REVIEW – The Chair (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

The Chair at The Royal Exchange, Manchester
The Chair
at The Royal Exchange, Manchester
UPSTAGED RATING: 

There is the eerie flickering of candlelight and the faint sound of Edwardian music hall as we walk into Manchester’s Royal Exchange Studio and take our seats. Barber Owain Sawyers (Gary Lagden) is tending to his client – he’s comfortable with using a cut-throat razor as he spruces up his latest victim customer and it soon becomes apparent that Sawyers doesn’t shy away from a spot of dentistry either…

“If you’re sure that Ghosts aren’t real,

If your Nerves are made of Steel,

If you’re brave and if you dare,

Come sit upon the Barber’s Chair.”

Written and directed by Lewis Gibson, The Chair is set in a barber shop in an creepy Cardiff port called Tiger Bay. Our barber and accomplished storyteller Sawyers is assisted by his aide Hans (Christopher Preece) and together they animate stories of mermaids, ancient Egypt and mysterious tales of wonder and suspense.

Gary Lagden keeps the diverse audience captivated with his skilfull storytelling – he moves through from Sawyers’ Welsh lilt to take on a range of different accents and physicalities as each twisted and chilling tale unfolds before us. The poetic and haunting performance is heightened by Louie Whitmore’s ghostly set and the macabre musical score played by versatile performer Christopher Preece. The shadowy set doubles up to provide a spooky soundscape – an upright piano howls unconventional chords to build suspense before it transforms into a ship’s sail and a large drum provides the uneasy beat of a blue moon.

Director Gibson folds the audience into the action as a few willing members step up to take a seat in the barber’s chair – there’s the offer of a trim and even a dram of whisky for some enthusiastic volunteer. Lagden’s Sawyers often looks out into the crowd and refers to us as sailors or ancient skeletons; sometimes he holds our gaze for a millisecond longer than is comfortable and it all adds to the unsettling atmosphere. My son, Thing 1 looked curious but equally terrified when Sawyers made his way over to him and my other son, Thing 2 averted his gaze for fear that he would be next. Both Things, aged 9 and 6,  were compelled by the performance of The Chair from start to finish.

The Chair at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
The Chair
at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
The pace of the production is pleasing too – there is a humorous ditty about anatomy and surgery just before the mirror takes centre stage for the grand finale. No spoilers here.

The Chair is a thrilling hour long journey of creepy magic, adventure and storytelling that is suitable for all ages from 7 upwards.

-Kristy Stott

The Chair is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Sunday 18 October 2015.

Trick or Treat? Our theatrical picks for the family this October…

Your car is starting to get iced up in the morning, you’ve turned your central heating on and your local shop has made room on the shelves for fiery orange pumpkins, massive tubs of jelly sweets and…mince pies???

It can only mean one thing…
october

We’ve rounded up the best theatrical events happening for families across Manchester this October…

The Lowry

As always The Lowry, Salford have a fantastic offering this October, especially during the half term week which runs from Sunday 25th October – Saturday 31st October.

Hurricane Boy is first up with 2 showings,  on Sunday 18th October. Running at just under an hour and recommended for ages 5 and upwards Hurricane Boy features physical storytelling alongside live music and it has received some great reviews so far from little ones and their families.

There’s all round entertainment from your TV favourites Milkshake Live! on Monday 26th October at 2pm. If your children are a little older, Morgan & West at 7pm may be more up their street – with a combination of illusion and all-round silliness, they guarantee a magic show that is suitable for all of the family, ages 5 and up.

Elsa and Anna glide in on Wednesday 28th October for ANOTHER Singalong Frozen. Do we ever tire of singing along to Frozen?? On the same day we have a Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic flying in – The Scarecrows Wedding. Now, we’ve been to see a number of these Donaldson classics transferred from page to stage and they are always a hit with young audiences. The Scarecrows Wedding runs from 28th October until 1st November and is recommended for those aged 3 and up.

Scarecrow_main
The Scarecrows Wedding –The Lowry

Now, who loves dinosaurs?

Dinosaur Zoo is fabulous, it really is. I took my Thing 2 when he was 3 and he was gripped throughout. Fresh from attacking the West End, Dinosaur Zoo stomps into The Lowry from the 30th October until the 1st November. Read our last review here…

Z-Arts

You need to be quick for this one…on 10th October Flyaway Katie, suitable for ages 2-7, is at Z-Arts in Hulme. Based on the popular children’s book by Polly Dunbar and presented by Long Nose Puppets and Manchester Literature Festival –  it’s been described as ‘magical and beautiful’ (The Guardian). Also, Bear and Butterfly zooms in on Wednesday 28th October, suitable for ages 4-7, it explores themes around love, loss and friendship when a bear and a caterpillar become friends. Flyaway Katie and Bear & Butterfly are showing as part of the UK wide GetCreative Family Arts Festival. Hit the link to find out more about events happening around Greater Manchester and beyond…

Film Club happens at Z-Arts on Saturday 24th October with showings of The Princess & The Frog at 1:30pm and The Wiz at 3:30pm.

We’re Stuck is being presented as part of Manchester Science Festival 2015 on the Wednesday 28th and Friday 30th October. It’s your chance to get involved in shaping and developing this interactive new show which focuses on how great and how utterly rubbish our brains are at maths. It’s free and suitable for children aged 7-11 and their grown-ups.

The Possible Impossible House by Forced Entertainment at Z-Arts
The Possible Impossible House by Forced Entertainment
at Z-Arts

Now Forced Entertainment are one of my favourite theatre companies, at the forefront of contemporary theatre and I am thrilled that they are presenting a children’s show on Halloween. The ACTUAL All Hallows Eve – 31st October – at Z-Arts. It’s called The Possible Impossible House and it’s their first children’s show – suitable for ages 6 and up. You also get a free ticket to Z-Arts Halloween Party if you book for the show.

The Royal Exchange 

On Monday 12th October  at 1pm the Royal Exchange are host to Michael Rosen: Children’s Poetry Event. It’s part of the Manchester Literature Festival event and tickets are only £4. Michael Rosen is one of the well known figures in the children’s book world, publications include: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and This is Our House. Sadly, my children are in school on this day – however, the event may be of interest to my home ed friends.

The Chair The Royal Exchange
The Chair
The Royal Exchange

The Chair creeps into the Royal Exchange from the 14th October to the 18th October -recommended for ‘brave souls’ over the age of 7. With live music, songs and a cut-throat razor…book at your own peril.

The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre, Chorlton

A good selection of children’s theatre as always at The Edge. Rosie’s Magic Horse gallops in on the 17th October and is recommended for ages 3-8 years of age. Strictly Balti is suitable for older children over the age of 11, exploring ideas of identity on 23rd October. Next up we have the The Toothy Adventures of Davy Denture (for ages 3-7) on the 27th October and The Adventures of Pom ( for ages 0-4) on the 28th October.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

And in case you can’t make those dates above…Waterside Arts gives us another chance to catch Rosie’s Magic Horse on the 11th October and Strictly Balti on the 21st October. 

We're Going on a Bear Hunt --Waterside Arts Centre--
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
–Waterside Arts Centre–

In addition to this, Little Angel Theatre presents family favourite, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt from the 17th October until the 20th October. With a super running time of 45 minutes, it’s just perfect for those little fidgets aged 2 and over.

The ‘Half Term Show’ at Waterside Arts is The Elves & The Shoemaker running from 29th October until the 1st November, recommended for those aged over 3. And for those little pickles aged 0-18 months there is 16 Singers on the 30th October – its a combination of music and signing woven into a sparkling little show for babies.

The Met in Bury

Gulliver -- The Big Telly Theatre Company --The Met, Bury--
Gulliver — The Big Telly Theatre Company
–The Met, Bury–

For ages 12 and up Gulliver sails into The Met in Bury on Tuesday 27th October. Followed by We Are Bronte on the 28th October, which is again suitable for ages 12+.

The Toothy Adventures of Davy Denture --The Met, Bury--
The Toothy Adventures of Davy Denture
–The Met, Bury–

For younger children aged 3-7, The Toothy Adventures Of Davy Denture visits Bury on Friday 30th October.

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REVIEW – The Crucible (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

The Crucible at The Royal Exchange Manchester © Jonathan Keenan
The Crucible at The Royal Exchange Manchester
© Jonathan Keenan
DATE: 24 september 2015
UPSTAGED RATING: 

Inspired by the Salem witch hunts of the seventeenth century, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible offered a commentary on McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee when it first premiered in 1953 on Broadway. Now, playing at Manchester’s Royal Exchange it is remarkable how much these themes still resonate loudly within our society today. Aside from modern-day witch hunts on social media for the latest shamed celebrity or the fear of terrorism and National Security, The Crucible also raises ideas surrounding the cuts to Legal Aid and those perceived as vulnerable, having to represent themselves in court.

Director Caroline Steinbeis has set the story somewhere in the UK, at no particular time in history and the characters talk with a range of different accents  – it all makes for an ominous atmosphere and a strong sense of displacement. The heptagon stage is stark, the action punctuated by Richard Hammarton’s unnerving, apocalyptic soundscape.

The female cast wear long, loose-fitting dresses buttoned up to the neck,  to cloak their sexuality – the first time we see them they are sprinting across the performance space to reach the woods where they will dance naked. ‘Naked’ – Reverend Samuel Parris can barely spit out the word. Donning their denim and smart suits, the men in this town are terrified by women.

The Crucible at The Royal Exchange, Manchester © Jonathan Keenan
The Crucible at The Royal Exchange, Manchester
© Jonathan Keenan

The cast of nineteen are so universally strong that it feels like a masterclass in acting – Jonjo O’Neill gives a stand out performance as John Proctor supported by his wife Elizabeth Proctor, admirably played by Matti Houghton. Ria Zmitrowicz shines as troubled and scared Mary Warren and Tim Steed gives a fully realised performance as the honest academic Reverend John Hale; Sam Cox also gives a noteworthy performance, balancing intensity with wit, as the courageous Giles Corey.

Max Jones’ clever set design sees the shallow bowl-like set symbolically filled with water for the final act. The sound of thunder and the flash of lightning which has built throughout the play, finally catches up with the characters as the deafening storm sweeps through the theatre.

This visionary production of this Arthur Miller classic, certainly blows the cobwebs off the familiar text that I studied at secondary school. With characters that are boiled down to their core and themes that are still as relevant today as they were in the 1950’s, The Royal Exchange’s The Crucible makes for a production of electrifying intensity.

-Kristy Stott

The Crucible is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Saturday 24 October 2015.

REVIEW – The Rolling Stone (Royal Exchange)

Fiston Barek as Dembe & Faith Omole as Wummie © Jonathan Keenan 

 Date: 24 april 2015
Upstaged rating: 

The Rolling Stone written by Chris Urch was a Bruntwood Prize Winner in 2013 – now it runs in rep alongside Anna Karenina at Manchester’s Royal Exchange. Set in Uganda, where it is illegal to have a homosexual relationship, it tells the story of Dembe who has fallen in love with Irish doctor, Sam. The play centres around the true story of Ugandan newspaper, The Rolling Stone which used its front page to out gay men by publishing their names, addresses and photographs. This publicised witch-hunt incited violence against these men, their families and anybody who supported them.

“The Lord wants us to be truly who we are”

Joanna Scotcher’s set is perfectly stark, a blue carpeted stage with a simple raised platform in the centre, provides the perfect foundations for Chris Urch’s sensitive, honest and thought provoking script. Richard Owen’s lighting design is tasteful and stylish throughout – opening the production with a soft blue light, as the cast of six sing in beautiful harmony, their voices flood the stage, ironically, it all feels calm and utopian.

Robert Gilbert as Sam and Fiston Barek as Dembe  ©Jonathan Keenan
Robert Gilbert as Sam and Fiston Barek as Dembe
©Jonathan Keenan

The scenes between Dembe (Fiston Barek) and his lover, Sam (Robert Gilbert) feel natural and playful – when they are on stage together there is a great chemistry and it is these sections which generate laughter from the audience. Barek is superb in portraying Dembe’s coming of age, balancing youthful wit with bravery and sensitivity, in a society where he is fearful of his own identity. When Dembe’s brother Joe (Sule Rimi) is made pastor of the local parish, the circle of scrutiny moves uncomfortably closer to Dembe and his family. Ellen McDougall’s direction is masterfully reflective of the kind of society that the characters inhabit – the actors sit with the audience when they are not on stage, watching Dembe’s every move.

“God is a fallacy. It is us that judge one another”

The Rolling Stone is expertly cast with every member of the production giving an outstanding  performance. Despite, her lack of voice, Ony Uhiara shines as the mute character Naome, who is overshadowed by her mother, Mama played by Donna Berlin. Faith Omole impresses as Wummie, Dembe’s twin sister, a victim of her society in her own right when she forfeits her education to aid her brother.

The Rolling Stone is a powerful production and highly compelling viewing. Chris Urch’s writing really draws its audience in, this is a real edge-of-your seat captivating drama, where we can engage with the characters, empathise with their predicaments and wish that we could influence their futures.

The Rolling Stone is running at The Royal Exchange in Manchester until the 1st May 2015.

-Kristy Stott

REVIEW – Anna Karenina (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

 © 2015 Jonathan Keenan  - ANNA KARENINA
© 2015 Jonathan Keenan – ANNA KARENINA
DATE: 24 March 2015
UPSTAGED RATING: 

The Royal Exchange Theatre launches its new Spring – Summer 2015 Season with a contemporary adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, Anna Karenina. Writer Jo Clifford, certainly must have had a mammoth task on her hands in stripping back and making cuts to this classic, almost 900 page novel, so that the story and themes could be condensed into a two hour performance inhabiting the intimate space at The Royal Exchange.

Admittedly, I have not read Tolstoy’s novel from cover to cover but I am familiar with the main themes running through it. For this production Clifford puts a particular emphasis on love, infidelity and trust to capture the tour de force of Tolstoy’s original text, but, even with this element as a main focus, this adaptation did feel a little over packed.

Set to the backdrop of nineteenth century Russia and directed by Ellen McDougall, this adaptation of Tolstoy’s monster focuses around three couples and their experiences of love and marriage. Firstly, we encounter Dolly (Claire Brown) talking to Anna (Ony Uhiara) about her unfaithful husband, Oblonsky (Ryan Early) Ironically, Anna convinces Dolly to stay with her husband and work at her marriage. Anna meanwhile married to Karenin (Jonathan Keeble) gives up on being the dutiful wife when she is introduced to Vronsky (Robert Gilbert) and the two embark on a passionate affair culminating in her leaving her husband for her new exciting lover. Running alongside these two stories, is the story of Levin (John Cummins) and Katy (Gillian Saker), their relationship is a slow burner but ultimately, they marry completely for love – embracing the ups and downs of a true marriage.

“Love is just a better way to hurt each other”

The symbolism in Joanna Scotcher’s set is a stark but perfect delight. Train-lines cut right across the bare stage containing a channel of brown soil which runs between them. This design is aptly suggestive of the ground that the characters inhabit and the formation of the railways running relentlessly through them.

“If you cut someone from the soil, you damage him.”

Anna and Vronsky first lock eyes with each other at a fairytale-esque ball. They maintain eye contact through a sea of large, hooped pastel coloured skirts, in contrast Anna is wearing a plain black dress. Magnetically the lovers are drawn to each other, they begin to intertwine and move passionately but it all feels a little awkward. In trying to fit such a monster of a text in to such a short time frame it feels as though we are being raced through the characters lives, which results in us being feeling quite detached from them, their emotions and the predicaments that they have landed in.

“And trains that can crush us as if we are fleas.”

Maybe like the characters are affected by the train lines cutting across the stage, I hoped that this adaptation would reach an emotional peak and leave me feeling as though I’d been on a wild train ride, sadly, I didn’t feel as though this production had any particular destination in mind.

-Kristy Stott

Anna Karenina is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Saturday 2 May 2015.

March Must-Sees

Our pick of the best Manchester Theatre this month

Rather like the Mancunian weather at the moment – we’ve got an eclectic month of theatre planned for March. It’s a lucky dip of cultural goodness – so feast your eyes on our top picks for this month.

Blood Brothers (Palace Theatre)

Written by Willy Russell, Blood Brothers tells the moving story of twins who were separated at birth, grow up on opposite sides of the tracks, only to meet again with fateful consequences.

This smash hit musical sees multi-platinum selling artist and my favourite crooner, Marti Pellow take the role of narrator and the critically acclaimed Maureen Nolan play Mrs Johnstone.

© 2015 Keith Pattison
© 2015 Keith Pattison

Featuring a superb musical score, which includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True, the show has been affectionately named the Standing Ovation Musical.

Blood Brothers runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 2nd March 2015 until 14th March 2015.

Sham Bodie (Kraak, Northern Quarter) – 5th March

Sham Bodie is a monthly night held at Kraak in the NQ. Essentially, it’s like lots of the best nights out rolled into one package. There is stand-up and live comedy sketches, from new and established acts, as well as live music from some really good bands. This month features BBC New Comedy Award finalist Tom Little, Fab Radio’s Nina Gilligan and Michael J Dolan. There is also music from garage blues two-piece, Dirty Heels. Sham Bodie only costs a fiver! And this month, in honour of St Patrick’s Day on the 17th, they have teamed up with their pals at Jameson to bring you free whisky. Yes, I said FREE WHISKY…go on, go on, go on….

SICK! Festivallogo

Launched in 2013, SICK! Festival is the first of its kind in the UK, dedicated to revealing, debating and exploring the physical, mental and social challenges of life and death.

SICK! isn’t for the faint hearted or those who fancy a bit of frivolous escapism- the festival explores a variety of issues such as rape and mental health, amongst others, through a variety of different mediums – art installations, film and performance. The festival runs through most of March and events are taking place all over Manchester and Salford. Please take a look at the program of events.

Anna Karenina (The Royal Exchange)

Ony Uhiara, takes the title role of Anna, a dutiful wife and a loving mother. When she meets Count Vronsky it turns her world on its head, putting everything that she has ever known at risk. In a parallel story, Levin is trying to live justly in a social system built on injustice. Spurned on by the woman he loves, he turns his back on wealthy society and heads for his country estate, determined to refashion it into a vision of a fairer world. Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece, set against the backdrop of imperial Russia, explores what happens when two very different couples grapple with the strongest emotion we humans are capable of feeling – love.

Olivier-nominated director Ellen McDougall makes her Royal Exchange debut in this contemporary version of the Leo Tolstoy classic.

Anna Karenina runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre from 19th March 2015 until 2nd May 2015.

 BRINK (The Studio, The Royal Exchange)

This promises to be an interesting world premiere by The Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company and written by Jackie Kay (one of my favourite writers – love Red Dust Road).

image

The production explores the idea of being on the ‘brink’ – what brings you to the brink? When you are close to the edge – do you push forward or do you step back? Everything is possible when you are so close to the brink.

BRINK is running in The Studio at the Royal Exchange from 26th March 2015 until 29th March 2015.

Maxine Peake as Hamlet (The Cornerhouse)

For those of you, like myself, who didn’t manage to catch Maxine Peake as Hamlet the first time round at The Royal Exchange – this film screening of Hamlet at Manchester’s Cornerhouse may be for you.

Hamlet is possibly Shakespeare’s most iconic work, exploring ideas of love and betrayal and themes of murder and madness.

This groundbreaking version of Hamlet, directed by Sarah Frankcom, was the Royal Exchange’s fastest selling show of the last decade. It had a complete sell out run in the theatre and Maxine Peake’s Hamlet was described as  “delicately ferocious” by The Guardian and “a milestone Hamlet” by the Manchester Evening News.

I’m definitely going to catch it this time round.

Cornerhouse have 3 showings of this unmissable performance.

Mon 23 March: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30
Sun 29 March: Doors 14:45, Starts at 15:00
Thu 2 April: Doors 19:15, Starts at 19:30

Birmingham Royal Ballet – Coppélia (The Lowry)

And finally, something for the little ones – Birmingham Royal Ballet are visiting The Lowry with Coppélia, it runs from March 4th until March 7th.

But more importantly, the Birmingham Royal Ballet are also presenting First Steps – A Child’s Coppélia on Friday 6th March at 1pm.

In this hour long version, the delightful story has been specially adapted to suit children aged from 3-7.

The Lowry are also holding a Family Fun Day on Saturday 7th March from 12-1:30pm, which is free to all matinee ticket holders.

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REVIEW – Yen (Royal Exchange)

 YenPosterImageWebsite
Date: 19 february 2015
Upstaged rating: 

Just as the submission window opens for The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015 – Manchester receives the world premiere of the 2013 winning entry written by Anna Jordan.

Yen is the tale of two neglected teenage brothers, Hench, 16 and Bobbie, 13. They live alone with their dog, Taliban who spends his days locked in their old bedroom because he once ‘bit someone on the estate’. Sometimes their alcoholic and diabetic mum descends on them, usually when she wants something, but they don’t get along with ‘minge-face Alan’ the man that she has shacked up with. The two brothers spend most of their days playing Call of Duty, watching pornography and drinking and smoking whatever they have managed to get their hands on. Hench (Alex Austin) dropped out of school and Bobbie (Jake Davies) has ADHD and quit his place at ‘The Unit’.

The two brothers have no ambition, no hope, they share a sofa bed and a t-shirt that they nicked from the charity shop. It is a well carved out, well layered story of lost childhood, love and violence – it is a commentary on the state of society.

But, it is not only this – Yen is vivid, it gets right under your skin, it is unsettling, but in a brilliant way. Anna Jordan’s writing is witty and terse, the dialogue is filthy but hilarious. It is amazing that a play which was based on a local news story about two neglected and abandoned brothers who commit a heinous crime, can produce such laughs from the audience, but it does.

All four members of the cast give remarkable performances during their debut appearances at the Royal Exchange Theatre. The two brothers Hench and Bobbie are loaded with testosterone, reminding us of caged monkeys as we take our seats in the studio, they climb the scaffolding and swing from ropes, making the most of Georgia Lowe‘s sparce but highly effective set design.

The energy between the two brothers is quite profound, tousling with each other constantly, Bobbie is loud mouthed and vulgar with a deep attachment to his hopeless mother (Sian Breckin) while Hench seems shy, suspicious and afraid of the outside world. When Jenny (Annes Elwy) barges into their flat venting concern for Taliban’s welfare, Hench is given a small glint of the world outside and a small window of hope and love.

By the end of the play my mind was doing somersaults, the characters were racing around in my head, they had stuck. Rather like Ned Bennett‘s clever cyclical direction, Hench and Bobby were trapped in a system and a way of life.

Anna Jordan’s Yen is phenomenal. It is no wonder that it won The Bruntwood Prize in 2013. Get a ticket while you still can.

Yen is running until the 7th March 2015 in The Studio at the Royal Exchange, Manchester

-Kristy Stott

February’s Fancies

February brings us Chinese New Year celebrations, Pancake Day and St Valentine’s Day…but it’s not all about dragons, roses and Jif Lemon.  Here are my picks for the Manchester theatre scene throughout February…

Kate O’Donnell -Big Girl’s Blouse (Contact Manchester)

Contact Theatre Manchester have a whole bunch of good stuff to offer as part of Queer Contact 2015 celebrating LGBT arts and culture in Greater Manchester. The event runs from Thursday 5th February until Sunday 15th February, to coincide with LGBT History Month in the UK. For the full rundown please check out Contact Manchester here.

Using humour, music, and high kicks, Big Girl’s Blouse tells the story of a girl, Kate, who was born a boy and became a woman. Who knew what being transgender was in the 1970s? Not Kate’s family. The path to becoming a woman doesn’t always run smooth and with a lifetime of coming out, Kate has had to use every trick- theatrical and otherwise – to get by.

  • Created in collaboration with Olivier Award-winning director Mark Whitelaw.
  • There is a post show Q & A on 12th February with Dr Rachel Morris (Cosmopolitan).

Kate O’Donnell – Big Girl’s Blouse will be performed on the 11th and 12th February at 9pm. Tickets are £10 and £6 for concessions.

Laugh Local (Chorlton Irish Club) – Friday 7th February

Laugh Local is held on the first Friday of every month at Chorlton Irish Club. This Friday, Justin Moorhouse is joined by Jamie Sutherland, Holly Walsh and Iain Stirling. It’s a popular night in South Manchester, doors open at 6:30pm and tickets are £12.00 on the door (that’s if there are any left)! The comedy commences at 8pm and finishes up at around 11pm. All this comedy and a (free) pasty supper included in the price – what’s not to like?

The Mist in the Mirror (Oldham Colliseum)

Oldham Coliseum are proud to present the world premiere of The Mist in the Mirror. The original novel by Susan Hill has been adapted for stage by Ian Kershaw.

Hill is very well known for penning the original novel for chilling West End smash hit, The Woman in Black. This new production promises to be just as unsettling and atmospheric and is staged as if the audience are eavesdroppers to a fireside ghost story.

Visual theatre innovators, imitating the dog, will be on hand to scare you out of your wits. Their visual antics will create an unsettling feeling, on stage and off, that might just follow you home at the end of the night …

Runs from Friday 30 January to Saturday 21 February 2015 in Oldham then tours nationally

Check out this creepy trailer:

Enough of the scary stuff – isn’t February the month of amour…

Top Hat (The Opera House, Manchester)

© 2015 Top Hat On Stage Ltd
© 2015 Top Hat On Stage Ltd

And so we move on to a love story to set the pulse racing, Top Hat brings us all of the glitz and glamour from Hollywood’s golden age.

With tap dancing a plenty and celebrating all of that 1930’s song style and romance, Top Hat tells the tale of Broadway sensation, Jerry Travers who dances dances his way across Europe to win the heart of society girl Dale Tremont.

It’s won three Olivier awards for Best New Musical, Best Choreography and Best Costumes and it features Irving Berlin’s most popular toe tapping swoon tunes – Cheek to Cheek, Top Hat, White Tie & Tails, Let’s Face the Music & Dance and Puttin’ on the Ritz.

How can we resist!

Top Hat runs from the 10th February until the 21st February at Manchester’s Opera House.

Moving on to our beautiful Royal Exchange Theatre – there are a couple of shows I want to tell you about…

Scuttlers (The Royal Exchange)

Scuttlers tells the story of Manchester in 1885 as workers pour into Ancoats to power the Industrial Revolution – this is the worlds first industrial suburb, the air is thick with smoke and life is lived large and lived on the street. The young mill workers, the living cogs on its machines form the very first urban gangs. Inspired by the Manchester riots in 2011 and the stories of all of the Manchester gangs between the nineteenth century and today. This new play, written by Rona Munro, promises to give us an artistic commentary on youth gang culture and the cyclical nature of urban violence. And I believe, there are plenty of references to contemporary Manchester through the language, stage design and casting as we watch a nineteenth century Ancoats collide with twenty first century sensibility.

Running from the 5th February until the 7th March 2015.

Yen (The Royal Exchange)

Anna Jordan’s Yen won The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2013 and is receiving its world premiere in The Studio at The Royal Exchange.

The play explores a childhood of living without boundaries, where you are forced to grow up on your own. It tells the story of sixteen year old Hench and thirteen year old Bobbie, who live alone with their dog, Taliban, playing Playstation, watching porn; surviving. But when Jenny knocks on the door, the boys discover a world far beyond that which they know – full of love, possibility and danger…

Yen is running from the 18th February until the 7th March 2015.

And finally a trip up to The Lowry for some quality children’s theatre…

I Believe in Unicorns (The Lowry, Salford)

We are big fans of Michael Morpurgo in our house – of course, he is the author of The War Horse and we have a lot of his books. This story, adapted by Daniel Jamieson promises to be spellbinding and moving, telling the story of Tomas – who doesn’t like books or stories of any kind. He would rather be enjoying the great outdoors, clambering up a mountain or tobogganing with his father. That is until the Unicorn Lady comes to town and reels him in with her irresistable tales…

I Believe in Unicorns runs from 19th February until 22nd February 2015.

What a lovely treat for a half term theatre trip – you can catch the trailer here:

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