action. Packed to the brim with magic, mischief and good old fashioned fun, Sleeping Beauty is certain to get all of the family ready for Christmas.

-Kristy Stott

With performances running until 7th January 2017, Sleeping Beauty is the perfect treat for families this Christmas. To book your tickets click here.

REVIEW: Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher (Oldham Coliseum)

Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher by Gerundagula Productions
Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher
by Gerundagula Productions
upstaged rating: 

During the last few months we have been bombarded with referendum discourse and despite it being three years since the Iron Lady’s death, her name still manages to find itself firmly woven into the Brexit headlines. Considering the current political climate, it feels quite apt to watch Mike Francis Carvalho’s intriguing one-man show which is based on conversations with real people about Margaret Thatcher.

It must be difficult to write and perform a piece about one of the most discussed and loathed (or loved) politicians of all time but Mike Francis Carvalho manages to create an extraordinarily refreshing piece of theatre. Thoughtful and commanding, Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher refuses to bow down to any of the well-worn cliches that have gone before.

Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher puts a range of different opinions and truths forward through a collection of different characters. The through-line seems to take an anti-Thatcher stance but all of the characters are measured, fully realised and perceptive. Mike Francis Carvalho gives a finely nuanced, highly compelling and passionate  performance – he presents the characters and their opinions to his audience and leaves them to find their own conclusions.

A series of voices create a richly layered landscape depicting the turbulent years under Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. There’s a softly spoken policeman, a striking miner, a Chelsea football fan and a teacher who struggles to find sense in the sinister and ridiculous Section 28, which thankfully was never enforced. Francis Carvalho plays the roles with a range of different accents and physicality, fully showcasing his versatility and conviction as a performer.

There’s a cracking opener from Francis Carvalho, which I have promised to keep shtum about and there is also a thoughtful and emotive soundtrack which links fluidly through from one monologue to the next.

Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher is a powerful piece of theatre which manages to evoke strong emotion while also leaving space for the audience to reflect. A pleasing piece of theatre for those who remember and were affected by Margaret Thatcher’s rule, but also highly compelling and educational for those who weren’t.

Meet The Real Maggie Thatcher stops in next at The Quarry Theatre, Bedford on the 22nd July 2016 and you can get your tickets here.

 

REVIEW: The Ladykillers (Oldham Coliseum)

The Ladykillers at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
The Ladykillers at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
Upstaged rating: 

Written by Graham Linehan, well-known for penning Father ted and The IT Crowd, The Ladykillers is a dark comedy inspired by the classic Ealing film of the same name.

Widely regarded as being one of the staples of British comedy, The Ladykillers is perfectly adapted for the stage with all of the action taking place within the shaky four walls of the innocent widow, Mrs Wilberforce’s home. With slick Professor Marcus at the helm of a ruthless gang of criminals masquerading as musicians, they use the rickety old house as the base for their illegal operations.

Foxton’s pleasingly skewed set design of the lop-sided house beside the busy train line is delightful and harbours many comic moments throughout the show. Graham Linehan’s script is packed with slapstick humour and one-liners and Kevin Shaw’s direction blesses the energetic cast with some cracking visual gags and tricks. There is a superb sequence, for example, when the gang, posing as a classically trained quintet, are revealed squeezed like sardines in a tiny cupboard. A further highlight comes when the felons find themselves being forced to play for Mrs Wilberforce (Roberta Kerr) and her gaggle of old ladies, with smooth Professor Marcus (Chris Hannon) passing the din off as being an experimental musical composition.

However, for the main the show feels like it never quite reaches second gear and there is a sense that the full potential of hilarity in the script is never quite achieved. Nonetheless, the cast all give energetic performances throughout with Chris Hannon as the pompously manic gang leader Professor Marcus. Howard Gray gives a comical performance as likeable baddie One Round, more endearingly known as Mr Lawson and Matthew Ganley gives a strong performance as moody Romanian gangster who does not like old ladies. Henry Devas shows infectious energy on stage as cleaning obsessed crook Harry and Christopher Wright intrigues as a Major with a penchant for ladies clothes. Simeon Truby puts in a witty performance as Constable MacDonald and gives a sterling turn as one of Mrs Wilberforce’s pals. Headed up by Roberta Kerr’s righteous but dotty Mrs Wilberforce, there is no doubt that the cast give this production their all.

With a running time of 2 hours and 30 minutes, The Ladykillers has plenty of comic moments but failed to make my ribs ache as much as I had hoped.

 

-Kristy Stott

The Ladykillers is at Oldham Coliseum until 2 July 2016 and you can get your tickets here.

What’s on in Manchester this Easter for Families?

Are you looking for the best theatre and creative activities taking place in Greater Manchester during Easter? Look no further.

We’ve compiled a list of the best theatre shows and creative activities for all of the family.

The Easter holidays run through from Monday 4th April until Friday 15th April 2016 – for most schools. This list covers all family fun happening from March through to mid-April.

HOME,  Manchester

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Into The Hoods: Remixed Photo Credit: Hugo Glendinning

Into The Hoods: Remixed is the new updated hip-hop version of the Sondheim classic. Set in the ‘Ruff Endz Estate’, the story follows two lost school children who have been tasked to find an iPhone as white as milk, trainers as pure as gold, a hoodie as red as blood and some weave as yellow as corn. Along the way, they meet DJ Spinderella, wannabe singer Lil Red, vivacious rapper Rap On Zel, budding music producer Jaxx and embark upon a storybook adventure into the heart of a pulsating community!

Into The Hoods: Remixed is recommended for ages 7 + and is at HOME, Manchester from 6th April to 9th April 2016.

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A live adaptation of E. Nesbitt’s classic story The Railway Children (U) will be broadcast at HOME on the 28th March 2016 at 11:30 am. 

 

While you’re at HOME why not take a look at the current exhibition – Designs for Living: Clare Dorset and Chery Tenneson which is recommended for families. Admission is FREE and it opens from 11 am each day.

Oldham Coliseum

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How The Koala Learnt to Hug comes to Oldham Coliseum on Wednesday 30th March 2016. Recommended for ages 3 and over, it’s a charming production based on the book by Steven Lee. With puppet characters, great stories, sing-along songs, superb games and first class hugging all you’ll need are your ears…and your arms!

The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre, Chorlton

Back by popular demand…The Boy Who Bit Picasso returns to The Edge in Chorlton on ‘Easter’ Saturday.

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The Boy Who Bit Picasso come to The Edge in Chorlton. Photo Credit: Geraint Lewis

The story is inspired by Antony Penrose’s book which follows the story of Tony who becomes friends with Pablo Picasso.

This show promises a lot of interaction as the audience are invited to take part in a variety of art and craft activities. Suitable for everyone aged 4 and up, there will be plenty of storytelling and music as the children are introduced to one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, Pablo Picasso.

The Boy Who Bit Picasso comes to The Edge Theatre and Arts Centre in Chorlton on Saturday 26th March 2016 with 2 showings at 11 am and 2 pm.

TOP TIP: Be sure to wear play clothes because it could get messy

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Lullaby Lane is a unique theatrical experience for children aged from 3-6 which fuses the energy and vibe of a music gig with the intimacy of theatre. It’s a charming little tale exploring childhood memories of forgotten friends, cherished toys and music-making. Featuring vibrant characters and Fran Wyburn’s original musical score, Lullaby Lane provides a great introduction for children to experience an array of string instruments, including banjo, harp, ukulele and guitar. Lovely running time of 45 minutes – perfect for little people.

Half Moon Theatre present Lullaby Lane at The Edge, Chorlton on 8th April 2016 and at Waterside Arts, Sale on 10th April 2016.

And something for the parents…

Mum’s The Word Comedy Club is the comedy gig designed for parents of babies aged 18 months and under. Hosted by comedian and new Mum, Katie Mulgrew, it’s a relaxed affair – feel free to feed, change and nurse your baby. However, the acts do perform their usual adult material so if you have an exceptionally bright 18-month-old or a mimicker, I’d probably avoid. There is a strict policy and only babies under 18 months will be permitted.

Presented by Katie Mulgrew, Mum’s The Word Comedy Club is at The Edge in Chorlton on Friday 1st April 2016 with little ones going free.

The Lowry, Salford

Calling all Michael Morpurgo fans! Where My Wellies Take Me comes to The Lowry, Salford this March. Interweaving poems and songs, we follow 9-year-old Pippa on a May Day ramble through the beautiful English countryside. Based on Clare and Michael Morpurgo’s book, Where My Wellies Take Me is a lively show celebrating the beauty of nature.

Michael-Morpurgo-mainSPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Michael Morpurgo will be available to meet and greet members of the audience after the performance!

Where My Wellies Take Me is at The Lowry Salford on 20th March 2016 at 2 pm.

 


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We’re super excited about Roald Dahl’s The Witches flying into The Lowry at the end of March. Adapted by David Wood and directed by the fabulous Nikolai Foster, Dahl’s scariest book is brought to life.

Featuring a talented bunch of actor-musicians, an original score and mind boggling illusions, The Witches promises to be a terrifying treat for all the family. Watch the trailer…if  you dare…

The Witches is at The Lowry, Salford from 21st March to 26th March 2016.

And for younger ones… Peppa Pig, George and the rest of the crew are back in Salford for their brand new live stage show, Peppa Pig’s Surprise.

Enjoy fun, games and surprises in this charming, colourful show with new songs and new life-size puppets. Running at 1 hour and 20 minutes, Peppa Pig’s Surprise promises to be the perfect theatre show for all pre-schoolers.

Peppa Pig’s Surprise is at The Lowry, Salford on 30th and 31st March 2016.

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Play Dough Photo Credit: Richard Davenport

 

 

Join Unlimited Theatre for Play Dough at The Lowry on 2nd April 2016 at 4 pm. Recommended for ages 7 and up, Play Dough is a playfully interactive show for young people 7+ and their families about the value of money. Hosts Queenie and TooMuch will lead your team through a series of high-energy games while telling you their story, and everything they know about how money really works.

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The Battle of Hastings -Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders – Horrible Histories Photo credit: Mark Douet

Horrible Histories needs no introduction. It’s a fabulous show and this edition focuses on the Groovy Greeks and the Incredible Invaders. We’ll be there – who wants to join us?

Horrible Histories – Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders is at The Lowry from the 5th April to the 9th April 2016.

 

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“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”

From the moment his tall, red and white-striped hat appears around the door, Sally and her brother know that The Cat in the Hat is the most mischievous cat you will ever meet. With the trickiest of tricks and craziest of ideas, he turns Sally and her brothers rainy afternoon into an amazing adventure. But what will mum say when she gets home?

The Cat In The Hat is the perfect first theatre experience for children aged 3 and up and it is at The Lowry, Salford from the 11th to 13th April 2016.

A must-see for all dancers aged 3-133…

The_Tap_Dancing_Mermaid_mainTessa Bide brings her solo show, The Tap Dancing Mermaid to The Lowry, Salford on Sunday 17th April 2016.

Stick your 50ps to the bottom of your shoes and gather round to hear the Moon’s magical story about a tap dancer who creeps out of her house every night to dance to the sounds of the sea. Marina Skippett has been forbidden to dance at home by her tractor-sized Aunty. Follow her exciting adventure with stunning puppetry, live music and tap dancing.


Z-Arts, Hulme

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Engine House, the company behind critically acclaimed productions of Red Riding Hood and Flat Stanley join forces with “Britain’s favourite literary lunatics” LipService (Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding) to create a brand new show for children and their families, adapted for the stage by Olivier Award-winning writer Mike Kenny. Suitable for children over the age 4, Snow White is a magical and comic re-telling of the much-loved fairytale.

Snow White comes to Z-Arts, Hulme on the 19th March 2016.

You can also join in at the FREE Brother’s Grimm Fun Day at Z-Arts – craft, drama and storytelling – on 19th March from 12noon-4pm and it is suitable for all ages. Hurrah!

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We’re Stuck! is a theatre show recommended for ages 8-11. Join Dr Volcano and the robots on a special adventure into the heart of a top-secret research institute, where cutting edge scientists need your help tackling some extremely tricky problems. Running at 70 minutes, this interactive show promises to stretch your brain in unexpected directions.

This show is recommended for ages 8-11 due to the content and some of the problem-solving tasks, it is not advisable to buy tickets for anyone below this age range.

We’re Stuck! is at Z-Arts, Hulme from 12th April -16th April.

In addition to the performance, our friends at Z-arts have teamed up with China Plate and Manchester Science Festival to bring you a series of fun events and activities across the Easter holidays to tackle some extremely tricky maths, science and art conundrums! Why not work on your comedy skills  with the We’re Stuck comedy week?

 

For families with children 8+ and children under 8, there will be free activities on Friday the 15th April! No need to book in advance, turn up on the day to get involved! Click here for info.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

Gorilla by Anthony Browne comes to Waterside Arts Centre, Sale from the 2nd April to 4th April 2016. Running at just 50 minutes and recommended for the ‘nearly fours’ and up, Gorilla has a really impressive creative team behind it. The story is based on an award-winning picture book by former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne and it is brought to you by the team who produced Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play and James and The Giant Peach. Take a look at the trailer…


 

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If you missed Snow White at Z-Arts – you get another chance to catch the Olivier Award-winning writer Mike Kenny’s magical and comic adaptation of the classic fairytale.

Snow White comes to Waterside Arts, Sale on the 12th and 13th April 2016.

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Lullaby Lane comes to Waterside Arts, Sale on the 10th April 2016.

There’s another chance to experience the charming Lullaby Lane at if you missed it the first time round at The Edge in Chorlton.


 

The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange is home to Flying Saucers every Sunday. The events, activities and workshops for under 11s include storytelling sessions, craft workshops, Hard Hat Sundays and entertainment for all the family. Some workshops are age-restricted and ticketed, so it’s a good idea to book in advance as they can be very popular. Around The World in 60 Minutes is taking place on Sunday 20th March 2016 and is suitable for ages 5-8, costs £3.00 a child and adults are free. Booking is strongly recommended.

Find out more by clicking here or give the Royal Exchange box office a call on 0161 833 9833 – they’re a friendly bunch.

Trafford Music Service

The service is offering an Easter music school suitable for primary school children (from reception to year 6), running for 3 days from 4th April to 6th April 2016. During the course children will be given the opportunity to sing as well as play a selection of instruments including the violin, ukulele, guitar, recorder, fife and percussion.

The course costs £35 per day and runs from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. All instruments are provided, all you need to do is provide a packed lunch.

For more information and to book click here!

Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Join everyone for an afternoon of storytelling at the Octagon Theatre. During Storyplay: Beauty and The Beast, your little ones will be transported on a literary journey of fun and adventure – meeting all of their favourite characters, brought to life by actors from the Octagon Company.

Meet in the relaxed play area in the Octagon Bar at 4:30pm on Friday 15th April 2016. Recommended for families of all ages and costs £4 per child with a free adult place per child.

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The Macbeth Curse engulfs the Octagon in Bolton from 19th April to 23rd April 2016. Written by Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories The Macbeth curse promises to be a perfect introduction to the magic and madness of Shakespeare. Recommended for ages 7 and up and with a running time of 60 minutes. Each showing also includes a 20 minute Q&A session after each performance.

Manchester Museum

Two FREE events are happening at Manchester Museum as part of the Greater Manchester On Film Festival (GMOFF) . While you’re paying Stan the T-Rex a visit, why not catch a FREE screening of Jurassic Park (suitable for ages 9+) or Jurassic World (suitable for 12+)?

Jurassic Park screens at 11 am on 2oth March and Jurassic World screens at 2 pm. Hit the links to book your FREE tickets through Eventbrite. There is also junk modelling from 1 pm so why not have a go at making your own  junk model dinosaur to take home?

The Whitworth

Another fantastic FREE event as part of the GMOFF at The Whitworth on Saturday 26th March 2016.

Enjoy a screening of the stop-motion animation Fantastic Mr Fox (PG) in The Whitworth’s Grand Hall. After the film, there is also the opportunity to take part in a family art activity led by The Whitworth. You will be able to have a go at making 3D art inspired by Mr Fox and co. and the wildlife in Whitworth Park. Recommended for ages 7+ and all under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.

Interested? Booking in advance is a must. Hit the link!

National Football Museum

Finally, for budding footballers – courtesy of the GMOFF, there is a FREE screening of Carlitos and the Chance of a Lifetime at the National Football Museum on Sunday 27th March 2016. The screening starts at 11 and is recommended for ages 9 and over – however, it is a Spanish film with English subtitles which many younger children will struggle to follow. Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult and any adults must be accompanied by a child. You can book through Eventbrite here.

 

Upstaged Manchester would like to wish you all a happy Easter and it would be super to hear your views on any of the shows or activities.

Please tweet your mini reviews to @UpstagedMCR   #upstagedfamily

 

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REVIEW – Our Gracie (Oldham Coliseum)

Our Gracie at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
Upstaged Rating: 

Oldham Coliseum are certainly bound to excite their friendly Northern crowd with a brand-new stage production celebrating the life and talent of Dame Gracie Fields. Hailing from Rochdale, Gracie labelled herself as Britain’s most popular female entertainer of all time. It’s a big label and she’s a big character and there is no better place to stage the premiere of Philip Goulding’s new musical than ‘up’ at Oldham Coliseum.

Born just a short distance away from Oldham Coliseum above her grandmother’s chippy, Dame Gracie Fields first performed in the theatres of Oldham and Rochdale. The story of the local mill girl who became an international star continues to inspire many performers today.

Our Gracie is written in the style of the old music hall and incorporates live music and toe-tapping song along with movement and feel-good banter. Philip Goulding’s clever script documents Gracie Fields’ vibrant and inspirational life using her own words and infectious personality. The production transports us back to the Oldham Repertory Theatre Club of the 1960’s where we are ready to welcome Gracie Fields to the stage.

Sue Devaney as Gracie Fields (2)
Sue Devaney as Gracie Fields Photo Credit : Joel C Fildes

Sue Devaney takes on the title role and gives a phenomenal performance as Dame Gracie Fields; her beaming smile and rich Northern tone perfectly capture the down-to-earth personality and charming stage persona of the Rochdale-to-Hollywood star. What makes Devaney’s performance so special is her ability to connect with her audience, which arguably was also Gracie Fields’ greatest talent. Many of the audience sing and clap along enthusiastically as she belts out Sing As We Go, The Biggest Aspidistra In The World, Walter, Walter and her most famous signature tune Sally.

 

Six of Oldham Rep’s finest support Devaney in presenting the fascinating life of Dame Gracie Fields – playing a variety of roles between them, they present the intriguing characters that influenced Gracie during her vibrant life. As well as providing a wonderful live soundtrack, the talented company introduce us to George Formby, Laurence Olivier and Liberace. Often breaking the fourth wall to speak directly to the audience – it’s refreshing and engaging and there is a powerful harmony between the audience and the performers. Liz Carney has a wonderfully sweet tone and gives a dedicated and wonderfully comic performance; Ben Stock generates genuine laughter from the spirited crowd as dedicated pianist Harry and flamboyant showman Liberace.

The music hall style is possibly not for everyone, packed with silly gags and an exaggerated acting style, but the Oldham crowd seemed to enjoy it on the night I attended. Regardless of this, Our Gracie is a wonderful trip down memory lane, filled with nostalgia and warm sentiment.

-Kristy Stott

Our Gracie runs until 26th March 2016 at the Oldham Coliseum and you can click here to get your tickets.

REVIEW – The Pitmen Painters (Oldham Coliseum)

James Quinn, Micky Cochrane, Simeon Truby, Jim Barclay in The Pitmen Painters at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
James Quinn, Micky Cochrane, Simeon Truby, Jim Barclay in The Pitmen Painters at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes
Upstaged rating: 

The Pitmen Painters is a true story following a group of men from the mining community as they rediscover and reflect on their world through art. Written by Lee Hall, best known for Billy Elliot, the play follows The Ashington Group from their first art appreciation class in the old army hut to exhibiting in national galleries and gaining critical acclaim.

The story unfolds in a small mining town in Northumbria called Ashington. It’s 1934 and a group of miners decide to hire a professor, Robert Lyon (Cliff Burnett) to teach an art appreciation evening class. Headed up by no-nonsense union man George (Jim Barclay) the group of men soon abandon the theory of art in favour of practice. Amusing and moving, under Kevin Shaw’s light directorial hand, The Pitmen Painters shines a light on a group of ordinary men who achieve unprecedented things.

Joe Strathers-Tracey’s framed projections of the original Ashington Group artwork hang at the back of the stage – depicting images inspired by a 1930’s coalfield community. It’s a thought-provoking reminder of the cultural and economic barriers that can stand in the way of achieving individual potential and expression.

The cast are brilliant and there is a real sense of camaraderie throughout with some superb individual performances. Jim Barclay gets plenty of laughs from the Northern crowd as the sharp-toned leader of the group and, in contrast, Simeon Truby plays the most promising artist of the group Oliver with sensitivity and focus. Helen Kay impresses as the bohemian art-lover Helen Sutherland and Maeve O’Sullivan adds a jot of cheekiness to the stage as the art student come life model, Susan. Cliff Burnett leads as the eccentric but humble art professor Robert Lyon,  with Luke Morris, James Quinn and Micky Cochrane completing an assured line-up.

The Pitmen Painters is perfect programming for the Oldham Coliseum and is certainly worth catching. Perhaps what makes this story so brilliantly charming is that it is a true story about a group of working-class men. The real warmth in The Pitmen Painters lies in the Ashington Group’s true friendship as they embark on a discovery of themselves and each other through art.

-Kristy Stott

The Pitmen Painters is on at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 27th February 2016 and you can get tickets here.

My Favourite Productions of 2015

My Favourite Productions of 2015

It has been an exciting year for Upstaged Manchester and I feel blessed and nostalgic as I remember the productions that have lifted my heart, helped me to question and generally captivated me this year. Here is a list of my theatrical highlights for 2015.

 Yen at The Royal Exchange

I couldn’t shake this 2013 Bruntwood Prize Winner by Anna Jordan for quite a while – it left my mind doing somersaults. Jordan’s phenomenal writing and her vivid characters combined with Ned Bennett’s clever direction and Georgia Lowe’s sparse set design gave an unforgettable fusion of total brilliance.

Nirbhaya at The Contact Theatre

This brave, real and haunting piece of work, exploring the effect of the brutal attack that Jyoti Singh endured on board a bus in Delhi on December 16th 2012, stopped me in my tracks and left me speechless. A perfect example of the role that theatre has in spreading an important message and how art can bring about change.

Shooting With Light at The Lowry

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This is by far the best production I have ever seen in the Lowry Studio – slick choreography and an atmospheric soundscape. Idol Motion will certainly be a theatre company that I will be looking out for in 2016.

The Rolling Stone at The Royal Exchange

The Rolling Stone had me captivated – on the edge of my seat throughout. With outstanding performances from all, Chris Urch’s Bruntwood Prize Winner about the persecution of gay men in Uganda stays with you for a long time. I am so pleased that it is being performed at Orange Tree Theatre in January and February of 2016.

Boeing Boeing at Oldham Coliseum

© Joel C Fildes

I had never seen a farce done well – until I saw this version of Boeing Boeing directed by Robin Herford. An energetic production with an outstanding cast – their timing and delivery was impeccable. It really lifted my heart to see the performance propelled along by gasps, laughter and impromptu applause from the audience.

 

Beautiful Thing at The Lowry

© Anton Belmonte

The combination of Jonathan Harvey’s brilliant writing and Nikolai Foster’s intelligent direction managed to bring out every nuance in the script – I found myself noticing elements that I hadn’t fully appreciated in previous interpretations. This production felt like a celebration and a salute to how far rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people have come over the last 20 years, and a recognition that we still have a fair way to go.

Kafka’s Monkey at HOME

What an accomplished performer Kathryn Hunter is – such a rich tone and incredible physicality. Masterfully directed by Walter Meierjohann, I feel blessed to have witnessed a performance like this – this show certainly put Manchester’s new arts space HOME on the map.

Golem at HOME

A true theatrical spectacle and a perfect amalgam of animation, live performance, music and claymation. Golem was like nothing that I had ever seen before – sharp interaction between the performers, Paul Barritt’s eye-popping animation and Lillian Henley’s brilliant silent movie-esque score.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Lowry

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a tremendous piece of theatre – a perfect collaboration with outstanding performances throughout. Gripping and heartfelt – the perfect example of the power that theatre has to change the way that we view the world.

Wicked at The Lowry

Emily Tierney as Glinda & Ashleigh Gray as Elphaba. ©Matt Crockett
Emily Tierney as Glinda & Ashleigh Gray as Elphaba. ©Matt Crockett

Well, I’m a big fan of Wicked and despite having seen the production before it just gets better and better for me every time. With magnificent music and lyrics, Wicked is a theatrical feast for your eyes, ears and hearts.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you – thank you for all of your support this year. 

Wishing you all the best in 2016.

-Kristy Stott

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REVIEW – Mother Goose (Oldham Coliseum)

Mother Goose at Oldham Coliseum Photo credit -- ©Joel C Fildes
Mother Goose at Oldham Coliseum
Photo credit — ©Joel C Fildes
Date: 14 november 2015
Upstaged rating: 
thingstars: 

Pantomime is always a huge amount of fun for any creative team to work on and this year’s festive offering from the team at Oldham Coliseum is a sparkling example of this. Mother Goose offers all of the traditional pantomime fun – with audience interaction at its core, all your favourite current chart hits and hilariously messy slapstick – there is much for little ones and their grown-ups to enjoy this Christmas at Oldham Coliseum.

The story of Mother Goose has been co-written by Artistic Director Kevin Shaw and our nominal dame, Fine Time Fontayne – while the story maintains its timeless appeal, many of the comic sequences and gags zap the show giving a fresh take on the old classic tale. Mother Goose is poor until she finds Priscilla, a magical goose who lays golden eggs. Now that Mother Goose no longer has to worry about money – she wants to be young and beautiful – but will her new-found wealth, beauty and youth bring happiness?

Justine Elizabeth Bailey as Colin Goose and Richard J Fletcher as Billy Goose ©Joel C Fildes
Justine Elizabeth Bailey as Colin Goose and Richard J Fletcher as Billy Goose
©Joel C Fildes

This pantomime has a superb range of musical numbers ranging from contemporary pop music through to well known show tunes. With a funky soundtrack featuring The Jackson 5, Defying Gravity from Wicked and a humorous ditty which incorporates the names of stops on the Metrolink line – there is plenty for the audience to clap along to.

Fine Time Fontayne as Mother Goose ©Joel C Fildes
Fine Time Fontayne as Mother Goose
©Joel C Fildes

Fine Time Fontayne is a superb pantomime dame with an exceptional costume designer, Celia Perkins. With an array of over-the-top frocks and vibrant Doc Martens, Mother Goose could easily have been peeled from the pages of a story book. Under Kevin Shaw’s direction, costume changes occur off stage as well as in full view of the audience – in a clever illusion Mother Goose disappears through revolving doors only to reappear immediately looking just like Kim Kardashian. Well almost.

Alongside Fine Time Fontayne there is a host of Oldham Coliseum regulars – Richard J Fletcher is a comical success as the accident prone Billy Goose with Justine Elizabeth Bailey playing his sensible older brother Colin Goose. Andonis Anthony excels as evil baddie The Demon of Discontent – with no prompting needed to rally the audience into a booing and hissing frenzy. The chorus dancers deserve a special mention also, animated and light on their feet, filling the stage with energy.

Once again the Oldham Coliseum have egg-ceeded themselves and produced a most egg-cellent pantomime. With plenty of laugh out loud moments and opportunities to sing along, Mother Goose is packed with festive cheer and is certain to get all of the family warmed up and ready for Christmas.

-Kristy Stott

Mother Goose is on at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 9th January 2016.

REVIEW – Hot Stuff (Oldham Coliseum)

© Joel C Fildes
© Joel C Fildes
Date: 9 september 2015
Upstaged rating: 

Hot Stuff premiered at the Oldham Coliseum back in November 1990 and was devised by Maggie Norris and the Coliseum’s artistic director of the time, Paul Kerryson. Following its debut, Hot Stuff played to packed audiences, received rave reviews and rocked the West End. Now, under Kevin Shaw’s direction, this cult classic returns to the Coliseum stage on its 25th anniversary in a bid to thrill, delight and rock the Oldham audience once more.

Based on the Marlowe classic Faustus, wannabe rock star Joe Soap (Benjamin Stratton) sells his soul in exchange for musical fame and a rock star lifestyle. With stars in his eyes and money on his mind, Soap strikes a demonic deal with Lucy Fur (Alan French) and ditches his ballroom dancing sweetheart Julie (Ibinabo Jack) for his place on the devil’s train.

The Hot Stuff stage gleams with gold – it is as if King Midas has paid a visit to Oldham. With gold lamé drapes and curtains framing the stage – there is certainly no shortage of sequins, glitz or glamour in this energetic and raunchy stage show. However, the whole production does take a little bit of adjusting to – the writing is incredibly loose with more than a whiff of pantomime. Nevertheless, the whole narrative anchors around some of the most well known tunes and characters from the 70’s and 80’s which gives Hot Stuff the feel good factor.

The talented cast belt out hit after hit with tremendous energy and naughtiness and the four piece band add a further dimension, with their Beatles tribute being a particular highlight. The two baddies, Paul Duckworth as The Boss and Alan French as the high heeled drag queen Lucy Fur add a hint of Rocky Horror to the production. Benjamin Stratton’s likeable Joe Soap rocks us through the ages, from disco to punk, with his transformation to Jimmy Filth. Ibinabo Jack gives a superb performance as girlfriend Julie with her interpretation of I Will Survive. Lakesha Cammock, Abigail Climer and Nicola Hawkins make a smouldering trio of Hell’s Angels.

It is easy to see how Hot Stuff attracts a cult following akin to the Rocky Horror Show and although it won’t please some of the culture vultures out there – it is all round top quality, devilishly funny entertainment.

-Kristy Stott

Hot Stuff is running at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday 26th September 2015.